Dallia Shift Dress

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Easy shift dress


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Dallia Shift Dress Sewing Avenue
Dallia Shift Dress Front View

So iconic and every woman’s best friend but how did it all start, how did it come about?

A quick google search for the shift dress will bring up so many choice options. You can have them with long, short or no sleeves, collars or no collars, round, ‘V’ or square neckline and in virtually any length and colour you choose.

This is a classic and timeless dress shape which is incredibly easy for any woman of any size, shape or age to wear. It is a fabulously simple design which hangs comfortably from the shoulders and is roomy enough to “shift” about over the body rather than cling to it’s curves. Making it the perfect dress for those days when you want something a bit less clingy!

Who conceived the shift dress?

Well there are three contenders who claim that they were the designer of the first shift dress and all have a valid claim in their own way.

Firstly there is Lilly Pulitzer. She was an American socialite who lived in Palm Beach Florida. She had asked her dressmaker to design and make simple dresses for her to wear while she helped out on her fruit farm. The dresses had just two basic bust darts and were made in bright, summery, cotton colours. When her friend Jacqueline Kennedy was photographed wearing one of the dresses on vacation and the picture appeared in Life Magazine, the world started to want them. Lily began selling more dresses than fruit and in 1959 the Lilly Pulitzer clothing label was born.

Secondly is Hubert de Givenchy who designed the famous black dress worn by Audrey Hepburn in the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s in 1961. It was a simple black Knee length shift dress. He also made very similar dresses for many of his clients, including Jacqueline Kennedy and Princess Grace of Monaco.

Thirdly is the designer Mary Quant. Famous for creating the mini skirt in 1966, she gave the shift dress a new twist by making it much shorter and bringing the style to a whole new audience.

So why after fifty years is this enduring style still with us?  What is it’s appeal?

Just  last week at the Mercedes Benz New York fashion week, there were designers sending their shift dresses down the runway. Henry Holland had bold floral designs, Desigual used bright colours as did Vivian Tam and Hanae Mori to name just a few. Even current celebrities such as Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, Katy Perry and Kate Middleton have been photographed recently in versions of the dress.

For the sewist, the style endures because the simplicity of the shift dress means that it is the ideal first dress project to make for yourself as the pattern alterations and fitting are so minimal. For the more advanced dressmaker though, the shift dress lends itself to adaptation and design experimentation. The lucidity of the basic pattern means that it can be easily manipulated to take advantage of changing fashion trends such as a more generous or a slimmer fit. Gathers or pleating can be added, it can be a shorter or longer length, with sleeves or no sleeves and embellishments such as collar, button down front and colour blocking.

Dallia Dress Pattern - Fashion Flat
Dallia Dress Pattern – Fashion Flat

The shift dress I’ve made today is in a black and white patterned crepe fabric. I didn’t worry too much about the pattern matching as it is a very busy design but it is matched across the back seam.

Dallia Shift Dress Back View Sewing Avenue
Dallia Shift Dress Back View

There is no zip, Just a  loop and button fastenung in the back. It is a dream dress to make, very easy and would work well in most fabrics. I have decided to make this version just above knee length but I have made them longer and shorter before. By changing the type of fabric used, you can ensure that this is truly a dress for all of the seasons.


Dallia Dress Construction Back detail Sewing Avenue
Dallia Dress Construction Back detail
Dallia Dress Construction Back loop detail Sewing Avenue
Dallia Dress Construction Back loop detail

I am excited to announce that I am calling this dress the Dallia Shift Dress and it is going to be one of the patterns that I make available for you to download from my collection later in the year.

Dallia Shift Dress Sewing Avenue
Dallia Shift Dress with short sleeves


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Happy Sewing


Red Bodycon Dress

Hello and welcome to my sewing blog

How about a bit of scuba diving?

I get very excited by innovation in fabric technology. It is moving very rapidly, especially in the field of sports wear and practical outerwear clothing manufacture. One of these relatively new fabrics which has made its way through the production process and is now both available to the home sewist and cheap enough to be affordable is Scuba.

Red Bodycon Dress- Sewing Avenue Blog
Red Bodycon Dress – Valentine’s Red

A couple of weeks ago I took myself out on the first fabric shopping spree of 2015, and one of the fabrics I was very excited to find and bring back home was a brilliantly vibrant red scuba knit. I’ve seen scuba fabric before, of course, both in fabric shops but also made up in designer’s RTW collections.

So what is scuba fabric?

Scuba is a fine gauge double-knit fabric made from polyester and lycra. It is quite a dense, thick fabric with a definite stretch in the horizontal direction and a slighter stretch in the vertical. It has a very smooth surface and a squishy, bouncy feel when squashed between the fingers. A bit like Neoprene, wet suiting (that’s the connection to the scuba diving!). Unlike some jersey fabrics which can stretch out of shape quickly, scuba has a good “memory”, meaning that it returns well to it’s original shape. As with all stretch fabrics though it is important to determine which direction has the most stretch and ensure that this is the direction which will go around the form of the body. I know this sounds obvious but it is easy to forget to look at this.
Scuba is now readily available in a wide range of bright, bold colours and many prints. It seems to wash well, holding its shape but it doesn’t hang or flow like regular dress fabric. Scuba tends to be used to make figure hugging clothing with only basic construction seems, no fancy darts for shaping, and for making leggings.

It is very easy to sew and also easy to wear.

Making my bodycon dress

Even though I don’t have the hour glass figure of someone like Kim Kardashian, who has made the body con dress so iconically famous, I thought I would have a go at making myself one anyway and as it was Valentines day only yesterday, why not make it in red?

I’ve used the same pattern for this red dress as I did for my Purple BodyCon dress a few months ago. I sketched out a few ideas on paper and played about with fabric before making my final pattern decision of staying with the bodycon style.

Red Bodycon Dress- Sewing Avenue Blog
Red Bodycon Dress Sketch

The sewing pattern for this stretch fabric had to be very basic with a minimum of construction and detail, therefore the bodycon pattern would be perfect.

Before starting with cutting out the fabric, I remeasured myself, especially my waist measurement and hip measurement. I wanted the bodycon dress to be just that, to follow the contours of my body rather than hang from the body like a shift dress would do. I made a few modifications to the pattern length as well, adding four inches at the hem and made the sleeves a little longer as it is still winter here! I have also tapered the shape of the bottom of the dress in towards the body at the hem to again accentuate the natural curves of my body.

How to sew scuba fabric

Red Bodycon Dress- Sewing Avenue Blog
Sewing Scuba Fabric with Sewing Machine

This is the very first time I have ever had the opportunity to sew with scuba knit fabric, both me and the machine were up for the challenge! (A new needle and a bit of an oiling). I used a stretch stitch setting on the sewing machine with the tension set to heavy jersey and it stitched together remarkably easily.
I tried the basic body of the dress on to check for size, before the sleeves were set in. When I was satisfied with the finished fit I serged/overlocked the seams together which also cut off the excess fabric from the seam allowance. Then the sleeves were attached and the remaining seams around the armholes serged to cut off the bulk of the seam allowance. I made a neckband by cutting a length of the scuba out on the fabric bias. I was unsure about this because the bias stretch of the fabric was not as great as the horizontal stretch. It seems to work well as a neckband though and I have top stitched around it to make the finish look neat.

The scuba fabric feels nice to wear against the skin and moves with me when I move, its not at all restrictive, even though the dress is quite tight!

Red Bodycon Dress - Sewing Avenue Blog
Red Bodycon Dress – Valentine’s Red

How to determine the stretchability of a knit fabric

Knit fabrics vary greatly in their amount of stretchability, so whether you are going to use a thin t-shirt jersey, a Poni Roma or a Scuba fabric, it is good to know if your fabric will have the required amount of stretch for the pattern you are using. If you are using a commercial packet pattern it will probably detail whether the pattern is suitable for slight, moderate or super stretch fabric. Knowing what this means and how to assess it is important.

To test the stretchability of your knit fabric you will need a 4 inch/10cm long section of the fabric and a piece of paper or card at 6 inches long. Mark 4 inches out on the card. Hold one edge of your fabric length at the edge of your 4 inch measurement on the card and pull it to stretch the fabric comfortably. Mark the point on the card where the fabric has stretched to. If it stretched out to about 4 ½-4 ¾ inches then it is a slight stretch knit, 4¾-5½ is moderate stretch and up to 6 inches is super stretch.
Notice as well after stretching, whether the fabric returns to it’s original dimensions or not. A knit which does not recover it’s shape well may have a tendency to sag with washing or wear. No one wants saggy bits!

Red Bodycon Dress- Sewing Avenue Blog
Red Bodycon Dress – Finished Dress

Please leave any comments below. Also subscribe to the newsletter and follow me on google+facebook, twitter and bloglovin to keep in touch.

Happy Sewing