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Choosing fabrics and getting inspired to make your Jenna Dress

It's sewalong time! Having just recently released our latest sewing pattern, the Jenna Dress, we're so excited to get stuck into another action packed sewalong! As usual we'll be guiding you through the making of your Jenna throughout this series of posts, talking about everything from fabric selection, fitting issues and alteration tutorials, tips and tricks for working on the bias and everything in between. Today we're whetting our appetites and getting inspired by fabrics... How will you make yours??


As with most of our patterns, the inspiration behind Jenna's design is fairly multi-faceted. A combination of 90s fashion à la Clueless' Cher Horowitz, playful 60s flared empire minis and the Reformation summer frocks we wish we could afford...! Here are some of the images that we held close during the design process, plus some further ideas to get your creative pattern-hacking juices flowing.

Dress by Charlotte Taylor (sadly no longer trading)


Dresses all available at Urban Outfitters


We're still obsessed with prairie dresses (actually always have been) and reckon that Jenna could so easily be hacked into something like the beauties below simply by adding a wide waistband onto the empire length bodice and attaching a floor sweeping gathered skirt. Recreate those billowing bishop sleeves with our easy tutorial!

Left: dress by Brock Collection; right: dress by Agua Bendita


There's so much you can do with Jenna's simple darted bodice as your starting point. We love the idea of adding a cute faux placket down the centre front to show off your collection of vintage buttons...

...or why not slash the neckline to the waist seam for a super sexy deep V-plunge...

...or you could sew some stretched elastic down the centre front to create a ruched sweetheart neck?


Depending on what kind of a statement you want to make with your Jenna, the fabric will have an enormous effect. Fluid silks and rayons will play up the figure-caressing nature of the bias cut skirt - look for silk satin, silk charmeuse and viscose challis. Soft cottons, linens and crinkly crepes will lend a more substantial but still ethereal quality, and prove to be a much easier sew if you're daunted by shiftier, more slippery fabrics - we love viscose linen mix fabrics, enzyme washed linens, seersucker, noil, wool/viscose crepe and embroidered cottons. Sturdier fabrics will encourage the A-line cut of the skirt to stand away from your body (as opposed to clinging in the case of drapier fabrics) emphasising that cute 60s mod style - we've seen Jenna made in stiff yet translucent silk organza and it was stunning! Brocades and jacquards would also look fabulous, especially with the shorter mini skirt of Variation 1 and the 60s style collar and bracelet length sleeves of Variation 2. The bodice and sleeves can handle a hugely varied smorgasbord of fabrics, so we also encourage you to have fun with colour and fabric blocking for more of a boho-eclectic look! As ever with sewing patterns, the possibilities are limitless.

Here's a selection of some of the fabrics from our favourite retailers that we're currently crushing on for the Jenna Dress.


Always a great place to start in our minds as floral fabrics are a failsafe option for a sweet 'n summery dress such as Jenna :) Play it safe with teeny weeny ditsy florals, go bold with larger and more painterly prints or mix it up! There's plenty of opportunity for print and colour clashing with Jenna so have fun and see what crazy concoctions you can come up with!

Clockwise from top left: mustard polka dot floral viscose from Sew Me Sunshine; Lady McElroy brushstrokes floral viscose crepe from Fabric Godmother; white flowers on yellow viscose crepe from Blackbird Fabrics; Liberty silk satin from The Fabric Store; big poppies viscose from Sew Me Sunshine; retro floral viscose & cupro from Fabric Godmother


Nothing beats the easy elegance of a beautifully made dress in one solid knockout colour that brings out your eyes and makes your skin glow! The key here is to opt for top quality natural fabrics that take your dress from plain and basic to understated luxury, and that will wash and wear well.

Clockwise from top left: terracotta viscose by Atelier Brunette at Fabric Godmother; ocean blue bamboo silk from Ray Stitch; burgundy rayon velvet from Promenade Fabrics; mustard crinkle viscose from New Craft House; blush pink washed linen and deep red viscose linen noil both from Blackbird Fabrics.

Silk velvet empire line dress by Brock Collection


Sleeve inspiration via Free People

Checks & balances...

We're not really recommending striped fabric for Jenna due to the bias cut of the skirt - unless you cut the skirt front as a pair instead of on the fold and get your centre front seam lined up perfectly so that the stripes meet in a flawless chevron, which would be stunning! However, for a similar effect with much less effort, checks and plaids in contrasting directions looks amazing. You'll have the straight up and down checks cut on the grainline as usual for the bodice and sleeves, and then bias cut skirt flips the print on it's side resulting in a diamond check! We've seen it on one of our testers and it's such a good look.

Clockwise from top left: 70s check viscose from Stoff & Stil; blue gingham viscose from New Craft House; green and pink silk gazar from Promenade Fabrics; miniature gingham with bees viscose from Stoff & Stil; blue black chess board silk from The Fabric Store; giant buffalo plaid from Sew Me Sunshine.

A very different dress to Jenna - it's vintage Vogue 8103 - but how awesome is that bias plaid??

Geometric & abstract...

When florals are a bit too cutesy, solids a bit too solid, and checks too much of a statement, we'd argue that abstract and soft geometric prints are actually the chicest and most elegant option. We love grown up colour palettes consisting of blush pink, deep reds, monochrome, bottle green and moody blues...

Clockwise from top left: abstract outline floral viscose challis from Promenade Fabrics; printed linen viscose mix from Ray Stitch; ditsy hearts viscose from Stoff & Stil; dotty seersucker from New Craft House; dune maple viscose crepe by Atelier Brunette at Sew Me Sunshine; geometric spots burnout silk from The Fabric Store; black and white cotton ikat from Blackbird Fabrics; tabby shell viscose by Atelier Brunette at Sew Me Sunshine.

Novelty prints...

Liquorice Allsorts silk?! Hand-drawn crowded faces! Silly animals and 80s florals - there is soooo much out there now in the world of drapey woven rayons, silk satins and even now printed linen mixes that you can really go wild and wear your dreams on your dress.

Clockwise from top left: 80s floral poly crepe from Promenade Fabrics (update! This is actually a knit fabric so not suitable for Jenna - our mistake, sorry! We totally missed that detail when we were looking for fabrics, and just loved this print! Oh well...); liquorice allsorts silk from The Fabric Store; crowded faces viscose crepe from Fabric Godmother; flamingo viscose linen from Sew Me Sunshine.

Next up on the Jenna Dress sewalong...

Before we can get down to the really fun part, we need to nail the fit. We'll be walking you through some common fitting issues and how to correct them in order to get the best fit for your body. Homework is to sew your toile! Make sure that your toile fabric has a similar handle to the fabric you've chosen for your final dress so that when you try on your toile you'll have a better idea as to how your dress will fit and fall.

Comments on this post (2)

  • Dec 02, 2019

    So lovely dress that is. I just love it. I found some excellent fabrics from Spandex Collection in NYC near me which was a nice weight, not too beefy.

    — Rose Leo

  • Dec 03, 2019

    I already made one Jenna dress in solid black linen and love it. For the next one I would love to use a stunning silk border print. Do you think I could cut the skirt on the straight grain as well to keep the border at the hem?
    Thanks a lot!

    — Lis

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