A Tilly & The Buttons Pattern Hack (Safiya / Martha) 

Reader, before we get started, grab yourself a cuppa (or beverage of choice), I’ve got a lot to share. 

This dress has been a passion project, labour of love, one of my favourite garments to date. It’s a hacked combination of two Tilly & The Buttons patterns. The wrap bodice with grown-on sleeves is taken from the Safiya Playsuit. The panelled bias-cut skirt from the Martha Dress. It was born out of a very clear vision I had for a dress that simply did not exist (at least to my knowledge). 

Bias-cut skirts are usually the last thing I would want to wear. But the slinky, fitted skirt works so beautifully with the looser, floaty bodice, all brought together with a narrow elasticated waistband.  

The Lady McElroy Sundown Daisies Tencel is the perfect match for this project. It is silky smooth, with a beautiful drape. It’s light as a feather, but completely opaque, and it sews like a dream. Its midnight navy base is scattered with tiny pink and white daisies. The perfect balance between feminine but not “floral”.  

Let’s start with the bodice. The Safiya bodice is a loose wrap top with short, grown-on sleeves. The only adjustment I made was to the sleeve length. I knew I wanted long, elasticated cuff sleeves, so I extended the sleeve to wrist length, adding an extra 3cm for the elastic channel, and tapered slightly towards the wrist for the desired level of volume. 

The instructions for the Safiya helpfully include the crossover measurement for the two wrap front pieces. I used this measurement, tacked the front bodice together, then measured the circumference of the whole bodice hem, so that I could adjust the skirt to fit. 

Since I was using a zip at the centre back, I cut the back bodice and back facing as two separate pieces (making sure to include a seam allowance), rather than on the fold as the instructions say. 

For the skirt, I selected my usual size, then added 0.8cm to the centre front panel, which was all I needed to get close enough to that bodice hem measurement. I wanted the skirt to hang midi-length, so lengthened the skirt pieces by 9cm. The Martha skirt has quite a lot of flare in each skirt panel, and I was after a slimmer fit, so I graded each piece by 2-4cm. I didn’t use any exact science for this, but thankfully it worked without losing the integrity of the skirt shape! 

When it came to attaching the bodice and skirt together, I settled on an enclosed elasticated waistband channel. I used 1cm elastic, so extended the skirt waist by a total of 5.6cm (2.1cm for the elastic channel, 1cm to press under the raw edge, and 1.5cm for the seam allowance). After pressing then stitching the channel around the whole of the skirt, leaving two openings at the centre back, I attached skirt and bodice using the 1.5cm seam allowance. I gathered the bodice slightly before attaching, to make it easier to ease both pieces together. 

I threaded the elastic through the waistband and decided how fitted I wanted it to be, before attaching a 22” invisible zipper to the centre back. These lightweight, flexible zippers are perfect for lighter weight fabrics, as they don’t add any weight to the dress or pull it out of shape once worn. Once the zip was inserted, I reinforced the stitching over the elastic to make sure it was secure. 

To accommodate the zip, I stopped stitching the back facing a few inches away from the centre back. After attaching the zip, it will look like this:

 To close the facing, I folded the facing over to be right sides together with the back bodice, and stitched close to the zip, clipped the corner and turned out, for a neat and completely enclosed finish.

Now to insert the elastic in the cuffs. Using the same 1cm elastic, I folded the hems up by 1.1cm twice, and stitched all around, leaving a few cm’s to thread the elastic through. After checking how tight I wanted the elastic, I secured the elastic with a few stitches, and topstitched the remaining hem closed.  

After leaving the dress to hang for a few days to allow the skirt to drop, I levelled the hem (by hanging it on the back of a door and measuring from floor to hem), I hemmed at 1cm. And we’re done! 

This project seemed quite daunting before I started, but it wasn’t as tricky as I expected! Yes, there was lots of measuring (and re-measuring), but taking my time, and checking the fit at each stage meant that I didn’t have any fit issues later down the line. This fabric made the whole project far easier by being so easy to handle. It took a medium-hot iron with no issue, and I didn’t experience any issues with puckering, pulling or slipping.  

I would really encourage you to combine your favourite bodice and skirt patterns to create a completely unique garment, and really get the most out of your pattern collection!  

Thanks for reading! 

E x