achievement unlocked: gray linen Shenai dress

I was introduced to Oki Style Patterns last year when Oki was one of the sponsors of Indie Pattern Month at the Monthly Stitch. I sewed her Salt jacket for one of the challenges & have been admiring her other patterns from afar ever since. Her patterns are so interesting, & reasonably wearable, but I hadn’t purchased another because each one is kind of a stand-out–probably not something you’ll need to make more than once.


However, I knew I wanted a gray linen dress for my summer capsule wardrobe. I’ve been poring over Japanese pattern books lately & trying to figure out how to bring some of those elements (asymmetry, unusual shaping, utilitarian fabrics, unexpected embellishments, longer hemlines, etc) into my wardrobe. Especially as a curvier sewer, this can be a trick. Shapeless sacks looked great on me eighty pounds & twenty years ago. I am not a person who cares much about what “flatters” my figure (hello, I just made overalls…& will make more, mark my words!), I don’t subscribe to a lot of those style rules that ask you to identify the fruit your body most resembles & then provides all kinds of advice how to “distract the eye” from “problem areas”. However, I do want to feel physically & mentally comfortable in my clothes, so anything that deviates from my standard pajamas/jeans & a t-shirt Mom uniform requires some contemplation.


This dress is a home run for me. (Hey, it’s baseball season.) It ticks a lot of the new style boxes I’ve been wanting to explore, I can move in it comfortably, I feel confident about the way I look in it, & it has just the right amount of “look at me” flair without feeling like a costume. It’s the Oki Style Shenai dress, a “long summer dress” with an “symmetrical hemline, single-sided slit at hem, & integrated scarf.” I sewed it in the linen left over from my Burnside Bibs. I magically had just enough fabric to eke out this dress, with nothing but tiny scraps left over. (Capsule wardrobe sewing trick: buy enough yardage to get two or three garments out of the same textile as an easy way to create mix & match options.)


Oki Stle Patterns are available in separate petite & tall sizes, & the size range is fairly generous. I made an regular XL (the second largest size) & don’t tell anyone, but I forgot to add seam allowances. I thought I’d sunk my own battleship, but luckily, because it’s not a terribly form-fitting style, I managed to get by with sewing with narrower-than-usual seams.


Although Oki Style patterns are not especially difficult once you start constructing them, you do need to have a fair bit of sewing experience. The instructions are primarily in German, & the English translation leaves something to be desired. I’d say that these are definitely not patterns for beginners who require a lot of hand-holding. The construction techniques are not necessarily challenging, but they can be off the beaten track. For instance, this dress has a mitered hem (love!). If a person has never sewn a mitered hem before, Oki’s instructions are probably not the place to start.


Thankfully, there are notches to mark the bust, waist, & hip (all of which matched up perfectly, by the way). I took advantage of these notches to do a 1.5″ FBA & a 2″ swayback adjustment. Both were a shot in the dark, as the drape of the dress is completely asymmetrical from the shoulders down, & the attachment of the second shoulder strap to the scarf makes a big difference to the location of the bust points (as well as the sizes of the neckline & second armscye). If I were to make this dress again, I think I’d make the FBA a little bigger (& remember the seam allowances!), but I think it works.


Remember how I said I am getting more into embellishments? Yeah. Instead of buying crazy patterned fabrics, I am getting more into buying plain (& cheaper) fabric & adding my own treatments. This dress doesn’t include pockets, so I added one. A few months ago, I came up with the idea of adding a patch pocket with a flap that secures with a turn lock to a garment. I have been known to buy purses with turn-locks solely because I’m obsessed with turn-locks. Putting one on a garment seemed like a stroke of genius! I’ll definitely be doing this with future garments. I bought the turn locks in bulk.


& last but not least: that floral applique. I briefly considered hand-embroidering a huge floral motif on the dress, but…I came to my senses. So this patch is purchased, but it is sewn on by hand. No hot fix here. I’m pretty fast at hand-sewing, but this patch is so big & has so much negative space, it probably took me about twenty hours to hand-sew it in place.


I love this dress! & it goes great with my pink shoes! They are orthotic-friendly. Because I turn 38 next week.


(PS–My Google-fu tells me that this is the first Shenai dress to hit the internet, aside from Oki’s sample. What are y’all waiting for?)

pattern: Shenai dress from Oki Style Patterns
size: XL in the shoulders, graded out to an XXL
fabric: 2.5 yards of Robert Kaufman Essex Linen Blend Yarn Dyed in Steel
notions: universal needle, gray thread, one turn lock, tiny bit of interfacing to support the turn lock, hand-sewing needle, giant embroidered floral patch
total cost of all supplies: around $40 (including the pattern)
alterations: 1.5″ FBA, 2″ swayback adjustment
next time: not sure there will be a next time, since this dress is so unique, but if I did it again, I’d add another .5″ to the FBA & remember the seam allowances, duh
remarks from the public: “I can’t see you, Mama! You are blending into that bush!” — Ramona, pointing at a bush with pink flowers on it that I was standing by
photos: Ramona took the photos of me, I took the rest

Published by Ciara

Ciara Xyerra wrote zines for the better part of two decades. She has a brilliant & adorable preschooler named Ramona & sews as much as she possibly can. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas with her boyfriend. She enjoys catching up on "The New Yorker", meatball subs, keeping it cranky, intersectional post-third wave feminism, dinosaurs, & monsters. If you have nothing nice to say, she recommends that you come sit here by her, so you can say not-nice things together.

16 thoughts on “achievement unlocked: gray linen Shenai dress

  1. Also, totally agree on mitered corners. Love making napkins for that reason too, and when I see a napkin without mitered corners, I feel like it was such a cop out!

  2. This is really nice. I was thinking when I first looked that the pocket really “made” it. Then I read that you added it yourself. Brilliant addition. I like the whole thing though. Didn’t know one could buy such patches.

    1. They are not super-easy to come by. There are a bunch available from Chinese sellers on Etsy & Ebay, but I was on a deadline with this dress (I entered it into the “dresses” challenge for the Monthly Stitch’s Indie Pattern Month), so I didn’t have time to wait for international shipping from Asia. I lucked out & found one single patch that fit my vision perfectly on Amazon Prime (two-day shipping!).

      & thanks for the compliments on the pocket! I want turn locks on everything now.

  3. Oh man. I flipping LOVE this dress. I also love the ‘plain, utilitarian fabrics + interesting drafting an embellishment’ thing. Cannot get enoughhhh.

    I love being one of the first to make an interesting pattern. But also, what is everyone waiting for?

    1. I love this dress too! & I am so rarely early to the scene with a pattern! I usually like to kick back & read a hundred reviews before I jump in. I’m kind of more of a planner than a doer when it comes to sewing, as my fabric stash will attest. I never buy fabric without having a specific application in mind, & yet…

  4. I LOVE this! I love it on you! I want one for me, but I’m going to live vicariously through you for now.

  5. I love the dress, congratulations! The embroidery is so beautiful and suits you and the dress perfectly.

    1. Exactly! I think without the pocket & applique, it would have been art teacher-adjacent, for sure. Picture plain gray linen, probably with some kind of waterfall cardigan. Nope!

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