Letting the fabric do the heavy lifting

I know I have already discussed my love of a shift dress. But, this is a recurring theme with me. I did some quick research and learned the origin of the shift dress is the 1920’s flapper dress. A shift dress falls straight from the shoulders, has a short length and the only shaping is darts around the bust-making it easier to “dance and move.”  This was a dramatic departure from the corseted styles that preceded it.  The shift dress was revived in a big way in the 1960s. You can find plenty of shift dress warnings:  Avoid looking like a paper bag!  Don’t go too loose or too tight!  Don’t be boring!  But, I say- no need for caution! The shift dress is super versatile and is still the perfect wardrobe choice for a modern lifestyle. I also favor this as a simple one and done wardrobe choice.


For this shift dress- the fabric does all of the heavy work.  This beautiful cotton woven with a repeating zig zag border makes this simple, straight-forward dress memorable.  Note the pattern is woven in- not printed- which gives the fabric extra soul.  The fabric is not tightly woven- but this also lends to the craft-like feel.


As I discussed previously, I favor a slight A-line shape and this dress is a true shift falling from the shoulders with bust darts.  The only real work for this project was in the layout.  Pattern placement took some forethought to ensure the horizontal border placement was optimal.  It took a bit of draping, and head scratching, but I think it worked out.


For this shift dress I used my tried and true Simplicity Cynthia Rowley 2584 pattern-now discontinued and modified the neckline and the sleeves.  It might seem like trouble to fiddle with those details- but I know the overall cut and shape are right- which makes minor details easy to sub out.

Once the pattern was placed and cut out- it was such a quick and satisfying make.

Shift Shape

This dress is a real workhorse. It couldn’t be more useful or easy.  It is a one and done outfit and it will work for all seasons. 

Let’s talk about the style first- I am a longtime fan of the shift dress.  It is well documented that a shift dress is pretty much timeless, ageless and universally flattering. But don’t be fooled by the simplicity of this style. A good shift takes thought and effort. The best shifts have shape and fit well.

For this shift dress I started with my well-worn Simplicity 2584 Cynthia Rowley pattern-regrettably now discontinued. There are so many shift dress patterns out there- but don’t be sidetracked by the sleeves or necklines. Find the cut that works best for your body and then you can swap out necklines and sleeves easily. This particular pattern is drafted with a narrow and subtly fitted back and slight A-line. The narrowed and curvy back gives the dress a nice shape.

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As much as I love this pattern, the dart placement is not optimal for me- so I have to fiddle with that. My short-cut, simple pattern hacking fix is to use a bodice front pattern piece from another pattern with a better fitting dart placement. I simply line up the waist line and shoulders and draw in a new dart. You will also note that I fiddled with the neckline - omitted the slit and opted for a plain jewel neck- and I modified the sleeves a bit.

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A useful dress for taking care of business!

Now let’s talk about the fabric: I used a nearly perfect cotton that I purchased from Mood Fabrics with a little bit of elastane for stretch.  I absolutely love this type of cotton stretch fabric because it has great body, it isn’t clingy, it doesn’t wrinkle and it moves with you!

This particular fabric is unavailable- but there are so many stretch cotton woven fabrics to choose from here.

Extra bonus- these black and white checks will work in every season- just add (or subtract) tights.