Have a ball creating a Bella, and become the belle of the ball.
This knee-length dress features large, billowy kimono sleeves, which give it a big dose of drama. The waist ties, which are elegantly tear-shaped at the ends, wrap twice around the body, and are super long to give the option of tying your bow in the front or in the back. This cinches in the waist creating a tulip shape in the skirt. The high-low hem is unusual as well, with the front hem being slightly lower than the back.
Designed by Make My Lemonade, the Bella is an incredibly versatile dress that can take you from work to the bar, and will shine at a casual soiree or a formal dinner. Talking about dinner, another bonus of this dress is if you need to make more room after that 10-course meal, just readjust the ties when you powder your nose, and you’re good to go.
Make My Lemonade, which used to be known as Wear Lemonade, is a French online fashion empire helmed by designer Lisa Gachet, @lisagachet. You can go to her website to buy ready-made clothes, or sewing patterns to make said clothes. She promotes a lifestyle that is positive, colourful and cheerful. The name of the company strongly encourages us all to “make lemonade out of lemons”.
The instructions for the sewing patterns come in French and English. The printed patterns are on the pricey side, but there’s a pdf subscription membership called Lemonade Pattern Corner that is a pretty good deal. For less than 8 Euros a month, for a minimum of 3 months, you can subscribe to have unlimited downloads of all her patterns. Each month a new pattern is released and I was enticed to keep my subscription for more than a year.
The Bella pattern is rated 4 out of 5 dots for difficulty, and the instruction booklet scoldingly warns: “You’ll need concentration!” *Gulp*. This level of difficulty might be surprising for a dress that you just put over your head to wear with no fasteners or closures. There was some struggle sewing this dress, I won’t lie. There were some moments there when I laboured hard to squeeze that lemonade out of the lemons.
Tricky part #1: two welt pockets. But totally worth the trouble because who doesn’t love a beautiful dress with beautiful pockets.
Tricky part #2, and the bit that almost broke me: connecting the back part of the dress to the front was a total mind f@%k. Excuse my language, but the construction of the dress at this final stage (although extremely clever on hindsight) was utterly confusing to me. It was the last step that put everything together. It connects the collar to sleeves, to the back and the waist ties, and required a sharp 90 degree turn when sewing in that crazy impossible seam. It took some time, and some hair-pulling, but after a few tries, I finally figured it out. Basically, this dress requires incredible precision to sew all seams together, so that you can match the final seam properly with no puckers at the end.
Thankfully, each pattern comes with a YouTube sew along video, where you can watch Lisa herself sewing up the garment. This visual (even though the audio is all French) was helpful for me in understanding these tricky bits of sewing.
However, don’t expect any precise hand-holding in the written instructions. In general most of the patterns have instructions (perhaps some are lost in translation) that assume a certain level of know-how. I recommend beginning with a pattern that is a simpler one to get familiar with its own particular phrasing of sewing steps. The jargon does take some getting use to. And why not get acquainted with Make My Lemonade patterns? Some of the designs are truly unique, with a bold French stamp of effortless style, elegance and effervescence, embodying the essence of joie de vivre.
Lisa recommends sewing the Bella in a satin or a viscose for more drama in the drape. My version was sewn up in a gorgeous cotton sateen with a nice sheen that you probably can’t pick up in the photos. It has the right amount of movement and drape, and feels great on the skin. Every time I put this on, my husband says “Wow!”, which is probably enough said for this Bella.