Free Pattern Review: Mary Quant Mini-Dress from Alice & Co.

TL; DR – Practice does make you better, read the instructions before cutting your fabric so you don’t waste fabric, cut fabric when the mood strikes you as it makes it easier to sew later (sometimes much later).

This Mary Quant mini-dress comes courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum in the U.K. and Alice & Co. patterns. It is really popular in the “free pattern” community, and comes with how-to videos to walk you through the entire process (including how to sew an all-in-one facing using the burrito method, which…now the only kind of facing I like). I found this Robert Kaufman Japanese floral pattern on a destash facebook group that I had to leave or else I would have spent even more money than I already have. I thought it would make an amazing mini-dress.

And, it did! I was, at first, wary of the facing they were proposing, so at first thought I would make it with sleeves, but then I didn’t have enough fabric. Probably because I cut a tie when I wasn’t intending to actually make a tie closure. I chose to do a zipper because the keyhole would probably be a little too revealing of my cleavage. I love the jeans zipper I selected. It’s not perfect (it’s my first zipper, after all), but unless you decide to closely examine my clavicle, then you wouldn’t notice.


One of the “tricks” I have learned is to cut fabric on a completely different day than trying to sew the garment. For me, it’s a different energy for the different parts of the process of sewing. Now, I’ll spend a “day” (afternoon, evening, whenever), putting together and cutting multiple patterns, while I’m in my “paste and cut” mode. Then, I’ll find another time to cut the patterns out of the fabric, doing multiple pattern cuttings in one (literal) sitting. Again, I’ll be in my fabric-cutting mode, and get a few patterns ready to go to be sewn. It also saves my back; I don’t have a table big enough, so I end up on my floor doing these first two processes, which, ugh my 43yo back and knees. I need the breaks to not only get into the right headspace to start sewing, but also to get my back to stop aching, which means that sitting at the machine isn’t uncomfortable or even painful.

I almost got the dress finished in an afternoon (having cut out the fabric pieces a few weeks prior), but didn’t rush to complete it, but had those small details to finish the dress left to complete between Zoom meetings the rest of the week, which was absolutely delightful. Sewing helps me relax and get centered again, and it is so helpful some days during my workdays.

I also did a couple of modifications. The first one was I decided to do a bias tape hem because of the curve (I bought a giant roll of it), and the second was to cinch the back little detail tab to give my waist a little more definition. I placed it at the small of my back initially, and then folded it once it was sewn securely in the right place, just doing a quick straight stitch. I love how to makes my waist more defined without having to do darts and using a feature of the dress that is already available. And, since I had this long strip of fabric that I had mistakenly cut out, I thought it would be cute to make a matching wide hairband. It could also double as a neck scarf with a different outfit.

The videos and the written directions are fantastic, but I am also getting more and more confident with my sewing. I’m understanding garment construction, my body shape, and how to get the two working together to help me look my best. Collars don’t intimidate me anymore, and neither do zippers. And while I did have to take out the stitch ripper a few times, I don’t even remember what for, which means that I am getting more ok with making mistakes now.

But look at how cute I look in this dress. And now, we have a tripod for the phone with a ring light, so maybe I’ll be able to take pictures of myself wearing my dresses that doesn’t involve me just standing there in my mirror taking a selfie.

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