Monday, 8 November 2010

Stylish Dress Book Vol 1- How to make a tunic

I bought this amazing Japanese pattern book The Stylish Dress Book Vol 1 awhile ago but I've never made time to make any of the lovely garments which feature inside. The Stylish Dress Book has been described as the 'The mother of all Japanese dress books' on other blogs and indeed it is!.

There are plenty of photos and reviews about this great book online but I too would love to share my experience of making up a tunic from this book - and post some how-to instructions.

All the instructions in this book are in Japanese however there are clear illustrations which explain the process of making up each garment. Saying that, I wouldn't recommend this book to beginners as it assumes that you already have knowledge of various sewing techniques e.g. button holes, attaching bias binding and hemming. I'll try and create as many links to sites which explain these techniques if extra help is needed.

So I decided to make Dress G (below), also I've not seen an example of this tunic elsewhere on the web so all the more reason to try it out.
The instructions below are just my own account of how I've made this tunic, I hope they will be of help to those who have this book but haven't yet made something from it. Let me know if I've left anything out or a particular point needs more clarification! If you don't have the book and you like the style of the clothing I can recommend it to you. I bought mine from pomadour a lovely etsy shop for a good price.

Firstly you'll need to trace pattern G onto pattern paper or tissue paper. The pattern sheet will look a bit daunting at first but just have look for all the lines which are marked G. There are five pattern pieces altogether. (Note: I personally couldn't find the second longer bias pattern piece which is for the neckline so I doubled the length of the bias pattern piece which is used for the sleeve. There might have been a note about this in the book but since it's all in Japanese I couldn't tell!)

Lay your pattern pieces on your fabric and mark your 1cm (or 1.5cm) seam allowance (Remember none of the patterns in the book have seam allowance included!!)
I chose to use a lightweight spotted cotton lawn with embroidered flowers, not very wintery but I really love it.

Also remember to copy all markings that are on the pattern to the fabric. I like to thread mark (sewing a loop through one layer of fabric) these marks instead of using tailors chalk- it takes slightly more time but it's well worth it when you come to matching up the pieces. I marked the front placket area which chalk.

Cut out your pieces. Then give them a quick iron and lay all aside accept for the front bodice piece. On your front bodice piece you are going to cut down the centre front line, and across both left and right until the specified markers. So your cut line will look like an upside down T. Now you will make your front button placket.

Step 1- As shown in the first illustration in your book you'll need to fold in twice (by 2cm), either side of the centre front line you've just cut along as shown below.

And then sew along the edges like so...

Step 2- Now you are going to create the gather below the button placket.
Sew a basting stitch (the longest stitch on your machine) 0.2 cm from the line you cut along the bottom (when cutting the thread at the end of stitching this line make sure it's long enough for you to hold). The red lines indicate the line you will sew along. The white marks indicate the chalk marks I've made which stand for the outer lines you will follow when sewing up the hole.

To create the gather pull the threads sticking out at each end until the button plackets overlap as shown in the illustration. It should look something like the photo below.

Overlap the plackets and pin in place. Now you are going to sew to close up the space in between the gather and placket. Pin (and baste stitch if easier) the top edge of the gather and the bottom edge of the placket like so.

Now sew long the marks you previously made starting from one end until you have completely closed the space.

And there you have your basic gathered placket front!

Topstitch 0.2cm above the front seam line making sure your seam allowance is neatened and facing upwards.

Then sew a reinforcing stitch 0.5 cm above the front seam line on top of the placket opening. Remember to remove your thread marks!

Now you can sew your bodice front piece to you bodice back piece. Serge/neaten and press all your seams. Top stitch your shoulder seams.

Step 4- Create the gathers at the neckline and back bodice piece. Create these gathers in the same way you did the front seam gather but stitch a second basting stitch very close to the first. this will help you to control the gathering when you pull the threads.

Prepare your bias binding pieces and pin the binding onto the neckline leaving 1cm protruding out after the placket line at each end of neckline.

Sew your binding down. Carefully press the bias bound neckline to give it a nice finish.

Step 5- Sleeves
Sew your sleeve ends together, press and neaten your seams.

Step 6- Sew the side seams of the main bodice together. Pin and sew your sleeve onto the main bodice piece and top stitch the seam (on the bodice side)

Step 7- Gather the sleeve ends and sew on the bias binding in the same manner as the neckline.

To finish the sleeve cuffs make sure you fold one end back by 1cm and place the fold line in right next to the seam line of the sleeve. Look at illustration 7 for clarification and the photo below. then place the other end on top of the other and sew down your binding. Then proceed to fold over and finish your binding.

You're nearly done!!

Step 8- Sew your hem. I serged the edge of the fabric and then turned it up (and pressed) by about 1cm. Then I sewed the hem down from the right side.

The last step is to sew your buttons and buttonholes. I forgot to take picture of this but if you need help visit here.

And there you go! A wonderful tunic! I wanted to add a bit of shape to the waist area as the tunic itself is on the baggy side. I simply sewed on two long narrow pieces of tape made from the same fabric and then added a little button detail and voila!

I'm really happy with the result and I want to try the same pattern but in a warmer fabric, perhaps a lightweight wool. I also want to try Dress V which is a shirt dress. It has the same placket front but is a little longer and also seems to be slightly more fitted than dress G. It also has a collar which I prefer as a neckline.

If any one has any questions about making up this tunic, if I can help I'll be happy to do so!
Happy sewing!


  1. I've knit from a Japanese book - it adds extra adventure to a project! Lovely work1

  2. Thanks!!!!
    I own the same book! I love the book, the patterns and even the Japanese instructions, but have never had time to try out any one of the dresses.. I'm a bit curvy and they will require a lot of modifications and adjustments, otherwise I'll look like a big potato bag! ;) This post and the one on dress V are so useful and inspiring!! it makes me want to try one of them! :)

  3. I had to bookmark your blog, as it is FABULOUS. I just began sewing so of course all the projects here are extremely intimidating for me at the moment, but they are definitely inspiring me to dive in! Thank you!

  4. I'm just working on this tunic now. Your entry here has been very helpful. Thanks!

  5. Thanks for all your comments guys! Sorry for the late reply! I haven't seen these comments until now:( I'm glad the post has been of help to you all. If I can help with any part of the tunic project just let me know...

  6. Hey, I just got this book and have been poking around the internet for reassurance before I cut into my lovely fabric. This post is extremely helpful and emboldening! Thanks so much!

  7. so lovely! thanks for the detailed post! i'm learning to make the dress on the cover - love your pattern choice though and might try for that one next!

  8. This book is now available in English, published by Tuttle, distributed by Inner Traditions Canada.

  9. Thanks Cathy, I'll check it out!

  10. Explained very well!


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