Pattern Review: Sahara Dress and Top
I made my daughters Easter dresses this year and knew the Sahara Dress and Top would be perfect for making my oldest daughter a comfortable, but girly dress. I love the clean, simple lines. She loves the knit fabric and twirly circle skirt! Here’s my review of the pattern.
Fit and Construction
This is a close fitting dress. But because it is knit, it is comfortable even though it is close fitting. Nut#2 is particular about how things feel and her only complaints were about the clear elastic around the waist. Mine is larger than the pattern calls for and bothered her. I trimmed it down and she’s now happy.
The sleeves are cut on the fold, the front and back armscyes are the same shape, and the armscye seems a bit short. You can see a bit of pulling under her arms and some drag lines on her sleeves, but I’m not too worried about them for a little girl’s dress.
There are LOTS of pages to print. 2 Circle skirts (dress and top lengths are separated), 8 bodice pieces (main and lining, front and back for both sleeved and sleeveless versions), and separate sleeve pieces for the different sleeve lengths. I usually print a pattern in its entirely from the start, but this one I only printed what I needed. The pattern does include a chart to help you decide which pages to print for the size and version you are making.
The Sahara Dress and Top has separate lining pieces to encourage the lining to stay on the inside of the garment and not creep outwards. And because of the lining, the neckline looks so sleek and polished! The pattern also includes separate pieces (main and lining) for the sleeveless version.
Sleeve hems are angled at the bottom so when the hem is folded up it matches without stretching. The instructions suggest using clear elastic at the waist and shoulder seams. This helps the dress keep it’s shape and support the weight of the fabric.
The angles of the side seam look very logical considering the fitted style. The side seams in the smallest sizes are almost vertical and then the larger sizes have increasingly angled side seams (narrower at the waist). Within those two groupings the grading looks even.
Overall, I think it fits well and looks nice. And I really like the finishing of the neckline.
I made three main adjustments to the pattern-but none are fixing grading or fit issues. All of adjustments are for style and personal preferences. So skip to the next section to see what changes I made.
Oh, but I will mention here that my fabric is a red-tag find from Joann. I believe it is polyester. It is thick with almost a quilted look, very smooth, but only has two-way stretch instead of the recommended 4-way. Actually I didn’t notice the stretch until I sewed the bodice. Luckily, I cut out the bodice with the stretch going across the width! However, I did use cotton lycra for the lining. She can still get in and out of the dress comfortably and I haven’t noticed any funny warping along the hem from stretching in only two directions as it hangs.
My personal style avoids ruffles and tons of pattern mixing. I like to think of my style as modern classic. My daughter also is particular about how things feel and usually rejects clothing that feels different. I thought about those two things as I made my adjustments.
Side note: When I took pictures, the dress color, bare feet, and twirl of the skirt reminded me of Rapunzel!
Bella Sunshine Designs has a vintage aesthetic and all of their dresses (including the Sahara Dress and Top) are drafted to hit at or 1-2″ above the knee. I like dresses to hit 2 or more inches below the knee so my girls have a better chance of keeping their undies covered and to allow some room for growth without letting out hems. (We do hand me downs and I take forever to get to mundane mending like letting out and taking up hems.) So I purposely cut the circle skirt about 4 -5 inches longer. I’m a bit uncertain just how much I added because I traced out a size 6 width with size 8 length for the skirt, but then cut as long as my folded fabric would allow. It was at least 2 more inches beyond the size 8 length. Sorry I wasn’t more precise…
The Sahara Dress has a lovely low scooped Ballet back, but I knew my daughter wouldn’t like that. Too breezy for her. So I cut the front again to use as the back. It brought the back up an inch or two. My daughter still thinks it’s a bit low, but is getting use to it.
In my head, this Sahara dress needed half sleeves. To me, half sleeves are more dressy than short sleeves yet still cool for wearing in warm weather. I measured by daughter from her shoulder to elbow and used that measurement to determine where to cut the sleeve length. They could probably be 1/2 inch shorter so they don’t crinkle when she bends her arms, but no biggie. We just call it growing room.
I love how it looks! It’s simple, sweet, and comfortable. My daughter is genuinely happy which makes me happy. I think the pattern is well done and results in a beautiful, well made garment. All the changes I made were simple length changes made for personal preferences. I will definitely be making more, although I will make many of the same alterations (skirt length and back neckline) and will probably play around with different bodice lengths to balance the long skirt.
Affiliate Link to Pattern:
- Pattern: Sahara Dress and Top
- Designer: Bella Sunshine Designs
- Style: Ballet Back Fit-and-Flare/Peplum with circle skirt
- Fabric: Knit-Pattern Recommends 4-way stretch with good recovery. I used 2 way stretch with good recovery.
- Size Range: 6M-12
- Size made: 6
- Lengths: 2- Dress and Top *edited-The pattern has been updated with a tunic length! So 3 lengths!*
- Sleeve lengths:4 – Long, 3/4, Short, and Sleeveless
- Sleeves cut on Fold:Yes
- Alterations/Hacks: Yes-cut two fronts so the back is higher, made elbow length sleeves, and lengthened the skirt at least 4 inches.
- Seam Allowance: 3/8″
- Layers: yes
- Trimless: No-but I prefer this
- Illustrations: All steps have illustrations-this is my preference over photos
- Dislikes or desired changes? Bella Sunshine Designs has a vintage aesthetic so the dresses are always shorter than I like- it is an easy fix. It also has a ton of pages to print with pieces that could be nested but aren’t-probably to make the pieces cleaner and easier to navigate. I’d probably rather have the pieces nested and save my paper.
- Sew again? Yes! I will likely lengthen the bodice slightly and lengthen the skirt again if making a dress. For a top I think I’ll try as is.
- Would you recommend it to others? Yes-it has a great professional finish, separate pieces for linings and sleeveless versions.
Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small affiliate commission. This helps fund fabric for testing and reviewing patterns. Regardless, I only recommend what I believe is quality.