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.

My long term relationship with the shirt dress

I stumbled across this Vogue 7415 shirt dress pattern in my collection recently that is quite possibly from the 1990’s -well, maybe not that old. I was drawn to this pattern again; the slightly larger collar and broader shoulder looked appealing and fresh. 

I have been making and wearing shirt dresses forever. A shirt dress is polished for work but laid back for weekend, social and travel wear. A shirt dress is almost always appropriate. Besides it’s versatility- a shirt dress is an enduring style in any iteration.  You can fiddle with collar size, sleeves, fitted or oversized silhouette, straight or flared skirt, etc.  Whatever spin on the shirt dress you choose, you will always look smart. That’s why I am committed long term to the shirt dress.


Why hadn’t I made this pattern up previously? It is a “stretch knits only” pattern, and that may have been a stumbling block previously. But today, there are so many choices for knit. I used a perfect stretch fabric from emma one sock- seriously the best.  It is lightweight and even though it is stretchy it is super stable with great recovery.  The project was super quick- there are only a few pattern pieces.  I could have been done in a few hours if not for my mix-up with the sleeve placket.  The actual sewing of the placket was easy and successful….EXCEPT- I put them in backwards.  So, I had to do some seam ripping.  I seem to be refining my unpicking skills these days more than my sewing tricks.  I believe when I was younger, I would have settled for backwards cuffs- but now I have the patience and perspective to take another minute and get it right.


See- the plackets are in correctly now and perfectly functional and lovely. I feel very laid back and at ease in this comfortable dress. But, it is also very boss looking- probably should be leaning in to the work week.

This pattern has a great cut and fit. And with a multitude of knit fabrics to choose from, I intend to makes this again. I have no doubt this will be a wardrobe mainstay with the winning combination of polish and comfort.


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.

IMG_0601 (1).jpg

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.

IMG_0639 (1).jpg

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.