Note: Holy dress – a review

Ann Ringstrand and her team have had great success this winter with the pattern book SY – ti nya modeplagg (in Swedish). Now she has followed up by releasing two dress patterns, this time in English. Of course I had to try one of them immediately, so I purchased the Holy dress pattern right away, and now my first version is ready.

Disclaimer: I have purchased the pattern myself and have not been asked to advertise for it.

I typically mostly write about how I approach the actual sewing of a pattern, but this time I’d like to write a proper review of the pattern itself. The book gained huge interest internationally, so I suppose many sewers are interested in the first two patterns from Ann Ringstrand in English, thus available to a much broader audience than the book which currently is available in Swedish only.

Interestingly, the pattern has been sewn up in two versions which are available to purchase as ready to wear on the website’s fashion section if you don’t want to sew it yourself. The two ready-to-wear versions are very useful for studying the pattern’s potential. Both versions, one in light blue and one in black and white, are gorgeous.

The Holy dress pattern comes in a sturdy cardboard folder with the pattern sheet and instructions enclosed. The folder design has similar aesthetics to the book in black, white and orange and it looks and feels as a quality product.

What I like about the pattern

Let me begin with the many things I really like about the design and pattern. Shirts are among my favorite garments to make, so choosing a shirtdress is a no-brainer. It is a classic summer dress, and I have made several others already. What sets this design apart for me is in particular the gathering in the back and at the back part of the sleeves. But there is much more. After sewing several of the designs from Ann Ringstrand’s book I’ve learned to appreciate how well every design element is thought out. The Holy dress is oversized and straight in design. The collar is a narrow band without button closure, and it looks so good. There are two chest pockets and two inseam side pockets. The button band is wide, and the sleeves are 3/4 length with a wide cuff of similar width as the button band. The length is midi with beautifully shaped shirt tails. There is an optional belt, too.

I tried to find the finest cotton shirting available locally for this dress. The gathers and general volume means that a medium heavy fabric could mean that the dress would be very big and boxy. Finding good shirting is always difficult where I live, but I found a light blue cotton which was fine. Ideally I would have liked to have two or three similar fabrics, maybe some striped and some plain to be able to add contrast to some of the design elements, but I had nothing available, so I went with one fabric only. If I have more luck online, I might make another one with several fabrics later.

Sewing the dress was quite straight forward. The instructions are sparse, but I think they are adequate if you have some experience. I always like learning something new, and this time I learned a new method for sewing french seamed side pockets. Nice! The pattern is beautifully drafted – I would expect no less from a collaboration between Ann Ringstrand and Cina Haas, and they didn’t let me down. Everything went together perfectly well.

The design is reminiscent of clerical clothing with the slim standing collar, the straight and boxy design and the wide sleeves, so the name Holy dress is perfect. My version is wonderful to wear, and I’ve already worn it to work twice this week. It will definitely become a frequently worn wardrobe staple. When the temperatures cool off a little I’ll try wearing it over ecru cropped jeans, if I feel confident enough!

What I think should be improved

I purchased the pattern directly from the website, and I paid 25 euro plus 10 euro in postage. This is very expensive compared to most other patterns, and only 5 euro less than the entire book with ten designs. To my surprise I had to trace off the pattern pieces myself from a multilayered single sheet. Since many pattern pieces were split over both sides it was a bit of work to get it ready. I don’t mind tracing really, but in my opinion the price should reflect that you are purchasing a multilayered pattern sheet, and it should be stated clearly that this is the case. I would much prefer to be able to download a pdf and tape it together myself (with layers, so I could pick the size I need, and the seam allowance as an option). At the very least I think the pattern should be printed as a single layer, ready to be cut out as long as a pdf-version is unavailable.

It is common for most Scandinavian pattern designers to omit the seam allowance. I think it has its advantages because it makes it a lot easier to make changes to the pattern and then add the seam allowance I want. Personally, I don’t mind this at all, but I know a lot of people are annoyed if the seam allowance is excluded. If that is you, be aware of this before you purchase the pattern.

I recommend this pattern to anyone interested in sewing a modern shirtdress with well designed details. It will surely earn its place your wardrobe and be worn for years to come. But be aware of the tracing and non-existing seam allowance, and be ready to pay up. I did, and I don’t regret it one bit. The finished dress feels like MY fashion.

You can read more about my makes from the book SY by Ann Ringstrand here. Over to you: Do you collect patterns like stamps, do you make your tried and trusted patterns several times, or do you love your one hit wonders?

The outdoor photos were taken at the roof terrace in our office by my talented and enthusiastic colleague and friend – thank you, Cathrine 🙂

Pattern: Holy dress – Ann Ringstrand
Fabric: 2.75 m cotton shirting from Sømsenteret, Oslo
Size: S (one size down which was the perfect size for me)
Time: 1-2 days

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