I am so excited.. like mega ultra excited to share with you my rendition of the Free Bowen Dress Pattern featured in Issue 53 of Peppermint Magazine. It’s a collab with Hubba Ding and Spoonflower and I may have fainted when they reached out to me to sew up a Bowen for the collab. Uhh what??? Little old me??? I’ll admit I was a little nervous about this collab. I hope I’ve done the pattern justice especially because I did put own twist on it. There is a lot of ‘Keira’ mixed into it. I went to town with the hacking because the Bowen is such a simple silhouette.. it’s a great base for hacking and I just could not resist the opportunity to add some island spice and flavour!
The Bowen Dress is intended to be a pretty oversized tent dress with dropped dolman style shoulders and rah-rah sleeves. It features a V-neck on one side, and a rounded button up on the other. You can choose which side to wear as your front and back as they are interchangeable. There are optional pockets as well but I omitted those. You’re probably looking at my dress going… ‘uhh that is not the dress you’re describing Keira!’. Like I said.. I switched it up pretty dramatically to better suit my personal style. Let’s look at the original line drawings and then we’ll chat about all the changes I made to create this little tiered ruffly mini dress version.
According to the size chart, I should have sewed size G graded to H at the hips. This would have given me 14.2″ ease at the bust, 20.5″ ease at the waist, and 53.5″ ease at the hips. I’ve never in my years of sewing, bounced upon a pattern with this much ease and though I know some of you will absolutely love the breezy silhouette, I had a feeling it would absolutely drown me. I am 5’4″ with a short torso and I generally prefer some waist definition to show off my figure. I think it’s so important in sewing to know what styles you prefer and what silhouettes suit your body or make you feel the most confident. That being said, never write off any pattern from one glance. I believe every single pattern is hackable and I truly love the challenge of transforming something I wouldn’t normally opt for at first glance to something that I want to grab from my closet all the time. If you are a beginner pattern hacker especially, the Bowen Dress is a phenomenal base to use to allow your creative juices to flow! (And remember it’s free!)
I ended up cutting the smallest size, A. According to the finished measurements chart, that would give me 4.8″ ease at the bust, 11.1″ ease at the waist, and 37″ ease at the hips. This was still a lot of ease for me so I decided to make a muslin of the bodice to see where I wanted to go with this design. I so wish I had taken photos of my mock up but I had butchered it making adjustments before I remembered. Oops! The first thing I noticed from my mockup was that the sleeve line came down too low on my arm. Considering I had cut the smallest size, I didn’t want to have restricted movement when I try to raise my arms. There was also more than enough ease in the bust and waist to go ahead and bring in that sleeve line to where I wanted. I ended up taking off 2″.
I adjusted my back bodice piece to be cut on the fold by removing 1 1/8″ which would have formed the placket. I had a grand plan for the skirt and felt like the bodice didn’t need the buttons to complicate the design further. I also didn’t have any buttons in my stash that spoke to me for this project. The front V neckline was just a tad higher than I liked so I lowered it by 2″.
Next I adjusted the length. Because of the rectangular shaped pattern pieces and my bust size, the seam line fell at my apex and was very curved, being longer at the sides and shorter in the middle. I preferred the seam line to fall at my natural waist so as you can imagine, that was quite a large adjustment to make. I lengthened the bodice pieces 2″. Then I lengthened the center front another 3″, curving to nothing at the sides. The center back, I lengthened by 2.5″ curving to nothing at the sides.
I shortened the sleeve ruffles to 2.75″ and replicated those ruffles on my skirt. I kept the fullness of the skirt although I had taken off 2″ from each side of the bodice. I just thought the nice full skirt would be so beautiful with a closer bodice and would give me the perfect baby doll look I was after. Here are the measurements for my skirt tiers:
- Tier 1: 4″ plus 1″ seam allowance at top & 3/8″ seam allowance at bottom
- Tier 2: 6″ plus 3/8″ seam allowance at top and bottom
- Tier 3: 6″ plus 3/8″ seam allowance at top and bottom
- Ruffles: 2.75″ by width of fabric
So I sewed the bodice to the skirt using a 1″ seam allowance, serged the edge and edge stitched at 3/4″ leaving a space to feed through the elastic. I used 1/2″ elastic to cinch the waist.
My favourite detail that I added to this dress is of course my rolled hems on the ruffles. I used a different colour for each ruffle; green for the sleeve ruffles and yellow, orange and pink for the skirt ruffles. It was a bit of a pain to change my serger threads so often but definitely worth the struggle! The ruffles with the multicolored hems really help to break up the bold busy print. Speaking of print… remember I said this was also a Spoonflower Collab? Let’s dive into this glorious fabric!
We were given a long list of gorgeous fabrics to choose from for this project. Oh my goodness… I had the hardest time narrowing down my choices as there were so many amazing prints. I had my husband and mom helping me pick because I just couldn’t choose one. We ended up coming to consensus with this bright electric blue abstract print – Energy Blue Fabric bymjmstudio. I was so excited to see a Cotton Lawn option and though it was a beta launch of that particular base at that time, I really wanted to try it. I see it isn’t in beta mode anymore so I guess this is now a permanent substrate available on Spoonflower. The cotton lawn behaves just like any lawn I’ve used before. It’s easy to cut and holds a press wonderfully. It is thin but has body at the same time. My tiered ruffle skirt was just the right level of poofy in this fabric. The only thing that concerned me is that it has a slight papery feel even after laundering and I found that I was unable to remove my pin and needle holes by pressing. I’d have to see if the holes go away after washing the dress.
I wanted to share the other four prints that made my top 5… that I am absolutely sure I will purchase at some point. Hopefully you feel inspired by these beauties.
So there is my Bowen Dress for ya! Honestly, it turned out even better than I imagined in my head. My idea of the coloured rolled hems came to life in such a magical way. I also made my first clay earrings to match my rolled hems.. far from perfect but I am so over the moon with them and will definitely be practicing more. I am absolutely thrilled with how this project turned out and I am so grateful I was granted the opportunity to work along with these companies. I am still kinda in denial that this actually happened! Let me know in the comment section what you think of my take on the Bowen Dress. Head on over to Peppermint Mag to grab the pattern and if you try this hack, make sure to tag me on IG @islandsewcialist !