Leopard (and snake) in a cage

Teenage daughters have a good sense of style.

Case in point:

I was uninspired by the picture in the magazine. Why make a dress that looks like a top tucked into a skirt? Why not have separates?

Felicity, however, saw its potential. And dislikes tops that come untucked.

Technical details

Pattern: Burdastyle 09-2011-109

Size: 36-44, I made a 40 with some modifications


The top is a ponte knit from Gorgeous Fabrics.

The skirt is a wool cashmere stretch from Gay Naffine’s designer fabric sell off. It is a truly delightful fabric that’s been in my stash for about 4 years. The good thing is that there is still enough left for me.

The skirt lining is a mid weight poly satin from Spotlight. I could not resist adding snakeskin to the leopard at the top and the cage like trim to the skirt. Sewing has to be fun!

Changes I made:

I did not use the skirt ‘pattern’ for this style. It was a rectangle gathered onto the top at the waist, and flannel was the recommended skirt fabric. Hello? Why would that be a good look on most people?

And don’t even start thinking about the weight of the flannel on the knit of the top..certainly a good plan for a growing child, provided the growth rate of the fabric was similar to that of the child.

I used a recent Burdastyle lace skirt pattern (03-2013-109) as a base for drafting a maxi skirt that fitted at the waist and I also added a lining:

To make it wide enough for the maxi length I needed for the dress, I angled the side seams out to end up with the same bottom hem width as Burdas rectangle would have given me. I did the same for the lining.

The trim on the skirt is petersham ribbon sewn on vertically down the centre front and horizontally every 26 or so cms. Because the skirt is shaped rather than rectangular, the horizontal trim curves out to the side seams and then slightly back into the centers of the front and the back.

(yes, my almost 15 year-old daughter is taller than my dress form, and me..)

I sewed the petersham ribbon on after marking a chalk line and before sewing the right seam. I think this would be a nightmare to do with both seams sewn up. My edge stitching foot got a workout, but it certainly made getting a straight topstitch easier!

Felicity is a leftie, so the side zip went in one the right seam.

Another thing I love about sewing your own clothes: customisation!

I surprised myself with the good matchup for the trim through the invisible zip. You can sort off see it above, but not very well. You’ll just have to trust me on this one.

This is what I did.

  • Sewed the first side through as normal.
  • Zipped up, and pinned the other side over the trim section only.
  • Upzipped, machine basted just over the trim section.
  • Zipped back up to check with seam ripper at the ready.
  • Smiled when I saw the seam ripper was no needed.
  • Unzipped and machine basted the other side.
  • Zipped up again to check, again with seam ripper.
  • Smiled again.
  • Proceeded as per normal.

How lucky was that! Probably never to be repeated, but at least I now have a record on the web that I can do it. Even if it does turn out to be the only time ever.

The top was taken in about 4 cm each side seam from the bust through to the waist to make it less loose fitting. Now it fits the skirt smoothly.

I followed the excellent advice of Kathy from Kathy Sews for the neck band length (15% less than the opening) and her technique for construction. Not bad for just a twin needle and an overlocker by a novice, even if I say so myself!

And, the final construction detail: interfacing strip attached to the shoulder seams.

11 buttons, 9 metres of petersham ribbon, 2 metres of wool cashmere suiting, 2 metres of snakeskin satin and a metre and a bit of leopard ponte that fly all the way from Boston. All it needs is some fabulous boots.

We are still looking…

A photo shoot will follow purchase of said boots.

Soon. I hope.

15 thoughts on “Leopard (and snake) in a cage

  1. The dress looks awesome and how terrific is that ripperless zip insertion?!. My daughter is fancying an animal print something too – and boots. They must be on to something fashionable. Good luck with the boots hunt.
    Thanks for your generous offer to lend me the 2007 09 Burda, but another kind person has offered too, and I snapped it up with intense gratefulness and will be watching the mailbox longingly until it arrives. I am equally grateful for your offer but hopefully am all sorted.

  2. You and your daughter must be thrilled with this dress! It is really, really classy looking in very youthful kind of way. Great job!

  3. So 70s! Your daughter has very sophisticated taste for a girl of her age. The changes you made to the skirt are absolutely spot on. Gathered skirts can look so frumpy.

  4. Wow, this looks great. I would never had thought of that look. BTW as another Adelaide resident can I ask where you obtained the Petersham ribbon? I haven’t been able to find any. Thanks.

      1. Brilliant, thanks for that. I will pop in at some stage and have a look. I have bought trims from there a while ago and yes it is a bit like Aladdin’s cave for sewists.

  5. Wow and double wow! Great style sense indeed! I have to agree with her that untucked blouses are not fun. I had noticed a couple of dresses Michelle Obama wore that look like separates and wanted to make something like that too. Great for when there isnt enough fabric for a full dress too…

  6. This is completely amazing. I saw the pattern and wondered why anybody would want to make this dress – gathering flannel??? I simple could not have seen beyond this silly idea. But your version is fantastic – well done to you and your daughter for both style and vision.

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