Firstly, a big thanks to Sarah, Suzy and Monika for coming up with and hosting the #sewtogetherforsummer shirt dress IG challenge for the summer.  I had no idea what I would make and if I would definitely join in.  I found 3 vintage shirtdress patterns in my stash, made a Named Helmi (which I love) but nothing was jumping into my head that seemed worthy of entry into the challenge, not when I’ve seen some really incredible and some really simple but beautiful makes coming out all over my feed, and then…!

Where do I even begin with this dress!  It might not be everyone’s cup of tea but I love it.

Let’s start with the fabric.  I bought this African Wax print last year from the fantastic Empire Textiles and it was a buttery soft, lightweight voile and I loved all 6 yards of it.  I made an incredible Elisalex backless dress for my friend’s wedding in Sicily and it was perfect for the hot weather.  Fast forward to now and I was cleansing my stash and an idea gripped me when I found the fabric.  An awesome gathered maxi skirt!  This idea quickly evolved into … halter neck backless shirt dress! Of course.

I came home from date night on Saturday  17th, a couple of days before the #sewtogetherforsummer competition ended and started cutting up my idea so it would be ready to assemble, hopefully before the 21st.  Is anyone else a major impulse sewer?  I have a project backlog a mile long, items half made and garments for friends to do but then an idea will take me and I need to make it immediately.  That’s what this dress was for me.  I knew it would look amazing, I just had to get it off the ground, because, alas, I didn’t technically have a pattern…In order to make the skirt I just cut 2 rectangles and gathered the hell out of them and created some in seam pockets – because life is nothing without pockets – and achieved the full airy skirt I was hoping for.  Don’t know if anyone noticed, but the UK is having a little bit of sun right now, it’s even reached us here in Aberdeen so I may actually need a summer wardrobe this year.

The bodice was a little more tricky – I’ve taken a Princess seam bodice and made the following changes:

  • Added 4cm to the fold line – no longer cut on fold, the 4cm will be folded into a placket.
  • Extended the front centre up towards the neckline using the Kalle Shirt Dress pattern as a guide and traced the top of the button placket and the first 2” of the neckline (because Kalle is the collar I’ve used).
  • Removed side strap areas and created a curve round and under the arms lowering into the back.
  • Using the corresponding back pieces for my bodice I’ve taken 2/3 off the pattern so it becomes backless, but still stable, and added a curve so it follows the front bodice curve.

pattern hack

I’m terrible at explaining a pattern hack, so I’m sorry if that makes no sense.  In my little diagram the light purple shows what I kept of original bodice, dark purple is added and red is removed.


It was no trouble to attach the collar, however I only had medium interfacing at home so the collar is VERY STRUCTURED.  But this also means it is very stable, the halter won’t warp and my dress will definitely stay in place.

To finish this masterpiece off, I’ve used a perfectly corresponding light orange bias binding, yellow zip and I’ve rolled the hem.

I’ve loved seeing all the shirt dress variations coming up on Instagram and can’t wait to see the winners, my money is on @melishasimonecollection and her breath-taking Carolina Herrera inspired dress. WOW.

Happy Summer Sewing everyone!

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