We're deep in the middle of this hot, sticky summer. (See my hair in the next pic? It is that curly all the damn time now. Unstoppable.) A breezy, oversize shift dress is basically my July uniform. I sewed this lightweight denim one in about two hours this past Sunday. Keep reading! The free tutorial is down below if you'd like to see (plus a couple tips about using clothes you already have to draft patterns).
Awhile back at work we were cleaning out an old dark room in our building. Most of the stuff went to the school's photography department or into a dumpster, but we were welcome to take home whatever we wanted. I snagged a big roll of white paper, thinking I could use it as a backdrop for photography.
My photo style for the blog started moving in a more contextual direction, though, and I almost got rid of the paper. I'm glad I didn't! It really came in handy when I decided to create a reusable pattern for a simple shift dress.
The dress I used for the pattern was one I actually made a few weeks ago, using a linen dress I bought at a Monoprix in Paris (see it here) as a pattern for THAT. Using it as a pattern to make future dresses was actually part of my justification for buying the original dress!
I love the berry-colored linen of the one I made, and the fit is okay, but if we're talking about technical skills, that dress is not my best work (hi, mismatched shoulders). What I needed to do for this next one was take my time, measure twice, and pay attention to the details.
I started by folding the linen dress in half, and pinning it as carefully and smoothly as possible to the paper. Then, with a Sharpie, I traced around the shape of the dress. I decided to trace as closely to the fabric as possible with the marker, and left myself a note on the pattern piece to cut the fabric with a 1/2" seam allowance. I could have drawn the line with the seam allowance included; I'm not sure which is right, honestly. But this worked for me.
I traced and cut out FOUR pattern pieces: front of the dress (you can see that the collar is lower in front); back of the dress (the bottom of the back is lower for a subtle hi-lo); a collar piece; and a sleeve piece (with a note to cut two of these). If you're curious about what I mean by collar and sleeve pieces, click here for more details.
Here's where I'll stop for a sec with the patterns, and say you can use a dress that you already have that fits you well as a pattern by folding it in half longwise and pinning it onto the new fabric.
To make this simple summer shift dress, you will need:
- 2 yards of fabric (linen or lightweight denim)
- A dress that fits you well, or a paper pattern made from a dress that fits you well
- Pins, complementary thread, and a sewing machine
- Heat 'n Bond tape (or similar), iron
Wash, dry, and iron your fabric. Fold it longwise. Pin your pattern or pattern dress to the fabric, and cut out each piece (five total: front, back, collar, two sleeve pieces). Make sure you're doing your seam allowance correctly, however it works for you.
Fold the newly attached collar piece in (see animation below) and pin. Roll down the back collar twice and pin (as though you are double-hemming). Fold the sleeves inward and pin, as you did the collar. Sew in place.
Now we're going to make sure those newly-folded-in and sewed-down pieces stay put, even while you're wearing the dress. Slip a piece of Heat 'n Bond tape between the flap and the inside of the dress. Following tape instructions, use the iron to activate the tape and adhere the flaps to the inside of the dress. Use as many pieces of tape as you need, and try to avoid wrinkles.
Iron and double-hem the bottom of the dress.
I don't want to sound braggy, and this dress isn't perfect. But if we're talking technical skills, this is the best I've ever done! I'm so proud. And I'm really excited to have a reusable pattern now so I can make a thousand more.
I guess I was kind of slow to warm to the enamel pin thing. But I saw that Hillary Clinton one where Kristie works, and I had to get it! Which meant I had to get more, so I could have a nice curated little group. And now I think I'm obsessed. (Sources below!)
I'm working on a way to store this, and hopefully future, sewing patterns. I can't wait to show you!
Shoes: c/o Sven Clogs (remember when I wore them in Paris?)
Tote bag: ModernWomen via Womencrafts in Provincetown
Enamel pins: Hillary (The Found via Cedar Chest); French poodle (Emily McDowell Studio via Essentials); Wild & Free tiger (Hello!Lucky via Essentials); I <3 Rainbows and Shut Up Kitty both from Cedar Chest
*A few of these are affiliate links. This is not a sponsored post.