Making of the Aurora Flower Dress: McCalls 8078

When you have scrap fabric lying around collecting dust and being generally in the way, you have to find a way to use it. In this case, I had bought this magenta polyester voile for my Pre-Raphaelite Zelda’s cape. I ended up ditching the cape idea as it didn’t look cohesive. I was left with 4 yards of 118″ sheer fabric. After having it around for awhile, inspiration struck. I’ve always loved the sheer overdresses of the 1930’s, with interesting sleeves, unique seaming, and just aesthetically delightful looking. I set my brain on a path to find the perfect design for the dress. Originally I came up with a knife pleated front with a back button closure. Realizing that would be a terrible idea for getting dressed, I moved the buttons to the front. I searched for a pattern that would fit this change, and came across Angela Clayton’s pattern for McCalls, #M8078. It’s a 1930’s inspired top that would do quite nicely, it also came with my prerequisite: interesting seaming. I’ll start with the pattern review and then go into detail on how I created the flower garden at the hem.

The instructions for McCalls 8078 were mostly easy to follow. This is a complicated blouse that requests the use of French seams and there are a number of triangle points to sew. The placket (though not used) could be a bit better explained. I would look up a YouTube video or two to get a feel of how these are commonly constructed if you are unfamiliar.

As for pattern features, I loved the look and the arching above bust seam. It’s simple but stunning. I also liked the small, almost architectural, darts coming from that curved seam and from the waist. It makes it feel so posh and couture. The sleeve design was a blank canvas for me to play with, having a seam from the neck to the sleeve cuff.

The fabric. It is a sheer, slippery as heck, polyester voile. This is meant to be worn with an underdress (as pictured) and never alone. Interestingly, the fabric flowers coming up from the hem are all made of the same voile and yes, every single one of the 384 flowers on the dress is handmade. It took FOREVER to make and sew them all on.


The first one is pretty obvious: I removed the waist band and connected it to a skirt. The blouse only goes to the waist and does not extend to the hips, so this was an easy alteration. I also added two inches to the length because I’m tall and wanted it blousy.

Now for the goodies:
The sleeves! The sleeves are cut surprisingly narrow, or at least they are for my thick arms. So I added 1.5″ to the top of the shoulder/sleeve seam and graded out some of the bottom into a bishop sleeve. I then lengthened it by 2″ to make sure it bloused a bit at the end. I also gave the sleeve an opening from the elbow down. It goes into a different wrist band – I nixed the standard oxford shirt wrist in favor of a tie wrist, it is a functional tie as well.

The placket! I completely ignored the placket by centering the front, cutting strips of fabric to turn under, and then sewed it up. Simple as that. There is no overlap. This was done so the opening of the skirt and the bodice would be the same – also, I just plain dislike making plackets, so that’s a thing. I then used thread loops for the button closure – which I feel is more unique anyway.

I would absolutely sew this again. I love this as a dress though, so I’d probably make it the exact same way again. I kept my altered pattern pieces for this reason as I adore how it turned out. While complicated with more advanced techniques, lots of little details, and general fitting for a pattern that does not like to be altered, I’d say this is for an intermediate sewist. That said, it’s worth it. The dress is stunning in person and all the little details Angela Clayton put into the design are perfection.

Now for the intricate hem: Each flower was made by hand with six petals and three 3-4mm pearl beads (okay, a few have one larger bead, 8-10mm). I hand embroidered all the vines with size 5 pearl cotton thread in a simple chain stitch. Those vines are mirrored with their opposite skirt panel counterpart. Then I sewed on all those little flowers, again mirroring the placement of the three colors with the matching panel.

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