Lovely Liberty Betsy Ann Dress

Drawing inspiration from a dress in her wardrobe, Laura has made this super cute, pleated front Liberty dress using Betsy Ann F from the new 2022 Liberty Tana Lawn® Classics collection.

“This dress is my attempt at copying a dress I have owned for a number of years now. The dress came from a Korean fashion store, has light blue stripes and I love it to bits buuuuut it has no sleeves, which limits when I can wear it. “Great for summer!” I hear you cry, yeah, well, you’d think so, but you forget that I’m a weirdo who cannot handle showing her shoulders. So instead, all sleeveless dresses are strictly ‘cooler month’ outfits, layering sleeved blouses underneath or cardigans and jackets over is the only way I can wear them. Sometimes, I am ashamed to say, I risk wearing it with only a light jacket and no blouse underneath, but then if the day gets hotter than anticipated I am stuck, sweating and smelling in my too-warm jacket because I can’t, I JUST CAN’T, take it off and expose my bare shoulders to the world!!! “If only you had sleeves” I’d sigh sadly, having pulled the striped dress out of my wardrobe in warmer months, only to put it straight back in again. Well, I shall be sad no more for I have made a copy WITH sleeves! Mwahahaha!”

“I have the pretty and new Betsy Ann F to thank for inspiring this doppelganger dress. It is such a soft and sweet print, probably one of the palest in the new 2022 Liberty Tana Lawn® Classics collection. The whole Classics collection is filled with amazing prints to fall in love with and coo over, but I was admiring Betsy Ann F while wearing the striped sleeveless dress and had sudden visions of a floral yellow version. It’d be perfect! I love the warm but soft yellow on the flowers, the muted green leaves, the pale pink and blue-grey accents on the buds and blooms. Betsy Ann is a smaller scale version of Liberty’s much loved Betsy print, which is a classic 1930s floral by a mysterious Liberty designer, who we know nothing about but their initials, D.S. We may not know anything about them, but we do know that D.S. was most certainly a floral print genius! It is such a beautiful print, I am sure anything made in both the larger Betsy and smaller Betsy Ann would be a winner for anybody.”

“You may have seen the ‘pleat hack’ going around Instagram, where a fork is used to easily make pleats in the fabric as you sew. Being pro-anything-that-means-I-don’t-have-to-paper-pattern-make-pleats, I was hoping to use that method but I sadly couldn’t get it to work for this. Well, I guess it could have worked, but not without wasting a lot of fabric in the process. Instead, to save fabric and at least remove the paper pattern-making stage, I measured the pleats on the striped dress and replicated them directly onto a rectangle of fabric in order to cut the dress shape directly out of it. I tried to take a photo of all this to share with you but it didn’t end up looking like anything. So, you will have to suffer my doodle explanation of these steps instead, my apologies.”

“1. Cut a rectangle of fabric, using measurements from the dress being copied. The width is the widest point of the front dress panel (the hem), and the length is the measurement from the top shoulder seam/neck point to the hem (all adding extra for seam allowance). The width will be much more than the length.”

“2. Find the middle point on the rectangle of fabric and start evenly pleating from the center outwards. Sew the pleats in and iron them all flat.
The original dress is quite clever in that the pleats are sewn in from the neckline to the waistline only, lending some shape to the torso but making the skirt more billowy. This is probably my favourite thing about the dress so it was definitely being copied! I measured the original dress’s shoulder seam/neck point to the waistline as being 13” long, so the pleats on this new dress also had to be sewn in for 13”. To make sewing the pleats down easier, I decided to treat them like huge pintucks, instead of the box pleats, they actually are (or maybe huge pintucks are already a thing and I’m just not aware, let me know if that is the case!). Only once they had been sewn down for the required 13”, I pressed the big, flappy pintuck bits flat down against the fabric, trying as hard as I could to press them evenly. Pressing them flat in this way was harder than I imagined it would be, so my pleats don’t look 100% even from the front but, hey-ho, such is the way of hand-made clothes! Sometimes you have just got to embrace the imperfections else you’ll go mad, haha. Liberty Tana Lawn® is such a dream to sew with – silky smooth and soft to the touch, but not actually slippery to handle so pinning and sewing it together is no trouble at all. It will also hold a crease well, making keeping pleats in place a breeze. I am confident that the loose, but ironed-down fabric of the pleats will keep their shape and not flap about. High quality, 100% cotton is good like that!”

“3. Lay a tried and tested bodice front pattern down on top of the now pleated fabric, aligning the center points and ensuring the shoulder seam/neckline point is touching the top of the fabric. Cut out the shape of the pattern including the armholes, shoulders, and neckline.”

“And voila! A lazily pleated dress front is born! The only thing is by doing it this way without making a paper pattern, if I ever want to replicate the design I’ll have to go through all the faff of measuring the pleats, working out what sized rectangle to cut initially all over again, blah di blah. Is my immediate laziness making more work for potential future me? Yeah, maybe. However, I think I would still prefer doing all of that again to having to make a paper pleated pattern just once!”

“For the back, I copied the striped dress’s back yoke and gathered design in the same way as outlined above, only by gathering the fabric in the second step instead of pleating. I also added ties in the side seams in the same way. Uncreative I know, I just love the original dress so much, I didn’t want to change anything but add sleeves! Oh wait I lie, I also added a pocket which the original doesn’t have either. Nothing changed but sleeves and a pocket, then!”

“For the all-important sleeves, I was just going to make them puffy, elbow-length sleeves but at the last minute I decided to go with the pleat theme and also pleat the sleeves. I couldn’t do much as I’d already sewn in and overlocked the sleeve head into the armhole (no way was I unpicking that!), but there was a bit of room to do something on the sleeve end. It is only a little bit of a pleat, but I hope it adds some interest if you look closely. For a very last-minute improvisation, I’m glad it turned out ok- phew.”

“I cannot wait to wear this dress in both warm AND cooler weather. For so long I have craved a sleeved version of the striped dress and me and my shoulders are mighty glad to finally have one! Bonus benefit: the colours in this cute Betsy Ann print go with my minty blue sandals nicely – hooray!”

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