A year ago, when the Tilly and the Buttons Etta dress was first launched, I decided it wasn’t for me. I liked the classic, elegant look, but when I thought about wearing that kind of woven dress in the office, it seemed too structured (uncomfortable?), fitted and just a little claustrophobic for me. I’ve made many of Tilly’s patterns in the short time I’ve been sewing, but decided this one was a pass for me.
It was a visit to the Great British Sewing Bee event towards the end of 2017 that got me looking at the pattern in person – and saw that on the fabric suggestions Tilly had included ponte di roma and jacquard knits as suitable options.
This was a whole different thing. An elegant, fifties-ish dress, but in a comfy, forgiving fabric? Hold my drink …
I whizzed through my first Etta some months ago, in a blue-green ponte that I think came from my stash – it certainly wouldn’t be the only piece in that colour-way, as I seem to buy all fabrics that I see in that particular shade. I say ‘whizzed’, but am guessing that compared to most other people blogging that would equate to a slow crawl. Nonetheless, the systematic process that Tilly’s patterns are so brilliant for, got me relatively quickly to a lovely dress. It wasn’t without mishap however.
I have a tendency to insomnia – it appears to be my body’s unhelpful reaction to most situations, and often feels a bit like I’m harbouring a traitor within. I can’t think of many situations that are improved by a lack of sleep, and it’s cumulative for me. After a run of these bad nights and in the spirit of trying to make my evenings soothing and calm, I decided that I would leave my iPad and sewing blogs downstairs, and instead take up some hand sewing to do in bed while listening to an audio book – I forget which book, but presumably something without high drama or tension. I decided to spend this time putting in the long zip at the back of my Etta dress by hand.
When I first learned to sew, I put in all my zips by hand. I was frankly frightened of doing them on a sewing machine, and my lime green and blue starter-model had no option to change feet – so hand sewing was the pragmatic way forwards. I found it rather soothing, and in this tired, heading to sleep state I put in the zip over a couple of nights.
On none of those nights did my sleep-deprived brain recognise that the zip was upside down. Don’t get me wrong, it opens at the neck as it should do – but the zipper is on the inside. I can only wear it when my nearest and dearest are available to help me dress and/or change for bed! Clearly I could now remove the zip and put in a new one – but actually this error makes me smile to myself every time I wear it, so I haven’t yet …
Despite being a zip-muppet, I LOVE my blue-green Etta dress. Every time I wear it, I feel a little bit taller, a little bit curvier (in a good way – not so straight up and down) and I feel smart but comfortable. A total win. It’s one of those dresses that makes you feel just a bit more confident, and that in itself usually makes the day a better one.
With such power imbued in a single item, clearly a second dress would be hot off the press. I chose a dark pink ponte this time, and got to work.
It got really warm – heatwave warm.
I didn’t feel like wearing a long sleeve knit dress so it sat, half made, on my dress form for several weeks.
I was distracted by holiday makes – or, in reality, failing to create any holiday makes because I felt guilty about my unfinished Etta.
Then there was the sewing weekender and planning for that.
Bit by bit, it came into being – until finally it was finished.
Some aspects of this dress I like more than the original; some less. It has a zip that I can open and close without assistance, which is a definite advantage. Some elements of the make were smoother for a second go around – the collar sits better, and the kick pleat is neater (aka less mangled by a runaway overlocker). I’m not 100% certain about the colour though – really hoping it’ll grow on me, or I’ll grow into it or something – but it’s quite a bold choice for me.
Conclusions then – if you were put off the Etta – or indeed any structured, fitted, woven dress – because of a need to be comfortable in your clothes, then give a stable knit option a go. I will continue my quest to make classic/vintage-inspired clothes that work with my life, my height and my wish to breathe out and eat puddings. I probably won’t make any more Etta’s, at least not for the time being – because it’s a distinctive dress and a wardrobe only needs so many of one design.
If I did make another though, I hope I wouldn’t make one with lemons on. It’s not that I don’t like Tilly’s styling for this dress – quite the reverse. I basically, unintentionally, seem to have recreated both the dresses on the cover of the pattern pack with my outfits. Minus points for originality and being influenced by what I see! Oh well …