I’m a pattern person. I NEED a pattern to tell me what to do–I even like to match up the fabric shown on a sewing pattern envelope with colors I will use. Sometimes I’ll change up the color scheme in a knitting pattern, but that’s pretty much living on the edge for me.
Color is also something that tends to allude me. I own a few bold pieces, but I bust them out pretty much never. Varying shades of brown is about as colorful as I get.
Then I saw this and had to have it:
It’s colorful. It’s satiny. It screamed to me in the fabric store, “make something crazy out of me and wear it proudly!” AND it was 70% off, bringing it to about $4/yard. I bought two yards and sort of stared at it like this for awhile. I knew it would be something flowy–definitely a dress, very stylish, and very hip. Some lady at the cutting counter told me it would look really cute as a caftan. I came home, Googled “caftan” and thought I would try it. Out of scrap first. I did not want to mess this up.
The problem with caftans is, they look cute when your arms are down (like the photo), but do anything with your arms and it looks like you’re at risk of flying away:
I wanted to be stylish, but maybe not quite this stylish. Then I thought: “I’ll cut two rectangles, throw in elastic around the middle, and decide if I want to add sleeves later.” This going-without-a-pattern-thing seemed pretty easy.
My two rectangles were about 5″ larger than my hip measurement–use your bust measurement if that’s larger than your hip measurement. I made the rectangles about as long as my knee with enough extra on each side to hem.
There’s a great pillowcase top tutorial where I got the measurements for armhole placement. I hemmed the top (I simply serged the edges then folded that under for the hem), sewed the sides together, and ended up with this:
I really liked the way the neck draped, so I decided to keep it that way.
Then I hemmed the bottom.
I think I would have really liked this dress sleeveless, but see the bottom? All that nice blue and purple got cut off. I needed to have the dark color–it just made the fabric so complete. so I measured from my shoulder to my elbow and made the sleeves nice and big–about 12×20.” I decided I wanted a keyhole sleeve, so I cut from the middle of the sleeve bottom to about 2″ from the top of the sleeve and made simple rolled hem to finish the opening. I sewed the sleeves, right sides together, at the side seam, then hemmed the bottom of the sleeve.
To insert the sleeve, you need to turn the garment inside out but keep the sleeve turned right-side out–any sewing pattern with sleeves will explain it in more detail.
Cute, eh? Almost done!
The one problem with this dress so far is the back of the dress–it drapes just like the front–uncool. So, I threw in a dart and sewed it so the back laid flat against my own back.
Finally, the elastic needs to be sewn in. I will be honest–I totally took the clever/lazy way of sewing in elastic–it was a lot harder, but it had to be this way, because that’s how the pattern in my head went (see? still following patterns).
So I measured my natural waistline, subtracted 2 inches, and then sewed that together to make a loop. Then I turned the dress inside out and pinned the elastic in place, stretching it A LOT (because the elastic was more than 10″ smaller than the rectangles!). This made it pretty difficult to sew, but I liked the end result:
Ta-da! Looks great on the dress form, now time to try it on.
It looks…ok. A bit dumpy, a bit clownish. My personal fashion assistant (aka my sister-in-law) suggested a shorter hem and no sleeves.
I was not about to give up the sleeves. No way. So, I made the sleeves totally split (remember when that was cool in the early 2000s?) and shortened it a touch. And added heels.
Not too shabby! The next time a fabric screams at you, indulge, go without a pattern, and remember: a dress is really two rectangles and a bit of elastic =)