Pattern Review: The Calendar Dress by Frankie & Ray in Japanese Military Chambray

That's quite a mouthful of a blog post title, isn't it? But when it comes to pattern reviews, very descriptive probably beats snappy headline any day.

**NB: post edited to add - pattern errata alert from designer: front panel of dress is 3cm too long... we advise cutting as-is then trimming before hemming**

We were eager to try out the brand new Calendar Dress by Australian designer-maker Jo Dunsmuir of Frankie & Ray. Jo's other releases the Box Top, Anna Knickers and West Coast Skirt have really hit the mark as wardrobe basics, and are excellent for beginners onwards.


(Apologies, it's my rubbish photos, not the printing, or your eyes.)

The Calendar Dress is a classic 'smock dress' style which can be made sleeveless or with a mid-length sleeve, designed for easy rolling up. It has magnificently large, lined patch pockets and a gentle gather under the front bodice, and falls straight at the back. Neckline is bias-bound and the dress pulls on easily with no closures. You can also make it in a shirt length (particularly gorgeous in Liberty Tana Lawn as you can see if you haunt the Frankie & Ray Instagram.)

This was our first time using our 8oz Japanese Military Chambray and we were very taken with how it came out of a pre-wash: much softened but still a good mid-weight, and with the indigo aglow.

The sizing on the Calendar Dress is very generous and for the first time in years I found myself cutting a size S. (I'd be lying if I said this didn't give me a small thrill, although I shouldn't care, and a large part of me - perhaps my hips - doesn't.) The dress is quite loose through the waist and hips so bust measurement is most critical. By some black magic there's no bust dart which makes this an even friendlier project for beginners.

The pockets, being lined, hold their shape well and the lining also makes it easier to achieve the lovely rounded bottom corners. (Hands up - with scalded fingertips - if you've ever struggled to press nice curves into patch pockets with just a turned in edge? I'm never making an unlined curved patch pocket again.They're wonderfully capacious and would make a great feature if you decided to use a contrast fabric. They'd look great with topstitching or some embroidery, although we were enjoying the chambray so much we just left them plain.

If you are making the sleeved version, be sure to mark front and back of the sleeve as shown on the pattern piece: it's written on, not notched. I forgot to, then took the project home and left the pattern at the shop and had no reference. I sewed the first sleeve on the wrong way, but figured out my mistake when there was more ease in the front, oops. On the whole this came together quickly and easily, with the trickiest part being easing in the sleeves (although this is done 'on the flat' before the arm and side seams are sewn as one, so it's less fiddly than a set in sleeve).

We've both worn this dress for photos to show how it looks on different shapes. Very conveniently, for pattern trial purposes, we are similar sizes yet different body shapes. This version is made with no alterations so it's an accurate shop sample.

On Jane, who has narrow, sloping shoulders, the sleeve cap feels a bit high. There's enough ease in the sleeve that this could probably be helped by just shaving a couple of centimetres off the top of the sleeve curve. For an example of this fit issue and solution in another dress, see this review of the Papercut Skipper.  The sleeve has a nice deep hem, perfect for wearing cuffed, as we both have here.

Yes, those pockets are irresistibly gigantic and magnets for hands! Fiona managed to tear her hands out of there for a moment to better show the sleeve shape.

Fiona has broader, straighter shoulders, and whilst it's a subtle difference, the shoulder area sits better. On both of us, there's loads of room in the sleeve. The chambray still has quite a bit of body so with softening (or a drapier fabric) the sleeve would relax a lot.

It's a comfy sleeve and good for layering, but we'd both choose to make this as a sleeveless pinafore, or take some volume out of the sleeve, for personal preference. I'm extremely tempted to remove the sleeves, bind the armholes and take this Calendar Dress home but... the shop needs a sample! I think a sleeveless version for me might be on the cards though because I keep thinking about it every time I look at this one hanging in the shop.

Sleeves or no sleeves, this pattern is very approachable for beginner sewists, suitable alone or for layering and forgiving in fit for a wide range of body shapes. It's a 'smock' in the best sense of the word. The neckline is a lovely shape, the gathering under the bust gives visual interest and swingy comfort, yet combined with the straight back, it has quite a compact silhouette and is fabric-efficient. Hooray for a designer who sews and sells her own designs and thinks carefully about wise fabric use!

I chose to bind the neckline with some self-made Liberty bias tape (I thought 'What Would Jo Do?' and the answer was definitely 'bind with Liberty!') but there would have been enough fabric to cut self-bias for this purpose, too.

PATTERN: The Calendar Dress by Frankie and Ray

FABRIC: 100% cotton 8oz Japanese Military Chambray

SIZE: S (range XS, bust 94-102cm to XL, bust 114-116cm), no alterations for this shop sample, which customers are welcome to try on.

COMMENTS: Note errata at top of post. (We assumed it was our mistake and corrected as we went, it's no big deal.) We can imagine the Calendar Dress being one of those friendly garments you just reach for over and over, for its simplicity, ease and practicality. And for that 'art teacher smock' vibe. What do you think?

- Jane & Fiona xx


  1. Jo aka frankie & rayMay 23, 2018 at 2:19 AM

    Oh ladies! I'm so thrilled to see you both in this dress, it looks so great on you equally! And thank you, thank you for the lovely review! Even if I've made a design a hundred times over, releasing a pattern is always a nerve wracking thing, so I so appreciate your endorsement. It makes me a very happy maker! xxx

    1. Oh, thank you and it's such a pleasure, Jo. Your experience means you really know the market you're designing for. It's taken me ages to finish this post because, of all things, I needed photos of the pattern cover which is a bit mushed up on the copy I took home by now! And in the end the photos I got this arvo were poorly focused but I just had to go with it. And every time I've gone back to edit this post-in-progress I've thought that I want to be that person in the photos, haha! Definitely going to squeeze a Calendar Dress for me into my making schedule somehow! xx


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