Laneway Dress Pattern Review: Death to the SBA!

Today I’m extremely excited to share a pattern review of the Laneway Dress by Jennifer Lauren Handmade. There she was just a-walkin’ down the laneway, singing doo-wah-diddy-diddy-down-diddy-doo…

The Laneway dress by Jennifer Lauren Handmade in Atelier Brunette "like a dandy" cotton

I have been a bit obsessed with this dress ever since I saw this amazing red and white polka dot version from Millie on Instagram (@jemima_surrender). Then, a few days after I saw Millie’s version, Jen from Jennifer Lauren Handmade put out a call. She was searching for people who would be willing to make up some of her patterns and share them on their blogs and social media!

Umm, yes please! Duh!!!

So I was completely thrilled when Jen was generous enough to include little ol’ me! In exchange for an honest review sharing my sewing experience with the Laneway dress, I received the pattern for free. And, most importantly, I had the perfect incentive to quickly make up the Laneway dress that I’d been totally coveting anyway!


The Laneway dress by Jennifer Lauren Handmade in Atelier Brunette "like a dandy" cotton

Loving me the little indies…

I am so grateful to have been exposed to the Laneway dress and to Jennifer Lauren Handmade. There have been many wonderful benefits of having joined Instagram a little while ago. It’s great to be inspired by the work of others and to know that there are like-minded sewing obsessives out there.

But one of the best things of all is that I am being introduced to the work of independent pattern designers that I didn’t even know existed. I sew exclusively indie patterns and I love supporting indies over the Big 4. But it’s also true that even within the indie pattern world, there are a few companies that dominate the market somewhat. Instagram has really opened me up to a much more diverse indie pattern world than I was seeing before.

There is so much that is new-to-me, I feel like a kid in a candy store! I’ve been having so much fun trying to sew my way through it all!

Just a little gush…

Jen made it very clear that she would appreciate honest and thoughtful reviews. She is not expecting anyone to gush just because they received the Laneway dress for free. But, still, I will start by gushing just a little…

The Laneway dress is a truly great pattern.

It comes with different bodices for different cup sizes guys! B, C or D cup sizes available! No more SBAs or FBAs!!

I was really looking forward to trying the Laneway dress because I am rather under-endowed in the bust department. But what surprised me is that, it was not just in the bust, but all over, that this pattern was a cut-above the rest in terms of fit. This dress is hands-down the best fitting pattern out of the envelope that I have ever made up.

I also love the overall vibe of this dress. It looks tailored but it’s actually secret-pyjama level comfortable. You can safely eat a big lunch in this one!

It has a classic vintage shape but with a funky, modern asymmetric collar (although other collar options are also available if this isn’t your thing). This collar is clever. It doesn’t require any additional pieces but  is actually the neckline facing flipped out. If you think about it, it’s the perfect solution to the problem that facings can tend to flip out. Use a weakness to your advantage!! Jennifer Lauren has some smarts!

The Laneway dress by Jennifer Lauren Handmade in Atelier Brunette "like a dandy" cotton

Oh and the little V-shaped back neck line is visually interesting without being revealing or leaving you cold!

The Laneway dress by Jennifer Lauren Handmade in Atelier Brunette "like a dandy" cotton
The piping lines up… Pheww!!

Sometimes you a sew a pattern and all goes well and you think “Oh I have to make this again right now!”. For me, the Laneway dress went a step further. I thought, I need to keep this pattern forever, because it’s a total classic. I know I will continuously remake it over the course of the next twenty years!

Really, you know a pattern is good when they only thing you worry about the whole way through is design choices. This whole project I couldn’t decide whether to make my contrast collar in white or red. And everything else just went so smoothly that there was really nothing to distract me from obsessing over this detail!

What do you think? White or red? Did I make the right call in the end?

My Laneway Dress: the specs

So here are the specifics of my version.

Since I’ve got me some barely-there A-cups but am well acquainted with all manner of padded bra, I made the B-cup version of the Laneway dress. This meant that my waist and bust measurements both fell squarely in the size 12 range. This was refreshing because I almost always grade between different bust and waist sizes. My hips fell into the finished measurement of a size 8, but after checking out the ease, I decided to grade down to a size 10 at the hips.

My version is made in a lightweight cotton from Atelier Brunette. Jen specifies that the pattern requires a light to medium weight fabric with some structure. My fabric is very much on the light side (but it does still hold its shape well).

The Laneway dress by Jennifer Lauren Handmade in Atelier Brunette "like a dandy" cotton

The Perfect Fit

I can’t emphasise enough how much of a revolution it is to have B, C and D cup versions available. It’s almost like having a pattern personally drafted for you!

Me, personally, I’m really just a home sewist who sews. My drafting skills are almost non-existent. As a result, even though I’m only an A-cup, I’ve never actually done an SBA. I generally just kind of fudge it.

For me, in a typical pattern, I will grade from one bust size to a waist size 1-3 sizes bigger and then I will just take in extra at the side seams if needed. I know it’s not ideal. In fact, I’d recently seen some tutorials for SBAs and had decided that on my next fitted dress I would give it a try.

Then the Laneway dress came along and it had done all the work for me!!

As you can imagine my usual  “technique” means that I typically have to adjust either at the side seams or along back zippers to get items to fit.

The Laneway dress was a personal first for me. I didn’t have to do any of this. The fit was just perfect. There was not a single seam where I had to sew anything other than the recommended seam allowance.  I was also amazed to see that the waist line hit me right at my natural waist – another rare occurrence for me! In fact, I never actually realised it was possible for a pattern to fit me so well!

The Laneway PDF

Since this is a pattern review, I’m going to go into a few more details about the pattern and its instructions.

I used the print-at-home PDF version. In my opinion, it’s an example of best practice for PDFs. We all know PDFs are undoubtedly hell, but this is definitely just that slightly toasty waiting room of hell – nothing you can’t handle! At first, it looks like a lot of pages. That’s just because the front bodice piece is repeated in each cup size. However, it’s very clearly marked which pages you need to print for your particular cup size.

(On a side note, my 2 year old is quite obsessed with puzzles at the moment. Would it be immoral to train him to put PDF patterns together for me? Child labour or not?)

The  PDF pattern layout is also properly designed so that you assemble it in individual pattern pieces of a few pages each. I really don’t understand why every single PDF pattern is not designed like this. There is just no need to require us to stick 40-odd pages together. Not ever!

In addition to the cup sizes, this pattern also has a great size range – ranging from 6-24. So the Laneway dress is designed to accommodate as many different bodies as possible.

This does mean, of course, that there are a lot of lines on the page, but the sizes are clearly marked. One thing that would make it even more user friendly would be if it were available in a layered PDF format. Imagine if you could print only those sizes which are relevant to you. However, since there are so few designers which use layered PDF formats (Named is the only one I have used), I assume that there must be some technical difficulties to formatting patterns in this way.

Laneway fabric requirements

The fabric requirements were pretty spot-on. I had about 20cm of fabric leftover. This means that if I hadn’t been doing the contrast collar but had instead used my main fabric, it would have been perfect.  I hate it when a designer is overly cautious with fabric requirements and I wind up with lots of extra fabric. Fabric is money! I know it’s only a small thing, but, for me, a nice accurate fabric requirement is a sign that the designer respects her or his consumers.

One minor fabric-related recommendation which could have been stated at the beginning (for people who haven’t quite conceptualised how it will all come together in the end), is that if you are making the contrast collar option, the only pattern piece that really needs to be cut out in your contrasting fabric is your front facing piece. The back facing remains entirely internal like any normal facing so you could easily use your main fabric.

And how are the instructions?

The Laneway dress comes with excellent and detailed instructions, complete with diagrams (not photos). I found them very easy to use.  They demonstrated real care and attention to detail. For example, if you were making a contrast colour, the construction order was immaculately thought-out to minimise the need for switching back and forth between different thread colours.  By way of another example, in the sewing glossary, Jen offers no less than 5 possible methods for finishing seams. There is no resting just at “zig zag or serge”.

It is evident that lots of thought has gone into these instructions. They also contain little tips throughout, some of which I found invaluable  – more on that later!

The very few times when something confused me a little, the rationale always revealed itself before long. For example, at first I was confused as to why the front bodice piece was provided in full, rather than as a half piece to be placed on the fold. I soon realised that it was for the sake of clarity concerning the asymmetrical collar markings. This is another example of how much care has gone into making the Laneway dress pattern as easy to use as possible. She could have saved space by providing the bodice as a half piece and writing an explanatory note that the cutting line of the asymmetric collar should be marked on one side only. But, to avoid any confusion, she took the extra step of providing the full bodice piece. Again, respect!

Size charts

The Laneway’s size charts were easy to use. I really found the amount of ease included in the pattern to be precisely on-the-mark. This was great because excessive ease is another of my sewing pet peeves!

One finished measurement that could have been included in the size chart is the finished sleeve around the bicep. Since all the chocolate I eat somehow makes its way directly to my upper arm, sizing-up at the sleeve is a common adjustment for me. There was no need to do so with this pattern. And, of course, it was easy enough to just check the arm pattern piece against my actual arm  before cutting. But including this measurement in the finished measurement table might have saved me a few seconds!

Some sleeve action

The Laneway dress by Jennifer Lauren Handmade in Atelier Brunette "like a dandy" cotton
I love this collar!!!

Speaking of sleeves, I particularly liked the instructions for inserting the Laneway’s sleeves.

First of all, Jen answered one little niggling sewing question which has bugged me for years. I’ve already ranted about this elsewhere. She points out that only one line of gathering stitches, rather than multiple lines, is really necessary!

(OK, yes, yes, I know she only means for the needs of this pattern. But since we are all psychologically predisposed to emphasise that information which confirms our own world views, I’m going to take this as validation of my theory that multiple lines of gathering stitches suck!!)

I also found extremely useful the conceptual note that what I was trying to do to set the sleeve was not gathering the sleeve seam itself but gathering its seam allowance. The aim was for a smooth finish with the gathers inside, rather than a gathered sleeve as such. This simple notion was a bit of a light bulb moment for me! As was the tip that it is easier to sew a sleeve with the sleeve facing you. I’ve been sewing with my sleeves on the inside for years!

So on sleeve insertion techniques, the Laneway dress will be a gift that keeps on giving!

For the record, the finished sleeve also achieves a good balance of being comfortable without being oversized!

So was anything not perfect?

The only area in which the Laneway dress turned out to be slightly less than perfect for me was the pockets.

I am a pocket lover. I find them infinitely useful, especially since I became a mother.

So I was excited during construction to see that the details of these pocket were a bit different from anything I’d tried before. It is an inseam pocket but it’s a bit more roomy than usual. It is also attached to the waistband (in addition to the side seam, obviously). This means that it sits up a bit higher than most traditional inseam pockets that I’d worked with before.

Unfortunately, this placement just didn’t quite work on my body. It hit me at the widest point of my hips and emphasised bulges that needed no such emphasis.

So there is absolutely nothing wrong with the pockets per se, but they just didn’t work on me. Here’s the offending pocket:

An in progress shot of my Laneway Dress by Jennifer Lauren Handmade

In fact, I found this experience interesting because whenever I’d seen people ranting about how they hate pockets and find them unflattering, I’d always kind of thought “are you crazy? What are you going on about? There’s nothing unflattering about pockets”.

Now I realise that it’s just because a lower inseam pocket happens to hit my body at a more appropriate place for me.  The upside of this is that even for pocket-haters, any pocket can be flattering. It’s just all about the correct positioning for your body.

It was a very quick fix to remove the offending pockets. In future versions, I can either skip the pocket entirely, make it up in a more lining type fabric which may be less obvious or make it as a more traditional inseam pocket placed slightly lower.

The finishing touches

The only too-minor-to-even-call-minor changes I made were either cosmetic (adding piping to the waist) or out of paranoia (stitching in the ditch at the shoulder seam to secure the facing, because I hate facing pop-out!).

Overall, I couldn’t be happier with this dress. As I stated above, I know I will be using this pattern for years to come. I am already dreaming of a version with the bodice and contrast collar paired with a circle skirt…

My experience sewing with this pattern led me directly to Jen’s website to check out her other offerings. There are some lovely vintage inspired but modern patterns there. I love it when something has vintage roots, a sort of vintage essence, without being over-the-top. Still looking like everyday wear, rather than a costume. For me, Jennifer Lauren Handmade hits this spot right on the mark !

For now, I’ve got my eyes on the Gable top & skirt, the Bronte top and the Juniper cardigan (because I’m going to need something to pair with my Laneway dress once Autumn hits. And I do love me a good colour blocking opportunity…)

I am so appreciative to have had the chance to provide this Laneway review  (and to be the proud  owner of this lovely Laneway dress!) I really hope that this wonderful pattern receives the audience it clearly deserves!


2 thoughts on “Laneway Dress Pattern Review: Death to the SBA!

  1. might be one of my favourites so far. Also…LOVE the tights and shoes. Can you make some and send them back this way…surely your wardrobe is getting too full.

    1. Hehe. Wouldn’t it be great if it were possible to do a southern- northern hemisphere wardrobe swap? I could send down all my summer clothes around September to free up wardrobe space for winter and you could send them back around May!

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