Dresses · Outerwear

The SOI shirt dress hack

Most of my sewing is quick wins, dreamt up and sewn in only a couple of days, however there are a few projects which take much longer. This post is about one such project.

Let’s rewind to a whole year ago to this photo.

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Its a photo taken during a weekend away in Leeds with my besties. I love this photo for lots of reason (coincidentally I’m wearing RTW), but I especially love the dress that my friend is wearing. I love the colour, the shape, the relaxed style of it, and the idea that a dress can have an exposed zip down the front and can be worn as a “jacket” in cooler weather.

So when my Abakhan’s fabric haul happened earlier in the year (I’ve still got over 10m of it left so don’t expect me to be shutting up about it any time soon!), the olive fabric reminded me so much of this dress that I knew I had to use that photo as inspiration and make my own take on it.

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I began with the Sew Over It Ultimate Shirt Dress. I then hacked it to make it more like the image I had in my head. Apart from the zip and lengthening the dress all the other hacks came about as I as sewing it up. The SOI shirt dress is a fairly vintage pattern, but for this dress I wanted a utilitarian look, so I replaced lots of the soft gathers and easing with pleats. Both the sleeve inserts and shoulder seams across the dress front call for gathering, but I’ve used pleats instead. The sleeves are also longer than my other versions, and I’ve added a chunky turn up to each sleeve, and a sleeve tab with a gold military looking button.

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The dress is a little big. I cut out a 14 and as its more true RTW sizes than the big 4, I tend to have this issue with SOI patterns. So for this reason, I’ve added 4 very wide (4 inch) belt loops which cover the pleats in the bodice and skirt pieces (which incidentally don’t quite line up and in this fabric its pretty obvious, so belt loops hiding this is great!). I then fashioned a wide belt out of a matching piece of fabric and cut the corners diagonally to finish.

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A dress is also ALWAYS better with pockets right? So as this was a hack-a-thon, I put pockets in. One blue and one burgundy (it wasn’t worth doing different colours, I had to do so much pressing to ensure they didn’t peep out!)

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I finally added a 21 inch open ended zip to complete the dress. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this, but I didn’t measure before I got the zip out of my stash, and the dress is longer than 21 inches! So I inserted the zip, starting where buttons would usually start, hoping it would be fine to leave a bit at the bottom of the skirt front which wasn’t fastened shut. Unfortunately this leaves it borderline indecent! So a bit of pondering later I decided to use the facings that run down both sides of the opening and a popper to bring them together and make sure it closes properly. To do this I had to cut the facing just above the zip so that it would fold out and become visible. I was also conscious that I wanted to make something that I could also wear as an overcoat, so wanted the fasting to be fairly discreet. I think this was a great solution and we are calling it a hack as opposed to a bodge job!

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Overall I’m really pleased with this dress. It took me a long time to complete as I really thought about these design features, and as a result I think I’ll treasure it that bit more (that and the memories this dress will always remind me of!). Sometimes slow sewing really does pay off.

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