Summer princess line dress (based on Karen Millen dress)

Once upon a time I had a white Karen Millen dress with big red flowers on it.

Dressy, yet comfortable; flattering but not revealing,  I wore this dress for various warm weather “events” for several years. I loved the colour scheme.  I didn’t make of habit of standing by the men’s toilets with a fire extinguisher but the first picture shows me receiving a leaving gift in a Brighton pub when I was the Director of Housing. The second photo is of Joan Bartlett’s 90th birthday when I was the Chief Executive of Servite Houses. I had this dress in my mind when I planned on making a summer, princess-line dress floral dress. It wouldn’t be the first time i had subconsciously recreated an old favourite; I appear to have form when it comes to making the same dress again and again.

I toiled the pattern in grey first and then made the dress in stretch cotton which I bought online. While the red is just a little bit orangey, perhaps, I am pleased with the quality and look of the fabric.

Compared to the toile I altered the pattern a little at the bust, and I changed the side seams a smidgen. The bodice is lined with white stretch cotton sateen similar to the dress fabric, and the skirt with a nice soft lawn I used previously for my 1940s folkwear blouse. 

I wore it for the Southwark Mayor’s Ball, a black tie do, at the weekend. I matched it with my high heels, Israeli earrings,  Westwood style jacket and a couple of vintage brooches. And to bring out the reds (rather than the corals) I took my red evening bag too.

Thank you to those of you who suggested the fabric and alterations to the pattern. I followed your suggestions and I made the white dress just marginally shorter than the grey one. Although I agree the proportions might look better with a shorter skirt (looking at the dress on its own) I feel that with a jacket or cardigan the strong horizontal somehow restores the balance. Below is the wearable toile, worn to work, with a cardigan, belt and flat shoes. It is a little long but I just don’t want to show my bare knees or feel at all uncomfortable in a chair in summer time. I think the belt is a major improvement myself.

22 Responses

  1. They are all great dresses. I’m so impressed by how you attained such responsible positions at such young ages.

  2. It’s a really successful make – I do love the floral with the jacket picking up the colour.

  3. I’m not surprised you’ve made similar dresses a few times. These shapes have to be about the most flattering, wearable and adaptable for many women.They work in just about any occasion. I love the birthday photo by the way.

  4. Looks great, the red bag definitely brings out the red.

  5. Perfect dresses for summer, as you say, classy and comfortable, fitted but not revealing. True style.

  6. I absolutely love this dress!

  7. The outfit looks so lovely and that dress is perfect.

  8. Stephanie

    Nice job, Kate. You look lovely (and a nice back story, too).

  9. Ah, you wear florals so beautifully, and your Westwood style jacket is just lovely. Love all the versions of floral dresses you’ve included here, particularly your pretty wedding pictures.

  10. I so admire your efforts to get exactly what you want. As always, you look terrific!

  11. Stunning outfit and no wonder you continue to find yourself in this style…your shape is still youthful and the dresses enhance it so well! Does the teal jacket go with anything else?

    • Thank you Mrs Mole. Yes I have a teal lace skirt, a green dress, a green skirt and a navy lace skirt – all of which work nicely with the jacket, as well as this dress.

  12. Kate–you are inspiring me to think about my “signature” print. I think it might be almost any animal print (I’m not so sure about snakes). And yes, I will admit to buying/making the same thing over and over again. For me it might be black pants. Anyway, your new dress is beautiful!

    • Well I admit I used to have several pairs of black trousers Lynn, but unlike you, they didn’t do much for me (except that they were practical, and minimised my derriere). I also had a thing about black jackets too for a similar reason, but I even got rid of my deepest navy jacket this year as I felt it drained me.

      And thank you as you made me think about this. I actually feel happier in “happy” fabrics and colours – flowers, pinks, yellow, greens. It may be a deep desire to be closer to nature than to the graphic/architectural palette.

  13. Really beautiful Kate and I love the jacket. I used to love Karen Millen in the late 90’s early 00’s for my party outfits. I still have a few put away which I hope my daughter may wear as vintage one day!

  14. Oh! you look lovely and the colour combination enhances both dress and jacket, you must be pleased with this you look terrific.

  15. Joyce Latham

    Your dress is beautiful Kate. The jacket is perfect with it. Well done, as always !

  16. I think your tweaking has paid off, with each iteration better than the last. I am inclined to recreating clothing from the past, too. It seems a combination of the original being useful and flattering–and the good memories associated with wearing it.

  17. Both dresses are beautiful and I love how you have achieved such different looks with them. Perfect for all occasions!

  18. Very nice. I’m sure this dress will take you many plans. I also love the teal blazer you choose to top it with – not an obvious or safe choice.

  19. Your dress looks lovely, and if you find yourself repeating a dress it can only be because you loved the earlier incarnations.

  20. The teal jacket and the flower print were made for each other.
    I like the idea of replicating favourite dresses. On the weekend I was fantasy shopping in Sydney and came across a Valentino dress with a cape overlay at back that was very like one my mother made for me out of a Burda pattern book in the late 1980s. I would love to make that dress again – but where to start?

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