New favourite dresses alert! The Just Patterns Helena Wrap Dress is newly released but it has been months in the making. I worked on the pattern instructions for this and I’m so happy that Delphine finally got it released. This is my second version (first one in wax print, scroll later to see it) because, you know, fruits and all.
When Delphine first started draping this pattern, I was so excited that in my head I already made 4 versions of this dress. The oranges … or peaches? were a surprise 5th version that did not exist in my imagination until Kim saw the fabric in the store and thought of me. Who am I to say no to an enabler?
Helena Wrap Dress Pattern details
This is NOT a quick make despite what might appear at first glance. It took me 5 hours to make it + cutting time (and this is with me not needing to look at the instructions, I wrote most of them haha).
My favourite details are the 8 pleats in total on the bodice, the shaped front waistband, swishy skirt, the neckband with a nice V shape that ends up being quite shallow with good coverage. So much so that I’d definitely take earrings over a necklace to style with this dress! And of course the option of patch or side seam pockets.
What I like less is that the dress is less suitable for playing basketball, or washing windows overhead. I can lift my arms in a T shape but that’s about it. I don’t think this is really fixable to be honest due to the design – if you raise the armhole you’ll lose the wide sleeves and it won’t look as pretty. But, a small price to pay for an otherwise delicious dress.
I’m very happy to say that this dress is great in poplin. My wax print is a bit stiffer than the oranges but still works well (and the colour!) – both poplin.
Delphine made her samples in linen and I think this would look lush in silk as well. Choose anything you want! Note that Helena Wrap Dress is a bit of a fabric chewer, so for the smallest size you still need 2.3m x 140cm wide. Largest size is 60” hip and requires 3.3m.
Fit and adjustments
Despite being a wrap, the dress needs to fit properly at the bodice and the waist. Like most wraps that are fitted rather than sacks, it is not a good idea to just hope that you can pull the waistband tighter or leave it looser – you’ll just end up with gaping in unwanted places when you wear it and it probably won’t feel awesome either.
Therefore, if you want to make it work, it is VERY advisable to toile the bodice. And in this case also include the waistband in your toile so you are sure that the waistband is sitting comfortably on your body. I ended up shortening my bodice by 3cm (3-5cm is fairly standard for me), because 1) my legs are long relative to my upper body, 2) I have a small bust and this also acted as the SBA. But you need to check for yourself what suits you.
There’s a lot of interfacing in the dress – on the neckband, on the waistband, on the front edge of the wrap. That was probably the longest part of the preparation process before I even got to the machine. And make sure you have a full bobbin because there’s a lot of topstitching on the ties.
This is the trickiest bit because you need to make a fairly angular corner and it’s very easy to end up with a pucker. Pic here to show you what I mean – look at the shoulder seam where it is joined to the neckband. Excuse my lack of ironing, the dress had come out of the wash when I remembered I wanted to take the pic.
It is the same technique used for any garment with this kind of neckband. Off the top of my head I’m thinking of the Named Lahja dressing gown and Fibre Mood Luz.
The instructions for the Just Patterns Helena Wrap Dress (step 6b and 6c if you bought the pattern) advise you to attach the neckband in one hit. Start at the outer shoulder seam, stop at the shoulder seam/neckband junction, leave your needle down and pivot your fabric, sew the back neck (be aware this part is 0.6cm seam allowance not 1cm), pivot again, then sew the other shoulder seam.
However, it worked better for me to stitch it in 3 parts. First, shoulder seam. Then back neck. Then the other shoulder seam. This way I could remove the bodice from under my machine, reposition my fabric, then go again. (Note: Delphine who made the pattern tried this and hated it. I hated her all in one instruction. As ever, there’s usually a few different ways to get to the same point). What we did agree on is that whatever you do, you must press well!
Waistband / ties
The “step” in the front waistband on the pattern piece is deliberate. Stitching the waistband ties with a 0.6cm seam allowance means you get a less bulky result without the need to trim. Follow the instructions closely and you’ll get a good result.
Cycling friendly adaptation
I’m not sure I can call adding on a snap an “adaptation” but I put one on at about mid-thigh level to hold the skirt together whilst I’m on a bike. Works at treat with any wrap dress!
The Helena Wrap Dress was a pretty fun sew for me because it’s just a bit different from a lot of the “typical” simpler patterns that I tend to make. If you’re not too experienced in sewing I’d suggest choosing an easy fabric to work with (hello poplin), don’t rush it and follow the instructions. The results will be worth it, promise! Here’s the video of the dress in action. Follow me on IG if you’re keen to see my other makes because I don’t blog every single one of them!
Till next time