style and fabric inspiration: lisette B6169 dress

I’ve always felt that, as a designer, it’s my job to encourage you to try new things. And that includes encouraging you to try clothing shapes and silhouettes that you might not otherwise consider for yourself. I mentioned this in my Ask Me post last week, and I’ll address it more in the months to come.

Even if you think you know what looks good on your body, keep an open mind for now, OK? I promise you that if you do your horizons will be expanded, you’ll have a whole new set of silhouettes available to you, and you’ll ask yourself, “Why didn’t I try this sooner?”

Many women seem to think that dresses without a defined waist are “shapeless” and that they shouldn’t be worn by anyone except the ultra-slim. That’s absolutely not the case! I’m on a crusade this year to educate women who sew for themselves that they can wear styles other than 1950s-inspired dresses with a fitted bodice and defined waist. And I’m starting that crusade with one of our newest Lisette styles–the dress included in Butterick B6169.




This style is a relaxed dress designed for drapey fabrics like silk and rayon. It includes kimono-style sleeves (no set-in sleeves!) and an oversized but very slimming silhouette that’s popular right now. This pattern can be sewn with or without the included sash, which is shirred and attaches at the center back. You could also shorten the pattern to make a cute tunic or top, as I’ll show you.

A few things that I like about this style: it’s extremely easy to fit due to the built-in ease. This ease includes gathers at the yoke which gives the dress design ease and also leaves extra room at the bust for women who need it, but it’s not too much fabric that it will overwhelm a smaller-busted woman. The princess seams will allow you to customize the fit as needed, since princess seams are the easiest to adjust for a good fit. And who can resist pockets in a dress? They’re practically invisible on this one, which I love.

Here are some styling ideas that I’ve assembled for you.


B-6169 mosaic 1

1. This dress reminds me of all the Japanese sewing books that are so popular. The dress is relaxed in feel, but the optional waist tie in the pattern helps to give it more definition and shape that most of those dresses. The socks and boots give the outfit a little attitude and edge.

2. This outfit looks so sophisticated and contemporary with its neutral palette. I love the loose, relaxed flow of the dress.

3. Isn’t this color-blocked dress fun? I love the colors and way the front is bright and colorful but the back is quiet and serene. You could play with all sorts of colorblocking on this dress, maybe using a darker color at the side panels to give a slimming look.

4. This elegant dress from Maria Cornejo expresses everything I love in a loose-fitting dress like this style. The fabric skims the body and gives a long line–you just need find the right hem length to keep the proportions right.

5. You could easily shorten the front hem like this tunic. I like the balance with the skinny jeans, and the shibori effect at the waist is quite slimming and helps to define the waist.

6. Shorten the dress to make a really cute top! With all the great printed rayons available right now you could make all sorts of really cute tunics and blouses!

7. I know, another black dress. But the shirring at the hem is a nice touch, isn’t it? A midi-length dress like this seems like a nice alternative to the ubiquitous little black dress. It’s less fitted and a little more mysterious so it leaves more to the imagination, which is much more chic than the hyper-sexy fitted mini dresses that have become the standard.




1. This drapey indio version is so chic. Hem it just above the ankle and cinch it with the sash, which is shirred and sewn at the back waist so it’s really quite a chic alternative to just the basic sash you may have expected.

2. Another Maria Cornejo number. This dress is almost architectural in its simplicity, and the cobalt is just gorgeous.

3. When is the last time you heard anyone mention cotton gauze? I remember when gauze was very popular, and it’s starting to reappear here and there. It’s a great fabric for summer because it breathes, drapes, and naturally develops little relaxed pleats. Use a heavier gauze for this pattern and it would make an elegant sundress.

4. A chic jade version. Again, the sash give you a nice shape while still allowing the dress to drape and skim the body.

All of these image and many more are collected in my Lisette Pinterest board if you’re looking for more fabric and styling ideas for the Lisette patterns.

A few hints to leave with you: When you’re making this pattern be sure you leave enough ease for a good drape–that’s the crucial element for this dress to fit correctly. By leaving it loose, the fabric will skim the body and give you a nice long line. Also, this style looks best with a sleek shoe. Take a look at the shoes in the photos if you need a little inspiration. You don’t need a high heel for this one, just something that’s not heavy and clunky (photo 1 in the top image excepted–for that you need a little attitude and probably a lot of height).

With all the pretty printed rayon, silks and double gauze options out there, you have lots of fun options for this dress! Which version in these photos do you like best?


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  1. Liesl,
    I admire you trying to get us less than ideal shaped women into other silhouettes. However, all the pictures you show are, of course, of women with the “traditional” model shape. I know it is hard to find inspiration photos where the models are “normal”.

    It would be helpful and encouraging to see this on women who weren’t ultra slim. I would be more encouraged to see photos of your pattern on women who aren’t model thin, so I can better envision the possibility for myself.

    Just a thought!


  2. So fun! I love the inspiration photos for this dress, especially the color blocked version. Thanks for getting my creative juices flowing with this pattern!

  3. I want to believe you Liesl but I am not sure. I am not one of those curvy ladies who wears 50’s style dresses however I am not convinced these drapey styles would do me any favors. Maybe I can see both #1’s working because the first has a fuller skirt for balance and the second a deep-V neckline with a wider cinched waist. I adore how the first #4 and the second #2 look on the models but fear they would simply be sacks on me. I would love to see photos of real women of average height with curvy busts, stomachs, and hips wearing this new style because I appreciate the fashion and versatility of the design!

  4. Jenny and Addie, I know! It’s difficult to find photos that support what I’m saying because the fashion industry still shows exclusively thin models. But bear with me! We’re working on a project that will help. And in the meantime, I’ve been gathering some images on Pinterest that might inspire you:

  5. MJ

    I also agree that many of your new patterns for women have not appealed to me because I am short and curvy/full-figured (5’2″ size 18). I am not convinced that any of these shapes will work for me and really need to see them on a real person with a figure similar to mine. I think if you had the women at the Curvy Sewing Collective sew up some of your designs and review them on their blog that might help!

  6. Libby

    love it! How would you suggest wearing/altering/styling for the nursing mom?

  7. mc

    This dress is my favorite of the new patterns! That is, at least until you show us something else! (easily distracted by shiny objects) Thanks for showing versions that aren’t hi-lo.

  8. francesca

    Thanks for yet another interesting post Liesl. I have to admit I bought the other three patterns and not this. I don’t live in the 50s style silhouette you mention, but I do wear it a lot, as I like it and it is flattering for my pearish figure. I’m 5’6 and have quite good shoulders, but not enough to balance my hips pleasingly to my eye, so I tend to like a defined or semi defined waist. I do in fact wear dresses that are not at all defined in the waist, but they tend to be either sleeveless, fitted through the bust and a line, or a Japanese pattern with box pleats from a fitted bust – both styles are fabulous in a not too drapey but light linen in summer heat!
    Now that I’m seeing real pics of dresses similar to this dress worn with sashes, I am more tempted by it – I was put off by the combo of drapey, not very waisted and narrowish – I’ve tried stuff like that and found it clung to the bulges and made me look like a shapeless pear, which I am not. The Cornejo dresses are gorgeous but not for me – for an apple type they’d be stupendous, I think.

  9. Robin

    I made this dress up (view c) in rayon challis earlier this week. I am a larger size (18-20), and my husband said “Va Va Voom!” It feels so great to wear. Slinky, not sack-like.

  10. Phyllis

    As Randy Newman sings, “Short people ain’t got no reason to live.” That’s the way the fashion industry makes me feel. I’m not sure how this dress would look on a short person such as me. I’d love to see an example on a short model, 5’2″ or under.
    (See Youtube for the song “Short People” sung by Randy Newman.)

  11. I completely love the options you laid out; it really helps think about how I’d style it. I’m game to give it a go!

  12. Eunice Hayes

    Hey Liesl, I want to encourage you to use some smocking on those parts of this design that are gathered. I am also one of those gals whose figure is not “model” perfect, but drawing the eye away from the “problem” areas just requires a little creative embroidery or smocking…or other embellishment. I plan to make this dress in a silk or rayon jersey adding a little more fullness at the top, so I can run it through my smocking pleater and give it a new design detail with smocking rather than “plain old gathers.”

  13. Thanks for following up Liesl. I follow your boards on Pinterest already 🙂 Unfortunately, very few of the styles on the Curvy Girls board (so far) appeal to me: cropped tops, oversized tops, long jackets with pants don’t work so well on my small-shouldered, short-waisted, average height frame. I recently started noticing a Pin board from ModCloth with their clothing on real women (albeit mostly 20-somethings):

    It seems like a variety of silhouettes are included! Maybe you will find some helpful examples therein. I can’t wait to hear what you are working on!

  14. Christine

    Sorry, I’m not buying it either. You say you’re trying to show something different but you still put a stick thin model and a drawing of a Barbie on your pattern. I cannot picture this looking at all good on me.
    I bought the everyday skirt pattern because I loved the look of it, but I gave away the skirt I made because it doesn’t fit me at all and I’m sorry j wasted my time and money. I have a waist AND hips and I either could not put the skirt on or it was not right on my waist.
    I just bought the cappuccino dress, but only because I saw some pictures elsewhere online. I don’t know, your cover photography doesn’t help me at all. So far I like the dress I’ve made from that although I’m not completely sure it doesn’t become a tent. Jury is out until it is warm enough around here to actually wear it.
    i would really like to try the cinema dress but I’m afraid that it would just make me look huge, especially if I don’t find the perfect, soft fabric.
    Bottom line I love your kids patterns and I really WANT to like your women’s pattsrns. I LOVE that your dresses have pockets. But I just don’t feel like they work for my body. Which is fine, you don’t have to make them. But then when you say that you think you are ….

  15. chicmamainedh

    I am really looking forward to making both pieces in this pattern! I just picked up all 4 of the new patterns at Joann’s. Thanks for all the styling ideas, I am kind of dragging my feet because I’m not sure of what fabric to use. I was looking at some stretch rayon jersey knit, but I don’t have a lot of experience sewing with knits.

  16. This is my favourite pattern from the new Lisette collection, and am anxiously awaiting both the pattern and the fabric I have ordered to make it with.

    Not so long ago, I never would have thought to make a dress like this – I’m big busted & short waisted and preferred fitted tops. But over the last 12 months or so, I have been making more and more ‘sack’ like dresses, and I am loving both the look and the fit (serious comfort factor).

  17. You had me at Kimono sleeves…..

    I am shortish and very messy ’round the middle AND find this silhouette supremely elegant and comfortable

  18. Robin, pictures in flickr???

    I bet you do look va va va voom!

  19. Robin

    Hi Jenny,

    The “Va Va Voom” Robin is not me. But I would like to see it too. It’s exciting to see items that people have sewn and are proud of. I think I will try this dress out too, but will wait for Robin!

  20. I can see it happening on this “where did my waist go” very tall chunky figure of mine. I think with careful fabric selection it just may work and I won’t look like I am impersonating a tent. I love the style so I am very willing to give this a go. I especially love the tunic/ top inspiration. It may be easier to accomplish this in the sewing room due to baby demands and I can still wear it while nursing! Its a win win all round.

  21. Well, there’s never going to be anything that pleases everyone. Give out free ice cream and somebody’s sure to find dairy products aren’t suitable for their diet. I’m as pear as they come and of ‘un certain age’ as they used to say (also of ‘un certain poid’ if you’ll excuse my middle school French) and I actually prefer a less defined waist. I just don’t like the feeling of anything touching my ribs, and anything that sits at my natural waist is for sure going to ride up to my ribs when I sit. I know Liesl posted a while back about whether we’ve forgotten where our natural waists are and I think I’m guilty of that. Then too, I live in a pretty warm climate and skimming silhouettes are really practical for me. Different strokes for different folks, i suppose.

  22. Tricia

    I love the idea of trying a new shape and style…I’ve already got some of the absolutely amazing new Cotton + Steel rayon set aside to make this dress. I think it will make a flattering and absurdly comfortable summer dress!

  23. I’m really looking forward to trying this in a tunic length with some silk/cotton blend that I’ve been saving for something exactly in
    this vein. I practically lived in a dress with a similar silhouette last summer and have been wanting to reproduce it. I find the combination of the sash and a nice, fluid, drapy fabric to be pretty flattering on many body types. Personally, I’ve found the biggest factors that make this silhouette flattering or not on a curvier figure to be a good fit around the shoulders and choosing appropriate fabric.

  24. I’m in! love it.

  25. Sandi

    This is so pretty, Liesl. My favorite looks from the first collage above are 1, 2, and 6. I am short and – um – padded, and I think this would be perfect on me. I’ve found that looser clothes are far more slimming than fitted ones.

  26. LOVE. LOVE. LOVE. I can’t wait to make this!

  27. Jill

    I am guilty of wearing 50s inspired dresses but I tried the Cinema Dress and was surprised that it was not at all tent-like on my size 16, 5’3″ frame. There are pictures on Flickr to prove it. I do want to see VaVaVoom Robin on the Flickr Lisette page to convince me to make this Butterick pattern.

  28. this is my favorite of the new patterns! totally agree that this silhouette is more flattering for my figure. i think it could be cute in nani iro or liberty too- i think i’d make it with a straight hem hitting above the knee. so breezy and comfy for summer! thank you for this!

  29. Jessica

    I’m wondering if a lightweight linen would work well?
    Any thoughts?

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