Readers, for the length of this post, let’s embark together on a bit of a fantastic journey. If, like me, you are looking out the window and can see frost or even snow, talking about a linen maxi dress might be a bit unrealistic, even crazy. So let’s suspend our disbelief for a second and imagine we’re in the Southern Hemisphere, or in the Caribbean or somewhere else that feels like a holiday. If you’re already living in one of those places, that’s ok, no fantasy journey for you, just a regular ol’ pattern review.
Right, are you with me? Mentally putting on suncream, of course…
So let me tell you about what possessed me to make a linen maxi dress in the middle of winter…
DISCLAIMER: This is an advertorial feature. I received the digital version of the sewing pattern for free from the designer, in exchange for a review on my blog and social channels. The designer did not review or amend the final post and there were no clauses in our agreement that would prevent me from offering an honest opinion. Please read my Readers Disclosure Policy for more details. You can also check my post on Advertising Regulations and what influencers are required to disclose.
It all started with Kim from Ann Normandy Design (and you can read our great conversation in my Designer Stories post) getting in touch with a collaboration offer. She was keen to see my take on one of her patterns, and I chose the maxi dress. I love me some maxi goodness (and do tend to make them at the wrong time of the year, it seems), so that was the pattern I was immediately attracted to. I was getting ready for my Costa Rica holidays and so, in spite of it being middle of the Northern Hemisphere winter, I could easily make the mental leap. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t really finish the dress in time for Costa Rica. In hindsight, it would have gotten squashed in my backpack to an unrecognisable mess, so my fantasy photoshoot on the beach would have stayed mostly in my head. However, as soon as I got back, I was really looking forward to finishing it and photographing it, ready for the blog!
And so here we are, with my beautiful linen maxi dress, ready for your viewing pleasure.
Ann Normandy Maxi Dress – The pattern
If you just look at the design lines, this dress looks so deceptively simple. That was my mistake (also thinking I can actually squeeze some pre-holiday sewing last minute, ha ha!). Only when you start reading the instructions, you realise why you need 12 pages for such a simple shape!
There are A LOT of hidden construction techniques in there, folks! Flat felled seams, self-bound facings and not an overlocker stitch in sight! I think it definitely is a precision sewing challenge, which in parts, I have to admit I failed miserably at. I’m almost itching to make another one and do better.
This is the pattern description (from the company’s website): couture quality, long dress pattern with timeless caftan style. With square and v neck, pockets and side vents
It comes in sizes from Small to Extra Large. I cut a straight medium size, and my measurements are:
- Hips: 104 cm (41in)
- Waist: 76 cm (30in)
- Bust 91cm (36in)
- Cup B/C
- Height: 1.72m/5.6in
I really loved the pockets, they are really generous. Also, the facing finishing is very stylish and neat, and no facing flapping danger!
Ann Normandy Maxi Dress – My fabric choice
I know the clue is in the title of the post, so no surprise here. I used a really lush twill medium weight linen in an almost iridescent denim blue. I’ve had it in my stash for ages, just waiting for the right pattern. I’m 100% sure deep down inside it wanted to be a maxi dress all this while…
This fabric also has a great story. I actually received it as a gift for organising a charity sewing session for people in my company. I taught people who had never used a sewing machine how to sew and we made syringe driver bags for St. Mary’s hospital in London. This was part of a campaign with a wonderful organisation called Making for Charity. The piece was huge (about 6m), so I could gift part of it as well to my sewing friend. Isn’t it awesome when doing good results in more love being spread out?
Now, let’s talk a bit about linen… I usually avoid it because of the crinkle factor, and I am not a fan of ironing at the best of times. And it really does wrinkle, especially if you machine wash it (like I did). It wasn’t so bad as I was sewing it, but I really struggled to get the deep wrinkles from washing. I tried to spray it with water and steam as I was ironing before I even laid it for cutting. And most of the issues were ironed out (pun intended), but if you closely, you can see them. Again, 1m rule, right?
After I finished the dress, I loved it so much that I wanted to wear it all the time – until my husband stepped in and turned the heating down – it’s still too cold for sleeveless even inside. So that was a good indication of how it might behave, but it was not tested with sitting at my desk for a whole day and being on the tube and wearing my bag on my shoulder etc.
I guess I just have to get used to the idea that I will have to iron it a bit more than usual, but I think it’s a small price to pay for such lush fabric.
Ann Normandy Maxi Dress – Alterations & Construction
As I mentioned before, there are so many great details in the construction of this dress. It really is a great example of slow sewing mindset, as you need to take your time and be very precise. There is nothing overly complicated, if you can sew a [very straight] line, you should be fine. All the facings and edges are self-finished (turned over and top-stitched), so you will not need an overlocker or zig-zag finish.
I did a quick check against the finished measurements and decided that cutting a straight size M should be fine. In general, I don’t like too oversized garments. I would say the key measurement is the high bust, as that’s where the dress needs to fit perfectly. There are no darts, so the pattern is meant to fit the upper chest then skim over the bust downwards and be loose on the hips. I ended up taking 1/4” of the sides inadvertently, as I did not read the instructions properly and did flat felled seams (incl. trimming) when I wasn’t supposed to. But I think it worked perfectly overall.
The length was perfect for me, but I am pretty tall. If you are a bit shorter, you might have to chop off a bit. I would recommend measuring from the vent opening, which hits perfectly for me above the upper part of the knee. I would definitely do the length adjustment before you cut the fabric out, no point to waste it.
My top tips for sewing this pattern:
- don’t overlock the raw edges – I pretty much do that default, but remember that all seams are flat felled!
- read the instructions carefully – there are many steps and sometimes it might not make sense why you are asked to do something in a certain way until further down. Especially the side seam vent might be a bit tricky. The main thing is that the front vent edge will be a continuation of the side seam going downwards.
- don’t go off-piste – if you want to keep the details as they were designed, you need to follow the instructions; it all comes together beautifully
- do a quick pin fit before starting construction – as all the long seams and the shoulders are flat-felled, so if you need to make any alterations, it will be a pain to unpick
- mind the seam allowances – the seam allowanced differ depending on the step, so make sure you check every time
- press well
- sew slowly, especially as the facings are top-stitched down and will show on the right side
Ann Normandy Maxi Dress – Verdict and conclusion
I must admit that if Kim had not approached me, I might have overlooked this pattern, in its simplicity. And I would definitely have missed out on a really well drafted, really stretching project, more the shame for it.
I am slightly annoyed with my lack of precision, especially on the neckline. But I’m sure I can get it right next time! All the more reason to make another version!
I don’t know if it’s the linen or the overall shape, but my version feels very comfortable. I hardly wanted to take it off after I made it. I felt really proud of myself after completing this project, so much so that I celebrated with a glass of wine!
Even if you think a maxi dress might not be the right shape for you, I think it can work for even shorter, more curvy ladies, as it skims over the body and offers a lengthened silhouette. In fact, I am planning a version for my mother-in-law who is 5”3.
So hats off to Kim for creating a great pattern!
Ann Normandy Maxi Dress – Review Recap
Pattern: Ann Normandy Design Maxi dress, size M, PDF version
Fabric: medium weight linen twill, from the stash; I used 1.5m
Alterations: Removed 1/4” from the back sides
Notions: fusible interface strips
Next time: be more accurate!!
Other versions: Sew Paradise
HOW DID WE DO ON THE FANTASY TRIP? ARE YOU FEELING THE BREEZE OR IS SEEING ME IN A SLEEVELESS DRESS GIVING YOU GOOSEBUMPS? HOW DO YOU LIKE MAXI DRESSES (USUALLY IN THE SUMMER)? AND HAVE YOU SEWN AN ANN NORMANDY PATTERN BEFORE? TELL ME IN THE COMMENTS.
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