Washi Dress – Review…Flattering or Not?

I’ve been itching to sew some garments lately and I feel like I’ve had some dismal failures.  Much of it because I’m using materials I’m not used to anymore and learning new tips and tricks.  But I did finally complete a garment for myself so I thought I would share.  (I’ll share those dismal things too, I just need to show a “success” first).

washi dress

So I decided to try my hand at the ever popular Washi Dress by Rae of Made by Rae.  You can purchase the downloadable pattern on her site and start it tonight if you want.  I’ve seen a LOT of versions of this so you probably have too.  If you recall, I was thinking of working with some voile I have and was looking for a pattern for that.  Well, I thought the Washi might be a contender but didn’t want to cut into the more expensive fabric, so I made a version in cotton first.  I used a lovely Art Gallery Fabric from their Rapsodia collection.  It has a great hand to it and is a fresh bright color that I thought would be perfect for our upcoming Caribbean vacation.

You’ll probably notice right away that I made a sleeveless version of the dress and I didn’t do the U cut out.  I personally find the U to be a bit deep for my conservative bones and found that simply leaving it out left me with a very comfortable height neckline.  I followed Rae’s videos for creating a lined bodice rather than making facings because I know I like the look of lined garments better.  The videos are very helpful, so I suggest watching them if you want to do that!  The back is shirred which is a new technique I learned this past week or so and have already used on 4 garments! lol

washi dress

I thought the pattern came together easily.  The directions are very much step by step, so if you are a complete beginner you can definitely tackle this.  I ended up making a size small with no alterations other than a slight trimming of the outer sleeve as recommended by Rae for making the sleeveless version.  And as mentioned, I forgo using the U cutout and did the bodice lining rather than the facings.  So, in that sense all is well and easy peasy.

But here is where my struggle comes in.  I still can’t decide if I really LIKE the dress.  The pattern is fine…but do I like it?  I’ve made enough clothing that I knew that I might not.  I don’t find this dress flattering on everyone who makes it…especially those of us who are not tall and leggy.  This dress QUICKLY turns into pseudo maternity wear, prompting me to think “is she pregnant or not”.  This is largely due to the placement of the bottom bodice seam directly under the breast into a pleated front skirt.   A gust of wind blows this dress out from your tummy and becomes distinctly less flattering.  I had about 30 pictures of myself in this dress and I would say at least half of them made me look 8 months pregnant.  No joke.  You can see just a HINT of this below (vanity prevents me from putting up the truly unflattering ones…sorry  lol).

washi dress

When the waistline of the dress comes in, the dress is cute and casual and fun.  See the right picture.  Whenever I stood back with my shoulders back, the dress billowed in front of me causing a more “bell” shape in the skirt.  I know.  It doesn’t look *horrible* in the one on the left, but I don’t find it particularly flattering.  If I was going to buy the dress from a store, there is no way I would buy the one on the left.

These pictures were taken just seconds apart which shows me that it can look both cute and not on the same person with the same styling in the same lighting.  Slightly different posture takes this dress in completely different directions.

washi dress

You don’t see it in the pictures, but I also find the lower back of the dress not particularly flattering.   But I know that again, the pattern is fine.  I’m just looking for something with more shape to it.   I personally would be very interested (when I get better at working with them) in making this dress in a knit.  I think the drape would help out a lot and give more interest to skirt especially.  In fact, I really want to see if making the skirt on the bias would give with completely new life.  I don’t know if anyone has done this yet.  But it feels like a pattern that should be made in knits given that it is closure free and already uses elastic and stretch to gain its shape.

If I made it again, I would alter the neckline more…not for the U shape cut out but I would open up the interior sleeve more.  I’m very glad I trimmed the outer sleeve, but that inner sleeve could use a little more shaping…possibly because I don’t have the added interest of the U cut out.  I hope to revisit this and try it with knits when I’m more comfortable with that.  In the meantime, I plan on making my girlie a little dress from the same fabric and be matchy matchy mommy and me on our vacation.  My daughter will be THRILLED.  seriously.  I’ve got to take these moments when she wants to be like mama! 😉

47 thoughts on “Washi Dress – Review…Flattering or Not?”

  1. Your dress looks nice, and very well-made – but I can see where you are coming from on the fit issues. Part of the problem may have to do with the drape of the fabric you used – a softer fabric with more flow and weight might help with the "pregnancy" problem. A knit might make cure that problem, and would probably be very simple to make.

    It really looks pretty on you, though – so relax and look adorable with your mommy and me dresses!!

  2. I agree that although the dress is beautifully made it is not a flattering silhouette. It lends itself better to a knit.. I am still searching for the perfect dress pattern to use my feather fabric! You, on the other hand, are dorable and you and your daughter will look spectacular in matching dresses.,

  3. When I made my Washi I knew right off the bat that I wanted to alter it so that the skirt wouldn't come right out of the bodice. I saw that several people had lengthened the bodice, but didn't feel that was quite right for me, so I added a waistband of several inches wide to add that definition. You can see my post here if you're interested: http://sewfestivehandmade.blogspot.com/2012/09/sartorial-saturday-washi-dress.html
    I don't think that my changes are perfect, but I think that the secret of making your own clothes – it's only fair to expect to have to make changes to get the perfect fit that makes sewing your own clothes worth it in the end. I think all the time about how I'll buy clothes off the rack that aren't flattering, really, but then I get upset when I make it myself and it's not perfect…it definitely changes my mindset when shopping!

  4. i'm making a washi top next week (i'm not ready to commit the fabric to a full dress) and i think i'm making a muslin out of a vintage sheet. do you think the pleats can work with bias cut? i do not DO apparel, so i haven't a clue. but i have so much pretty fabric and so little clothing that i actually like, so i'll give it a try.

  5. Great review, Angela! I don't make a lot of clothes, but if I did, I wouldn't choose to make a Washi dress, because I know that particular silhouette is never flattering on me. But I saw Rae wearing her own version of it at Quilt Market last year, and wow, did it ever look adorable on her! So there ARE people who can wear it, but I tend to think most of us cannot. : ) You did a good job on the pattern, though! I'm sure with a few alterations it would look great on you—what if you tried making it in voile?

  6. Thanks for the honest review Angela. I've been thinking about giving this pattern a try, but I'll know now after reading your thoughts that I might want to plan some alterations if I do. I wonder if you wore a wide belt or sash at the waist (or just above) if it might help to bring in the excess fabric a bit and give you some more definition? It might be a quick fix.

  7. Jennifer @ Ellison Lane Quilts

    I think yours turned out great Angela and I love that you are taking chances. I made a Washi in a light weight corduroy and after wearing it once I decided it didn't fit me well. I have since altered the pattern (adjusted the neckline higher and taken it in a smidge in the middle so it is less gappy on me, taken out 2" of volume in the skirt, shortened the hemline quite a bit. I've made a muslin of it with my adjustments and like it much better. I've only gotten half way through the "real" fabric (I'm using an Art Gallery fabric this time) one so I haven't put it all together yet to give my final opinion. I haven't made many clothes at all but I am finding that getting it to fit and flatter is quite tricky. I think if I could find a dress pattern that I love, I'd make 5 or 6 for summer! I am hoping that the Washi is it with the adjustments I've made but we'll see.
    Either way, be proud of yourself for trying something new. My daughter would love a matching dress with me too! 🙂

    1. I remember your dress well Jennifer. It's such a beautiful blue color. And you made longer sleeves too right? How did you take 2" out of the volume of the skirt? Is that how much it flaired out in the A line at the bottom or did you do that in the waist so the pleating is less?

  8. Love the dress, but I do understand what you're getting at. Just like tops which a bit of ruching (not sure on the spelling) above the bust, they can give a slightly up-the-duff look. Maybe a wide belt to tie it in a little? Looks like you've done a great job though!

  9. It is a toughie! I am the same with necklines, I don't like low and I am bony on the chest so not a good look. I couldn't wear this style- I am not tall enough and I think I would have the same issue as you, plus I find shirring next to my skin doesn't suit me. Maybe for this to really work you would need to use rayon as it falls so well, no preg doubts with it even in this shape. I would say you would benefit from a more fitted bodice style with the waistline coming down a little lower. Simplicity 1652 http://sewing.patternreview.com/patterns/58378 is a great looking shape and the fullness of the skirt if controlled. I find a very full skirt can make my hips look a lot larger than they are!

  10. Thanks for the review as I too have been thinking about making one but I would have to make some adjustments. I love how it looks on you and it's defintely the empire line style that gives the billowing effect so there is no getting away from it but change styles or alter the pattern. I love Jenelle's suggestion of a big belt and would look super cute in my view 🙂

  11. I'm not a blogger (just a reader) and have to say I'm getting tired of seeing the Washi dress pattern hyped up everywhere for the reason you pointed out – – it isn't flattering. Your fabric is pretty and I think you look fine in the dress, but it definitely has the maternity vibe going on.

    I appreciate your honest review.

  12. Angela, the pregnancy look is the exact reason I haven't made one. I know that's how I would look/feel. Don't let is stop you and your little one from walking around like twins though because that will be too cute 🙂

  13. The dress is adorable! The fabric is so pretty on you and is perfect for the Caribbean. I agree that a quick fix of adding a belt or sash is probably all you need to do to feel better in it, but while you're on vacation, who cares? Just wear it and have fun.
    Linda F.

  14. You really did us all a service with your review. Thank you! I definitely know what you mean about the pregnancy look. In my case, if I wore a dress like this, someone seeing me would think, "Oh, she's trying to cover up her bulging, stick-out, old lady tummy." (Yes, I've had two children.) I agree that a more form-fitting dress would be better. Perhaps without the empire waist fit, or as you suggested, made with knit fabric. You're quite brave to have offered up your own images, but I do think the dress looks nice on you. It's summery-breezy looking, and makes for an appropriate going-grocery-shopping, or to a doctor's appointment type outfit. You're as cute as a button.

  15. I have not made it as a dress, only as a top and I love it, it's very flattering on me because it pulls away from the midsection just enough (my tummy is my trouble zone) but not so much that I look preggo. On one of the two tops I made I gathered the mid section instead of pleating to evenly distribute the fabric bulk. I like that much better.

    I see it as a carefree style dress. I don't think it makes you look pregnant but it is definitely a shapeless style dress and I can see how that makes the wearer a tad uncomfy. Love the color on you and the shoes!! Such a fashionista you are! 😉

  16. Wow, I love it! I have passed on the pattern because I didn't like the cut out so I like it the way you made it so much better. And I also love the fact that you can have a not so perfect stomach (ME ME ME) and not worry about it showing. I think a lot of what we think about style has to do with what the Fashionista ideals are at the time and this style dress isn't showing on the runway but I love it. I might have to get the pattern now. I'm thinking it might be great in one of the new Rayons challis fabrics that Amy Butler and Anna Maria have out now.

  17. grammytheyeti.com

    The dress is gorgeous and you did a great job – love the neckline adjustment. I think for a vacation dress it will be fine. It's loose, airey, and you'll be very comfortable in it. Wind blows constantly if you're on a cruise or hitting an island or coastline anywhere so keep that in mind if you pack it. You don't want to spend the day obsessing about how your poofy dress makes you look pg. Me? I'd make an A-line skirt with that gorgeous fabric, team it with a bright cotton T & sandals, and go from there. I put the washi dress in the same category as skinny jeans: they are not for everyone. I do agree with the poster above that a wide waistband and more drapey fabric would be a plus to help with the fit. But why waste the time, money & effort?

  18. I recently made this into the tunic and found the same thing on the fit & so I haven't posted pictures yet! I do think it looks good on some people, not me, but I enjoyed the process!I would probably use less gather & then I would like it much better. I really like the Sis Boom Rebecca dress because it is more fitted, so I plan on making that one again for sure!

  19. Thanks for posting this! I have the pattern and have been waiting to make it, but am not sure it is quite the right style for me. I am going to start with a muslin and see how it goes!

  20. The fabric is adorable and you look lovely in it. The bottom line is, "Will you ever reach for it?" A hard question to answer. If the answer is rarely or never, donate it or use the fabric to make something else. Chalk it up as a lesson learned and move it. Cute clothing taking up valuable closet real estate is not worth it if we don't feel fabulous when we put it on.

  21. I think it looks great. My guess is if you did it in a different fabric with more drape, and maybe a more subtle pattern, it may have worked better for you? I also think a belt will help break up the poof a bit too for now. I think the empire waist can just be a silhouette that you have to get used to. I've seen the shape really flatter a lot of bodies though.

    I bought the pattern last week but haven't attempted it because I'll have to do major bust adjustments. So I decided I would start by doing an XS for Avery. It was good to read this– I may need to try a lighter fabric than I was originally planning!

  22. To be fair, there's a reason I've avoided this and the Wiksten tank – with big boobs, something that doesn't really come back in underneath the bustline always makes me look preggers, and whilst I'm not slim, I'm not that large! You're definitely onto something with the slim and leggy look with these…

  23. I really like your dress. The fabric is really pretty. I would throw it on and wear it for fun with your daughter matching. It might not be your go-to dress, but it is for this moment in time with your daughter. I read out here on bloggie land that lengthening the bodice will help. If I make the dress for my chubbier shape, that's what I'm going to do.

  24. I've been debating this pattern for a while, primarily because I think it would make great maternity wear, so I definitely agree with you. Since the top looks really nice on you, have you considered a slightly more A-line shape to the skirt? If you cut the top more narrow and then sew it with fewer pleats, you might find it falls more nicely around your midsection.

    Also, I made the Sis Boom Rebecca dress with a fuller skirt and it is very slimming with super quick construction.

  25. like michelle above… i have some extra mama pudge and huge nursing busoms. even the xxl doesn't fit me (and i'm between a 14-16), so that's kind of depressing.

  26. I've been really wanting to see an honest review of this pattern, especially for those of us with a little extra mama pudge that we haven't quite gotten rid of…

  27. This is just a thought–I once got a skirt to "settle down" more at the middle area by sewing a line down on the pleats so that they didn't have the chance to open out in that area.

  28. I think you look darling! Maybe there's a whiff of maternity, but I think the back looks super cute, your execution makes it look much more expensive than most others I've seen, and I think it's flattering. I am eating my previous comment!