using the building block dress book with adult patterns

Hi everyone, It’s Shelley here again.

It occurred to me it’s now been 10 years since my first-ever guest post on the Oliver + S blog. I’ve been back many times (thanks, Liesl!) but this time I’m a bit misty-eyed, as my kids have now both outgrown these patterns. I’ve sewn all of the Oliver + S patterns and there have been a few favorites along the way.

My daughter has loved every single Fairy Tale Dress I’ve made her, and I really wanted to make her another. It all started with this fabulous large scale bird print cotton sateen: It reminded me of a Dolce & Gabbana runway show from some years back that used large scale animals on a dark, solid background. It would be a perfect party dress.

The Building Block Dress book + the Bistro Dress = an adult-sized Fairy Tale Dress.

A quick muslin of the size 12 Fairy Tale Dress bodice made it clear that the moment was past. Sniff.

As an aside, I have a three-step muslin process. It goes like this:

Step 1: Avoid all sewing that requires making muslins. Sew loose garments, knit fabrics or tried-and-true patterns on repeat. Keep this up for a few years.
Step 2: Buy new bedsheets.
Step 3: Chop up the old bedsheets and go crazy making muslins for every pattern you’ve been putting off for years.

I looked sadly at my outgrown Fairy Tale pattern for a bit. Then I thought, “What if I just took all that Fairy Tale styling and used a different pattern block?”

The Building Block Dress book + the Bistro Dress = an adult-sized Fairy Tale Dress.

When the Building Block Dress book was first released, we all begged for an adult version. Liesl patiently pointed out that the techniques are exactly the same; it’s only the base pattern that is different. The other clue she gave was that the Liesl + Co. Bistro Dress is a perfectly suitable building block for an adult-sized version of whatever you want to sew.

So, I set about creating a Fairy Tale Dress from the Bistro Dress pattern. I used the smallest size of the Bistro Dress and made a muslin of the bodice as my starting point. I needed to reduce the bust dart size and move it up an inch. I left the back bodice darts unsewn and raised the neckline. Then, while my daughter was wearing the bedsheet muslin bodice, I took a sharpie and drew where I thought the sleeveless armscye should be.

Create your own style with the Building Block Dress book and the Bistro Dress pattern.

The Fairy Tale skirt is just a nice, simple gathered rectangle, so apart from the length and the deep hem, there wasn’t much thinking to do there. I reshaped the Bistro Dress collar to match my now smaller neckline, and then gave it the square shape of the View B Fairy Tale. All of the techniques I used—making a muslin, moving a bust dart, moving the zipper to centre back, changing to sleeveless— are all covered, either on this blog or in the Building Block Dress Book.

Shelley used the Building Block Dress and the Bistro Dress to create a beautiful party dress for her daughter.

We’re both delighted with the final dress. It has exactly the Fairy Tale look but is quite grown-up in this fabric. As the kids turn into teenagers I may not be able to get them to do what I want them to, but it turns out it’s not that hard to make patterns do what you want! I hope I’ve inspired you to have a go at some pattern manipulation. Now I’m off to track down more of that fabric ‘cause I want a party frock just like this one!


Labels: , ,


  1. As always Shelley, you are a genius! She is growing up by the minute I can see and looking absolutely beautiful in the dress. And now I need to go and look at the bistro dress with new eyes.

    1. Thanks Asmita! Her first blog appearance was her nappy clad backside with a ruffled bloomer tutorial! They do grow!

  2. Laura

    I absolutely love this dress. Your beautiful daughter looks so happy to be wearing it. I’m a bird lover and wondering what company the fabric is from.

    Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thanks Laura. The fabric was a lucky find on a local (Melbourne, Australia) website: Supercheap fabrics. There’s a white colourway that’s still there. Have you ever used Spoonflower? You could browse their massive library of digital prints for birds.

  3. Elisabeth

    I can’t believe she’s so grown up! I adore this dress and also adored your muslin-making process 🙂

    1. Thank you. I forgot to mention step 3a involves opening a nice red before starting a muslin. You could have guessed that though!

  4. Barbara

    Wow, I love the fabric you chose and the dress couldn’t be more beautiful.. your daughter looks so pretty in her new dress!

    1. Thank you. I’m not kidding when I say I wish I’d kept the fabric for myself! 🙂

  5. My goodness she’s radiant in that dress. I love that she is still happy to wear what you sew for her, it gives me hope that I’ll be able to sew for mine for a good long while. Great fabric, too!

Post a comment