Fast + Fabulous Summer Dresses
I LOVE Japanese style-and especially Japanese sewing books.
Japanese sewing books are a lesson in efficient design. The beautiful, timeless projects are cleverly constructed but are often very simple to make. The patterns are easy to wear, and smart design details create silhouettes that make fabric the star.
Patterns are designed very efficiently: just a few simple rectangles, some interfacing, and a zipper are all I need!
A quick phone shot as I'm headed out in my finished I Am Hello Halter.
So it's no suprise that I've been lurking around our books department eagerly awaiting the arrival of I Am Cute Dresses, an English translation of 25 dress patterns by Sato Watanabe. I grabbed a copy as soon as they were available, and I can honestly say that I want to make every single thing in this book!
The first dress that caught my eye was I Am Hello Halter, a cute slightly retro halter dress that's perfect for summer but can easily work into fall with the addition of a long-sleeve cardigan and a pair of boots. I made the dress in less than a day from start to finish since the instructions were so easy to follow. This project is a perfect way to start if you are new to using Japanese sewing books.
I stayed relatively true to the sample garment by using a similar polka-dot print, and I'm really happy with the way it turned out!
One important thing to note is that the dresses in this book require drafting your own pattern. While this may seem intimidating at first, I actually really love it because it's a great way not only to practice these skills but to know you're getting a great fit. Many of the fabric layouts include easy calculations for modifying pattern pieces to fit your specific measurements, so you can customze the pattern to fit you right from the get-go.
I Am Hello Halter is an easy pattern to draft, with only three pieces: Bodice, Waistband, and Skirt Front/Back. This dress is designed to have a very snug waistband, which gives the otherwise voluminous pattern a bit of shaping. This is an area where I'm hugely grateful that I'm drafting my own pattern. I have a wide ribcage so most patterns never fit properly in this area. In this case, the pattern layout includes an easy calculation so I was able to quickly mark out a waistband piece that is perfectly snug.
These designs are also meant to be very flexible in terms of hem length. Most are designed to be quite long, and you can adjust the hem line to your height or personal preference. In my case, I'm very short, and I feel like long dresses can sometimes overwhelm me, so I decided to hem mine right at the knee. The length is cute and summery with a pair of flats and still the perfect length when worn with boots.
As a visual learner, I also appreciate that Japanese craft books and patterns are much less text-heavy than American counterparts. The focus here is on detailed and abundant illustrations, which demonstrate everything from where to place gathering stitches to how to finish waistbands and hems.
I find myself with fewer questions and much less time spent with the seam ripper when using instructions presented in this format, and I bet once you try it you'll love them, too.
Another good thing about these simple patterns is that they serve as great platforms for experimentation. I'm already thinking about fun modifications to make to my I Am Hello Halter pattern (pockets!), and this pattern is so quick and easy that I know I'll make at least one more version. My closet is soon to be overflowing with fun dresses, so I really need to start thinking of equally fun places to wear them!
You'll find I Am Hello Halter and 24 other cute and easy dress patterns in I Am Cute Dresses. Once you try a couple out for yourself I bet you'll be just as obsessed with Japanese sewing patterns as I am!