Friday, June 2, 2017

Pattern Whisperer presents: loose-fit dresses

The idea for this Pattern Whisperer post has been kicking around in my mind for a while, but I was stumped about what to call this category of dresses. Loose-fit dresses doesn't really sound descriptive enough. Some of them are cocoon shaped dresses, others are very A-line or have a tent shape. Maybe un-fitted dresses? Basically the whole collection are dresses without a defined waist. Perhaps there's an interest in this shape after a long stretch of body-con styles, and I'm quite late with this trend. And yet it's also a retro shape - think of Balenciaga or Courreges in the 60's. Whatever the reason, once you figure out the right proportion for you then it really is a great shape to wear - and pretty easy to sew as well.

So here are some Pattern Whisperer picks for loose-fit dresses. Or cocoon dresses, or A-line or shift or maybe even muumuu. If you aren't familiar with that one it's a loose dress of Hawaiian origin that hangs from the shoulder. A perfect description of this category. And usually brightly colored - always my preference. And if you haven't read my previous post - that dress definitely falls into this category so it can go on the list as well. 

First up the Xerea dress from Pauline Alice Patterns. I love her designs - my favorite indie designer (which admittedly is a very small list). I really like that she includes multiple variations in this pattern with different necklines and dress shape. Very cute! Available in paper or PDF. and instructions in 3 languages. I will also give a nod to her Malvarosa dress, also with multiple variations in one pattern and pockets. (actually she seems to put pockets in everything, yay!)

Xerea dress image

Now for some BurdaStyle choices.
I adore this dress with just enough ruffle to be interesting and it would be so lovely in a printed silk or even a border print as they show. Also it has darts for shaping and a pretty neckline.
BurdaStyle Flounce Dress 02/2017 #106B  PDF from their website or in the Feb. magazine.

Burdastyle flounce dress 02-2017-116B

Another Burdastyle that intrigues me is this one, which they call the Bat Sleeve Dress 05/2016 #115B.
As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, you have to figure out which of these type of dresses work with your particular figure and style preferences. Someone did just that - and I remembered it when I chose this pattern to show. Allison of Allison C. Sewing Gallery made both the dress and the top and they are fantastic!  You know how some bloggers seem to make all the patterns that you want (or wish) you could make? She is one of those that makes me want to subscribe to Burda and sew up the exact same patterns that she chooses. 

Burda bat sleeve dress 05-2016-1115B

One more Burda - this is is a basic shape but adds some spice with the low back and ties - which I imagine would also keep that deep V on your shoulders. I like it just how they show it in the hot pink but it would be great in a dark color as well.  Shift dress with pockets 05/2011 # 111B

Burdastyle Shift dress 05-2011 111B

And now for Style Arc. Which I have rarely sewn but always see so many nice versions of their patterns. 

The Mila dress offers great color blocking opportunities or mixing up the fabric with a print and solid. The shape of this dress is really interesting - I've seen some great versions online but I know this is one that just wouldn't work on me, not enough fit adjustment potential in the bottom half. Style arc Mila dress

For another take on the cocoon shape, the Adeline dress gives you that slouchy comfy t-shirt shape but in a dress. I think it has side seams plus a center back seam so some adjustment potential. I like the drawing with the model wearing sneaks - I'm all about sneakers and espadrilles this summer. 
StyleArc Adeline dress

Now for something a little bit different, this dress from Butterick B5881. Not a cocoon or tent shape but definitely one that skims over the figure and is not waist hugging. I'm not a fan of linen but I know a lot of people are and this would look great in a lightweight linen. I think this pattern has been out a few years but seems to still be available.  The color block version is a nice idea although I don't care for the example - looks like leftover pieces they wanted to use up!


From McCalls I found three patterns that could make a nice loose fit dress. The first M7348 is a great beginner pattern - with learn to sew details and designed for medium to heavy weight knits. Also good for learning to sew knits. The M7562 looks really cute in the example on the model, I think the fabric choice would make this dress interesting. Lori from Girls in the Garden sewed it up and ended up changing it into a top - so she has some tips on sizing.  The pattern on the right, M7403 has interesting seaming and looking at the yardage it is not designed for knits even though it kind of looks like it. But you could certainly make it in a medium weight knit that has some body. I like the version C shown in the stripes.

McCalls dresses

What no Vogues?  Yes, here are a couple. This dress  V9107 looks so sharp in the black and white version, and I think it would look chic and sophisticated at a summer party where you could eat all you want and not need to wear Spanx. There, I said it - these dresses all have that comfort factor. Sometimes you want to look all sleek and shapely and other times you just want to relax and wear a cool loose swishy dress. This pattern has nice variations and could work all year round.

V9106 dress

OK - don't laugh - but I LOVE this dress Vogue 9237. The sleeveless version. It's so simple and I might even make it (although I confess I wouldn't buy the pattern - just swipe the idea and make it from one of my basic dress patterns. I guess I'm a sucker for a ruffle and this one is sort of a surprise ruffle. A walking away ruffle.


Here's a dress that I have chosen previously; the Papercut patterns Sway dress - and I still think it is really pretty. However I haven't sewn it up. But it looks good every time I see it pop up on someone's blog or Instagram. I think this is the perfect traveling dress for any warm weather vacation - whether beachside or in some city cafe.

papercut sway dress SaveSave

Here's another one that is so tempting. And has such an interesting shape, the Named Inari Tee dress.
So many nice versions of this one around, my favorite might be this striped one by Handmade by Carolyn. She looks so slouchy-cool. Is that a state of being? It is in that dress. Also this version by Karen of Did You Make That? The thing to note it is appears that nobody can make only one. Multiples appear. So good value for a pattern, right? And it must be quick to sew. I've almost convinced myself :)

Named Inari tee dress

So that's the round up of my suggestions for loose fit dresses. I haven't decided if I will sew up any of these but you never know. June is busting out all over here, the temps are climbing and a dress like this sound pretty good on a scorching day.

Happy Sewing,

and today's garden photo  - since I mentioned color-blocking in a few of these dresses how about the original color-blocker?  Mother Nature! Nobody does it better.  Violas in purple and white.




  1. How about adding the Kalle Dress from Closet Case patterns?

    I have seen a couple of versions of this around and it looks like a great loose shirt-dress for summer.

  2. I have made the Style Arc Adeline dress twice, once in linen and once in silk. I love both of them and highly recommend it.

  3. Beth, I love everything Allison makes too! It's borderline creepy how many Burdas are on my To Sew list because of that woman, LOL!

    Lovely post but hard pass on the loose fit. I'm only 5ft tall and convinced this silhouette will swallow me hole. I still enjoyed this post.

  4. I like these from Grainline Studios. I've made the Willow tank both as a top and a dress...I changed the darts into gathers at the neckline which worked really well.
    I have made the Farrow Dress in the long sleeved version for winter, out of a bright red knit, and have gotten many, many compliments. I LOVE the pockets. I'll be making the sleeveless version this season:

    I live in the Central Valley of California and it gets HOT here! There's nothing like a loose, breezy dress when the temps are in the 100+ range!

  5. My faves that I have completed so far are the Inari tee and Tessuti Ruby Dress. I have multiples of both done in various weights and types of rayon.

  6. Even though they tend to marketed as one-fits-all, I agree that one must consider the body for each loose silhouette. For example, I always, always need a fairly significant FBA. That requirement also applies to loose fit garments - otherwise the draping does not hang quite right, in a non-flattering maternity-like way, if you know what I mean. With an FBA and sometimes just a tad of shaping at the waist, the loose fit can be really flattering. In a flowy fabric, it can give just a suggestion of curves. That said, I avoid dolman/bat-wing, boat necks, upper body ruffles or cocoon like shapes. They just make me look too bulky on top, or in the case of the later, inflated. In any case, the addition of a simple tie belt can easily add shaping too. I'm glad to see these patterns (especially M7562) as I have a plan for several loose dresses this summer (arriving late here in the NorthEast it seems). Thank you!

    1. There is a $1.99 McCall sale at BMV today, if anyone is interested.

    2. I am exactly the same! I always have to do an FBA and that '60's trapeze style has always given me pause. When I was much younger I was afraid I would just look pregnant, now that I'm 62 no fear of that but I don't want to look like I'm just one big round apple either :) I did buy the Ebony by Closet Case files but I'll probably make it a shortie. If that turns out okay then I might venture down this path. It might really depend on how long you make and of course the fabric you choose. A lovely drapey linen or silk can flow around the body creating a hint of shape without clinging :)

  7. Oh, the Sway dress. I forgot about that one for a moment. I love every version I've seen too. Probably time to finally pay those indie prices for a pattern I feel I should be able to make myself, but would never get just right...

  8. Ha I am a sucker for ruffles too and have the vogue ruffle butt pattern in my stash...

  9. Great round-up!
    I'm not much of a ruffle person so I'm surprised I really like this burdastyle flounce dress. I made the sleeveless version of "shift dress with pockets" in linen last year as a maternity dress. I basically just graded out starting at the bust to give myself some room. It's a great pattern. In linen it had a sort of Elizabeth Suzann vibe. I think I'll make a regular version for this summer too!
    The Papercut one looks cute but I had a terrible experience with another of there pattern (seriously bad drafting IMO) so I don't think I would ever buy a pattern from them again.
    The Inari has been on my radar for a loooong time... The issue that I see being discussed about the sleeve has stopped me so far but this summer may be the one I give this pattern a go!

    1. I have sewn the Inari and have never had an issue with the sleeve! I think it depends on the interaction between your body shape and the pattern - some will have issues but others won't.

    2. Interesting! Extra incentive to sew a wearable version then, thanks!

  10. Unsurprisingly, I love this blog post! Also unsurprisingly, I own more than half of these patterns! However, there are a couple that I will definitely need to add to my stash now.

  11. Weird! I was looking at that oddball Butterick in the catalog today. I think it has potential. And I am one of those linen lovers. :) I bought the style arc Adeline and hope to make it soon. I've made several style arc patterns lately and I've been impressed.

  12. I call these collectively Sack Dresses or if I'm feeling fancy Le Sac. I think there's a sack for everyone - for me I find it's got to be short, to balance the rest of it out. Nice round up.

  13. I want to add The Groove dress from Made It. Made for women and girls. Has several options including a good.

  14. I am currently working on McCall's 7562 using a rayon fabric that I love. It is not a silhouette I am used to wearing but I have decided to step outside my comfort zone on this one. It will be perfect for those hot humid days.

  15. Thank you for the informative post. I am looking forward to seeing your new project..Can't wait to see.

  16. I never thought I'd like this style, but I just made two versions of McCall's 6102, and I love them. It's got French darts, which help with some waist shaping without making it fitted.

  17. Thank you so much for mentioning my dress! it's definitely one of my favourites and I LOVE the inari pattern, wasn't sure if I would but it really is a very nice design. the forward sloping side seams set it apart a little bit from your average Tshirt dress pattern, I think :)

  18. I think with the right fabric these types of patterns can work for most people and they are definitely lovely to wear on hot days. Personally I still feel a need to wear a belt with that dress of mine you mentioned unless I have tanned legs and impossibly high heels on!!


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