A Dress of Envy – Atonement

My very gorgeous cousin in law was going to a wedding at St Paul’s Cathedral and she asked me to make her a dress. Aha,  I thought, another one to add to the recreating vintage list.

When asked what sort of dress she would like, she replied “that green dress in Atonement”. Hmmm – not just any dress, that green dress in Atonement – who doesn’t want that green dress? I have lusted after that dress since the first time I saw it.

Kiera Knightley, Atonement, Green Dress

The problem is – it’s one hell of a complicated dress!

I won’t go into a full description of the construction of the Atonement dress as there is  an excellent article on threadbythread, which does the job very nicely but needless to say it is a labour of love.

Kiera Knightley, Atonement, Green Dress

I searched my vintage patterns sites for a similar pattern but couldn’t find one and, since reading the above articles, I now realise why. The pattern is actually a combination of 20s, 30s and 40s features – it didn’t actually exist at the time.

So we concentrated on finding a pattern that had similar ruching in the front, a delicate back and a full skirt. We finally found a Vogue pattern (V8556) which would be more than adequate.

Vogue pattern, Atonement, Kiera Knightley

So armed with green satin we beavered away.

I have to admit I didn’t do this project alone, sometimes you just can’t do without your mum. There was even a late night phone call to my grandmother, in South Africa, for advice on attaching a zip to a ruched bodice. It turned into a family affair.

The ruching was rather difficult – since without sitting on the body it looked as if it wasn’t going to ruche at all. It needs the stretch to bring the fabric together. A good few headaches later regarding a strategy on how to actually get into the  dress, we finally completed our Atonement Dress.

Miranda and I were doing the makeup at the wedding so fortunately I was able to see her hair and makeup and take some pics before she went off to the ceremony.

Martin, the hairdresser just casually twisted Miranda’s hair into a gorgeous setting at the back – perfect for the little feather comb I had made for her hair. We finished accessorizing with my favourite gold dress clips and gold earrings.

She looked fabulous (even if I do say so myself).

Green 1930s Dress, AtonementGreen 1930s Dress, Atonement, Kiera Knightley,

The Green Dress, Atonement, Kiera Knightley

Green 1930s Dress, Atonement, Kiera KnightleyGreen 1930s Dress, Atonement, Kiera Knightley, Back

Against the railings of an London Street, she really did look like she had just come out of the 1930s. I’m really quite jealous now  – I just might need to make another one. Oh, my mum is blaspheming behind me – perhaps not!

On that note I am now on the hunt for my next vintage recreation – any suggestions gratefully received.

Phew, this challenge I have set myself is sure keeping me out of mischief!


  1. I love this dress. In fact I think I love it more than the original Atonement one! Miranda looks incredible in it. she’s so lucky to have a talented friend (and friend’s mum!) to make a beautiful dress like this to fit her perfectly. I love how you have styled the outfit. Makes me want to have a wedding to go to myself!

  2. M&Ms

    This dress is gorgeous!! Well done to you and your Mum, you did a great job and all the styling works so well. What a fab dress to wear to a wedding.

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