Perhaps you’ve noticed that my favourite dress style, probably of all time ever, is a long princess seam dress with a button front. This love easily goes back to my teen years in the 90s, but those early memories are marred by the fact that the store-bought versions of this dress never… quite… fit. Sewing has long been my chance to fix that, but somehow I hadn’t quite gotten around to the classic 90s version—a long, Princess seamed dress with simple short sleeves and a classic scoop neck, that buttons up the front, sewn in a soft, fluttering rayon.
Well, as soon as I saw the Scroop Patterns Robin dress come out, a couple of years ago, it was obviously the perfect example of this style. So I bought it. And then, well, life happened. I got it printed up ages ago. I had fabric picked out last summer. This spring, I picked out a different fabric, a Cotton + Steel rayon print called “Magic Tulips” that was a gift from a sewing friend.
Though if I run across the other fabric I wouldn’t rule out another.
The pattern has three separate bust size options, and I thought the instructions for helping you choose the right one were really good—this is something I can struggle with sometimes, especially the last few years when my measurements are all over the place. I wound up going with the “mid size” option, and no complaints although I might shave a tiny bit off the fullness. That’s an easy fix though. I also went with the inseam pockets, which maybe aren’t ideal for a soft and drapey fabric like rayon, but I want pockets more than I mind a little bit of pulling, generally.
I complicated my construction unnecessarily by placing lacing loops in both the front and back princess seams, in an attempt to replicate a design feature from this original 90s pattern in my stash:
Unfortunately, the combination of my short waist and very abrupt hip jut left only about 2” where the look actually worked, so that experiment did not really work out. I did leave the lacing in the back, with some rather painful fussing over where exactly they should go (my initial placement was much too low, which didn’t become obvious until after I had served the seams, and then there was the moment where I got confused and sewed them back into the exact same spots I had just ripped out… anyway.) It added hours to what should’ve been a more or less straightforward project, and really if I had just taken in the back a bit more it would’ve been fine without. But it is a fun detail, and hopefully will help to proof the dress against any modest size fluctuations in my future.
The only change I actually made to the pattern was a small swayback adjustment. I meant to also raise the underarm, but forgot—which probably shows how out of practice I am. I do regret that omission and will do it before the next time.
When I first tried it on, I did find that it flapped rather large, and after some experimenting pinching in princess seams decided I just needed to take in the side seams—a good 1” on each side at the waist, tapering to about 1/2” just under the arms.
This solved the fit issue, but then when I went to put in the first sleeve, I was really struggling with too much ease in the sleeve cap. The notches also didn’t line up even remotely, but since I did cut the dress out in squiggly rayon with the intermittent assistance of two almost-three-year-olds and several cats, I was honestly mostly surprised at how well most of it lined up.
It took me a distressing amount of time to realize that I had removed about 1” from the width of each armscye with my side-seam alteration. Once I altered the sleeves in the same way, the notches (mostly) lined up and everything slid into place.
The button placket on the Robin dress is simply folded over, and the neckline is finished with bias tape. The pattern has you fold the placket back when stitching on the binding, so that the placket covers the end of the bias tape very neatly on the inside, and your topstitching of the neckline turns smoothly into the placket topstitching—a very tidy look and method, except that I had gone ahead and topstitched the placket down first. So I had to unpick several inches of that, and then it took a couple of tries to get the layering right, because, well, my sewing brain is out of practice. But I’m quite happy with the finish and the method in the end.
I went with the most plain and boring of black plastic buttons, again from stash. I think they are a good pairing with the print, letting it hold the spotlight. And, I am pretty sure they came from a giant mixed bag of buttons bought when I was first stocking up on sewing supplies in 2010 or so. So nice to use a bit of deep stash, even if they are not particularly interesting. I did kind of accidentally place my buttons holes horizontally (my default) rather than vertically as the pattern called for. To be honest I think I just prefer sewing them that way, and I’m more used to it so my rusty sewing brain defaulted to it. There are also a LOT of buttons, because I like them fairly closely spaced, for maximum support against gaping especially when I’m doing something silly like adding back lacing to a dress that’s already well fitting. I made sure there was a button placed at the full bust point, at the waist, and then filled in in between. I will say, for a tool I always thought was a luxury, I ALWAYS use my button-hole spacer and it makes this process so quick and simple.
I sewed the buttons on by machine, which made the process very quick, but my placement isn’t quite as good as if I had done it by hand, and there are a few ripples. However, I finished the hem after the buttons, so if I adjust the buttons I might have to redo part of the hem, so I’ll probably just live with it, honestly. Done is better than perfect.
For next time, I would definitely raise the underarm—it’s not bad but could be better; I’m not sure if my taste for a high underarm comes from personal preference or some quirk of my shoulder joint, but I like them high. I think the bodice as a whole could maybe be shortened slightly, even just 1/4”. I’ve been trying to do less of that in the last few years, as I tended to overdo it, but I also hate a too-long bodice. If I skipped the lacing in the back (which honestly was enough of a pain) I would perhaps take in a bit at the back princess seams, as there did seem to be a bit of extra fabric there.
It took what felt like forever to sew this, as if each little step was a battle. Not against the fabric, which was reasonably well-behaved for a rayon, but against everything else in my life right now. On the other hand, finishing felt like such a victory that I even used one of these precious gifted sewing labels on it. I’m so glad to get to finally wear it. I’d like to say I’d make another three, but at the rate of my current sewing that might take