Beautiful Florence May Liberty Dress

Laura has made this beautiful dress using Florence May A from the 2022 Liberty Classics Collection. This dress has the most wholesome backstory that is bound to make you smile. As well as being a great dressmaker, Laura is also a wonderful storyteller. Here she is to tell us about this gorgeous dress and why she made it…

“This dress is the first half of a sweet little story about a lovely person that I hope you will enjoy reading about. Still being pretty new to UK small village life, things such as this make me feel warm and fuzzy and super grateful to be here.”

“In preparation for the village’s annual street market which takes place each summer, I was carrying a large box full of all sorts of bottles and drink cans to the village hall for the tombola stall. (Side note: For those, who have no idea what a tombola is, it is a raffle in which numbered tickets are drawn from a revolving drum. In this case, the prize for drawing the winning number is one of the bottles or cans. I had no idea what it was until I moved here.) I mention all this because I want to give you the full cute village picture. Just setting the scene!”

“So, arriving at the village hall and gratefully putting down the heavy clinking box, I was greeted by the lovely Rose with a smile. A bit about Rose, the central character in this story: Rose plays a huge part in the village, I think she is in basically every committee or organisation that there is to be and gives so much of her time to them. During lockdown, she organised a local food delivery, shopping for residents who couldn’t leave their homes and ensuring they received whatever groceries they needed. On the Village Hall Committee, she is a whiz at managing the finances and applies for and writes all of the grants she can to secure funding for the hall, which is classed as a charity. She is a skilled bell ringer, and though she no longer rings herself, she coordinates the local group of bell ringers. For the street market, she takes care of the finances, organises the float and helps with all manner of preparations. I don’t know how the village would be able to run without her amazing and tireless work. She has been in the village for a long time and knows everyone, she probably cannot even walk her dog around the block without stopping multiple times to chat! Basically, she is wonderful and wholesome and deserves all the nice things. I hope from this description that you are loving her as much as we do!”

“Shake your head all you like, but to execute this very manual labour task of hauling heavy bottles about I was wearing a Liberty dress, one I had made a year or two ago in the seasonal Lockwood fabric. (I don’t save things ‘for best’, if I did that I’d never get to wear anything nice. Pretty things should be worn every day!) Rose gasped out loud when she saw my dress, saying that was basically her dream dress. On her request, I did a spin so she could see it in full, and she continued making exclamations of longing and love with wide eyes. We bonded over our mutual desire to wear dresses that covered our shoulders, had higher necklines, included pockets and wasn’t it just so hard to find anything on the high street that met those criteria!? I held up the ruffled hem to let her touch the fabric and she loved how smooth and soft the cotton felt, too. She confessed to always having loved Liberty fabric and the colourful prints for being classic and timeless. Being a free pattern download for the bodice and a super simple width of fabric for the skirt, I gleefully told her I could pass on the pattern to her, it would be really simple to make herself! In response Rose smiled and said ‘If only I had the time.’ Of course she hasn’t the time, she is so busy giving back to the village. After sorting out my street market donation and saying goodbye, I kept thinking about Rose and all she did for people. Then I had a brilliantly brilliant but totally obvious idea – I’d make Rose her dream dress! She DESERVES to have her dream dress! Ideally, receiving the dress would come as a total surprise to Rose but practically that wasn’t the best idea. Though at a guess I’d say we are the same size that was a lot to risk if I got it wrong. Likewise, I could have asked her equally lovely and village-giving partner Andy for advice on what sort of colour and printed Liberty fabric she would like, but that didn’t feel entirely fair (not to mention a lot of pressure for Andy to get it right!). If it was to be Rose’s dream dress it had to be perfect for her. She deserved to choose the fabric and of course it deserved to fit her perfectly.”

“Feeling gleeful and more than a bit devious, I was excited to run into Rose again and share my plan, but nowhere near as excited as she was to hear it! She tried on my Lockwood dress to figure out sizing and hurrah – it fit like a glove! By lucky coincidence, Liberty were due to release their new Tana Lawn® Classic Collection later that month, so Rose would soon have a huge range of beautiful Liberty fabric to choose from for her dress. After Rose viewed all the Liberty fabrics, I asked her to tell me which fabric she wanted for her dress, and at the last moment, also asked her to say which would have been her second favourite fabric, just in case. (Little did I know how grateful I’d soon be for knowing her second favourite Liberty fabric!) The fabric Rose chose is Florence May in the darker navy colourway. Florence May is a new addition to the Liberty Classics collection but was based on a hand-painted artwork that was discovered in the Liberty archive. The print features a range of wild flowers typically grown in the English countryside. On the whole it is a print very well suited for Rose and the small country village indeed! Rose has chosen the A colourway, which has red poppies, green foliage, yellow daffodils, blue forget-me-nots and cream daisies on a navy background. Rose said she loved that it felt both pretty with all of its colourful flowers, but also mature thanks to the navy background. Florence May also comes in two other colourways, a blue and yellow dominated print with a white background, and a mostly pink and green print on a white background.”

“In terms of the dresses construction, the bodice pattern is the top half of the free Chloe jumpsuit pattern, find it here. There are a great number of free dressmaking patterns to be found there and if the quality of the Chloe pattern is anything to go by I certainly recommend giving them a go! My favourite detail on the bodice are the little ties on the sleeves, it is little things like that which can really elevate an outfit. You don’t have to have the Chloe pattern to do this at home, simply make a buttonhole about 5” from the base of the sleeve, on the sleeve’s front. Thread one half of a small fabric tie through the sleeve opening and buttonhole, then knot in place. The skirt is a single rectangle length of fabric, gathered enough to fit the bodice. It also has two side seam pockets, quite important for someone as busy as Rose is!”  

“Rose does so much for others and this dress is only a very small action in comparison to all she does. She is insisting on paying me for making it but I’m insisting right back that I don’t want to be paid so that is a small ongoing battle I fully intend to win. Rose deserves a gift! I want it to serve as a token of appreciation and love from the village back to Rose. She so very much deserves good and wonderful things 😊  Her partner, Andy, agreed that she should have nice things, but I’ll leave that half of the tale for next time 😉”

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