The first Shenai dress on the internet?

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Oki Style Patterns has been a regular stop on my internet trawling since Indie Pattern Month 2016, when I made the Salt jacket. Her patterns are so unique & interesting, but also surprisingly wearable. I had just been admiring them & daydreaming about which ones I’d like to make until the IPM challenges were announced. First up: dresses. I went straight to the Oki Style Patterns site & bought the Shenai dress. Oki describes it thusly: “Asymmetrical hemline, single-sided slit at hem, integrated scarf.”

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I made the regular size XL from the same gray linen I used to make the overalls for June’s “put a bird on it” challenge. (I’ve started intentionally buying a few yards extra so I can make multiple garments from the exact same fabric, thus guaranteeing a mix & match wardrobe.)

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Although Oki Style patterns are not especially difficult once you start constructing them, you do need to have a fair bit of sewing experience to tackle them. The instructions are primarily in German. There are English translations for each step, but they are very spare & sometimes almost indecipherable. For instance: “Work the back armline and back neckline with bias strip.” If you had never used bias binding to finish an armscye, would you understand this? There are photo instructions as well, but they don’t really provide any extra guidance for a beginning sewer.

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Luckily, I am not a beginner anymore & was able to figure everything out (perhaps with a few false starts here & there). The dress is really fairly simple. It’s just two pattern pieces joined at the side seams & at one shoulder. The other shoulder strap is sewn to the underside of the “integrated scarf,” & that creates the second armscye & the neckline. The pattern pieces are both quite large & completely asymmetrical, & there are notches to match for the bust, waist & hip.

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I took advantage of these notches to implement an FBA & a swayback adjustment, both of which were a shot in the dark, as the drape of the dress is completely asymmetrical from the shoulders down, & the attachment of the second shoulder strap to the scarf makes a big difference to the location of the bust points. In the end, I really like the fit. The French darts give me some definition at the bust, & the curved side seams skim over my body in a way that avoids a shapeless, tent-like silhouette, but without clinging or pulling.

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One of my favorite things about this dress is the hem. Oki’s directions instruct a person to sew the hem first (though a person could probably get away with saving it for last without too much trouble). I took the plunge & trusted her, even though I usually like to save them hem for last in case I want to go higher or lower. The dress has a slit on one side, which is finished with mitered corners. Guys. I LOVE mitered corners. Sometimes I kick back & just make a bunch of napkins or whatever because mitered corners are so relaxing to make. This is the first time I’ve ever used them on a garment! Everything is drafted right into the pattern, making it even easier–though, of course, due to the lack of detail in the English translation, previous experience mitering a corner came in VERY handy. The finish is so sharp-looking, & my thread just melted into the linen fabric, so the topstitching looks exquisite.

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Now, let’s talk embellishments. The dress is not drafted with any pockets. A few months ago, I hit on the idea of making patch pockets with flaps that secure with turn locks. I’ve never actually seen such a thing in real life, but isn’t it a cool idea? I adore turn locks & have been on the hunt for the perfect garment to add one. This dress seemed ideal. The solid gray fabric lets the turn lock stand out, but is utilitarian enough that that kind of serious hardware seems appropriate. The asymmetry & unusual shape of the garment compliment such an unusual pocket treatment. & it gives me someplace to stash my iPod while I’m walking down the street or puttering around the house.

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& last but not least: that floral applique. I briefly considered hand-embroidering a huge floral motif on the dress, but these challenges do have deadlines, after all. So I took a deep dive on to the internet to find a U.S. seller of an enormous floral embroidered patch. These are easy to get if you are willing to order from China, but I didn’t have time to wait for the international shipping. I managed to find one seller that had what I needed.

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Just for the record, this patch is sew-on. I spent two & a half solid days sewing it on. I affixed it with craft glue first to keep it from slipping around too much, & then came the hundreds (thousands?) of teeny invisible slip stitches. Including all the negative space within the motif. In the end: worth it! I’m pretty fast at hand-sewing, & the color & impact of the patch elevate this dress to the next level. I set both the patch & the pocket at opposing angles to play with the asymmetry of the overall look.

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I love this dress! It’s actually really easy to wear, perfect for summer, I’m really proud of the embellishments I added, & I just feel cool in it, you know? It’s kind of a lot of look, but that’s what I love to sew & wear. & it goes great with my pink shoes! Feel free to swing by my blog to see more of my sewing!

30 thoughts on “The first Shenai dress on the internet?

  1. Oh wow! What an amazing dress. I have never checked out this pattern company and I must go and do that. Such an unusual dress! And the embroidery and patch pocket was inspired! I hope you get to wear it a lot!

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    • It’s really surprisingly wearable! It looks kooky, but it’s really comfortable & easy to throw on. I wore it to a 5-year-old’s birthday party yesterday & only got a little green frosting on it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ciara this is gorgeous! I adore the applique and kudos for spending so many hours attaching it. You always bring it to the next level with every sew you undertake. Inspiring and committed. Beautiful work – love it. I would totally wear in and it’s not my usual style either. Boom!

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  3. This looks great! I also find her looks really interesting, but the Salt jacket I made last year has still yet to leave my house, so I’ve been reluctant to spend the time, money, and fabric on another Oki pattern. This one might do it, though!
    Did you shorten the overall length of the dress? It looks almost ankle-length on the model, and I prefer your version.

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    • I made my hem a little deeper…maybe an inch or so? I also thought the sample on the Oki Style website looked a bit long for my tastes, but my finished version is a really nice length for me. It’s longer than I usually wear, but I’ve been experimenting with longer hemlines recently, & I think a longer length really works for this particular design.

      I haven’t worn my Salt jacket as much as I’d like either, mostly because it doesn’t have a closure. I should just add some snaps to it or something. I don’t like wearing it open because I faced it with such a distinctive, colorful fabric & I don’t want my jacket facing clashing with the rest of my outfit. That’s really my only complaint about it. Every time I do wear it, I am swamped with compliments.

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      • Good to know!

        Maybe I just need to be a bit braver with my Salt Jacket, then! I have a contrasting lining as well, and I did a hook closure at the front. I originally thought I’d wear it to work, but something about mine just feels sloppy, and I haven’t found the right way to style it.

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        • I understand what you mean. When I wear it, I FEEL like I’m wearing a crazy, head-turning garment, but when I see it in a reflection or photo, it’s just kind of interesting & not as outlandish as I think.

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  4. This is totally fabulous Ciara! Well done you! I love Okis patterns too, have bought 2, but have been too time poor to find a moment to make them up. Plus they are some of her more complex ones (one has lots of applique)…..but I’m just passionate about supporting indie designers. So many groups and blogs out there doing same old, same old and too few supporting the brave designers who are unique and truly original

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    • excuse me for being a bit of a wanker – replying to my own post, heh! – but I’d love to see a challenge along the lines of “sew out of my comfort zone” where sewists take on a project that is at the fringes of their style aesthetic…..

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    • Ooh, which of her patterns do you have? I’m really surprised I haven’t seen more of her stuff online. She has so many patterns to choose from, & people say they’re sick of the same old basic silhouettes. There’s nothing basic about her ideas!

      I like the idea of “make something outside of your comfort zone,” but that is kind of what I use these challenges for anyway. I’ve only been contributing here for a year & a half, but it’s definitely pushed my sewing game. Challenges here have motivated me to make my first pair of jeans, my first shirtdress, my first well-fitting bra, my first swimsuit…I probably would have made these things eventually anyway, but the challenges definitely helped drive me to just jump in & do it.

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      • I have her “Story” jacket and a dress design called “Butterfly”. Though I wonder if she is still selling Butterfly as I can’t see it in her Etsy shop anymore. It was a very complicated pattern that sent shivers through my old jaded sewing soul, which is always seeking a challenge! As an old crone sewist who has done a trillion stitches I’m always thrilled to find something that is way out of the box…!

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        • Yesssss. I was just looking at the Butterfly pattern the other day. It does look challenging, but imagine how amazing it would look in the end! & it is still available from her website.

          The Story jacket is also really intriguing. I love all the round lines. That kind of detail makes fit alterations a dicey prospect, but her pattern sizing does seem pretty accurate. & in the end, I bet actual construction is no more challenging than a standard-issue jacket. If you’ve ever hemmed a curve before, you’re golden.

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  5. Wow great job! Last year I won two pdf copies of Oki Style patterns via IPM, but I’ve been too scared to sew them up because of the lack of English instructions. Also, I prefer pdf patterns that come with a wide format version because I hate taping pages together before cutting.

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  6. Lord Ciara! Talk about laying down the challenge!!! Complex, rare pattern: check. Foreign language instructions: check. Pattern hack: check. Unusual details: check. Hours of hand sewing: check. Top marks. Wow.
    But aside from all that, I really think this pattern suits you so much. That shot with R in the background is just the best.

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    • Right? Come at me, sewing bros!

      Really though, the pattern isn’t terribly complex. It’s literally two pattern pieces, joined at the shoulders & side seams, & then hemmed. There are some “techniques” in the mix, but that’s the magic of Oki’s patterns (or at least the two I have sewn so far)–they look a lot more complicated than they are. I also don’t know if just adding a pocket counts as a pattern hack. The garment I am planning for the “hack it” challenge (assuming I find the time to sew it; we are moving at the end of the month, so contributing to all the challenges will be a real feat) is way more of a transformation.

      I am loving this dress though! It’s my second linen garment, the first being last month’s overalls. Not sure why I’ve never worn linen before. It’s pretty great! My partner took the photo of me & Ramona. He almost fell into an enormous puddle in the process, which made me LOL.

      Liked by 1 person

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