I made the Cris Wood Sews Parasol Dress last month with the last of this Ankara fabric, which a friend at work generously gifted to me more than a year ago. I saw many posts of the dress tagged #criswoodsewsparasol so I decided to buy the pattern. Or maybe I should say I bought the PDF instructions because there are no pattern pieces for the Parasol Dress & Top.
In the instructions, Cris has you plug in your measurements and you calculate the dimensions of your pattern pieces based on those numbers. The dress is made up of rectangles: bodice, (optional) sleeves, skirt, pockets, and ties. The skirt panel has different lengths depending on whether you make the dress or the top.
Maxi-length Parasol Dress
I decided to make my dress maxi length so I could use the entire width of my 44″ wide Ankara fabric, which has a border of circles at the selvages. I used about 3.25 yards to make this dress.
I first cut into this Ankara fabric to make an Elastic Tie Sweater, pattern by The Assembly Line (see photo below). Playing with pattern placement on a border print is fun (see my Anna Dress in a border print). You can see more photos of this top in this blog post.
I made the sleeveless version of the Parasol Dress. If you want sleeves, they are just additional rectangles that you add to the bodice. This was easy to construct. I created pattern pieces so I could play around with pattern placement as I figured out where I wanted the border to go on the bodice and pockets.
I decided I wanted the border on the bodice pieces but not in the same areas. Also, I didn’t want the fabric to all be in the same direction. The wavy horizontal lines are vertical on the bodice and horizontal on the skirt. I liked the assymetry of having one border on a sleeve hem and the other around the neckline.
I carefully placed the pattern piece for the pockets so that half of the large circles would be at the top of the pocket. The Ankara fabric has a repeating circle motif between the borders. I cut the pockets so that circle motif is mirrored on each pocket, not that you can tell because the design is rather busy.
I only made two adjustments to the pattern. I lengthened the skirt to maxi length. I’m 5′ 7″ (170 cm) so I was able to use the full width of my 44″ wide fabric. I didn’t trim the selvage so at the top where it’s gathered, I didn’t need to finish a raw edge. For the hem, I turned it under about 5/8″ twice so it would be at a length were I wouldn’t trip wearing sandals that were no more than 1.5 to 2 inches (3.8 to 5 cm) high.
For the ties at the back, I cut two extra pieces and sewed the two pieces together instead of folding them in half. I sewed down each long length and one short end with a narrow seam allowance. My finished ties are 1.5 inches wide instead of 1/2 inch wide with a knot at the end. I also top stitched my ties.
My fabric is a medium weight cotton so when I tied a bow, it stuck out stiffly. I didn’t like how that looked. The loops wouldn’t flop down so I tied a half bow, just one loop instead of two.
Gathering the skirt
There is a lot of gathering, which I had not really noticed in the versions I saw on Instagram. The skirt is so full due to the gathering and because of my fabric. Look at my profile, yikes, not a great look. I still have some leftover fabric so maybe a waist tie would help or maybe with time, and many washings, the fabric will soften.
If you choose a midweight fabric, you may want to choose a fabric with a softer hand (something that drapes) or a light-weight fabric or your skirt will be rather puffy. Or cut down on the width of your fabric so you have less to gather. The good thing about choosing a midweight fabric is that it can handle the big pockets. I can put my cell phone in a pocket and you can’t tell it’s in there. I think with a lightweight fabric, my phone would likely drag down the skirt.
This is a very comfortable casual dress, exactly what I’ve been wanting to add to my wardrobe. I just don’t have very many casual dresses so this was perfect. Thank you, Cris!
Sewing the Parasol Dress again
If I were to make the sleeveless Parasol Dress using a medium-weight fabric again, I would cut down on the width of the skirt panels and I would sew a longer side seam on the bodice. The armholes are big and I can see my bra band if I lift my arm.
Now I want to make a color-blocked Parasol Dress using a seersucker print I got at a Bay Area Sewists fabric swap, a plaid remnant, and some solid blue fabric. I’m debating how to handle the pockets. I want pockets but I’m not sure the skirt fabric will work. I’ll add the sleeve option, too. Stay tuned for another Parasol Dress!