Isn't it amazing the difference a couple of design tweaks and fabric choice can make to a pattern? The flamingo organza extravaganza above is barely recognisable as a Bakerloo dress, and yet the alterations were in fact minimal. Could this be one of the most extra things I've ever sewn? Quite possibly, and here's how I did it.
First thing you'll notice that makes this appear so different to the original Bakerloo is the absence of that statement collar. It is in fact super easy to omit the collar from Bakerloo and just finish the neckline with bias binding in exactly the same way as the instructions direct. You just ignore the instructions for the construction of the collar itself, but do follow the steps for the stay-stitching and trimming of the neckline before you attach the binding – if you don't include this your neckline will be a little higher and tighter.
Alternatively, you can do a visible bias binding finish on the neckline. This is in fact what I did on this dress because it resulted in a narrower neckband which is visually in keeping with the (visible) French seams in the rest of the garment. A visible binding finish simply means instead of turning the binding fully to the inside, you fold it over to encase the raw edge of the neckline and top-stitch it in place. I know this sounds a bit vague but if you're new to this there are plenty of excellent tutorials out there on using visible bias binding finishes – if you'd like me to write one too I can certainly can!
The only other actual pattern adjustment I made was to the skirt, to add that ruffle along the hem. I didn't want to lengthen the skirt overall, so I cut off 12cm of depth all along the base of the skirt. The ruffle itself is simply 3 rectangles measuring 15cm in height and then 140cm (the full width of my fabric) in width, stitched together to make one very long band. Because I omitted the collar (and pockets), and shortened the skirt, I didn't need to order extra fabric to create the ruffle. I ran two rows of gathering lines around the top of each rectangle (it would have been too long to gather the entire band in one go!), and matched one of the seams in the band to the CB of the skirt (found by folding the skirt in half – it doesn't have to be too precise!). I then pinned the other two band seams about 5 inches from the side seams along the front skirt hem, just making sure they were symmetrical. This was just a rough guesstimate for spreading the gathers – of course if you're feeling mathematically inclined, you could be more scientific about dividing your skirt hem into 3 sections! Then it was simply a case of pulling those gathering threads and spreading the gathers in each rectangle evenly by eye.
The hem was sewn in the same way as in the instructions, but more narrowly, to match the other visible seams in the dress.
Sewing with organza
The fabulousness of this dress (if I do say so myself!) obviously has a lot to do with the fabric – it is made from silk organza in 'shocking pink' from Pongees (where I sourced much of my wedding dress fabric). Silk organza is both a joy and a terror to work with! It's a joy because it presses beautifully, and has obviously the most glorious body and bounce. It's a terror because it's expensive and frays as though it has a death wish. Because of the last feature, French seams are an absolute must. When working with a pattern with a 15mm seam allowance (as Bakerloo has) I tend to sew my French seams with a first pass at about 7mm, trim the seam allowance down to about 4mm, and then sew the second pass at 7mm again. In some cases you would want to make a French seam smaller and daintier than this, but a slightly wider French seam will be more secure and also creates a pleasing (to my eyes at least) visual effect in organza as the seams are all visible. Sewing both seams with the same amount of seam allowance (e.g. 7mm) reduces the chances of me messing up and accidentally sewing one enormous or overly tiny seam.
Just as a quick reminder: a French seam is initially sewn with the pieces wrong sides facing, then you fold the pieces back to be right sides facing, press the seam and sew it again, enclosing all raw edges in this manner. The trickiest part was sewing the sleeves in this way, but it's simply a case of going carefully and slowly. You can use pins with organza but make sure they are sharp and fine. Ditto with your machine needle – I used a size 70/14 for this project.
And don't forget, with silk organza – the iron is your friend. I used a dry iron because mine can be prone to the odd water spit, and water changes the hand of organza and spots will remain visible. This will be a dry-clean only outfit for me. But let's face it, it's hardly an everyday wear (although who knows how I'll feel when we're actually let out again – perhaps I will want to prance around in party dresses all the time for sheer joy!).
In case you're wondering how I managed the sleeve elastic with a transparent fabric – well I actually just used a pale pink elastic from my stash. The gathering means you don't really see much of the elastic so I just wanted something neutral that wouldn't catch the eye. You could even use clear elastic.
And speaking of transparency, I should add that beneath the Bakerloo I am wearing a Tessuti Fabrics Sadie Slip Dress in acetate viscose satin lining fabric from The Lining Company. The Sadie in size XS came up very loose-fitting on me (it is supposed to be a looser dress) so I shaved off 1.5 inches down each side seam, and of course shortened it considerably, to create this slinky little slip. It's a little risqué to wear on its own but it's convinced me I need some bias-cup slips in my wardrobe!
I adore this entire outfit so much – I've sewn a few things for myself recently but nothing so purely frivolous and joyful! I love the way the organza floats away from my body, giving the dress a bold yet featherlight structure. You could create the same voluminous drama by using a different fabric with body; a taffeta silk would be stunning... Anyway, I hope this inspires you to think outside of the box with Bakerloo – I'm sorry I didn't get any detail shots but we're trying to sell our flat and move house at the moment so in spite of the tidy bookshelves (that's a viewing-ready room for you) it's actually a bit chaotic taking photos – plus I hadn't got my remote so was running back and forth between the camera resetting the timer every pic!