SEWN - Burdastyle 4/2020 Dress 101 aka the "Pretty Woman Dress"

SEWN - Burdastyle 4/2020 Dress 101 aka the "Pretty Woman Dress"

Dear readers,

There is something pleasant about blogging "the old way" about finished garments and the thoughts that went into making them. Even though most of the comments/conversations happen on Instagram now, I'm happy to have this space to document things more slowly.

In the first few weeks of confinement in France, I went outside only once for grocery shopping, and I was delighted to realize that the press stand was open. The perfect excuse to get the April issue of Burdastyle! I'm still mad at them over the whole debacle, but I learned how to sew with Burda, and to me, they are still the best value for money for sewing patterns. The April issue is particularly nice; it features several patterns from their archives, inspired by famous fashion style. There is also an interesting recap of the first Burda fashion show in the former USSR. 

When I look at pattern releases that many Indie designers are releasing these days, I see an increased number of elasticated pants. I guess that telecommuting and spending more time at home had an impact in that regard. But personally, the confinement period made me want to sew all the fancy things, just like this silk dress that I am sharing with you today.


As I mentioned, I learned how to sew with Burda, so using a pattern from the magazine always brings back lovely memories. In Burda, most designs are not available in the petite sizing (which fits me very well almost without alterations), and even with the regular sizing, most patterns start at 36. It is the case for this pattern, shown as a replica of the brown dress with white polka dots worn by Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. I love this movie, and since it only has three pieces (bodice front and back, and skirt), I decided that it was worth it to grade it down. The bodice is cut on the straight grain and the skirt on the bias.

I took the opportunity to draft a slightly different pattern for the bodice lining, removing around 1/16" (1mm) to the neckline and armhole to facilitate the turn of clothes and make sure that the lining is not visible on the right side.


  • Fabric - Silk twill from Sacré Coupons and a remnant of silk charmeuse from Mood Fabrics NY for the bodice lining, both from stash.

  • Notions - Threads, elastic, fusible tape, and button from stash

I don't follow instructions anymore unless it's an intricate or new-to-me garment. But I'm quite used to silk dresses by now, and I knew how I wanted to handle things. I started by cutting my fabric on the flat, instead of folded, and caught between 2 layers of pattern paper. Then, I used fusible tape to stabilize the armhole and neckline edges. I know that many sewists are partial to staystitching, but I think that the less you handle your fabric, especially with the machine, the cleaner your finished garment will look. 

I stitched the lining like an all-in-one facing, but since there is no center front or center back opening, I sewed the armhole in two passes (from the side seam to the shoulder each time), no need for fancy tricks or wooden spoons 😉 . As a result, the only way to understitch is by hand, which I have to say was extremely relaxing while sitting outside in the garden. It also makes the finished garment extra pretty.

I let the dress hang on my form for a couple of days before marking the hem and used ban-rol to sew a loooooong curved baby hem. It's easy, and it looks great.

When I tried on the dress, I was a bit underwhelmed. I love the swish of the bias skirt and the feeling of silk on the skin, but the blouson effect at the waist was not flattering. I figured it would look better with a wide belt at the natural waist, but since I didn't have a good option in my closet, I decided to make an belt in navy linen. The pattern is self-drafted, and I interfaced both layers of linen to add body to it.

I like the final outfit, and I can see myself wearing it often this summer with flats to go to the farmer's market or with heels for a night out (once going out becomes a thing again 😅). What about you, have you sewn something unnecessarily fancy recently?

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