Carnaby Dress

Nina Lee



Buy the Carnaby Dress sewing pattern from Nina Lee. A simple shift dress with in seam pockets, Carnaby comes in two variations: with or without short sleeves. The dress is finished with neck facings and closes with an exposed zip at the centre-back, complete with simple zip guard. The instructions are comprehensive, so it doesn’t matter if you’ve never tackled an exposed zip before – you’ll enjoy it!

What we think: Who doesn’t love a dress with pockets? This simple shape looks great on most body types, and if you spend the time to get the fit perfect you won’t regret it!

Suggested fabrics: Medium-weight woven fabrics, such as lightweight denim, corduroy, lightweight wool, cotton sateen.

Fabric requirements: 150 cm (60″) wide fabric: Views A and B, 1.4 m (1 1/2 yd) // 115 cm (45″) wide fabric: View A, 1.7 – 2.7 m (1 7/8 – 2 7/8 yd); View B, 1.7 – 2.5 m (1 7/8 – 2 3/4 yd).

Sizing: UK 6 – 20. Please check the size chart and finished garment measurements.

Notions: 8″ exposed (non-separating) zipper; 0.6 m (View A) or 0.3 m (View B) medium-weight fusible interfacing; 23 cm x 4 cm (9″ x 1.5″) piece of grosgrain ribbon (for the zip guard).

This sewing pattern is available in PAPER and PDF formats. The PDF pattern will be available immediately for download after purchase.

PDF pattern includes: Instructions, print-at-home pattern suitable for A4 and US letter size paper; A0 (print shop) file.

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Additional information


Denim / Corduroy, Jacquard / Brocade, Linen, Silk / Satin / Sateen, Wools / Suiting


UK 6 / US 2 / EU 34, UK 8 / US 4 / EU 36, UK 10 / US 6 / EU 38, UK 12 / US 8 / EU 40, UK 14 / US 10 / EU 42, UK 16 / US 12 / EU 44, UK 18 / US 14 / EU 46, UK 20 / US 16 / EU 48

Sewing level

Confident Beginner

Make time

All day

Pattern format


PDF Printing

26 pages

Please leave a review

4.75 out of 5 stars

4 reviews

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What others are saying

  1. Avatar

    4 out of 5 Shift dress with options for customising


    This is a well-designed shift dress in two sections, enabling colour-blocking for the bodice and skirt. The pockets are inset into the seam between the bodice and skirt, so that you can use contrasting fabric which will subtly peek out. I made the sleeveless version and my review photo shows the exposed zip at the back, an interesting feature of the pattern. I used a linen/cotton mix and am very pleased with the result. It would be good in denim, corduroy, cotton poplin, lightweight wool – something with a bit of structure.
    The pattern envelope has attractive line drawings, the pattern is printed on sturdy paper and the instruction booklet is comprehensive. It’s a straightforward sew and took me about a day to make. The exposed zip is a bit tricky but if preferred could be changed for another style or left out altogether – I can get the sleeveless version on and off without unfastening the zip. I made a straight size 12 and found it true to size.
    The one slight downside is that, although the pattern includes finished garment measurements, it doesn’t give the finished length, and there are no lengthen or shorten lines on the pattern. This could be an issue if you have a long or short torso, which would affect where the bodice/skirt seam hits. Personally I was a bit concerned that the skirt might be more mini than I prefer and wasn’t quite sure where to add length. In the end I just added a couple of inches to the skirt length. I’m 5’4” and with the extra length it finishes just above my knee.
    With that small caveat I found this an excellent pattern which I’ll definitely make again.

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  2. One person found this helpful

    5 out of 5 Simple dress with well written pattern


    This is a simple shift dress but it has pockets, which is brilliant! The pattern itself is beautifully presented, on nice thick paper that doesn’t tear and with a really helpful instruction booklet. I found it (mostly) a pleasure to sew, with the exception of the exposed zip which was fiddly and I couldn’t get it 100% right even after a few tries. I am size 16 but made size 18 as I like it to be loose. There is a bit of excess fabric at the back and I considered adding a couple of darts. If I did it again I would cut the front neckline lower to make it more of a scoop neck, as I find it too high. I made it in thin denim, which is possibly a bit too stiff but hopefully it will soften with time. I made the facing in contrast fabric to match the pockets, but of course you can’t see these when you’re wearing it! Lots of lessons learned here for me, but certainly a pattern to repeat.

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    • rachael hunter

      Would this fit a “good size”18 a s you say you went up a size ?
      I love the Nina lee patterns but seems each has a different fit on me so alway have to be careful

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  3. Avatar

    5 out of 5 Summer dress


    Pattern: Carnaby Dress, Nina Lee – a simple shift dress, perfect for playing with pattern and colour. With separate skirt and bodice pieces, you can easily create a striking colour block effect or keep it subtle with just a pop of contrast in the pockets. It has two variations: with or without short sleeves (View A is sleeveless; View B has sleeves).

    Sizing: 6 to 20 UK

    Fabric: 1.5 m of John Kaldor Cotton Sateen

    Notions: 21 cm exposed (non-separating) zipper, 0.6 m fusible interfacing, 23 cm x 4 cm grosgrain ribbon (for the zip guard)

    Modifications: I graded between sizes 8 and 10 at the bust. Overall size 8 but traced out to size 10 at the bust to avoid doing an FBA. Also, I reduced the centre back length on the bodice by 1.5 cm but leaving the side seam as they were.

    Fit: all right

    Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?: Yes

    Watch out for: If you are adding the zipper guard, make sure you make it longer than the zipper.

    Make Again?: Yes, I want one version of this dress with sleeves as well. I will also use fabric that has more weight such as corduroy or denim. I am tempted by colour blocking or using a contrast fabric for the pockets.

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  4. Avatar

    5 out of 5 Quick make + pockets = YAY


    Nina describes the Carnaby as “a simple shift dress with just enough features to keep things interesting” and I can’t think of a more perfect way to describe it! The construction is simple and the large front and back bodice panels mean that this would be a great pattern for showcasing bold patterns with little interruption from darts or seams. Another major plus: this pattern actually works really well in quilting cotton and I made both versions in Cotton and Steel medium weight cotton. The exposed zip at the back is a little fiddly (if you’ve never done one before!) although Nina’s instructions and illustrations are really helpful and clear. I actually managed to leave it out of my second one as I found I could get the dress on and off without undoing the zip.
    I’ve now made two versions: with and without sleeves, although I wear the sleeveless one a lot more as I love a bit of layering! I made them both about a year ago, and now recognise that I would ideally have done a taken a chunk out of the front and back neckline as these are a little gapey on me, but this is something I find with most patterns rather than a fault with the pattern.
    I wrote a blog post about my Carnabys for Sew Me Sunshine:

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  5. Avatar


    The Carnaby dress is a cute shift dress. It can be made as a sleeveless shift or with short sleeves, which I opted for. The separate skirt allows for colour blocking and the in seam pockets and exposed zip add cute contemporary style features.
    I found the pattern true to size with good instructions and line drawings. I inserted my first exposed zip without trauma so they must be good.
    I used a medium stretch denim with a contrasting cotton fabric for the pockets. I lined the skirt panels as I knew I would want to wear the dress with tights. This is one of my favourite makes I wear it with long sleeved t-shirts in colder weather and as a shift dress in the summer.
    I like to take my time when sewing but speedy sewers will find this a quick make.

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  6. One person found this helpful


    Decided to make this dress after seeing it on a YouTube sewing blog. And it really stands up to the expectations I had after reading the introduction on the NinaLee web site. Bought the paper pattern and its a lovely package with good quality paper pattern and a sewing booklet manual for the dress. I find the dress true to size and made just small alterations on the shoulder and went for a longer length on the skirt. Decided not to sew the sleeves in flat but in the round. Wil definitely make more versions of this dress, the sleeveless version is also really nice.

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