Mexican-Inspired Embroidered Dress

If you've read my blog for a while (or maybe even my previous blog, Megxico), you know I have a deep love and appreciation for Mexico. Back in 2009, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Mexico City and to travel all over and get to know so many amazing people. I also have a love for Mexican embroidered dresses and bought quite a few while I was there.

So when my cousin announced he was getting married in Sayulita, just north of Puerto Vallarta, this winter, I knew I wanted to make something special to pay homage to this beautiful country. While not as bright as a traditional dress, this was a fun way to combine a Mexican influence with my aesthetic.

Pattern: Simplicity's Cynthia Rowley #1104
Fabric: 2 yds upholstery cotton + 1/2 yard quilting cotton for lining
Cost: $25

First off, this fit and flare pattern from Cynthia Rowley is amazing! The front and back are just one piece each, with darts and tucks folded in to create the shaping. It is slightly fuller in the front than the back, giving a very flattering shape all around. After grading the pattern out at the hips and then nipping the sides in just a tad at the waist, the fit was stellar. No weird wonky bits, dart manipulation, or other adjustments needed. It stayed on and felt great all night.

To give it some body, I made the whole thing out of an upholstery weight fabric. You might think it would be too bulky or too scratchy, but a fabric of this weight is great for holding its shape. It really gave the skirt its full flare without the need for a crinoline or horse-hair braid or other stabilization. The effect is very dramatic without much work. I'm sure you could make it out of a beautiful silk with some body as well, but this version was much more cost effective ;)

I did make a few changes to suit my taste. First, I added pockets, naturally. The dress is full enough to hide the pockets well, and they came in very handy for stashing my phone and other items.

I also switched up the neckline a bit. In the original pattern, the V at the front is flattened out at the bottom. For a more dramatic plunge, I made it into a true V shape which shows off a bit more cleavage. The back as drafted was very high, so I slashed a V in that as well. It comes to just above my bra strap for an easy fit. While a deep V in the front and the back could cause some problems with the shoulders slipping off, the sturdy upholstery fabric held everything in place. Another win for stiff fabric. Also, a win for push-up bras.

I'm sure you're also curious about the embroidery. It was all done by hand over a period of a month or so. If you give yourself enough time, it can be a very relaxing TV-watching activity. I rather liken it to adult coloring.

While the traditional approach would be to embroider the fabric before cutting it out and sewing up the dress, I decided to wait until the very end (just before the lining was tacked down), to do the embroidery. I knew it would make it more difficult to handle, but I wanted to have full control over where the pattern was placed on the bodice, and give myself room to make adjustments if the dress didn't fit very well.

The fabric was so stiff that I didn't use an embroidery hoop, and I was very careful not to send the stitches through the lining as well. In order to see the pattern I was following, I fused a tear-away stabilizer on top of the fabric. This allowed me to draw the pattern right on it in pen. However, the stabilizer was old and tended to separate a bit from the fabric, and it made it hard to precisely place my stitches. Not to mention that tearing it out is a pain and required that I pull some stitches back into place from the wrong side of the fabric. With some tenacity though, it all worked out well. The design is an amalgamation of a few things I liked from the internet, and I hope echoes the beautiful Mexican embroidery that inspired it.

The wedding itself was beautiful, and we had an amazing time relaxing with family and friends. Sayulita is very catered toward American tourists, which was both very comfortable and a little odd.

Here is the dress on location:

A pic with the fam:

With my fiance:

Being obnoxious after a few margaritas:

And the beautiful bride and groom:

Oh, and did I mention the place my aunt rented? Yeah, it was amazing and surprisingly affordable for two families.

To keep the good times rolling, I also wore my dress this past weekend to a meetup of the Bay Area Sewists for Frocktails - an idea we stole from the Aussies to have a night of frocks and cocktails. It was so much fun to be able to discuss the design with other people who sew, and also get inspired for new dresses by seeing what they wore!

This dress also has one more planned outing this year - another wedding on Cinco de Mayo so I can celebrate the battle of Puebla in style. 


  1. So beautiful!! The embroidery really adds a special detail perfect for the occasion. I just finished embroidering a black sheer wool dress and used water soluble stabilizer for the design and that worked rather well getting rid of t after I finished. It was my first time using it and I definitely recommend it.

    1. I’m going to have to give that a try, thank you!

  2. I saw it in person and this dress is perfection, looks like a high end designer item you would find in RTW. LOVE it!

  3. You’re so sweet, thank you!

  4. I also saw it in person at Frocktails and it is even more impressive up close! Lovely to meet you btw.

  5. That embroidery oh my gosh! Cynthia Rowley always makes really lovely patterns and this one is no exception. I think the upholstery-ish fabric worked perfectly for this dress. I make circle skirts out of upholstery fabric because I like the extra flounce but it's kind of hot in Brisbane to entertain the idea of a thick bodice.. maybe in Winter..

    1. Ooh I like the idea of a circle skirt in more rigid fabric. I wore this in Mexico this winter (~27 degrees C) and it wasn't too bad because there's not much covering you in the bodice.

  6. I was all revved up to applaud your dress until I got distracted BY THAT DONKEY. IT'S SO CUTE. WAS ITS NOSE SOFT?! Cough, ahem, the fit looks great, great balance of sexiness and class, beautiful embroidery, I'm ready for more farm animal pictures now.


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