smocked badminton dress in sew beautiful

Here’s another dress from our feature in the newest issue of Sew Beautiful (August/September 2013, issue #149). This is the Badminton Dress, View C, with the scalloped hem and contrasting yoke, ruffles and facing just as the pattern was written. For this dress, we removed the drawstring casing at the front of the dress and replaced it with a small section of smocking.




The body of the dress is made with a natural, undyed linen printed with a subtle metallic finish (from Gray Line Linen here in New York). We used a cross-dyed yellow-orange linen (from B&J Fabrics, also here in the garment center) for the yoke, shoulder ruffle, armhole binding, and scalloped hem facing (at the inside of the dress).

I wanted a smocking design that would mimic the scalloped hem and could replace the drawstring casing. And because we wanted to retain the lines of the original pattern, we decided to keep the width of the dress at the hem the same. Smocking, on average, takes about three times the fabric that the finished smocked width (right, all you more experienced smockers?), so we cut a panel of fabric for the front dress and smocked it before cutting out the dress piece itself. The panel was at least as long as the dress’ front and quite a bit wider. Once it was smocked, we cut out the dress (eliminating the extra fullness across the front chest) and proceeded with construction as per instructions, minus the casing.

We worked a little backwards from the instructions to attach the yoke so that we could hand-stitch the yoke facing to the inside of the dress and eliminate the topstitching for a really clean finish. Otherwise this dress follows the pattern itself very closely. You can see close-ups of the smocking and details in the magazine itself.

To give you a little back story on this dress, initially I thought I wanted it smocked all the way around–front and back. Marie Grace did a beautiful job of smocking the dress for me with a scalloped smocking design we sent her. And it must have been a pretty big job, too! But when it arrived back at the studio the dress was just too full and overwhelming. I felt so bad, especially when she had done all that work. That’s when I decided I’d give it a try myself, rather than asking her to do it again. And–surprise!–I really enjoyed the process! And I had a beautiful sample to refer to as I stitched it. When I had questions I just looked at what Marie Grace had done and was able to figure it out. (As it turns out, the original, fully-smocked dress makes a darling summer night gown, too, so it wasn’t a loss at all.) So thanks, Marie Grace! And if you’d like to learn more about the process, she has a wonderful tutorial about smocking  by hand right here.




  1. Lovely with the scalloped edge and bright pop of color. Oh, now of course, I want to see the original smocked sample too…

  2. This is so pretty – Marie-Grace always does such lovely work. I would enjoy seeing the fully-smocked version, too… curiosity is getting the best of me to see more Marie Grace’s lovely stitching and how she managed to do it all the way around! 😉

  3. Ok, I’ll make sure we get a photo of Marie Grace’s dress! We’ll post it for sure. Thanks for asking!

  4. Catherine L

    Thank you, Liesl, for describing the process! The results are beautiful. And I should have realized that you smocked before cutting out. One teeny question: how did you determine the shape of the top front? You can’t just plop the pattern piece on the smocked section because the pattern is intended to be gathered.

  5. Karen

    This is lovely. Learning to smock has just moved much higher on my to-do list. I love that these beautiful heirloom details are making their way into modern home sewing.

  6. Tamara

    You know I think it is one draw back of a smocked garment, the fullness it creates and I think it could probably put people off doing it because it doesnt showcase the modern lines of a garment (hence thinking smocking itself is old fashioned). I personally love smocking and think it is classic and timeless and I also think this dress is a perfect example of this.

    I would love love a tutorial on how to take the fullness out lf a smocked panel. Because I am a smocker who doesnt know how.

    Marie-Grace’s dress and yours together would be perfect examples of how this technique can change the look of a dress just by tweaking.

  7. I love it, Liesl!! I love how unique yet modern it looks, perfect! I think just by smocking that little detail you created the right balance. Absolutely lovely!

  8. It’s lovely!
    A bit of smocking does take a simple (yet beautiful) dress to another level 🙂
    I’ll definitely be trying this one (and yes, I can´t wait to see Marie-Grace’s version as well. Her smocking is always precious and unique).

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