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I do like a red dress. Valentino would certainly agree. Classic yet sexy. Modern yet timeless. The only thing that may topple it is the LBD. I have a wardrobe of lovely summer-ish frocks in endless supply, but what I always seem to be lacking in is an outfit to wear for the occasional moment when I need to really doll up.

I spotted this coral/red (does that make sense!?) satin during a Tessuti end of year sale. It felt lovely and smooth on the satin side like a satin should, but rough like cotton on the underside. This appealed to me because it would be easier to sew and fit and wouldn’t slip about everywhere. It also had the added bonus of a bit of stretch so it would be forgiving during fit and would mean I could use it with a dress pattern that required a neat fit. When I saw the fabric, the cocktail dresses of Karen Millen come to mind.

I discovered Karen Millen during my time living in Scotland. She is one of the go to designers for great cocktail /evening dresses over there and seems to be building up a market over here. The dresses are at the higher end of the price scale, but for a special occasion, its worth it. Sadly I could never afford a dress over there but I’ve often thought of making a purchase in the future. What looks to be a favourite style of hers is stretch satin dresses with the fabric draped in different ways on the bodice – whether it be ruching, pleating, folds, knots….the list goes on. I love all of them.

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A couple of Karen Millen dresses for inspiration


I did a scan of my pattern collection and found the perfect pattern for this material. I was in love from the start. I opted for Simplicity 2253 in the short version. I LOVED the criss-cross bodice (am now humming to the tune of ‘Jump’) and the pleated detail on the shoulder. It did scare me a little in terms of getting the fit right, but I forged ahead.

Construction of the dress went almost unscathed. I ended up having to take a little in around the waist and butt to ensure it was fitted, without being too tight naturally. I added about two inches to the hem as the dress is actually quite short if you cut as is. Even with the additional length, its still on the shorter side for me. I also had to fiddle around quite a bit with the placement of the pleats on the shoulder. When I ironed them as the folds suggested on the pattern it just didn’t seem to suit as is, so I ended up spreading them out a bit more. I wanted to hide the small cap sleeve that sits underneath also.

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I lined the bodice with a coordianting bemsilk lining in red and the skirt is unlined. I also put in a invisible zipper on the side seam which required a couple of go's just to make sure the seams all lined up but I got there in the end!

Once I finished up with making this dress and tried it on, I loved it! It’s such a banging colour and a nice change to wear a more cocktail style dress in a single pop colour. The only challenge now is to figure out how best to hang this in the wardrobe. I always struggle with hanging one shouldered dresses as I’m not a real fan of adding in the ribbons on the sides of the dresses for hanging. I find they end up hanging outside of the dress and just ruin the whole look.

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