Timeless linen dress
May 8, 2024
by Barbara Emodi

I think there are two kinds of sewists.

There are those who start with a specific garment or a pattern in mind and those who start from fabric.

I am a fabric sewist. I love to touch fabric, appreciate its distinct characteristics, and listen to it when it tells me what it  wants to be.

I am always particularly excited when a classic fabric makes its reappearance on the fashion scene. Last fall it was corduroy. This spring and summer, continuing a trend we saw last year, it is linen.


Linen is my favourite fabric to sew and to wear. On the body, it breathes. It softens and the hand even improves with wear. And, now we have all recovered from the iron-in-the-hall-cupboard days, and have made peace with the natural fiber’s tendency to wrinkle, it is also easy care. Most of the time I prewash my linen fabric and line dry it before I cut.  And whatever garment you make with linen lasts. I recently read that linen sheets can be expected to last twice as long as cotton ones. Given the investment of time and thought that goes into sewing our own clothes, this is good news.

This spring I decided to focus on a comfortable, classic pattern that I could wear with a variety of accessories. Given the longevity of the fabric this made sense to me. Keeping with the idea of versatility I choose this heavier weight linen in a basic black. The pattern I decided to use was this Vogue 1777, a simple, a pull-over dress with no closures, a lined bodice (I used this cotton lawn) with a slightly raised waist and pleats rather than gathers. Given the slight stiffness of a heavier linen I felt that pleats would work well.

This is a loose dress I can wear on a hot day unbelted. However, I have learned over time (and from reading the European sewing magazines) not to neglect the impact of accessories. I have several very easy-to-wear wide elastic belts I hardly ever wear, and I was happy to see the difference they made with this dress. I think pulling the waist in with a belt makes the most of the neckline and skirt.

The best thing about this project, as I knew it would be, was the enjoyment I had with working with this fabric. Nothing stitches as easily or presses as beautifully as linen. Nothing. I think it is so important to work with fabrics that are satisfying to sew. I really believe that the sewing should never be just about executing a pattern but savoring the process. That is how I felt working on this project. It is a pleasure only those who make their own clothes know.