Eggs/Animal Highlands Wrap Dress

Making this dress has been on my mind for over a year, and, par for the course for some of my most favorite makes, I was inspired by a dress I found on pinterest! It’s by designer Mara Hoffman (who has a really lovely eye for modern prints, color and style and knows exactly how to put them all together).

Mara Hoffman Amrita Dress Penny Dot from Alison Sudol's Exclusive Sustainable Fashion Guide for The Frontlash. Check out the rest of her feminine and stylish picks on our site.

I feel like this dress absolutely speaks for itself, but let me see if I can articulate just why it resonated with me so much. I love the large print of the polka dots, I love the sort of disparate color choices that somehow work so well together, I love how dynamic the colors look on the model’s skin, I love the easy, relaxed fit of the dress and how it doesn’t look boxy even though it isn’t body-huggingly tight. I LOVE the buttons down the side, and the extended sleeves are so cute to me! Now, having said all that, I didn’t actually end up implementing every single one of these design elements into my version, but I’m still crazy about what I ended up with, and excited to try out some other versions in the future!

I have several wrap dress patterns in my stash already but I chose the Highlands Wrap Dress by Allie Olsen because it was so close to my inspo dress and seemed to require the least amount of hacking. I wanted a narrow, yet loose-fitting skirt (as opposed to a circle or dirndl skirt), a wrap top that wasn’t too revealing, and sleeves proportionate to the rest of the dress without too much drama- the Highlands Wrap totally fit the bill.

It wasn’t until I actually bought the pattern, printed it out and looked over the instructions that I realized the back waist of the dress was gathered and had an elastic band (it’s hard to see this detail in the photos of the finished garments and the main line drawings of the pattern on the site only show the front views (you can only vaguely see the back views of the line drawings in smaller resolution on the pattern’s page). I knew that this design feature was likely going to present a problem for me since gathered waists coupled with slim fitting skirts do not drape well on my body at all- with such a large difference between my waist and hip circumference, a gathered waist like that hugs my hips and thigh creates tons of extra, bunchy fabric at the small of my back and I hate the way it looks and feels.

I made a muslin to see how I could address this issue and modify the back skirt to give me a more fitted, yet still comfortable garment, and I was thrilled to see that, except for the back skirt which I already knew needed adjusting, the dress fit everywhere else really nicely.

The sleeves were beautiful and fit my shoulders perfectly, the wrap in the front wasn’t too low or loose and therefore didn’t need a snap installed to keep it closed, and most delightfully, I discovered that it is designed with a button on either side of the wrap skirt to hold it in place, instead of having a hole for the tie to slide through and keep it closed. Having the skirt held in place with hidden buttons instead of a belt is SO BRILLIANT; it means that the tie won’t get loose throughout the day as I breathe and my body gets warm, and it won’t need to be tied more tightly; the dress feels really secure when it’s closed (it helps that it’s long!) and runs much less risk of exposing my bits and bobs if I’m ever caught in a strong wind, haha!

Once I knew that the dress was well suited for me in the front and sides and sleeves, I got to work fixing the back skirt. I had already graded from a 2 in the bust/waist to a 4 in the hips, so the measurements for my curves were accurate, but I needed to pinch out the excess fabric in the waist since I was eliminating the gathering ease/elastic at the back waist. I omitted the back waistband pattern pieces and raised the rise of the skirt to accommodate the missing length. Initially I tried to pinch out the excess fabric in two darts but I didn’t like the way they were laying- because there was so much extra material to take up, the darts had to be very wide and short, and they were causing a pucker on my buttcheek that I couldn’t seem to get rid of (part of this issue is because, in addition to a smaller waist/larger hip area, I also have a swayback). Then I remembered that in my favorite pencil skirt, there are four darts in the back skirt which allow the darts to be skinnier and therefore lay over my butt more smoothly without pulling or gaping anywhere. I pulled out the pattern pieces for my favorite pencil skirt and used them to loosely redraw the darts in my skirt. The skirt of my dress was of course a bit wider than the pencil skirt pattern pieces because it is drafted to have a looser, more relaxed fit than a fitted pencil skirt, but, amazingly, the darts still translated well onto the wrap dress and the silhouette from all angles is SPOT on. It took me approximately two toiles and then lots of extra adjusting on the third one, but it was all worth it cause the dress fits exactly the way I hoped it would!

Although one of my favorite things about the inspo dress were the buttons down the side, I ended up eliminating them for my own version- I wasn’t entirely sure how well the dress would lay and I didn’t want to hack too much of it during the first make and then end up having something that was just a little wonky in too many places. Now that the dress is complete I realize that I could omit the ties and use buttons instead and it would lay like a dream. One of the reasons I was too nervous to try the buttons out on this dress is because, aside from reworking the back of the skirt and eliminating the waistband and elastic, I also had to pay close attention to the fabric details since I was print blocking it and…it required so much of my brain space!!! Hahaha! It seems like it would be totally easy, and it’s certainly not complicated per se, but you just have to pay really close attention that you are cutting the correct side of the pattern on the correct side of the fabric, adding seam allowances for pieces that are supposed to be cut on the fold, making sure the facings are cut on the proper side and in the right direction…it was a lot! Instead of cutting out everything in advance, I cut out the main pieces first and then cut the remaining parts out as I went along so I would make sure that I didn’t cut anything upside down or wrong side up. I messed up just a couple of the facing pieces but for the most part I got everything right the first try and didn’t waste a lot of fabric (I was even able to cut out a mask and an Ogden Cami from my prized animal print fabric)!

Speaking of the fabric…how spectacular are these prints, both alone and together? They are printed tencel twills from Blackbird Fabrics, and I cannot rave enough about how perfect the fabric choice is for this garment. For this dress to lay beautifully, in my opinion it needs to have a bit of drape since the skirt is long and a bit of flow looks nice with it, but it also needs to be stable enough to maintain it’s striking silhouette on the body, which this tencel does beautifully. These prints are from the same designer and were released at the same time so imagining them together wasn’t difficult at all. I wanted to choose prints that were bold enough to stand on their own but that also worked well together, and these fit the bill perfectly. The orange-y brown in the fried egg fabric (yes, I think they look like sunny side up eggs, lol) isn’t quite the same color as the orangey brown of the animal print, but they are definitely siblings, and the black in each print helps pull them together. Even though black isn’t in my color palette, there is enough earth tone in the pops of egg yolk and the background of the animal print for me to pull it off, but honestly, even if I couldn’t “pull it off” I would still wear this dress. It’s just so cool!

Again, I cannot stress enough how pleased I am with how this came out. It was a long time in the making but it was well worth every single decision to get there, and if I come across another set of beautifully contrasting prints like these in the future, I might be inspired to make another dress just like it!




12 responses to “Eggs/Animal Highlands Wrap Dress”

  1. Rose Brown Avatar
    Rose Brown

    Love this dress. I bet you have some great nail polishes to go with it as well. Thank you for the inspiration and for sharing so much with us!

  2. Abbey Avatar

    Oh my! This turned out positively FABULOUS! Love these two prints together and these are actually a nicer print mix than the Mara Hoffman inspo dress. Btw isn’t Mara Hoffman’s work just fab?

    1. Jasika Nicole Avatar

      Thanks so much, Abbey!

  3. Karey Avatar

    Love this hack. Your fabric choice is inspired. Did a double take as I scrolled from inspiration to your make, as you are so short and petite compared to the statuesque inspiration model. As I am short (but no longer as petite ) your version is more inspirational for me. Gathers don’t work on my frame either, so it is interesting to see how you’ve hacked a wrap to be more figure friendly. I’ve got quite a lot of Burda magazines with woven wrap dresses I could hack also. The best complimentary prints I’ve got access to, though, are in a drapey, but not flimsy, rayon. Do you reckon that would work?

    1. Jasika Nicole Avatar

      Thanks so much for your message, Karey. I will admit that it doesn’t feel great to be referred to as simply “short” in comparison to the model you called “statuesque”, and I immediately wondered why you didn’t just call her “tall” in relation to me. The connotation of “statuesque” compared to “short” definitely has an explicit implication in our culture, that one is better, more valuable, more redeemable, more “model-like” than the other, and I work really hard not to fall into the trap of thinking that my body isn’t as worthy because it doesn’t fall in line with more euro-centric ideals of beauty.

  4. Rebecca Avatar

    Your smile says it all, and is the best accessory for this dress! It turned out beautifully, and the fit is spot-on. I may be a bit stodgy, but I like the more-coordinated fabrics better than the inspiration, too.

    I didn’t think about the complications of making sure you had the right fabric for the pattern piece, oriented correctly. Whew! At least they aren’t one-way prints.

    Have you ever read Wanderstitch? She has a tiny waist and large hips, which present a fitting challenge perhaps more extreme than yours.

    1. Jasika Nicole Avatar

      I don’t think my “fitting challenge” is “extreme” at all- having a smaller waist with bigger hips is pretty common in the sewing community, and I’ve been adjusting patterns to fit my body for so long that it doesn’t feel like a “challenge” because I’ve gotten so good at it- it’s just a matter of figuring out what fit techniques I should use on a particular pattern/fabric.

  5. Kathleen Avatar

    Another beauty Jasika! I felt like clapping seeing the results of all your work in light of your inspiration dress. One of my favourite make posts and videos is seeing the inspiration pic and how the sewist interprets the piece for themselves. Yours was so satisfying because the result is just perfect for you! Ironically I have EXACTLY the smaller leopard print twill rayon on my cutting table just waiting for the right pattern. I love this fabric too! I bought another print which I’ve already made up into the Asymmetric Dress. Thank you for another great post 🙂

    1. Jasika Nicole Avatar

      Thanks so much, Kathleen!

  6. Samantha - samanthasews blog Avatar

    This came out INCREDIBLE! I love the inspo dress and I love seeing where your inspiration came from and then how it evolved. You’re just so dang fashionable. Great fabric choices!

  7. Carol Avatar

    This dress is stunning! Thank you so much for sharing your process. 🙂

  8. Lisa R Avatar
    Lisa R

    I was so happy to find your post on IG with this version of the Highlands Wrap Dress. I’d purchased two complementary fabrics over a year ago with the idea of marrying them in another garment. That phase came and went and the fabric sat idle. Boom! Saw your post, decided to use those complementary fabrics (ditching the idea of making this in silk!) and I’m off to the races. Thank you so much for sharing the details of the hack. I’m abandoning the elastic at the waist as well. Many ppl on IG seem to have done so as well. You rock!! Thanks again.

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