When I bought this fabric, I was very, very torn. Dress, blouse, or skirt? It really begged to be made into a dress, but I knew that was I needed more at the moment was tops and skirts.
My solution? Make all three!
By making a 2-piece set, I could have something that looked like a dress, but I could just as easily wear the pieces separately.
The fabric is rayon twill that I bought from Plazatex in Montreal - it's a gem of a fabric store that's not in either of the fabric shopping districts, but instead near McGill. I found it while wandering around after moving into my apartment, but it's fantastic! It's a small store, but with lots of selection and plenty of notions. I'll be going there lots next year, now that I know about it!
It took me a while to decide on a pattern, since my initial idea was to use a blouse pattern and a skirt pattern, and the first ones that came to mind were the Pendrell blouse and the Hollyburn skirt (two of my TNT patterns). But, I just didn't think that they would look like a dress when worn together. I spent some time looking online at 2-piece sets, and the ones that are trendy right now are mostly structured crop tops and full skirts - a style that I actually think is kind of cute, but not at all right for this fabric.
I put the fabric aside for a while, and it wasn't until I was browsing through some indie pattern collections that I wasn't familiar with that I had this idea. I found the Miz Mozelle dress by Jamie Christina, and loved it! I immediately thought of this fabric, but then I remembered my 2-piece set idea. Then I thought - why not take a dress pattern, and modify it into a 2-piece set? That way, it'll be sure to look like a dress when the pieces are worn together.
I bought the PDF and taped it together, and cut out a size 2. I'm actually a 4 at the waist and a 6 at the hips, but I figured that the only part that I really needed to fit was the shoulders, since there's plenty of ease everywhere else.
I thought the dress would be one piece, with an elastic casing at the waist, but it has a top and a skirt that are sewn together, and the elastic is sewn into the seam allowance. This made it really easy to make into two pieces! I lengthened the top by 6" and narrowed it just slightly so that it wouldn't be too bulky when tucked in, and I added 1 1/2" onto the top of the skirt, for an elastic casing. I also raised the keyhole opening by 1/2"
I started with the blouse, and I had originally planned to use a cream fabric for the collar, and cream bias tape. After sewing the bias tape to the keyhole, though, I realized that it was just too busy, and ripped it out to use black instead. I also decided to use black fabric for the collar, which I think looked better. Since I didn't have very much of the black fabric and I'd already cut out pockets from it, I had to piece the under collar, but it's underneath so you don't see it at all. I did something that I never do and skipped the interfacing, since the contrast fabric was already stiffer than the rayon. It turned out just fine!
I couldn't find a button I liked, or any cord that would work for the loop to close the keyhole, so instead I used a black wooden bead and made a daisy chain out of some embroidery thread.
I modified the order of construction a little, since I used French seams on all the seams. I don't have access to a serger anymore since leaving home, so I'm experimenting with different seam finishes! I love the look of the French seams, and the rayon is lightweight enough that they worked really well.
The pattern suggests inserting the sleeves flat, then sewing the side seams, but I thought that a vertical French seam under the arm would be less comfortable, so I sewed them in the round instead. I don't mind setting in sleeves in the round, and I find it makes for a nicer finish.
I love this method for the collar - I couldn't quite wrap my head around it at first, but once I understood what was going on, I realized how genius it is. You finish the edge with bias tape, with the collar sandwiched in between the top and the bias tape, and then the collar covers the stitching that attaches the bias tape. I finished the edges near the keyhole by hand, where the collar wouldn't quite cover the stitching, for a cleaner finish.
I wanted the blouse to be evenly gathered when tucked in, so that it would look more like a dress. Enter, elastic thread! I sewed five rows of stitching with a bobbin of elastic thread to shirr the waist, which worked really well! It was my first time shirring with elastic thread, but I'll definitely use it again. It took some samples, and I had to play with the bobbin tension on my machine a little, but it was easy after that.
For the hem, I just turned up 1/4", then 1/2", and hemmed by hand. The stitches are completely invisible in this fabric!
Onto the skirt - I added pockets (of course), but I wasn't quite sure how to make them work with French seams. This tutorial helped a lot! I love how they turned out.
I used a modified version of the pockets from the Cambie dress, which I extended so that I could sew them into the seam that made the casing, for stability. I used the same black fabric as I did for the collar, because I thought pockets from the rayon might be too flimsy and delicate.
To make the casing, I just turned under 1/4", then turned under 1 1/4" and stitched it. I used 1" wide elastic, and just enough length to fit snugly around my waist. For the hem, I did the same as the top - turned under 1/4", then 1/2", and hemmed by hand.
I'm really, really happy with how these turned out! I love both the top and the skirt, and I think that they really do look like a dress when they're worn together. I could maybe have sewn the shirring a little bit lower, since it pokes out a little from the skirt when it's tucked in. Since the skirt is also gathered at the waist by elastic, I don't think it's super noticeable. If I did something like this again, I might shirr the waist of the skirt before making the casing so that it looks even more seamless.
The top is great with jeans, or with a plain black skirt, and the skirt is great with pretty much any solid colour top. I think these pieces will get a lot of wear!
Thanks for reading!
UPDATE: This outfit has been chosen as a finalist in the Monthly Stitch's Separates Contest. There are so really fabulous outfits made for the contest that you should check out, and if you like mine, I'd really appreciate a vote! Thanks!