My collection of True Bias Southport Dresses

The proof in the pudding of a new project is how much wear it gets. There have been things in the past which I’ve initially been in love with, only to later realise it was just a short lived crush left to languish in the wardrobe only to see the light of day for an annual Me Made May outing (I’m looking at you Farrow) On the other end of the scale are those lasting true loves that you can fall back on again and again.

The UK, along with much of the northern hemisphere, has been experiencing a heatwave for weeks (a quick look back at my Instagram Me Made May posts shows the last time I needed to wear a cardigan was the 30th May)  Anything slightly fitted or with sleeves has been uncomfortable to wear and a combination of heat and hormones has led me to be a couple of sizes bigger at the end of the day than I am in the morning. The True Bias Southport dress has been my saviour and I can’t praise it enough; sleeveless, loose and with a drawstring waist, it has made the heatwave bearable. My first one was made three years ago and was a lengthened version of view A.  When I came to blog my latest one I realised I’d never got around to posting the previous two so I thought I’d do a catch up triple bill (warning for the picture heavy post ahead).

The Southport dress is a tank style dress designed to be worn as a coverup at the beach or a dress for around town. It has a button opening at centre front and a drawstring waist with inseam pockets. View A hits 20” from the waist. View B is maxi length and hits 42” from the waist and includes a centre front slit.
Suggested Fabrics:
Light weight, woven fabrics with movement such as cotton voile, rayon challis, crepe de chine, and lightweight linen.’

The size range is good, starting at 32-26-34 and going up to an 18 at 44.5-38.5-46.5. there’s three inches of ease at the bust and 5 inch over the hips. It’s an easy pattern to grade up or down if you are outside the size range.

I cut a size 16 (42.5-36.5-44.5) which is closet to my measurements (42-36-42) The most recent one is the Peacock print. The fabric is viscose and was a late night eBay find (I’d been on a stash diet but had a slight lapse) It was pictured draped over a mannequin with the ovals running vertically. However, when it arrived they actually ran on the cross grain, I decided to just go ahead and cut it across but as I only had two metres there was a bit of fudging needed. For once being 5ft 1in worked to my advantage, as I needed to shorten it by 7 inches I was just able to squeeze it on. The dress comes together really quickly, I omitted the button placket again, the first time was due to fabric restraints, the following two due to laziness and impatience. I used self made single fold bias tape to finish the armholes and neckline and finished all the seams on my overlocker.

My 2017 version is a lightweight viscose bought from Leeds market, I’m not sure how much it cost but it wasn’t more than £4 a metre;

2016 is a poly crepe from the rag market in Birmingham, I think it was £3 a metre;

The Southport really converted me to the wonders of the maxi-dress, I have lived in them for the past few weeks (and the past few summers) and feel quite put together whilst being wonderfully comfortable, it’s certainly made getting dressed in the morning very easy.

We’re not used to prolonged heat in the UK, most summers necessitate the need for a cardigan and the occasional waterproof and any period of sunshine is met with the scepticism that it will go as soon as the kids break up for the summer holidays. We’re now into the third week of the holidays and it shows no signs of abating. Maybe my other summer dresses will get a look in towards the end of the summer but for now my Southports remain in permanent rotation.

My True Bias ( Maxi-ed View A) Southport Dress

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I had actually cut out another dress prior to this but a sudden heatwave in the UK exposed a gap in my wardrobe for serious hot weather wear so the Southport got bumped to the top of the queue. I was always unsure about Maxi’s before I started sewing again. I tried one on once but the image in the changing room mirror just made me look even shorter, as I was completely swamped by the length. It was only when I made a shirred Maxi out of a border print that I realised just how comfortable they were. It’s the first thing I reach for when the temperature hits the eighties so I knew with the heat I needed another ( I’d been washing and drip drying the other overnight so I could wear it again the following day!)

I’d seen a few Southports during Me Made May so the pattern was already on my list. I really wanted to make view B, the maxi version, but only had a metre and a half of drapey viscose which I bought at the Leeds meet up. The maxi version is a lot fuller in the skirt and no matter how hard I wished the fabric fairies to make it fit there was no way to squeeze it out of my limited fabric. The only thing to do was to Maxi View A. To try and conserve fabric I omitted the button placket and just cut the front on the fold at the centre front. I also used some contrasting fabric for the pockets.

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I cut the size 14 and as this is my second True Bias pattern (the Sutton Blouses are here) it does seem to run true to size. I must confess that I didn’t staystitch the neckline, I don’t know if it’s just me but stay stitching on finer fabrics seems to do more harm than good, on a couple of occasions I’ve thought the fabric has stretched out because of it. Instead I barely handled it and when I did took extra care. For this reason I really took my time with binding the neckline and armholes, ironing and shaping with each step

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I made the skirt with all the fabric I had left after cutting the bodice, luckily being short worked in my favour as I had just enough to make it full length (another couple of inches would have been preferable but I don’t think it matters)  One thing I’m particularly amazed at is having the foresight to see if I’d actually be able to walk in it. The circumference of the skirt was around 50 inches and so I poddled around the dining room with a tape measure around my ankles. It proved to be a little restrictive, I could walk but if there was ever the need to increase my pace or maybe even run I would struggle. I added six inch slits at the side just to free things up a bit.

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I am more than happy with the finished dress, it was a dream to sew and for once no mistakes! It’s cool and comfortable but still looks pulled together. I really want to make another, especially the fuller skirted Version B but I’m not sure I’ve got any suitable fabric in my stash (a thinly veiled reason to go fabric shopping) I think it works on my figure because of the amount of drape in the fabric and Maxis are meant to be floaty. The shorter version would work ok in something with a bit more body though so I might give that a try with some Lawn. As soon as I started sewing this the Sun disappeared and the temperature dropped by ten degrees. At least if it does warm up again I’ll be prepared with my pair of alternating Maxis!