The shift dress, a dress first worn in the 1920s for which popularity was gained due to its ease to dance in, is an effortless dress which rises above the knee and hangs loosely on the body. It provides no definition to the waist and is either cut straight or with a narrow A-line. Whilst going through dresses on the online clothing store, Missguided, I happened upon this shift dress that I thought was beautiful and I decided to recreate it but hand sewn instead so if you would like to know how I made this dress, please continue reading.
You would need Fabric (I chose a black satin fabric), Tape measure, Scissors, Pins, Needle, Thread, Tailor’s chalk and Zipper.
In this case, letters were used to represent the areas measurements were taken from.
The areas labelled A and G are the neck to shoulder measurement from the bottom of the neck to the top of the arm (this should preferably have been a diagonal measurement as the shoulder in reality is slanted and not straight).
The areas labelled B and H are the measurement of the neck width. Notice that there are three lines stretching from the center of the area H. These lines are drawn as an area of zip attachment with the area labelled L as the point from the center back to the bottom of the dress where the fabric would be split into two equal halves and the area labelled M as the point where the zipper would be sewn on to but since the zipper would not extend all the way to the bottom, the rest of the fabric would be sewn together.
The areas labelled C and I are the measurement of the armhole with an extended length as a shift dress should be a free dress with zero limitations.
The area labelled D is a V neck cut with straight top portions of the V as the choker neck would be sewn into the V.
The area labelled E is the width of the dress. Since a shift dress should be cut straight, the measurement of the hip which assumably has the largest body width (depending on your body type, use the area with the largest width) should be taken with about two added inches to make up the width of the entire dress. The area labelled J is basically half the measurement of the area E.
The areas labelled F and K show the length of the dress measured from the bottom of the armhole to the midpoint of your thigh as it is a mini dress.
The area labelled N represents the arm length taken from the top of the arm to a point two or three inches (depending on how long you want the cuff) away from the wrist. The cuff would be attached to the sleeve from the bottom with the area labelled P measuring the width of the sleeve bottom.
The areas labelled O should have an identical measurement with the armhole with one O sewn on to area C and the other O sewn on to area I.
The areas labelled Q are diagonal lines drawn from the base of the armhole to the edges of the area P.
*** Note that for every measurement taken, a seam allowance is required for sewing. Also, every chalk drawing and sewing should be done at the back of the fabric.
How to do a back stitch
Thread your needle ensuring that one end of the thread is longer than the other. Knot the longer end of the thread. Bring your needle into the fabric coming up from beneath the fabric but also leaving a little space at the start of the fabric. Take the needle a notch backwards to the space left empty. Bring the needle forward, a little further from the initial (first) stitch and bring the needle back into the hole of the last stitch made. Repeat.
The first step is to pin areas A and G together and areas F and K together. You would also need to pin the areas labelled M together from the bottom of the dress to the point convenient for the start of your zipper installment. Now sew all the pinned up areas using back stitches ensuring that the stitches are made on the line drawn and coincide with the line drawn on the other fabric.
The next step is to sew in the pocket flaps. You need to decide what the length and the width of the flap should be; for my dress, I used 6.35cm by 12.7cm which translates into 12.7cm in length with the width remaining 12.7cm. The length has to be doubled because the fabric would be folded into two equal halves which takes it back to 6.35cm in length. Remember to add seam allowance on all sides. Sew the folded edges using a back stitch to close up the sides then turn over.
Still on the pocket flaps, take an accurate measurement beginning from the apex of your shoulder to the point where you intend to sew the flaps into the dress. Mark this point on the dress (let’s term it point X). You also need to take a measurement from the side seam to the point allocated as the origin of the flap. This should be marked on the same line as point X (let’s term this point Y). From the point Y, measure out the exact width measurement of the flap measuring towards the center of the dress using a tailors chalk to mark a straight line. Two pocket flaps are required so do this on both sides of the front of the dress. Use a pair of scissors to cut open both lines. Push the flap through the open cut pausing about 0.2 inches away from the width marker. Now pin 0.2 inches away from both sides of the open cut to the actual width marker at the back of the fabric and sew using back stitches. Trim the excess fabric.
For the V neck cut, measure out two fabric pieces a few centimeters longer than the length of each side of the V excluding the top straight portion. The width should be about 10.16cm which is equal to 4 inches. Place these fabrics diagonally on each side of the V so as to be in line with the V. Sew onto the V lines using back stitches. This is the only sewing that would be done in the front part of the dress. After sewing, turn the remainder of the fabric to the back and use sewing glue to stick the fabrics to the dress.
Sewing the darts is quite simple; first you would need a shoulder to nipple measurement as the dart would start from just beneath the nipple extending to the top of the pocket flaps. Start with a subtle pinch behind the fabric and increase the ‘pinch tempo’ until you have about an inch of fabric drawn inwards at the middle and then narrow down the pinch as you approach the top of the flap. While pinching in, use pins to hold down the dart then sew afterwards using back stitches.
The seam allowance for area E which is the bottom edge of the dress should be two inches long as the fabric would be folded an inch upwards first then another inch upward again (basically turned in twice) and secured with back stitches. In more straight forward terms, hem the bottom of the dress.
“A guide to the references made with length and width.”
The first step for the sleeves is to pin the areas Q together and run back stitches to join these areas together. Next the arm holes have to be joined with each other. Pin one area O to area C and the other area O to area I. Run back stitches on the chalk lines.
The next step is to measure the length of the sleeve cuff. The length would have to be doubled as the fabric would be folded into two equal halves. The width should have an identical measurement to that of area P. Remember to add seam allowance on all sides. After the drawings have been made, fold the fabric and pin the edges of the length to the area P. Run back stitches. Now, the cuff has to be closed up so pin both edges of the width together and run back stitches. Trim all the excess fabric and the sleeve is done.
THE CHOKER NECK
A few extra inches has to be added to the neck width (round neck measurement) as it would be required to be sewn into the top straight portion of the V neck whilst still maintaining a loose fit. You need to decide what length you require the choker neck to be and double the measurement as it would be folded into two equal halves. Once the measurement is taken and all drawings done, fold the fabric into two equal haves and sew with back stiches. After sewing, turn to the front through one of the round open ends.
Now, the area labelled H and the top straight portions of the V neck have to be sewn into the choker neck. The sewing would be different in the sense that the stitches have to be made unto the back of the choker neck whilst ensuring that the stitches do not reach its front. For ease of sewing, use your fingers to first separate the choker neck fabric in two before sewing and monitor the front of the choker neck to ensure no stitch has made its way to the front. Once this is done, it is time to install the zipper.
Using an invisible zipper, with the fabric turned over to the back, turn the zipper to the back. Place the right side of the zipper on the left side of the fabric on which it is to be sewn and pin. Sew with back stitches. Place the left side of the zipper on the right side of the fabric, pin and sew. The dress is ready!!!
The dress from the missguided website