Marianne Dress Inspiration


Many of you know that my post-college career started in the world of ready-to-wear, and if you knew me back then, the Marianne Dress will look very familiar to you. This was one of the first designs I made to sell, as they were quick and easy to make, especially with industrial sergers and coverstitch machines, and they were easy to fit on a wide range of bodies. The only real style choice was if you wanted to wear it tight (sausage casing style) or loose (jammies style). That was up to the buyer, though there were more than a few shows that I vended at where I was a wee bit mortified watching girls squeeze themselves into the smallest version possible. Not exactly what I had in mind, but hey, the customer's always right, right?

The year was 2006 and the dress back then was called the Niagara Dress, don't ask me why, I honestly cannot remember for the life of me why I called it that, and it looked like the photos above and below. Shot by my old Chicago friend Stu, I flew to Portland from Los Angeles to do photoshoots with him and the beautiful Annabelle, my regular model at the time.


Fast forward to this year, and when it came time to release a new pattern, I knew one thing for certain: I needed a break from the formality of the Emery Dress. I mean, not everything I make do I want to sew 16 darts for goodness sake! I found myself longing for a lounge-friendly, but elegant knit dress and remembered that pattern I had hanging in my stash.

The original had a more boatneck neckline without binding, coverstitched hems, and a slightly more hourglass shape with a sash belt. As with all my patterns, I wanted to maintain a simple shape, while providing as many customization options as possible. So from the original, I made the shape more body-friendly, added details like the optional collar, cuff, and seams above the bust, and voila! The Marianne was born.

Though I designed the Niagara Dress nine years ago, I was also very aware of not being redundant in the indie pattern scene. I made sure to keep to what I wanted to do, while checking that it wasn't too close to my friend's patterns, the Coco Dress by Tilly & the Buttons, and the Hemlock Tee by Grainline Studios. As with any pattern, it's a fine line of being aware of those that are close to your idea, while still maintaining your vision. It's tricky and thankfully all three of these designs are different enough to coexist. I will continue to make both of those, as they are only similar to those that aren't looking at the details. And who knows, perhaps there are others too that are close that I'm not aware of. Eventually you need to make your idea and go with it or you'll be paralyzed with the fear of overlapping too much.

So why the name Marianne? Originally I called the pattern the Marie Dress, named for my Parisian landlord, Marie. She wears this style of top all the time, so it is a bit of an homage to her, as well as drawing on my love of French style. But while the names Marie and Emery look nothing alike, they sound nearly identical. Seriously, stop reading for a second and say them both out loud. See what I mean? I had been writing Marie and saying it alone, until one day when I said Marie and Emery side by side in a sentence and well, I knew I had to change it! So Marianne is a take on her name, and keeping with the French history of the shape, so that stuck.

Check back tomorrow for loads of ideas on the kinds of fabric options you can use (not just for stripes!) and customization ideas. I was going to include that today, but I think this is enough for now :)