Orla Dress by French Navy | a free pattern

To say I adore my new dress would be an understatement!   We all know each dress has its own story to tell, so let me begin at the beginning with this lovely thing.
As everyone on the sewing planet is probably aware, The Orla Dress produced by French Navy, is a free online .pdf download that has been available now for quite a few years.
I made a version straight from the envelope waaaaay back in October 2017 as a Christmas gift for my daughter, pictured below with McCalls 4979 comfy pants, also for her.  She loved the comfy pants but wasn't too keen on the dress.
So eventually the dress became mine.  ;)    Every time I wore this cute thing, it always rolled through my mind the couple of tweaks it needed to make it 'perfect'.....

  • raise and narrow neckline
  • lengthen bodice 1"
  • pleats instead of gathers
  • add pockets..... preferably applied vs. in-seam
  • fully line both bodice and skirt
Yep, just a couple of tweaks.....!!
Then along came last month's Make a Garment a Month 'Free February' Challenge and knew this was the project that needed to be made now.    Remember Make a Garment a Month has moved to Instagram so if you want more information about this fun challenge, to go my Instagram account and click on this post for all the hashtags and contact information.  Edited to add:  Well, duh, guess you can see all that on the photo below.  *que rolls eyes and sighs*
Back to the dress.... had already purchased a pretty quilting cotton from Joann Fabrics with this pattern in mind..... so it was really all about having the sewjo to do this.
"Sewjo"  Definition:  'sewing energy and/or sewing motivation.'  In my case lack thereof.  So it clearly did not get done in February.  Early March work was begun and immediately crashed to a halt as I over-thought pleat placement and applied pocket work.  Eventually I threw up my hands and gave in to going with the flow..... putting in in-seam pockets and clustering a set of 3 pleats at each side seam both front and back.  And all worked perfectly!
Took time first making all the modifications on a newly traced flat pattern.... beginning with the size Small...... then paid LOTS of attention to the fabric placement patterning.  Extremely proud of my work here.  This pattern only needs 1.5 yards.... but somehow I didn't buy that much, much less taking into consideration pattern placement..... so it was a miracle this all worked.  May I say literally a handful of scraps were leftover.  Front, below....
Back, below.  Also proud of the invisible zip insertion with very little to no puckering!!!  Yes!!!  A skillset I have been working on for a while.  I channel the lovely Diane at Dream Cut Sew every time I put an invisible zip in now.  She wrote a tutorial of her technique you can find here.... only I use an invisible zipper foot for the zip insertion, then switch to a conventional zipper foot to sew the seam closed, back-stitching at the bottom of the zip like she does.
Bodice lined with oh-so-soft white cotton muslin..... just like the original version..... because I liked the feel of that against the skin during hot summers vs. a bemberg polyester lining fabric....
.....and remembered to clip and understitch the neckline seams.  Important.  This lies nicely and does not roll out.
In-seam pocket work, below..... used a previously unused cut set of pockets out of white lining fabric for the front of the pocket.... and fashion fabric for the back.  This was critical as I was running out of my fashion fabric at this point.  Remember to understitch your pocket seams too.
Inside out, front...... you can see the contrast between the cotton muslin bodice lining fabric vs. the polyester bemberg lining fabric used for the skirt.  Clustered pleats there too, but wasn't too concerned about placement and such.  Wanted to use the bemberg lining fabric for the skirt because the quilting cotton fashion fabric is already a little 'stiff' and did not want to make the drape of the dress any stiffer.
Inside out back, below.  Super proud of the zip insertion all 'round!!  Experience really does make the difference with this sort of thing.
Below, showing how I simply serged the armhole seams together, within the seam allowance, with the lining fabric after the sleeves had all been put in..... if that makes any sense.  This helps with the steps of construction enabling me to try the dress on with seams intact before adding the lining
Finished the hem by machine stitching using the blind hem stitch and special blind hem foot for my machine.  My favorite method!!!  What I've found critical, is the placement of the pins.  See how I have mine pinned below.  Holds all in place beautifully, yet easy to pull out while stitching without messing up your stitching line.  Gee I thought I'd written a video tutorial post on how to machine stitch a blind-hem easily.... but cannot find it now.  I'll write a separate post on that soon for those who may be interested in how to conquer this intimidating technique easily.
Can you see the hemming stitch after ironing?!  Nope not me either!!  It's 'blind'!!  Ha!!  Let me assure you it is there and secure.
So there you have it.... a new pretty dress..... front.....
.....back.  Not sure why it wrinkled up there... hmmm... didn't see that in the mirror earlier.  Oh well, think I must've twisted my body setting up the camera.  Wore it all day this day.
Here was a fun shot I shared on Instagram recently.  Orla Dress meets Orla Dress!  Ha!  :)
One last thing I wanted to say.... I was a little surprised to find the pleats make this dress feel more like a 'nicer' dress than the gathers.  With my age and the styles I like to wear, this works well for me as I am definitely more of a pleat girl than a gather girl, so I am most happy.
Happy Sewing All!!  :)


  1. Very nice! Taking the time to do alterations and adaptations like adding the pockets and pleats make for a lovely, wearable garment. Now you have a new TNT pattern. Karen

    1. Thank you Karen! It does feel good to (finally!) have a TNT pattern to pull from. :)

  2. Firstly thank you so much my lovely for the shout out about my zip tutorial xx
    Now onto your gorgeous dress. It's soooo good. I much prefer your pleats and the fact that they're placed toward the sides and the pattern placement is perfection as is your hem, pockets and lovely lining. Very immaculate.

    1. Thank YOU for all you share Diane!! Adore your blog's content. :)

  3. I adore this pretty dress, and so good that it's a free pattern. Your changes have made it your own - the pleats look great!

    1. Thank you so much Sue!! It's such a great basic pattern that makes it easy to customize. :)

  4. What a beautiful dress Lisa! It's a great pattern which suits you very well! 😍


Thank you for taking the time to leave a note.~Lisa