In Sewing

The Hack-tory Dress Preface

The Factory Dress by Merchant & Mills has been on my radar for a little while now and I’ve been dying to make it. I finally found a retailer in the U.S. where I could buy it online (Purl Soho!) and once it arrived at my door I tore into it expecting to start working on it immediately. But after browsing through the instructions I decided I wasn’t too keen on the way the front is constructed, mostly because I was scratching my head at how one might finish the edges on a serger without some serious fandangling (you’ll see what I mean in the photo coming up). So I decided to pattern hack and re-trace the bodice my own way and make it a button front instead, hence “The Hack-tory Dress”.


The original bodice design made it really easy to alter into a shirt dress. I basically just cut the front facing off the original piece, moved it over a few inches to allow for an overlapping button band, and re-traced it. Not too difficult. Below you can see the pattern illustration for the original front. It’s a really unique construction, but not one I could easily feed through my serger without an impending fiasco!


The fabric I chose is a yarn dyed chambray by Andover Fabrics. I originally bought the yardage for an Archer shirt some months ago but never got around to making it and I was tired of it sitting around in my stash. I had three yards and just barely fit all the pieces on (I had to cut the sleeves on the opposite grain to fit). The fabric color is the result of weaving blue and yellow threads together which makes for a gorgeous seafoam-green-y illusion. The color is called Bluegrass, which I think is pretty accurate.


The yarn dyed construction makes the fabric look almost iridescent in some lights, and is surprisingly difficult to match thread to! I bought every color mint/aqua thread color I could find and none of them were a good match. Out of frustration I started grabbing every single blue, green, grey, taupe, yellow thread I had on my rack in hopes one of them would be a good blend for topstiching. I finally settled on a dusty blue, which I never guessed would look so invisible on seafoam green, but it totally works!


The Factory Dress is a 1920s inspired design that’s meant to have a very loose, straight fit with a semi drop waist. I’ve seen some beautiful examples around the web (here, here, and here) but I wasn’t 100% happy with the silhouette on my frame. With my Lady Turtle rounded upper back/sway back combo, every garment that’s not a fitted shape has the tendency to tent off me, no matter what adjustments I make. I opted not to try to take the dress in or add back darts (though I seriously thought about it) because that’s not how this pattern was drafted to fit. There’s a fine line between fitting a pattern and altering its design, as I’ve learned the hard way with previous versions of the Archer shirt. If I want a slimmer fit, I’ll pick a different dress pattern next time. …or just add a belt!


My simple shaping solution was to make a little button-back belt and attach it to the front. The circumference of the belt is slightly smaller than that of the dress laying flat, so when it’s buttoned it nips in the hips and helps curb some of my sway back tenting while still allowing the dress to hang free and keep its intended loose shape. I feel slightly genius-y about that addition. Not gonna lie 😉


The apron style belt (along with the green fabric and white buttons) really makes the dress look like a 1920s factory uniform (or as Tasha lovingly described it: a dress fit for a scullery maid lol) but that’s kinda why I’m in love with it! I mean, who wouldn’t want to look like a flapper moonlighting as a domestic servant?! Haha!


My plan was to take photos of the dress actually on ME and not on my dress form, but our hot water is mysteriously out as of this morning and I prefer to shower before gracing you with my presence (you’re welcome). I promise I’ll have outfit photos in this dress soon, though!


I’m debating taking the white buttons off and going with darker brown wood instead, because the dress totally looks like a uniform as it is. As I said, I kind of love it more for those reasons but I also don’t necessarily want to look like a Depression Era Girl Scout either. Or maybe I’m into that. …I haven’t decided yet.


All I know is this dress is SO COMFORTABLE and I’m definitely going to make it again! I want to make one tweak to the sleeves so I can attach them flat and sew the side seam all in one go instead of setting them in. I attempted to sew them flat on this version but things got a little awkward at the armpit seam.


Two thumbs up for The Factory Dress so far! I’ll be back with proper outfit shots soon, probably with more hammy animal photos, because unless I lock myself in a separate room the fuzzy photo bombs are inevitable. That’s just the way it is 😉

Speaking of, here’s a super cute instagram snap of Lucille (clearly my Spirit Animal) helping me take photos today.


  • Jennifer Hill

    I love what you’ve done, and that fabric is just so gorgeous! Jen

  • I like it! The belt totally changes the look, for the better I think! I think the trick to rocking the factory girl look is the right modern accessories. Slouchy socks, lace-up boots, a long cardigan maybe? That fabric is sooo pretty too…

  • Ooooo, you clever, clever girl! The dress looks fantastic and I love the alteration to a button front. I think you should keep the white buttons – much fresher than a darker color. The belt is a genius invention and adds just the right touch. That fabric is so pretty – like a mermaid’s tail!

  • That fabriccccccc!!!! I love it so much and I think it pairs really nicely with the pattern. Not that you asked, but I vote that you keep the white buttons!

  • The belt addition makes all the difference!!! I think it would be tricky for anyone with larger hips (like myself) to wear this, but I think the belt makes it totally work!

  • Your sewing room assistants are the epitome of adorableness! 🙂

    Lovely, timelessly charming dress. I adore that soft, elegant shade of blue-ish mint and think it suits a 20s inspired garment like this so perfectly.

    ♥ Jessica

  • Sandra

    Well this is interesting! That pattern has been available in Canada for quite some time–it’s not often that we get something before it is in the U. S.
    On the pattern package cover, the dress looks quite shapeless, but I can see it does have some shape. There is a big difference between a non-structured garment and a shapeless one.
    I continue to be amazed by the popularity of April Rhode’s Staple Dress and now her Poncho. The Staple dress, everywhere I’ve seen it, looks shapeless and handmade; like a learn-to-sew pattern. The Poncho is far too short (I know–width of fabric issues). But there are many much superior patterns for an easy to sew dress and poncho.
    Back to your project–I like what you did with the belt, but I think wood buttons might be nice. It looks like you did a fine job of sewing this garment. Congratulations.
    And April Rhode fans–please do not bother to send me “you’re nasty and negative” replies. But please do spend some time searching out more quality patterns. And for the record–I do enjoy her blog and like her fabric designs.

  • I love the fabric, and I can’t wait to see it on you! Genius idea with the belt too!

  • Debra Ward

    I must say I like your version much much better then the pattern’s. Beautiful fabric colour too!

  • Love the way you added the belt on the front button like that. Awesome idea!

    • Also love that! I can imagine this in white with dark blue piping/belt!

  • Lisette

    Yes! It does kind of have a GS uniform feel to it. But that is why I am in love with it. You just need some white or minty green keds and a little beret et voila!

  • sallieforrer

    I love all the tweaks you made to the dress! The button back belt is super cute, and definitely solves the problem. And that fabric!! I love yarn dyed fabrics like this!! So gorgeous!

  • I like your version so much better! And great idea with the button belt. Also: that fabric is so freaking cool!

  • Elena Knits

    And I hope you get the water issue fixed soon. Having no hot water sucks!

  • Elena Knits

    The original dress would have not have caught my attention, but yours really does! I don’t look great on loose tops either and I always go for options to shape my waist. I really love this version!

  • I love it! The original Factory Dress is pretty and all, even if it’s not for me (long torso that doesn’t need emphasising, not overly fond of the loose fit). The simple addition of the belt and some buttons, though, really take it to another level.

  • Bonita Vear

    This dress looks amazing and so comfortable! I love the belt you added, and honestly, you’ve done such an amazing job with this pattern that now I kinda-sorta-hafta sew one up myself…. 🙂 ❤


    bonita of Lavender &

  • Great hack! I am really digging that fabric.

  • jannapyj

    I bet the pattern designer is wishing THEY had thought of that belt!!!


  • The dress is beautiful! I especially like the fabric choice and the addition of the belt. Can’t wait to see it on you.

  • Aww Lucille! Dogs are the best <3

    My guess for the front facing would be to make it a curve (rather than those square corners) so you can overlock? If you're wanting that look – I'm a huge fan of shirtdresses so I think this looks awesome 🙂 I look forward to seeing you wearing it

  • Lucille is the cutest. 🙂 This is such a fun style! Love the belt you added!

  • Juliana Bibas

    I love how this turned out! The belt is totally period appropriate, btw, and such the perfect touch. I think brown buttons would be fab, personally, but the white look pretty darn great too! So happy to see this one made up well!!

  • I love this! Your hack is so clever and really changes the look. And that yarn-dyed fabric is so cool. This type of post is not good for my recently self-imposed pattern and fabric diet!

  • Lynne

    The addition of the belt was inspired! The whole shape of the dress is more becoming and makes it so much cuter without taking away the factory girl look. Looking forward to seeing how it looks on you….cute, I’m sure!

  • I love the belt hack! It makes it look like a coverall dress, which is exactly the uniform I personally would crave! I think wood buttons would be fab, although these lend an awesome uniformity too..