Croft Mill Sewing

Printed Fabrics: Make Yourself a ‘Happy Dress’

Make yourself a happy dress
Make yourself a happy dress

Make yourself a happy dress


Are you feeling happy right now? By that I mean really happy. The kind of happy that has you humming a tune on your way into work and smiling even when you get caught in a shower.

If not, we may have the answer. The ‘happy dress’ is fashion’s newest darling, and with good reason. Inspired by the creations of Nigerian born designer Duro Olowu, the dresses are all over the high street.

They have the shape of a modern tea dress (some with sleeves and some without) which in itself is enough to make you smile. However the main feature is the colours and printed fabrics they include. Clashing florals and contrasting colours is key to this look. This dress should look happy, as well as making you feel cheerful.


Sew House Seven – Tea House Dress

We love the more relaxed style of this dress and think it fits into the ‘Happy Dress’ style perfectly. It is perfect for running about in at weekends, and we bet it will be wonderfully comfy to wear. This is an advanced beginner level pattern. The pattern images show this dress made out of plain colours, however you could easily give it a ‘happy dress’ feel by using printed fabrics to create the belt or the pockets. If you are feeling more confident, you could also use two different printed fabrics to make the dress.

Catherine - Spanish Polyester Dress Fabric 150cm wide

Catherine – Spanish Polyester Dress Fabric 150cm wide. This is a very class print and the fabric will work well in a dress.


Silky Satin - Floral Polyester Dress Fabric With a Silk Like Feel. 142cm wide

Silky Satin – Floral Polyester Dress Fabric With a Silk Like Feel. 142cm wide and with wonderful draping qualities.

If you do not usually wear patterns you could try a viscose print, mixed with a plainer fabric of a different colour. The colours you choose should clash, but in a complimentary fashion. Try going for all bright colours, or all softer shades with just one bright that will make the outfit ‘pop’.

There’s a Thing – Viscose Crepe Fabric, 142cm wide. This colour is very Duro Olowu, and the fabric has plenty of body. It will drape like a dream.

BSC – Polyester Elastane Crepe de Chine, with as much stretch as you need. 130cm wide. It drapes well and is virtually creaseless.

Ann Normandy Design – Full Length Dress, Maxi Dress

Admittedly this dress is a bit longer than a standard happy dress. However made from clashing florals in lightweight floaty fabrics, we are sure it will be a very happy dress indeed! Skill level: Intermediate. We could imagine making this dress from a cotton lawn for the holidays, as it will help keep you cool. Cotton will also be easier to sew than some more delicate fabrics.

The List - Patching Up - Patchwork Print Cotton Lawn Fabric. 146cm wide

The List – Patching Up – Patchwork Print Cotton Lawn Fabric. 146cm wide. This fabric will be easier to work with, but still offer that lightweight feel.

Royal Celebration – Light – Royal Blue Viscose Lycra Crepe Fabric. 125cm wide. This fabric will work well in dresses that need a bit of drape.


By Hand London – Flora Dress


The cinched waist is sure to make this dress flattering on all body shapes, while it also comes with options for altering the neckline. Opt for bright printed fabrics to ensure this dress takes its inspiration from Duro Olowu’s latest collection.


No Shrinking Violet – Mechanically randomly pleated Polyester Fabric. The pleating of this fabric is permanent and it will add some interest extra interest to the dress.

Plain as Day – Cerise Polyester Crepe de Chine Fabric. 152cm wide. This cloth will drape beautifully and the colour will work well with many prints and tones.

Burda Cheongsam Dress 02/2012

Many Happy Dresses are more fluid in their shape, however it if you are looking for a more structured style this may be the pattern for you. Although not a typical tea dress style, we adore this Cheongsam dress. The clean lines will contrast well with busier bright prints and colour blocks. Why not try making it from one solid colour, and having the edges (shown in yellow on the pattern image) in a clashing printed fabric for a nod to the trend.


Candy Crepe – Maize – Medium Weight Polyester Crepe Fabric. This is a medium weight fabric and will offer some drape. It is elegant without being flimsy.

Silk Like – Royal – Polyester Stretch Peachskin Fabric. 145cm wide. It has been made to imitate silk and is nice and floaty.

Liberty Capel - Tana Lawn Fabric. 137cm wide

Liberty Capel – Tana Lawn Fabric. 137cm wide

Class Act - Italian Silk Fabric. 140cm wide

Class Act – Italian Silk Fabric. 140cm wide

Vogue V8829

This pattern is currently not available from Vogue, however there are lots of copies on Etsy. This dress is easy to make, and sticks to one of the key silhouettes of the ‘Happy Dress.’ Use a lightweight printed fabric and keep your accessories in strong colours that compliment but do not match. Try using a slinkier fabric for this dress, like a silk or polyester satin.


How Does Your Garden Grow? - Polyester Lycra Fabric. 150cm wide

How Does Your Garden Grow? – Polyester Lycra Fabric. 150cm wide. This is a wonderfully slinky cloth. Great for dresses.

Boudoir – Polyester Silky Satin Fabric. 150cm wide

Sew House Seven-  Bridgetown Dress.

We love that although this dress is quite relaxed the fact it is backless means it could easily be worn in the evening too. After all, once you have sewn your outfit, you should be able to show it off! choose a fabric with good draping qualities to get the right look.

Silky Satin – Bloom Boom – Polyester Satin Fabric. 142cm wide This printed fabric is lovely and soft and has great draping qualities.


Fiona – German made Polyester and Lycra Fabric. It will look brilliant made into a pattern that requires a bit of drape.

One of our favourite happy dresses from Duro Olowu is this tunic style garment. It is made from two printed fabrics including silk and viscose.  Though many lightweight and draping fabrics could recreate this look.

Debbie Shore – Slip Over Tunic Dress

We think this Debbie Shore sewing pattern is perfect for recreating the look. Use a printed fabric on the hem, a key theme in Duro Olowu’s creations. Why not try making this dress in a lightweight cotton?

The List – Abba. Cotton Lawn, 146cm wide. Superb quality with a soft finish, this will have enough drape for a tunic top.

The List Cream Sundae. Cotton Lawn, 146cm wide. The bright colours on this printed fabric fit well within the Happy Dress style. It is soft to the touch, and will work well in a dress.

Another of Duro Olowu’s key desgins is the kimono style. This can be extremely easy to wear and never seems to go out of style. Again, you want to opt for printed fabrics in bright designs. As you can see from his kimono below, the more you can include the better! We’ve found a Stoff and Stil Kimono sewing pattern that closely resembles the designer garment. The pattern is aimed at advanced beginners.

Stoff and Stil Kimono 24036.

Silky Satin Let’s Frolick – Polyester Satin, 142cm wide. Good draping qualities and a wonderful silky feel.


Silky Satin – The Face That Launched…. Polyester Satin, 142cm wide. This print is less busy, but the colours are still bright enough to be made ito a Duro Olowu style kimono.

Others fabrics that could be used to recreate a happy dress are viscose fabrics, pima cotton lawns, silks and crepe and crepe de chines. 

All of these fabrics are available at

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