Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Tropical shift dress - my Akris knockoff

Do you like to do a bit of comparison shopping? Looking at the seriously expensive designer clothes to see what fabrics they use, to check out interesting and unusual details of pockets, zippers and trim? Like most of us who are interested clothes and fashion I look at a few websites for inspiration but don't really spend much time doing that. So my pinterest boards are not really full of ideas - very occasionally I put something there - mostly sewing patterns and once in a while a dress or sewing idea. But maybe two or three times a year I go into the Nieman Marcus or Nordstrom store in my local town and practically paw the designer garments. Despite being in suburbia they have a large selection and I especially like to see tailored pieces and interesting dresses and jackets or coats. A few weeks ago I saw a dress where I really liked the shape but the fabric didn't appeal.

And that is the beauty of sewing your own clothes, you can take ideas and inspiration from things you see all over but make something in the fabric or color you want. Or you can make your own version at a fraction of the cost.  I saw a dress from Akris Punto for $ 1390 (I erroneously referred to it as Prada on my IG but it was Akris) and decided to use that idea to make my own version.

blue ruffle dress front view

Here is the inspiration dress that I saw in the store. I thought it was silk, but looking at the website today I see that it's a rayon blend. For a mere $ 1390!

Tropical shift dress papaya

Maybe I'm smiling because my version cost me about $ 8. I bought this blue tropical print fabric upstairs at Stone Mountain, so it was $ 3.50 per yard? I think around that and I bought 2 yards not really knowing what I would use it for, but flowers and palm trees on a bright blue background. You know I couldn't pass that up, especially at that price. It's a cotton poplin with a touch of lycra so it has just the right amount of body for this dress and the hem ruffle.

Blue dress with ruffle1 (1)

blue ruffle dress neckline

Closer look at the fabric. For this dress I used my TNT pattern, something I have been using for a very long time. As I purchased this pattern when it was new.

Which I know because it has the stamp on it from New York Fabrics, a store that used to be around when I was a teenager. And spent many happy hours there after I got my driver's license and could go on my own on a weekend to shop without having to beg one of my parents to take me there. Also the patterns used to come in a 3 size range instead of the multi-size of today with perhaps 6 sizes or even all the sizes in one envelope.

Vogue 7769 pattern envelope - favorite pattern

I have used this pattern as is, modified it for other things, used just the top half as a bodice, used the neckline shape as a template, used the armhole shape as my ideal,  and added/changed the darts as needed for various styles. I have had more than my money's worth out of this one and it is the only pattern in my stash that is copied onto thick paper and hangs in the closet ready for repeated use. Shall I mention the pattern publication date? It's.......1990. Yes I was surprised to see that. So I've been using this pattern for 28 years. I wonder if anyone can top this? not just a pattern that you have kept for a long time - but a pattern that you have been using for this long. Somehow I bet Carolyn (of Handmade by Carolyn blog) or Tany (of Couture et Tricot blog) might have something that is still in current rotation.

blue ruffle dress back view

Back view, looking a bit wrinkly on the form. Although this dress was perfect on vacation, that bit of lycra in cotton fabrics is so nice - the wrinkles are minimal and fall out on the hanger.

blue dress with ruffle2 (1)

And here I'm standing in front of one of my favorite stores in Hawaii. This is one where I do tend to pin a lot of their looks, Tori Richard. This is kind of my ideal clothing range, beachy, vibrant colors and tropical prints. Plus recently I have bought a few of their fabrics so I am really happy to have found them. (Listed as famous Hawaiian designer fabric, hint hint). My previous post dress is one of their fabrics - I think.

Sewing details - I made an all-in-one neckline and armhole facing for this dress, similar to what I did on this dress. Although no lining, not really needed. And cut it out about 2" above my knee length, then played around with ruffle depth and amount, just improvised until I liked how the ruffle looked.
I had a few random compliments from strangers as I was walking around which is always nice, so this dress/fabric combo must be a winner.

Why is this girl smiling? Could it be the tropical drinks? quite likely. Could it be the incredible re-use of a perfect TNT pattern? probably. Could it be the bargain fabric find? Definitely. Or just the Aloha spirit. Yes to all of those options.

Blue ruffle dress in bar 3

And now home from vacation and back to real life. Until the next time.

Some spots still available in my Fitting Class: Adjust the Bust this Thursday 2-5pm at Hello Stitch Studio in Berkeley. This Thursday's class is part of the Maker Faire Bay Area celebration, so if you sign up for the class their monthly Sewing Clothes Support Group session from 6-9pm is included. I'm going to stay for that and be available to answer general sewing and fitting questions so bring all kinds of projects to share, discuss and get some progress made. And have a bit of happy hour fun with some fellow stitch fanatics :)

On Saturday we have the Copy your Favorite Garment class which is one of my favorite things to do and to teach. I show a variety of methods in this class so you can learn which one is best for different  garment styles. How about recreating a favorite pair of pants? I think this is where learning this technique really pays off - I copied a pair of jeans and now I'm turning that into my TNT pants and jeans pattern.  The class is Sat. May 19, 10am - 3pm. The class is half demo/lecture and then after that I will help you with making the pattern from your own garment that you have brought.

From 4-6pm that same day (Sat. May 19) is my Zipper Confidence class, so if you have been struggling with zippers register here.

Note that all the classes at Hello Stitch come with an extra hour of studio time so you could use that to cut out things on their large tables or perhaps hem a bunch of knits on their coverstitch machine. And a 20% discount coupon for Stone Mountain is included when you register.

Upcoming schedule:
Sat. June 2:  Sew the Bondi dress from Tessuti patterns  - register here. I'm just about to make another one for myself in a print. This pattern is such a perfect summer dress with great pockets and lots of options for personalization or pattern hacking.

register here for any of these classes or to get more info.
Sun June 3: Sewing Pattern Alteration - Tissue Fitting and Fit lab. register here.
Sat. June 16 and 23: Pencil Skirt
Sat. June 16: Sewing with Knits - Basic T-shirt
Sat. June 23: Garment sewing - Easy Tank top
Sat. July 14: Pants Clinic - Diagnose your fit issues - Pant pattern fitting

Also in June and July we will have a couple of weekday evening classes which are not listed on the website yet but will be soon. If you're in the bay area and interested in a class but can't make it to what is scheduled or have something else in mind please email me and let me know. We're flexible and want to do classes that will work out for your schedule.

Now back to what's on my sewing table - a few things that are in progress and so many great summer fabrics piled up in my spare bedroom which I want to sew up and wear Right Now!

Happy May Sewing, 

Today's garden photo - this is the time of year when there are so many to choose from. And who doesn't like that. I think May is my very best garden month, or maybe June. We shall see next month. 

But for now it's all about the roses!



  1. This is so pretty! You certainly knocked this one out of the partk!

  2. Lovely photo of you at the end Beth. Lovely dress, great use of the pattern and savings on that dress probably paid for your holiday, LOL!!

  3. Love your dress so much more than the "inspirational" one! A pattern you've been using for 28 years is pretty amazing and wise guidance to us all. That all-in-one facing for a sleeveless top/dress is my favourite finish (I just completed a Farrow dress yesterday in linen where I used this all-in-one) and now my go-to but I'm always in 2 minds about whether to interface it or not. Do you always interface your all-in-ones?

    1. Hi Kathleen - yes I interface most all facings, sometimes with a very light interfacing but I find it helps the neckline etc. to turn crisply and keep a nice shape.

  4. That's the pleasure of being able to sew! I assume this cost you a whole hell of a lot less than the original. You look great as does the dress.

  5. I really love the fabric! I love the fabric and pattern combination. You did a great job again😊

  6. Your dress is so perfect and it surely celebrates the good use and placement of DARTS! I'd love to meet the woman who buys the original dress for that outrageous price!!! Your really nailed the fit and ruffle and cool vibe of a tropical vacation.Good luck with all your classes, Beth!

  7. Gorgeous dress. I agree, the fabric print/colors are so appealing. BTW, always wondered who was behind 'famous Hawaiian designer fabric'!!

  8. It's a beautiful dress and I imagine you can be smiling as you are in Hawaii! Someday I would like to visit...

  9. I have 2 pattern that I have used continually. McCalls 4050 is a button down shirt that advertises '3 hour shirt'.The 3 hour part is hyperbole. I have made it in cotton, cotton/poly, cut a little larger in corderoy and flannel. I just traced and trued up the cutting lines in pellon this winter. My second pattern is Simplicity 9719 that I bought in the 90's because my highschool aged daughter needed a jumper for a school play. It came with a tshirt pattern that I have made numerous woven tshirts from. Its just a tshirt, and fits me well. I find that classic styles like this never really go out of style. I look at the pattern books, and make changes to reflect current styles.
    I really enjoy your blog, and the clothing you make.

  10. Loving this dress! I used to think the dropped waist/leg ruffle wasn't for me, but I've been wanting to experiment more with it lately. And I love that you've been using that pattern for so long!

  11. not sure how to contact you, but maybe you already know this. Michael Levine fabrics in LA has the Hawaiian prints you like on sale today.

  12. Loving this dress! EstherMay 21, 2018 at 1:32 PM
    It's a beautiful dress