June 7, 2012

2-in-1 Sew-Along: Selecting Fabric

Simplicity 1880 calls for challis, crepe back satin, crepe de chine, silk or rayon types, voile, double georgette and linen and linen blends. What does that all mean? To start, these are all woven fabrics. I think you could potentially use a stretch woven too - like a stretch cotton sateen or stretch cotton poplin. Sometimes it's helpful to narrow down fabrics by considering the style. Let's start with the shirt dress view.

When considering the shirt dress, I think it's important to consider structure. This style has a collar and collars usually mean interfacing which means that stability is factor in how that thing is going to lay. While you could very well make this style in a drapey silk crepe de chine, you might find that a simple cotton or linen will fare better, especially in the collar area. When you're at the fabric store or shopping online, consider looking specifically for shirtings, cotton midweights, cotton lawns or voiles and linens as these have stability, yet some drape to them.  To give you an idea of what this means with regards to fabric selection, I've decided to make 2 shirt dress views - one with the cap sleeve and one with the 3/4 sleeve. For the cap sleeve version, I've picked a cotton double gauze. This fabric has some nice properties including a stability that will work well with the collar, but a bit of drape that will work nicely with the skirt.
For the 3/4 sleeve version, I've selected a window pane check linen/cotton blend. This fabric reads fall-like season to me and so I felt that it paired well with the 3/4 sleeve. It has similar properties to the cotton double gauze, but is slightly stiffer yet has a lot of weight which means that the skirt will hang well. These kinds of fabrics, the linen/cotton and cotton double gauze, tend to stand away from the body a bit.
The wrap dress has a much less structured appeal to it and those gathers/pleats in the bodice at the yoke and waistline add a softness that could be highlighted in a drapey fabric. The same gathers and pleats are in the shirt dress style, but I'm saying that you could highlight them in different ways that corresponds to the style of the dress. For the wrap dress version, look for rayon challis, crepe fabrics, those kind of fabrics labelled "silkies," double georgettes, etc.  I've selected a vintage cold rayon from the 40s which is very similar to silk crepe de chine. This fabric will tend to hug my curves more than the cotton and linen types, yet slither right over them too.
I've determined to line my skirt sections of each of these dresses as well and have chosen some rayon bemberg lining for the task. I'll show you how to line the skirts in the upcoming posts, so if you're interested, definitely get some lining for that. How much will you need? Two skirt lengths. Measure the length of the skirt (please factor in if you intend to lengthen the skirt) and then purchase two lengths of lining. If your skirt is going to be 30" long (76.2 cm), 2 skirt lengths would be about 1 5/8 yards (1.5 meters).
Sometimes it's also really helpful to look at some inspiration images and give names to the fabric properties in the image. This ensures that you develop the look you want without a ton of trial and error. Have a look at this shirtdress:
I notice right away that the skirt stands away from her body. See how it kind of keeps its shape and doesn't cling to her curves. This is what a cotton fabric will do. This is probably a cotton sateen.
Same idea going on here. I see that the fabric has structure, yet still has some drape. The collar looks like it holds its shape, yet the skirt has some nice folds in it and aren't stiff as a board.

Let's compare those with these:
See how the fabric is laying against the body? It kind of falls in pools about and on the body. Very liquid almost. This is more like a rayon challis or possibly silk crepe kind of fabric.
This one is very drapey too and highlights the pleats in the garment softly. You can see from the belt/sash on this dress that the fabric is not as stiff as the shirt dresses exhibited above.

I think this gives you an idea of what I'm thinking. You might be thinking something totally different and that doesn't mean that it won't work! Definitely go with what you feel is the right thing. In sewing our own clothing we get to try whatever we want and see what works and what doesn't.

For more 2-in-1 Sew-Along posts, click here.



  1. I usually try to support my local shops whenever possible, but you're tempting me with these links! So much prettiness....

  2. Hopefully it helps that these shops have real people behind them - instead of robots!

  3. Yay! And just today I was looking at Fashion Sewing Supply for interfacing. I'll have to pop back over and make my purchase. :D

    And of the fabrics, of course my eye went straight to the Liberty print... swoon!

  4. Argh, this is soooo tempting! I can't believe I haven't spotted this pattern before ... I've got some amazing fabric and I can't decide what pattern to go for and now you've added 1880 to my list of possibilities. What to do!?

    Have you got any idea how this pattern sizes up in terms of ease? I don't like loads of ease as it swamps me and I annoyingly fall into a size 14, so if that's too big, I'll have bought the wrong size range of pattern, if I've explained that clearly (a bit tired, sorry!).

    Thank you so much for running such an awesome sewalong - even if I can't join in, I'll definitely be looking forward to seeing your tips and tricks!

  5. I'll admit that I always cut out a size 12, which fits me pretty great in the bust and shoulder area. But in the waist and hips, I should go down like 2 sizes since I always take in an inordinate amount of fabric in that area. I have a fairly tricky shoulder adjustment - which most people don't have - but I'm sure you would be fine with a size 12 if the size 14 normally drowns you a bit.

  6. I love Liberty prints too! They are definitely swoon worthy!

  7. Good morning Sunni!
    Your inspiration boards and discounts are wonderful and have me encouraged me to reconsider this sew-along. I think I must join and take advantage of all these great offerings - thank you for putting this together! I hesitated because I'm using another pattern, Simplicity 2215. What do you think?

  8. Oh its so similar that I think it would be just fine to follow along with us! Plus the discounts are for my readers, whether they be those who do want to participate or those who don't. Pick up extra trappings for future projects too!

  9. Wow, I've just discovered some new fabric shops. This is a fun way to lay this all out. You have such an infectious way of inspiring us to sew, Sunni. (And I love the new "sartorial sewing" bit!) If I have some time, I might just join this sew-along as I adore shirtdresses and this is a cute and so do-able pattern.

  10. Um, OK, you've twisted my arm! Lilac linen for me, and some Petersham from your shop (so hard to find real petersham) and....Off to trace off my pattern!

  11. Yay! So happy! And I'm sure the lilac linen will be gorgeous on you!

  12. Oh I do so hope you'll join Amy! And I'm happy to have helped you find some new fabric shops. I LOVE finding new fabric resources - its a serious addiction.

  13. Thanks for the advice! I think I'll go for the smaller set of sizes - I can always add a smidge if need be! Looking forward to it!!

  14. awww, i am so busy but so tempted to join the sew along. what do you think of quilting cotton. I have 3 yards of amy butler that i've been saving in my stash, do you think it is appropriate for the shirt dress? http://www.ebay.com/itm/Amy-Butler-Love-Memento-Midnight-Purple-Floral-Cotton-Quilt-Quilting-Fabric-Yd-/310400210542#ht_911wt_1141

  15. Oh that is rather nice! I'm not partial to quilting cotton myself, but I'm always surprised at how well some of the clothing people make from it turn out. Go for it! I think your print is just right and the coloring looks lovely too! Plus it will make a really nice and crisp shirt dress!

  16. Once I got to Low Price Fabrics, I fell in love with their selection and ended up with some lovely sea green Armani linen. Plus some amazing Ikat and batik. So, thanks for the discount ;) They are almost local to me (if I really stretch my imagination) - I see a visit in my near future. Thanks for finding them for me!

    I always use interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply - I buy an assortment of it twice a year. This discount is awesome too!!

  17. Hi there,

    Oh there must be a spirit of Simplicity 1880 in the air I started sewing the cap sleeve version at the end of May and just getting round to finishing it now. If I'd waited a bit longer I would have sewn a long with you. I have to say though I keep dipping in and having a look as I want to make another already :)


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