The Newcastle Dress

Late last year I was asked by my friend and former boss, Jules Melhuish, if I could help him with a little project.  Of course I agreed as it’s Jules and I love him.  He has always been such an inspiration to me.  We worked together at Saatchi & Saatchi in the early 00’s.  A crazy time for me in a busy and high stressed job. He’s so calm and collected, super smart, extremely creative and very funny.  I spent most of my time at Saatchi’s laughing with him while he taught me about creativity, mainly through osmosis.

He asked me to make a special dress for his wife for Christmas.  But there was a twist.  It was to be a surprise, so I was not allowed to measure her and I was to use fabric he was supplying. Eek, I thought.  How am I ever going to get the fit right?  So he gathered together a few of her frocks and I measured them and then started the search for a flattering but unfitted and voluminous dress.

The pattern:

After a few weeks of searching I settled upon the Ruffle-sleeve top from Peppermint Magazine. It’s a free pattern, designed by In the Folds.  As you know I am a big fan of Emily’s patterns and I trust the sizing and fit.  This was a good starting point.

I had seen on Instagram that a few makers had hacked this pattern into a dress, but it was this gingham example by my friend Mel of @madebymellow that really sold it to me.

The fabric:

Jules’s wife Karen originates from Newcastle so the fabric was an ode to her roots. Jules described it as;

a wearable homage to her late father, John, who died in 2018. John was an avid collector, among the 25 tonnes of his stuff were many old street directories and maps of Newcastle.

Julian scanned in the pages of the Gregory’s Newcastle 1983 and we searched for the right fabric and printer. We found the printer in Digital Fabrics in Sydney and we used their 100% Linen Deluxe fabric, with a weight of 220 gsm. I liked the idea that the texture of the linen would knock some of the colour out, flattened it a bit and give it a more subtle palette. I also thought the drape would be lovely in linen although it did mean I had to line it.

The most beautiful part of my brief was when Julian asked me to place the street where Karen grew up just above her heart.  Every time I tell someone this part of the story they clutch their own heart and melt a little bit.  (You should check out the Julian’s website for more photos.)

The biggest thrill was seeing Karen in her dress on the day of this shoot.  It wasn’t planned, I just bumped into her on the beach front.  The fit is so good on her, I am so happy that it fits as I really was holding my breath about that one!

So here is Karen in all her glory

I added a ruffle at the bottom of the dress to mirror the sleeves
Back view
The street where Karen grew up is placed just above her heart!
The belted option
I thought a belt would be a good idea just incase Karen felt the dress had too much volume.  I found the perfect place at Button Mania – they did an amazing job covering the belt and the service was incredible!
Those sleeves look so great!

I very rarely make garments for anyone other than myself and so I was quite apprehensive about the results.  To say I wasn’t allowed to measure her I think I nailed this one and I am super happy with the results.

Do you think I could pull off a Sheffield dress??


5 thoughts

  1. That’s proper lovely, such a nice dress and story…….. and yes you nailed it.

    As for Sheffield dress can you make it of steel?


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