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Nora in Beautiful Bougs

Megan Nielsen Nora dress in "Beautiful Bougs" fabric by Ellie Whittaker

I have been a little nervous to post this make as it isn’t a finished pattern yet – that’s right friends, I made another Nora dress! Last year my beautiful sister in law Annelise was married in two spectacular weddings in the USA, a traditional Indian wedding and a black tie formal wedding. We travelled to the US to celebrate with Annelise and Mayur and everyone had such a wonderful time together. It was the first time we had been back to the states since we moved back home to Australia 12 years ago (how has it been that long!). Of course you know me – I will turn absolutely anything into a sewing project, so knowing we had two weddings to attend my sewing plans really grew, and grew, and grew. I’ll show you all the other makes in time, but for today I want to show you the gown I made to wear to Annelise’s formal wedding.

Megan Nielsen Nora dress in "Beautiful Bougs" fabric by Ellie Whittaker

This was one of those rare situations where you have a fabric in your stash that is exactly what you need. It was fate, i am convinced! The fabric I used is the Beautiful Bougs Linen/Cotton by my dear friend, and very talented surface pattern designer Ellie Whittaker. I had purchased 3m of this fabric when it was first released because I fell in love with it immediately and with no project in mind put it in my stash. When I found out the colour theme for the wedding I realised it was the perfect fabric, and with some encouragement from my other amazing sister in law Sophie, I decided to go with it! The unbelievable thing is that you’d think 3m would be enough, but I actually needed an additional 2m because this skirt is so voluminous. Was it worth it? Of course it was!! The other thing I want to mention is how well this fabric wore and travelled. Because it is a matte finish it was a dream to press even though it came out of the suitcase wrinkled. The weather in Washington DC is quite muggy, and I honestly didn’t feel uncomfortable at all – linen is the best.

Megan Nielsen Nora dress in "Beautiful Bougs" fabric by Ellie Whittaker

I spent an inordinate amount of time cutting out this dress trying to make sure the pattern placement was the best it could be. This dress is not pattern matched, I think that would be unnecessary with this print – but it is very consistently cut. You might be wondering what I mean by that. Essentially I tried to make sure there was flow through with the print over all parts of the dress so that it felt cohesive and effortless. The bodice is small so it was important to me to make sure that all the colours of the print appeared in the bodice and translated into the skirt well. Where possible it appears that the print flows – for example, the fuschia pink Bougainvillea continues diagonally down the bust from the side facing, into the waistband and then the skirt, wrapping around the back, with hints of yellow on each side.

Megan Nielsen Nora dress in "Beautiful Bougs" fabric by Ellie Whittaker

When it comes to the pattern, I was feeling very uninspired for a long time. I really couldn’t figure out what to make. The only black tie formal dress I’ve ever sewn was this Nora dress for the 40 and 40 awards. And it was still all I wanted to wear, and after spending many hours working on my girls gowns, I really didn’t want to think of anything else. But I think that was a good thing as it gave me an excuse to develop this pattern a bit more and work on some of the drafting changes we had implemented but hadn’t tested yet. Sometimes you just need to go where your heart wants to go, even if it’s not new.

Megan Nielsen Nora dress in "Beautiful Bougs" fabric by Ellie Whittaker
Megan Nielsen Nora dress in "Beautiful Bougs" fabric by Ellie Whittaker

The biggest change to the pattern were the bust pleats. I love this idea when I first designed and worked on Nora, but after a number of years of wearing the dress I started to hate them. The problem is that I don’t have a particularly large bust, and the placement of the pleats made it look like my bust was drooping at my waistline, and it was weird. So this time I decided to swap them out for darts, and I absolutely adore how the bodice fits now! I also experimented a bit more with adding structure to the straps and bodice as well as changing the direction of the grain for more wrap stability, and all in all I am very pleased.

Megan Nielsen Nora dress in "Beautiful Bougs" fabric by Ellie Whittaker

Another detail I kept from the original draft are the rouleau loops and buttons as closures as I absolutely adored that closure. I made self covered buttons this time to make them really blend with the print and I am very happy with how they turned out. The internal wrap closure includes strong snaps, and there is also a snap at the neckline to keep the wrap closed.

Megan Nielsen Nora dress in "Beautiful Bougs" fabric by Ellie Whittaker
Megan Nielsen Nora dress in "Beautiful Bougs" fabric by Ellie Whittaker

I love the volume of the hem but felt that the last Nora dress I made hung quite straight to the ground, so this time I decided to hem the dress with horsehair braid and that was the best decision ever. I love horsehair braid, it’s a notion I wish was more popular as it immediately adds so much structure and drama to hem whilst also making it very simple to sew a neat curved hemline. Hemming was a real beast with this dress as the linen really stretch out along the bias. I left it to hang on my dress form for quite some time, and it was shocking how much i had to cut off to even it out. Now that Bunny is older she has become so helpful when I’m sewing and was my trusty assistant for evening out the hemline of this dress, she is basically a pro now haha.

Megan Nielsen Nora dress in "Beautiful Bougs" fabric by Ellie Whittaker

And as always I kept my big deep pockets which allowed me to put everything that would normally go in a clutch purse directly in my pockets and allowed me to be handsfree all night. I really think every dress should have humongous pockets, it should be standard.

Megan Nielsen Nora dress in "Beautiful Bougs" fabric by Ellie Whittaker

So that is the rundown on my latest Nora dress! I think I have this pattern right where I want it now. But you know me, I have very little self control so I’ve decided this pattern needs a second variation. My pattern maker Gina and I have finished working on the draft of the second view so I’m hoping to find some time to sew that up soon. I usually keep my development process behind closed doors, but given I’m using this pattern in such a personal way and started sharing it from the beginning, I’m thinking I’ll continue to share the process if you enjoy it?

Megan Nielsen Nora dress in "Beautiful Bougs" fabric by Ellie Whittaker

I’m sorry that this isn’t a pattern release announcement. I know that will be really disappointing to all of you who asked for it to be released the last time I made it. I would love to release it quickly, but I don’t want to rush the process. I feel my best work always comes from slowly working on my patterns till they are perfect, and I want to give this one the time and attention to get there naturally without rushing. I hope that isn’t annoying and that you enjoy seeing me working on it :)

Megan Nielsen Nora dress in "Beautiful Bougs" fabric by Ellie Whittaker

As always, a huge thank you to Bronnie Joel photography and TxC Collective for helping me put this shoot together.

About Author

Meg is the Founder and Creative Director of Megan Nielsen Patterns, and is constantly dreaming up ideas for new sewing patterns and ways to make your sewing journey more enjoyable! She gets really excited about design details and is always trying to add way too many variations to our patterns.

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Sallie Barbee
Sallie Barbee
25 days ago

Absolutely stunning!! I never would have thought of using horsehair braid, but it really does make the hem so wonderfully dramatic! And I like the closer fit of the bodice that the darts bring. Love!!

Michelle
Michelle
25 days ago

This dress is just so gorgeous! The insight into your design process is interesting. After sewing the Darling Ranges a few times, I can appreciate that dart placement as it works well for me, too. I’ll be buying this pattern when it’s ready! It’s a stunner.

Christie Grix
Christie Grix
25 days ago

It’s beautiful! I love being taken along for the process with pattern creation. Thank you!

Sandra Bilodeau
Sandra Bilodeau
25 days ago

Stunning dress! The fabric and the design just sing!

Ellie
Ellie
25 days ago

Um, excuse me but this is the most beautiful use of my Beautiful Bougs that I’ve seen yet! So grateful that you chose it for this special occasion. And the photos are DIVINE! I love the bust pleats!!!

Hope
Hope
24 days ago

Meg! It’s amazing! Those buttons are perfect and I can’t wait to see the second iteration (I swear, if it is a jumpsuit, I will just keep over with joy, but you know I’ll love whatever it is)!

Abbey
24 days ago

Okay, Megan, this Nora is absolutely gorgeous!??????

Like I saw this on IG and came straight to the blog because seeing this just reinvigorated my waning sewjo. Can’t wait to see what you and the team finalize for this design.

Just please find a way to have more back coverage for those of us who do not go braless. That’s my only 2 cents for this beauty.

Lorna Hulme
Lorna Hulme
24 days ago

Gosh this dress is stunning. Please release this asap!! I think it would make a stunning prom dress with the right fabric and maybe some thinner straps! Just what I’ve been looking for.

Nicole Hale
Nicole Hale
24 days ago

This is absolutely breathtaking!! If and when you need pattern testers, please sight me up!!

@frockingloulou
@frockingloulou
23 days ago

Gorgeous. Funnily enough I bought the bougs too and have been saving it for when you released Nora… I might need to change my idea now ;-)

cate
cate
23 days ago

I definitely want to sew this pattern!!! It’s gorgeous and I’m super excited about it!

Jess
Jess
21 days ago

This would be perfect for a first dance dress! I am crossing my fingers that it will be ready in time for my wedding as I am dying for this pattern! ? (It’s in 2 months, but a girl can dream right?)