The Skeleton Lovers Dress

I am not a girly girl. I don’t do pretty frilly dresses and hair curls – much to the disappointment of my mother who so dearly wanted a daughter that she could play dolls and dress up with.  I am not a delicate feminine flower.  I favour darker colours, un-fussy things, and flat shoes. For me to wear a dress, it’s got to have skulls, snakes, flames, spiders or something equally charming on it. Animal print is also acceptable, provided it’s not in a pastel colour.

The fabric I have used for this dress is called ‘Life’s Little Pleasures’ by Alexander Henry and it features a boy skeleton spending time with his girl skeleton enjoying ‘life’s little pleasures’ I assume, hence the title. I genuinely can’t get enough of Alexander Henry prints – I love them. They are so bold and eye-catching, and if I had the time in my life to do it I would love to have a whole wardrobe filled with clothes in every print. For this dress I have used the black colourway of the fabric but there is also a cream one, a blue one and a ‘tea’ one – so-called, I guess, because it looks like you’ve spilt your tea on it – however I prefer the black one as I feel the white skeletons stand out more against a dark background, and, of course, if something comes in black I’m having it in black.

The pattern I have used is B6094  from Butterick’s ‘Patterns By Gertie’ range – a sewist I originally took notice of because of her tattoo sleeve. I feel there’s a kind of balance to her look – she rocks the girly dresses (some a little *too* girly for me though) but also has the tattoo, kind of saying “yes I like pretty things but I’m tough and if you annoy me I will kill you with my sharpest needle”. Go Gertie.


It’s a vintage style dress with contrasting panels on the back, held down at the corners by buttons. I’ve seen a lot of people make this dress up along a sailor/nautical theme, and in floral fabrics to attend weddings and other posh gatherings, but when I saw this design I instantly pictured it in some sort of gothic fabric. When I stumbled on Life’s Little Pleasures, I knew it was the one. As usual, it seemed impossible to come by in the little ol’ UK – well, if you wanted blue or white or tea (which obvs I didn’t, because, BLACK) you could find that, but black was nowhere to be found. I was greeted with those dreaded three words “OUT OF STOCK” at every turn so had to order from the USA, which of course meant I got hit with UK import charges (yay, thanks customs) but the wait and the cost was totally worth it.

I wanted to make view A, with the fuller skirt, as opposed to the pencil skirt dress of view B because my chunky cyclist thighs need room to move. The dress is designed with a circle skirt, but due to the way these are cut on the bias of the fabric this would have put some of the skeletons sideways rather than straight up and the whole thing would have looked a little bit weird. So I instead self drafted a skirt with two box pleats on each of the front and back sections, which kept the skeletons the right way up – hurrah.

Although I spent ages moving my pattern pieces around on the fabric to get the placement I wanted for the bodice and for the waistband, I seem to have favoured one cheerful looking skeleton a bit too much as I’ve accidentally chosen him to be on both pieces. So there’s a bit of twinning going on with the front pieces… meh. There’s so many legs and arms and ribs all over the place anyway that I’m not sure it’s too noticeable. I also should have considered more carefully the skirt placement before rushing in with the cutter as this same guy is getting in on the action here as well… #attentionseeker.

Because of the busy pattern going on with this fabric, I thought the construction details of the bodice might get a bit lost in all of the detail so I decided to insert some red piping along the bodice seams to break things up a bit. I’m really pleased with how this looks, however it’s a bit bulky at the back at the seam with the zip – I think perhaps I should have cut out the piping cord at this seam to help it lay flat – a learning for next time I guess. The zip is a little difficult to do up at this point too – all those seam allowances *plus* the piping is probably a little too much for the poor zipper, which doesn’t look too “invisible” – must work on my technique. Admittedly I don’t make too many things with zips so that’s probably why I’m a bit rubbish.

As much as I am loving the piping, the red colour of it isn’t an *exact* match to the red fabric on the flaps at the back – I guess I could have made my own piping out of that same fabric but as it’s a quilting cotton I thought it would be a bit too bulky to make flanged piping from… I’ll think to myself that I should try it next time but I know when it comes to it I’ll just be lazy and buy the closest ready-made colour I can find #sorrynotsorry.

I had to have a second go at one of the red back panels, as for some reason it didn’t turn out the same dimensions as the other one. Probably sloppy cutting or sloppy sewing on my part. I redid the seam that runs from the shoulder down to the point of the triangle and now they are just about the same – close enough that they don’t look different, anyway.

I used two bronze coloured skull-and-crossbones buttons for the back – I pictured in my mind that I wanted these to finish the dress off but had to find them in real life – good old eBay came to the rescue here. My only gripe is that they are shank buttons and it was a bit of a faff to get them to try to stand up properly – I had a couple of attempts at sewing them on but they are still a little droopy. Never mind – I would rather have slightly-droopy-skull-buttons than perky-non-skull-buttons, because, well, they’re uber-cool.

If I made it again I would lower the top seam of the waistband, as it’s a little too high up the chest for me. I want it to sit just under the bust – this would mean extending the top section of the bodice by about one and a half inches I reckon, and removing this same amount from the waistband to keep the overall length of the bodice the same. The waist seam is at the right height so at least that’s something, it’s just that dividing line that’s slightly too high for me – more obvious on the side view:

Overall I am totally loving this dress and am really pleased with how it looks – now I just need some warmer weather so that I can wear it out. With some flat shoes obvs, maybe even my Dr Martens boots – because the pretty red shoes in the pictures are for posing in only and definitely not for walking anywhere in… lolz.

Photos by Hmexus

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  1. Jilly Anderson
    July 8, 2018 / 12:55 am

    Try backing your buttons with a piece of interfacing or fabric…they should stand up for you. ☺ Also, I am a 20 in patterns. Do you think this style would be OK?

    • Sarah
      July 9, 2018 / 5:14 pm

      Aha, thanks for the tip Jilly! 😘 Yes I think this style would be fabulous on you! All you need to focus on is the fit of the bodice and at the waistline, and the circle skirt will just do it’s thing 👍🏻

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