Finished Objects

Hacking a “Milkmaid” Dress

My Issues With the Popular Milkmaid Dress Pattern

I picked up Lydia Naomi’s Milkmaid (now called Dream Frock) dress pattern when it was being given away for free. However, despite loving the style and seeing some incredible projects made with it, I’ve been hesitant to actually use the pattern.

First of all, there are no written instructions* and I am not a huge fan of video tutorials. I don’t like having to pause and rewind multiple times and often it’s not as clear as a diagram with instructions. That’s not to say that all written instructions are good (as someone with technical writing experience, some are really bad), but if you offered me a video tutorial or a blog post, I will always pick the blog post to learn from.

*Note: It looks like there may now be written instructions in a readme file if you purchase the pattern from Lydia Naomi’s website.

Secondly, I have concerns about the drafting. The finished waist measurement is 1/8″ less than the body measurement for the same size. If this were a knit, that obviously wouldn’t be a problem since negative ease is typical. However, the dress is drafted for non-stretch light to medium-weight woven fabrics.

Generally for a form-fitting garment in a woven fabric, I like 1.25″-2″ of ease in the waist. It’s still quite close to the body, but allows for movement, breathing and body fluctuations throughout the day. Anything less than an inch or so is going to be uncomfortable at best and at worst is going to pop your side zipper.

Because of these issues, I’ve been on the lookout for a similar pattern or patterns that I could alter to make my milkmaid dress dreams a reality. While mindlessly scrolling through patterns online, I found my answer: McCall’s M7116.

You make a-my dreams come true you-oooohh youuuu-oooh ooh ooh

The bodice of M7116’s view B was practically perfect for what I wanted, but I wanted a waistband and a fuller skirt. So I shopped my stash and with a couple small tweaks, the skirt and waistband from Deer and Doe’s Magnolia Dress worked perfectly!

It worked!

M7116 and Magnolia Pattern Info

M7116 is available in sizes 8-24 (33.5″ – 48″) and Deer and Doe’s Magnolia dress is available in sizes 34-52 (33.75″ – 48″).

My current measurements are:

  • High bust: 34″
  • Full bust: 37.5″
  • Waist: 28.5″
  • Hips: 41.5″

As per usual with McCalls, I chose the size 14. I used my altered Magnolia skirt and waistband pattern pieces from a previous project which were approximately in between a size 40 and 42.

M7116 and Magnolia Alterations

Fitting the two patterns together was surprisingly easy! I started by measuring the back waistband of the Magnolia and the back bodice of M7116 at the waistline. They were very close in measurement already (score!) and I just needed to remove some width at the waistline of the bodice. For the front bodice, I figured I’d just adjust the gathers until it fit to the front waistband.

I also wanted the neckline to have a keyhole opening with tie, so I split the front bodice into two parts, adding a centre front seam. My first muslin was very successful:

V pleased with myself

I then lowered the front neckline and adjusted the size of the elastic in the sleeve cuffs to better fit my arms (no elastic in the photo above). I really like the sleeves on M7116 because they’re not fully elasticized at the hem. The elastic only runs over the top of your arm, so no annoying pinching in your armpit!

Happy with the fit, I moved on to my nice fabric: a gorgeous ditsy floral cotton poplin from Blackbird Fabrics. When I got to the part where I attached the skirt, I tried on the dress and much to my dismay, something was wrong. The skirt wasn’t hanging properly. I figured it out pretty quickly: my waistband ended too high up, causing the skirt to flare out too quickly and giving more of an empire waistline.

Thankfully, and easy fix! I added about an inch in length to my waistband pieces and recut them (I bought a ton of this fabric because I intend to also make a blouse with it). I also ended up needing to take in the back skirt above my butt and grade it gently out to remove some fullness from the lower back area.

The skirt falls very nicely in the back now!

My Milkmaid Dress Details

The fabric I used was very, very slightly sheer. Originally I had planned to line both the bodice and the skirt, but upon attaching both the skirt and lining, I found it too bulky. Thankfully, the fabric was just opaque enough that I didn’t need to line the skirt. The sleeves are unlined and sewn to the bodice with French seams.

This dress is beautiful on the inside and the outside

A small change I made in the construction of the bodice was to use bias binding to create the elastic channel instead of just folding over the fabric. This avoided any issue with folding on the curve and created a lovely, clean finish. I actually love making bias tape, so I used the same fabric as the dress.

Self bias tape is just so pretty

Final Thoughts

I did it! I hacked a milkmaid dress from two great patterns and had relatively few issues – wooo! I love how this project turned out. The dress is so pretty and perfect for, well, frolicking in a field of flowers:

PEI is so beautiful, I can’t even believe it sometimes

Or laughing manically in a field of flowers:


Or just casually chillin’ by your kale garden:

It grows much faster than I can eat it.

Till next time, friends!

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