Back in november, Tilly from Tilly and the Buttons offered to send me her then-latest sewing pattern, the Francoise dress, for me to do a review. Needless to say I was thrilled: I really like the style of this dress, reminiscing of the sixties, and I was already thinking about all the possibilities for colorblock with the seaming and the button tab. I actually had one particular color combination that I was obsessed with. By the time I was able to find the fabric, make the dress, take pictures and post on this blog, I had fallen into a spatio-temporal vortex and guess what, it is now the end of July. Argh! It kind of makes me feel better that Sonja from Ginger Makes posted her own review of Francoise just a few weeks ago, so thanks Sonja!
Back then I even had thought about submitting the dress to the contest organized by Tilly, whose deadline was on the 1st of December. How naive! What happened was, I absolutely wanted to make it in emerald green, with contrasting shoulders in purple and matching fabric-covered buttons. I already had the purple fabric, a leftover from a Victory Patterns Chloe dress that I made last year for my friend Elise. But as hard as I tried, I couldn’t find a suitable green fabric! I couldn’t find the right color, especially not in the right weight and drape… I ended up buying this thick polyester that I found at Hancock Fabrics, because I really liked the color, but the fabric itself turned out to be all kinds of wrong.
The problem with this fabric is that, being polyester, it really doesn’t press right, so the french darts that are the center point of the pattern are all wonky. Same thing for the darts in the back, and don’t get me started on the zipper… It is also pretty gross to wear. I am wearing the dress with bare legs on the pictures because I really had to take those now, but in truth it is a dress to be worn with tights and a cardigan in the Fall, because the polyester makes it super uncomfortable when it is hot outside. So all in all this dress is mostly a failure, but that doesn’t mean I can’t talk to you about the pattern!
One thing that bothers me with some of Tilly and the Buttons patterns is that, for Francoise as for Coco, the pictures that go with the pattern in the shop only show it from the front. On the more recent patterns, the presentation pictures are great, but for those two, there is no side or back picture. So the A-line shape is adorable from the front and seems to look good on everyone, but what’s going on in the back?
I think the answer is that it really depends of your body shape. These two dresses are directly inspired from silhouettes from the late sixties, and I think from the androgynous ideal of that time (think “Twiggy” rather than “Marilyn”). If the flared shape works well with wider hips from the front, having a curvier behind might require some adjustments to the pattern. I had a similar issue when I made Coco, but on that dress the back falls straight from the shoulders. Francoise is different because it has double darts in the back, but they weren’t enough to accomodate my sway back here, so I have diagonal pleats coming from the waist just like I had with Coco. Which does not mean that if, like me, you have a sway back, you should steer away from shift dresses without waist seams, just that you might want to do a muslin first and make a few adjustments to the back darts.
Another thing you might want to be careful with is the length: just like Coco, Francoise is a short, short dress! I lenghtened it by two inches here because I am 5 feet 7 and Tilly’s patterns are drafted for slightly shorter standards (or at least that what I am assuming since I couldn’t find the exact information). Even with this change it is still a bit short for my taste. I made a straight size 3 otherwise and that is the only adjustment I made on this version.
I wanted to play with the raglan by using contrasting fabric for the shoulders. I really like how it looks from the back, but I’m not so sure about the proportions from the front: I’m thinking it might look better if the purple color parts was a bit larger, what do you think?
One thing I really enjoyed with this pattern is how accessible it was. The instructions booklet is crystal clear, with pictures for each step, and the work that was put into it really shows. One thing I particularly appreciate is the didactic aspect: the instructions not only tell you what to do and how to do it, but also why (for instance, clipping seam allowances). With this, putting the dress together is very very easy. I had never made a french dart before but it’s no harder than regular darts. And since Francoise is not lined, it is much quicker to make than other dresses of a similar style, such as the Chloe from Victory Patterns for instance.
In the end, I really enjoyed sewing Francoise, even if I’m not so happy with the end result. It’s mainly because of this terrible fabric, but I am also starting to think that, as much as I enjoy the look of sixties shift and A-line dresses, they might not be the most flattering silhouette for me. If it’s a shape that you like, however, go for it! The quality of the instructions make it a very enjoyable project.
Françoise – Tilly and the Buttons
Size 3, lengthened by 2 inches
Polyester from Hancock Fabrics
Cotton Satin from Jo-Ann