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Sewing Bee episode 1 wardrobe ideas

Are you watching the new series of The Great British Sewing Bee? We were thrilled that the TV show has returned with ten new contestants battling it out to be named the best sewer in Britain. This year the show has a new judge, Joe Lycett, who joins Patrick Grant and Esme Young. If you haven’t seen all the latest news about the show, take a look at the BBC’s dedicated site about all things Bee! You will find contestant profiles, interviews with the judges and episode guides.

We will be continuing our blog series about the sewing bee and each week we will be sharing our pattern picks here on the blog and also listing them in our shop for easy browsing. All the patterns have been selected for their similar design features and styles to help you recreate these looks at home for your own handmade wardrobes.

Challenge 1

In the first episode of the show, contestants had three challenging tasks starting with sewing a fitted ‘wiggle dress’. This dress had a fitted bodice and skirt with French darts, a square neckline and tricky butterfly sleeves. A ‘wiggle’ dress is essentially a more fitted shift dress, where the hem of the skirt is narrower than the hips, ensuring the wearer does a ‘wiggle’ as they move about!

Vogue® Patterns V9082

This 1960s original vintage pattern courtesy of Wanett Clyde, is stunning and comes with the option to make a cropped top or jacket to coordinate with the dress. The dress has bust and double waist darts to fit it and wide shoulder straps so you don’t need to worry about tricky sleeves.

Vogue® Patterns V1498

If you fancy taking on a modern version of the ‘wiggle’ dress, this show-stopping dress by designer Nicola Finetti is perfect. It is lined and close-fitting through the bust with a criss-crossed, seamed bodice. The dress has an overlapping left-front forming slit, slightly raised back bodice and tapered skirt.

Simplicity 8460

Here is another vintage gem from the 1950s. This sheath dress is sleeveless and has a low rounded neckline, which you could square off to match the pattern featured on the show. It has a back kick pleat for ease of movement and cropped matching jacket with set-in sleeves, stand-up collar, button front closing and lining. Alternatively for version 2 you can make the jacket unlined with a cropped top finished in binding that ties at the back.

McCalls 6920

This princess seam dress is close-fitting through the bust with neckline variations  and the option to add capped or short sleeves. Below we have featured the fitted version but there is also a flared skirt option too. At the back of the dress there is an exposed zipper and a hemline slit giving you plenty of movement.

Burda Style B6920

If you are looking for more of a challenge this dress has several details which you can use to style the outfit in your own way. We particularly like the ornamental flounce and stylish asymmetrical pleats radiating from one of the princess seams. Take a look at the line drawings below to fully appreciate these details.

Vogue® Patterns 8766

This dress would be great for intermediate makers as it is lined with underlined bodice variations and a narrow hem. It has bust and waist darts to provide shaping along with boning. The sleeve caps are pleated but this should be less tricky than the butterfly sleeves featured in the show.

Burda B6722

If you liked the style of the square neckline then why not try Burda B6722 which comes with top and dress options. Designed for jersey fabrics it will be a breeze to fit and you can use contrasting fabrics for the shoulders or rotate stripe fabrics, as shown in the photo below.

Challenge 2

The second challenge was upcycling denim into a wearable garment and the participants used a wide range of styles. We have some pattern suggestions here if you want recreate the finished garments with the aid of a pattern!

McCalls – M7604 Multi-panelled skirt

Using a range of fabrics to create a panelled skirt is a fun way to use up smaller pieces of fabric in your stash. This pattern is also perfect for beginners. Head over to read more about this pattern and watch a video on styling and sewing this skirt with Jackie, who is a designer.

One of the most popular upcycling garments was the halter neck dress and we have a couple of patterns that might appeal.

Vogue Patterns V8727

This halter neck dress is close fitting at the bodice and lined. It gathering into the neckline in a classic halter style with full skirt. This is definitely a dress for the holidays and looks great in a large bold print. There is also the option to have a figure-hugging pencil skirt version too.

Butterick B5209

You may recognise this pattern from the Vintage sew-along we did a couple of years ago. It was a really popular choice for the sew-along due to the variations it offers. You can choose from halter or cap sleeves depending on the season. It finishes mid-calf, has a side zipper and fitted self lined bodice with a flared, gathered skirt. Plus Butterick patterns are currently on offer with 40% off right now!

Challenge 3

The final challenge was definitely the most complicated and involved sewing a jumpsuit that had to be fitted to a real life model. The contestants chose a range of pattern styles, although wide legged trousers featured heavily. Jumpsuits are the perfect garments for work to evening wear and ideal if you are in a hurry because you don’t need to worry about matching your trousers to a top!

New Look – NL6446

Our favourite jumpsuit has to be the 6446 from New Look. The on trend cropped wide legged trousers are a perfect pairing to the fitted bodice and wide shoulder straps. On cooler days pair with your favourite tee, stripes would be perfect! Make the jumpsuit from chambray, lightweight denim or cottons.

Simplicity 8610

With similar style features this jumpsuit also comes with kimono and dress patterns for an all -in-one outfit! Kimono jackets work so well layered over a jumpsuit or a dress. The kimono features length variations and is suitable for silky type printed or solid fabrics.

Vogue Patterns 1591

This jumpsuit designed by Rebecca Vallance is lined with a close fitting bust and pleated wide-leg trousers. It also has a back zipper and distinctive ribbon ties. Take a look at the back photo of the model below to appreciate this stunning detail.

McCalls M7815

If you were inspired by Juliet’s jumpsuit then why not try this pattern from McCalls? It has the iconic one shoulder and fitted through the waist with leg variations and an invisible zipper closure. Make sure to include the neck flounce for extra va-va-voom!

Burda B6702

Riccardo’s jumpsuit had a distinct 80s vibe and this overalls pattern is a great match. Choose to go sleeveless or include sleeves plus there are options for breast pockets. The fit for this pattern will be easy and you shouldn’t need to make too many adjustments.

Butterick 6320

Alternatively this jumpsuit from Butterick has a similar overall style but comes with sweetheart neckline and wide-leg trousers. There is also a dress variation too making it great value. The straight-leg jumpsuit is semi-fitted through the hips and has a looser fitting bodice to some of the other pattern suggestions we have featured here. The pattern includes separate pattern pieces for A/B, C and D cup sizes.

Butterick B6351

This classic jumpsuit is suitable for confident beginners. It is fitted through the bust, partially lined and also comes with a sleeveless dress variation. The jumpsuit has French darts, a tulip and cutout back and back elastic waistband. 

Simplicity Mimi G 8426

We also love this jumpsuit designed by Mimi G. Available in both misses and plus sizes it features a wide leg trouser and contrast bodice with peter pan collar. The gathers into the waist of the trousers ensure a flattering fit. Click on the link above to watch a video about this pattern.


Don’t forget to share your latest makes with us on social media using the hashtags #simplicitybyme or #mccallsbyme. We can’t wait to see what you’ve been making. There are prizes to be won each month too!