A Blog for the Perpetually Frustrated Home Sewist

Throwback Post: Sailor Lolita Dress (Otome No Sewing Pattern Review)

Hello everyone! This week's post will be about a sailor dress I made a few years ago using a pattern from the Otome No Sewing Book 3. This dress was a huge turning point for me in my sewing journey, because it was one of the first projects I felt was actually "good." The project is far from perfect, but I've gotten a lot of wear out of it over the years. In this post, I'll explain what the pattern book is and how I used it.

Here are some photos of how the dress turned out.

Now let's get into the pattern and construction! 


For those who are unfamiliar, the Otome No Sewing Book series (written as the 乙女のソーイング Book) is a series of Japanese sewing books that publish patterns in the "otome" or "lolita" fashion style. As of April 2019, 13 books have been released, with a 14th coming in August. Although previously published biannually, the book now appears to be released once a year. Each book contains a wealth of patterns, often with over 30 different styles. (Sometimes, the patterns are variations of other patterns in the book). The looks featured range from casual cute clothing to frilly and over the top dress and skirt styles.

The book will often group some of the patterns together into matching, coordinated outfits. Here's what was recommended with the sailor dress. 

Keep in mind that the patterns and book are entirely in Japanese. Depending on your sewing experience, this may present some problems. If you have experience working with sewing patterns, following the illustrations may be enough. But, I would caution a complete beginner from starting with the books, at least until they've made a couple different garments. Also, keep in mind that none of the patterns come with seam allowances added!

Here's what a typical pattern information and supply page will look like. The grey colored pattern pieces are included in the back of the book to be traced. The white rectangles need to be drafted. The sizes are color coded to make the measurements more clear. There is also a chart for what materials are needed for each size. Also, sorry my finger is in the shot! It was the only way I could get the page to lay flat. 

For this project, I used the Sailor Collar Dress Pattern from Book 3. It's technically numbered as #26 or #9, because there are two slight variations of the same pattern. This pattern, like the others, may be traced from the inserted pattern sheet in the back of the book, with the exception of the rectangular tiered pieces of the skirt and the sleeve cuff. For those pieces, you're expected to draft the rectangles yourself. To determine the size, there are diagrams provided on the pattern page for the dimensions of all the pieces. These diagrams may look tricky at first glance, but don't worry! You only need to pay attention to a few centimeter measurements for the rectangles.

Here are the two different variations of the pattern. The only real difference is the fabric and the styling. 

In my opinion, the books are incredibly high quality. That's not to say they're perfect, but each book seems immaculately crafted and put together. Each book does full photograph instructions for several of the patterns, as shown below. There are also illustrated instructions for all of the other patterns in black and white.

Three or four of the patterns in each book have full, photographed tutorials. For this dress, there were six total pages like this, not including the cutting diagram and pattern info page. These pages are super helpful. 

Because of the informative instructions and up-close photographs, the construction flowed quite easily. However, I should mention that there was an error in the cutting diagram and tracing for the skirt. To rectify this, there was an included "Error Correction" sheet stuck in the back of the book. I didn't notice it until after cutting out the pattern, and it still worked out fine. I just think the skirt ended up fuller than it was intended to be.

Here's an example of what the pattern instructions look like for the patterns that don't come with a full photographed tutorial. The materials chart and cutting diagram are basically the same, but the sewing instructions are illustrated. They're also very informative! 

Perhaps the biggest drawback to the ONS series is the limited sizing. There are only three sizes offered, in a small, medium, and large. The size chart changes slightly in the different books, but the size large in Book 3 is meant for a bust size of 88cm (34 inches) and a waist size of 70 cm (27.6 inches). By American and western standards, this is quite small. However, my measurements were larger than the size large measurement when I made the dress, so there is added ease, at least for the dress and size I made. At the time, it fit well with room to spare. I didn't make a mockup for this dress, and I'm lucky it fit. In the future, I would definitely proceed with caution and measure the pattern pieces beforehand. 

Here's the size chart for Book 3. I added English translations for the chart measurements. 

Of course, it is possible to grade up the pattern yourself. There is a brief slash and spread explanation in the final pages of the book, or it's possible to use the detailed pattern diagrams and mathematically determine how to redraft the pieces. Another blogger wrote a tutorial for how to do this here.

All in all, I believe the Otome No Sewing Books to be a very good value for the money. They are relatively inexpensive (only ~$20 with shipping from Amazon JP), and are available online easily. Ebay and CD Japan also have copies for sale. I would definitely recommend them to others! However, keep in mind that the sizing is limited and the instructions are entirely in Japanese. 


As far as fabric goes, I pretty much copied the exact dress as it appeared in the book. The navy polka dot fabric is Michael Miller's Dumb Dot cotton fabric in the color Nite. I found this fabric to have the perfect navy hue and the correct dot size (not too big or too small). For the sailor collar, I used a dark navy cotton fabric. Other than fabric, the dress required yards and yard of lace. For the stripes on the collar, sleeve, and hem, I used 22 yards of twill tape. For the wider lace around the hem at the bottom of the skirt, the pattern required almost 16 yards of lace. (The skirt is very full, particularly at the bottom layer.) However, you may use less if you find lace that comes pre-gathered; this pattern includes instructions for gathering the lace. And finally, for the smaller lace around the button placket, sleeve cuff, and sailor collar, around 8 yards were used. Honestly, I think I found most of the lace at Hobby Lobby or somewhere similar. I stuck with white cotton lace, so it wasn't hard to find.


Although there is not an official English translation of the Otome No Sewing books available for sale, there are guides online to help those that want to use Japanese sewing books. The website Japanese Sewing Books is a wonderful resource and contains a dictionary guide for Japanese sewing terms. I highly recommend checking the website out!

Another blogger, Fuwa-Fuwa- Fashion, has created an English translation of the Otome No Sewing Book 1. The link for that is here. I'm sure it was a lot of work, so please check it out if you're interested in making something from the first book.

Also, if you're interested in what specific patterns are in each book, the blogger Miss Carol Belle has scanned and organized each book on her website. She currently has done this for each book through Book 12. 

Like I mentioned above, if you're looking for a resizing tutorial, click here. And finally, if you're curious about what others have made with the books, I would spend some time searching through hashtags on Instagram or Googling people that have used the book. Some popular hashtags are #otomenosewingmade, #otomenosewing, and #乙女のソーイングbook.


I've worn this dress several times of the years and I've styled it slightly differently a couple of times. My original intention was to make a matching hat for the dress, until I stumbled upon a sailor hat by Metamorphose second hand. The petticoat I'm wearing under the dress is by Malco Modes, and it's huge (over 60 yards of fabric were used to make it). The shoes I've paired with the dress are by Antaina. Usually I pair the look with light white tights and matching wrist cuffs. I have an alpaca bag I used with the dress once, and I also occasionally wear a white jacket with the dress that allows the sailor collar to remain visible.

Sorry for the poor quality and for the horrendously messy background in the second photo; for some reason I thought it was okay to take photos like that back in 2014. 

I definitely think the dress fit better a few years ago than it does now. I probably won't wear the dress much anymore unless my size returns to what it was, honestly.

Sorry for posting these here. I just liked them! 
Here's what the fuzzy jacket looks like. I wish the white was more pure white and matched better. 
I also made some matching wrist cuffs, but they turned out less than ideal. I made them very quickly, so they were sort of an afterthought, and I definitely think it shows. However, I hope to remake or improve upon them in the future. They were also from a pattern in ONS Book 3.

I need to clean the charms and fix the ribbons. I thought I added Fray-check tot the ends of the bow to prevent fraying, but I guess I didn't. 
It's easier to see how big around the skirt is here. 


Overall, this was a dress I was very happy to complete in 2014. I've gotten a lot of use out of it, and it remains one of my favorite makes. I'd highly recommend the Otome No Sewing series of pattern books.

Thank you for reading this far! If you have any questions, please let me know.

To see my other sailor-themed projects, please click here.

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