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Emma's Sew Over It Vintage Shirt Dress in Panda Retreat Cotton Lawn


My name is Emma and I live in Devon with my 8 year old son and our cat Mittens!

I started sewing in March 2018 and quickly became an addict! I sew at every spare opportunity and am always keen to improve and perfect my sewing skills. I am a self taught sewist but come from a line of seasoned seamstresses so I dare say it’s in the genes!

I have had my eye on Sew Over It Vintage Shirt Dress pattern for a while and had been waiting for the perfect fabric. I really struggle to make items from plain fabrics, I love a print and this, for me, is where Lamazi Fabrics shine! I saw the Lady McElroy Panda Retreat fabric and decided to think on it, then to my dismay on checking back it was out of stock!! I was so cross with myself! So when Liana ordered it in again I made sure I quickly secured myself a couple of metres!! I knew that the pattern and fabric would be the perfect complement to one another.


I was drawn to the pattern as I love all the little details, I also love the vintage shape and style of the dress. I was a little nervous about the collar. Previous collars I’ve made have been a completely separate pattern piece whereas this was styled into the front bodice pattern piece and was finished with a facing that starts at the back neck collar, runs down through the lapels of the dress and right the way down the button stand! I was nervous but I thought, you don’t progress by backing away from these things – you have to dive in, so I did and I didn’t regret it!!

As previously mentioned, I was also attracted to the smaller details of the dress, the pleats, the little gathers at the shoulder and the button front. The one issue with me here is I am a born perfectionist so with four bodice / skirt pleat seams to match and the side seams, I had my work cut out for me! The bodice pleats didn’t match the skirt pleats perfectly, they were all 2-3 mm out and for me, if I’m making a dress like this I want those seams and pleats matching beautifully. I ascertained that they would not match when the skirt was still in 3 pieces, I always check this type of thing at this stage as once it’s all sewn together it’s so much harder to correct. I altered the pleats to match each other and marked where my new seam allowance was on each skirt piece. I then joined the skirt at the new seam allowance  markings and graded back out to the patterns 1.5 cm. I then attached the bodice to the skirt and hooray…perfection! I always recommend taking the time to get this right, it gives a totally different finish to your dress. I’ve had to learn to curb my excitement through makes as excitement generally involves rushing and rushing means cutting corners and making errors in  my experience!

I can’t not mention the collar in this blog. Collars have always made me nervous and I think as a relatively new sewist you do have a tendency to back away from certain skills that don’t take your fancy whether it be buttonholes, collars, binding or something else! I truly believe though that you just cannot progress and achieve your full potential by avoiding these skills – they have to be tackled head on so in I went! Guess what…it was easier than matching those pleats so I needn’t have worried! The facings literally went on like a glove, there was no fabric discrepancy at all – perfect from end to end! The only section that caused a little bother was at the pivot point at the top of the lapel. I spent a lot of time ensuring I had transferred the marking accurately but still, it was a little out, again this was easily corrected and I probably could have left it as it was – it would’ve only been me who knew as it wasn’t an outwardly visible issue, the collar and facing just didn’t comfortably sit flat. I corrected this with a small spot of unpicking and restitching around the pivot point.

The remainder of the make was pretty straightforward, it was just a case of inserting the sleeves, hemming and finally sewing the buttonholes. All went without issue.

I just want to spend a little time on the fabric, it is the Lady McElroy Panda Retreat Cotton Lawn and it is just luxurious, composition is 100% luxury cotton marlie lawn and it is 140 cm in width. This fabric is perfect for dressmaking, it is soft and is the most vibrant teal colour, not forgetting the gorgeous panda print! Lamazi Fabrics have a number of great prints on their website. Another of my absolute favourites is the Lady McElroy – Retro Cityscape Navy Cotton Lawn I think this would also make the most gorgeous dress.

I am so happy with how this dress has turned out, the fit is great and required no adjustment. I cut a size 8 and I am a UK 8 so it would seem the pattern is true to size…although I would class myself as a ‘big 8 or a small 10’. What I love about the dress is not only can I dress it for work, I can also dress it up to head out for the evening. It is very versatile. I highly recommend the pattern, attention has been paid to all the smaller details that make a dress unique. It’s a relatively straightforward sew considering there are a few techniques in amongst it! I was impressed with the guidance booklet and how the dress went together. I wouldn’t hesitate to make another Sew Over It pattern, this was the first dress I made by SOI but I have Zoe waiting in the wings at home – Also available at Lamazi Fabrics, it’s another gorgeous dress suitable for day or night!

Well – I must sign off! Be sure to add this pattern to your list and have a good browse through the range of fabrics at Lamazi, there are so many gorgeous options – it’s a tough choice! Maybe you’ll have to treat yourself to a couple...haha!


All the best –

Emma AKA @thezipperfoot


  • It’s a lovely pattern material, you really suit this retro style dress, as you look gorgeous in this. As a fellow sewer, I shall try to find you to follow. Sincerely Mark.

    Mark - LegoGrandad Sews
  • Lovely make Emma you rock a panda and I think this is your most feminine make looks very pretty and I think you suit vintage xxx

  • Lovely make Emma you rock a panda and I think this is your most feminine make looks very pretty and I think you suit vintage xxx

  • Love this Emma! I’ve made a vintage shirt dress and was interesting to read your take on it, I agree it goes together so easily and is a great pattern with lots of lovely details! Gorgeous fabric choice too 😄


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