Finished Object: Terra Incognita Dress

I wore her to a dinner just the other evening.  I was aiming for casual, dramatic, and feminine- all at once.  The initial inspiration came from 1950’s full-skirted halter dresses, but I think the final dress has the tang of a vampy flapper.

As a rule, I don’t often show my knees. Or my shoulders.  Or my décolletage.

Or my back.  This dress is “terra incognita” for me.

Yet I’m in love.  This may be my favorite dress ever, after Wholesome.

For the dinner I wore my hair in my beloved reverse Victory Roll but we were too rushed that night for photos.  Last week I got a loose perm because my hair won’t hold pincurls- ever- and something had to be done in the hair department.  Since then, I’ve been experimenting with relaxed fingerwaves and reveling in the Return of the Reverse Victory Roll.

Close-up of the front pleat detail.  I had thoughts of creating a separate midriff section and building a bra into the bodice.  Instead, I kept it simple and I’m happy with the result.

I used my overlocker/serger to make a rolled hem on the skirt.  It’s clean and strong and light and quick.  The skirt is cut from the same octagonal-circle pattern I used for the Hemp Snowflake skirt.  I was chatting with a friend as I cut the skirt, and cut the waist waaaay too big.

The simplest way to fix my careless mistake was to gather the skirt into the bodice.  The combination of gentle gathering and circle-skirt fullness creates an incredibly swirly skirt.

I want to make several of these over the summer.  I left a little ease through the waist so it won’t stick in hot weather, it’s as cool as a cucumber to wear.

Check out the drafting notes for the bodice, if that’s what you’re into.

Tomorrow: Waists and How to Measure Them

Note: I’m sorry the T-Shirt pattern is taking a little while to put up.  I have the drafts and I’m happy with them, but learning to use Gimp is a little tricky.  I hope I spent enough time with it these past few days, maybe if I give it a short break and come back to the problem I’ll see the solution immediately.  I’m still interested in fitting issues and proportions, feel free to add your voice to the thread.


  1. Absolutely stunning! You look just gorgeous in it and I can’t believe how well the fabric complements your design. You amaze me with how you can just make a fabric and design work together. It is such a pleasure to look at your creations!

  2. Pingback: Singer Sewing Machines | Finished Object: Terra Incognita Dress « 3 Hours Past the Edge of …

  3. What a great marriage between fabric and pattern! Unexpected, but it really works. The bodice is spot on, and the rise in the front skirt is an unexpected little twist that makes it a bit sassy. Nice dress!

  4. Wow! So gorgeous. I’m such a fan of this- putting a funky batik in to a really girly silhouette. I love the contrast. The hem is fantastic. Is the color a dark navy blue? It’s definitely your color, whatever it is.

    • Thanks. :) I think the fabric was salt-dyed with a beautiful medium blue (one of my favorite colors to wear), then the “palmetto” motifs were waxed out and the rest of the fabric dyed black. It’s really well made (the fabric).

  5. Good for you! pushing your boundaries in such a fun way :D. This is awesome! And it makes me so sad that my red polkadot-fully-skirted dress is out of season here. It was similarly surprising for me, too…

      • YES :-) i´m do this. in eastern germany (almost poland) with icy winds from russia and snow. the trick is: wool wool wool. underwear, tights, socks, skirts/dresses. and oppulent pettycoats/underskirts. if its really cold, -15°C, a furcoat over all……
        once i´m was skiing in a skirt on a sunny afternoon – thank god without falling down.

  6. Oh my, that is a *sexy* (in a ladylike way) dress. The marriage of fabric and design is just right for a summer evening.

  7. Such a gorgeous dress! Not only is the design fabulous – the fabric you chose makes the blue of your eyes so incredibly vibrant!

    • Aw thanks. I keep an eye out for precisely the shade of blue in the fabric and will usually buy it on the spot when I find it…. Which is not the way I usually buy fabric.

  8. Love it! This really suits you, the colour, the style everything! 99% of the time I wear my hair in finger waves, it’s really curly and just “does” it without too much fuss, which after years of loosing the hair battle is quite a revalation.Lol. X

  9. Ooo la la! You look gorgeous! I think this is my favourite of all your dresses, even if it’s a little less practical. I’m in love with the print, and the skirt part is really really cool! You hit this one right out of the park.

  10. Oh I love it! It turned out just beautiful! And I love that you braved what you usually do with the hem!

    And I totally agree with Kathy P! (and love that she mentioned Rate the Dress)

  11. What a beautiful dress. You look so good in it. The fabric is stunning without being 1980’s floral. I can’t cut and do anything else at the same time, I have mis-cut in the past and learned a lesson or two. Good work.

    • I think I know what you’re talking about by 1980’s floral… I have a rather nice sarong like that, I keep itching to make it into a shirt to see how it comes out…

  12. Pingback: Halter Tops, Trailer Trash Barbie and Grace Kelly « 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World

  13. Pingback: How to Make an Octagonal Circle Skirt Pattern « 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World

  14. Pingback: Time Out to Sew a Summer Dress « 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World

  15. Pingback: Wearable Work In Progress: Bladvass Dress « 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World

  16. Pingback: Design Inspiration: Quirky, Casual 40′s Dresses « 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World

  17. Pingback: How To Use a Bias Binding Foot « 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World

Is it kind, useful or interesting? Great!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s