FrenchNavy Orla Dress in Linen/Cotton for Summer

Dress: Pattern: French Navy (Free!)  Fabric:  Jo-Ann  //  Handbag: Coach (vintage)  //  Bracelet: Fromm (similar)  //  Necklace: Kate Spade  //  Sunglasses: Ray-Ban  //  Shoes: Clarks

What do you think when you read "free pattern"?  

There are usually two answers, right? 1. Yay, free!! :D and 2.  Why is it free?  What's wrong with it?  Am I going to waste supplies?

I've seen, and experienced, this concern in sewing and in knitting.  As sewists/knitters, we know how much time goes into making a garment and we know that pattern making requires even more time, skill, and effort.  So why wouldn't someone charge for their valuable time, right?  The answer could be, of course, that the designer is inexperienced and just wanted to share something or it could be that the designer has experience, but wants to expand his/her/their customer base and/or as a thank you to existing customers or to the sewing community at large.

FrenchNavy has two patterns currently on offer.  The Forsythe Dress, which I've reviewed here, and The Orla Dress, which is up for today's review.  The Orla Dress, FrenchNavy's free pattern, was released first, so it could have been either option, right?  Let me assure you, it's most definitely the later!  This is how you do a free pattern!

After such a positive experience with The Forsythe Dress, I decided to be bold and cut directly into the fabric I wanted to use. No muslin! I can't tell you the last time I opted not to make a muslin on a zippered dress.  Granted, my fabric is a simple linen/cotton from Jo-Ann, but I would have been rather disappointed if it hadn't worked out.

And, to be completely honest, I second guessed myself halfway though.  I started thinking, "It has sleeves! No way a sleeve is going to fit well straight from the pattern. Ugh, it's going to pull... I won't be able to move my arms... I'm going to look locked in and it's supposed to be slightly loose..."  But, after finishing the bodice, I took a break, took a shower, then came back to try it on. And I was so pleasantly surprised.  There was no reason for doubt.  Sarah knows how to draft a sleeve.  If you look at other free sleeve(d) patterns, and honestly, some paid patterns, the front shoulder curve and back shoulder curve tend to match.  In fact, you could ignore the notches and put the sleeves in backwards and it wouldn't matter. Not The Orla's sleeves.  Now, that's not to say they'll work flawlessly for everyone, since none of us have the same shape, but they are actually shaped for a shoulder, which is, of course, a big positive.  Her size charts and corresponding ease are spot on too, so, since I chose the recommended size, of course the bodice would fit.

The final dress is exactly what it was described to be: a semi-fitted bodice (meaning it skims your lines, but doesn't actually hug you) with a slightly raised waistline, short sleeves, and a gathered skirt. I'd say it's a nice balance between the typical fit-and-flare style and the modern, looser looks that have been released a lot recently.  It definitely still gives the impression of a waistline and has feminine lines, but it could also hide a large meal haha.

Now, it wouldn't be a fair review if I didn't point out the only two points I can think of that make this pattern "not for everyone".  The first, the instructions are text only and more pared back than on The Forsythe Dress.  They're more than enough for anyone with experience, but I would recommend a beginner find a few YouTube tutorials (applying bias binding, setting a sleeve, inserting a zipper) to help. But, I do love that it includes mention of pressing and understitching, so it still sets newer sewists off on the right foot.  Second, the size chart only goes up to a 97cm(38") bust/79cm(31') waist/103cm(40.5") hip. (FrenchNavy expanded the range a bit with her second pattern.)  But, the amount of ease in the pattern gives that chart a bit of wiggle room.  My hips actually fall outside of the chart, but I cut the XL and am happy with the amount of ease.  Also, since the darts are at the waist and the skirt is a gathered rectangle, it would be easy to size up the waist and hips a bit.

On that note, here's what I did:
  • I'm currently 37"/30"/44", so I cut a L bust, blended to an XL at the waist, and cut an XL skirt.
  • I'm 5'10", so I added 2" to the skirt hem, but on my fiance's advice, I used a 2" hem, so I effectively added only 1.25".  I do love a deep hem, don't you?
  • I substituted continuous bias binding for the single piece the pattern recommends, just because I like to use small scraps.  In fact, the ~7" square piece I cut from the linen turned out to make exactly the right amount of binding to finish the neckline. Seriously, I was amazed when it lined up perfectly with both edges. Something that's never happened before and will likely never happen again haha
  • Next time: I think I'll add pockets.  (I know I've said before that a lack of pockets aren't a deal breaker for me, because I nearly always carry a purse, but I do still appreciate them for things like walking our dog or taking a stroll downtown with my fiance, where I don't want to carry one. Fortunately, in-seam pockets are such an easy addition. Maybe I can add patch pockets to this one... What do you think?) 
It's so nice to be able to sew a dress straight from a pattern, particularly if one is trying to build one's wardrobe with great, everyday garments and has a rather long queue.  Guilty haha  This is a great throw-on-and-go dress that can be dressed up or down and is very practical/wearable for everyday life (well, so long as said everyday life can include dresses at all).  It immediately joined my Forsythe and Southports as a dress I'm going to reach for on a regular basis, without having to give much thought to where I'm headed or "how to wear it".

Can you tell at all that I really like this dress?! Haha  Just wait until the linen is a bit more broken in and sunfaded... 😍 Then, it will really be love!

So, what do you think about free patterns?  Are you going to give this one a go?  If so, I'd love to see it!

Happy sewing! xo


  1. It's so beautiful on you! Thanks for the review!!

    1. Thank you, Emily! I'm glad you enjoyed the review :) Have you not tried Orla yet? If not, you definitely should!!


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