Snow Leopard dress: aka hello thirties!


I have never, ever own an animal print garment. After much thinking the reason is probably this:

To me it felt aggressive, not very original and often tacky.

Then I must have hit middle age because all of a sudden I started to see beauty in it. It started subtly, with more abstract animal prints, often in non-natural colours. Then I found myself eyeing up fabrics in more and more realistic versions of it until one day, window shopping on e-bay after missing a gorgeous ponte roma on the fabric godmother website, I run into this:

I would have never thought. Honestly. I tried to dissuade myself… but somehow the damage was done. Not only I had noticed the fabric, I had already decided what I was going to make with it. Please enter the Snow Leopard dress!

The pattern used is from Fashion with Fabrics, one of the Great British Sewing Bee series, which I bought second hand off Amazon for a few pounds. The patterns folder was missing, but these are downloadable from the publisher’s website for free so no drama.

This is a pattern I have had in mind of trying for a very, very long time. I really like how it looks like and I have been intrigued by it’s construction since even before owning a sewing machine. I have held myself off it for ages thinking it was going to be incredibly tricky to put together, and I wasn’t quite sure I was going to be able to tame knits yet. Of course, I was wrong. This pattern is incredibly easy to put together and stable knits such as this one are a pleasure to work with. Also, being such a puzzle of a pattern, it was incredibly fun to work through and provided lots of food for thought for future pattern designs bubbling away in my head.

This is definitely the best part of using a pre-made pattern, I get to learn LOADS if you look at it carefully enough. Recently I focus a lot on how to make a pattern easily readable by others, which markers make for an easy assembly of a pdf pattern, line thickness and so on. Besides style, of course. With regards to this one for instance, I have seen bette designed pdfs, but no errors that I could see. As for the style I noticed something really strange with the sleeves. Is there any points in putting ease in the sleeves of a dolman/kimono dress? The sleeve piece  here had several cm of ease, which made for a really strange effect once these were attached to the main bodice, considering that that seam is pretty much halfway through my bicep. Also there is no indication this should be gathered so I was a bit perplexed. I gave it a try by easing some of the excess in while pinning and shaving the rest off (about 3/4 cm), but on a future version I would simply amend the sleeve piece so that all ease is removed as I can see no sense in it being there – and it makes for a messy end result.

Also, reading around in preparation for this make, I have noticed that lots of people, me included, have the pleat going the opposite side than the picture showed in the book. I think that depends on how you cut your pattern pieces: since the front pieces are all cut on a single layer, depending on whether one cuts on the right or wrong side of the fabric the pleat will slant one way or the other. I cut wrong side up, which is the way I usually cut.

Speaking of which: cutting is definitely the hardest part of making this dress. There isn’t one straight line and there are lots of narrow angles which make using a rotary cutter impossible to me. I used scissors and was ok, but with a softer fabric I would have struggled.

In terms of fitting I have shortened the dress as I thought the knee length version wouldn’t have suited me much. I used the “shorten here” line on the pattern (which sits roughly at the hips)  which sounded like a good idea to retain the cocoon effect. In reality it wasn’t as the hem opening was so narrow I could barely walk. Kind of obvious in hindsight, as I have fairly fleshy thighs – much wider half way through than around the knee. You, slender doe with long, willowy limbs? You needn’t worry about this. I will remember to shorten from the hem next time, but for this sassy number I have simply tapered the side seams from hips to hem to a minimum and it worked just fine.

Oh, did you notice the clear lack of right hand in the pic above? It’s because this baby’s got pockets. MASSIVE pockets. Awesome pockets. I have already decided I am going to wear this for Christmas eve so that I can walk around the house stealing all the candies and none will be the wiser.

The back of the dress is much uneventful after the dazzling front full of imaginary treats, but I thought that might be useful for some to know so here you have my b side:

(Can you see the bulky seams at the sleeve joints? Because I can and it’s irritating me.)

Moving on… the fabric was purchase by an e-bay vendor called Cheapest Fabrics UK, who was kind enough to send me a free sample beforehand to help me make up my mind. The delivery of both sample and fabric was incredibly swift and, considering it was indeed cheap, I would be very happy to make business with them again. For future versions, for instance, I wouldn’t mind doing a sleeveless colour block version with blue, black and some pretty print on a white background.

Now it’s really time for me to move on to my velour skirt, which has started to terrify me. I know I can’t mess it up and I’m holding back until I have the perfect solution to all possible issues but we all know that is never going to happen. In order to avoid being honest with myself I have been telling me that is definitely fine to draft the same pattern on three different design softwares because it counts as research for a new post. But me is now starting to argue back…

2 thoughts on “Snow Leopard dress: aka hello thirties!

Add yours

  1. A thorough and interesting review Georgia. I love this white fabric on you and the shape is fun, but I agree with you that the sleeve line and the very narrow hem are not ideal. You don’t really want to think about a garment once it is on. One of the great things about inexpensive fabrics is that you can try out styles and shapes and then make a better quality one later, with all your learnings. Let me know if you want to go shopping for cheap stuff as I need some….


    1. Thank you K! I am definitely more and more drawn to the idea of a colour block version of this dress. As for fabric shopping there is only one fabric I’m hunting for and could really do with your advice actually. Let me know when!


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