Drop The Dress

dress detail

There comes a time in a woman’s life when she doesn’t need another dress. There, I said it. I know, we don’t want to hear it, but it’s true. Obviously, it’s not going to stop me from ever making another dress (I’m working on one right now!) but a person can disappear down a black hole of sewing only dresses until she’s donning a rose print to put out the rubbish.

The truth is, there’s a whole load of other patterns out there, doing other interesting things. Setting you new challenges and introducing new techniques. Here’s my run down of fun sewing that isn’t going to make you cry if you don’t have a skirt to flick around.

Pauline Alice Dungarees

Dang, I loved making my Turia dungarees. They’re really fun, a whole new learning curve and you even get to hammer rivets. If you can’t quite tear yourself away from dressmaking it’s super-easy to adjust the pattern for a dungaree dress.


Tailoring projects. You will learn a lot, a lot from these and feel ever so proud of yourself. Have you seen the Sew Over It Francine Jacket? That’s a heck of a nice jacket.

Ginger Jean Pieces

Jeans! Right at the opposite end of the spectrum to a dress. I really loved this sewing journey and still am totally amazed that I actually made a pair of jeans. That I wear. Ginger jeans rock.


Do you harbour the love that dare not speak its name? Do you have a soft spot for sewing for the home? I made these cushions nearly two years ago and still love them deeply, the bark cloth a daily reminder of the Isle of Wight where I picked it up.

I really want to make some Roman blinds for the house. I have the fabric and all the trimmings. I don’t know what’s stopping me. Fear? Ooobop has made some great blinds and there’s even a Craftsy course. Come on, Karen, pull your finger out.


Blouses! There are so many pretty patterns out there. Above is a detail from the Simplicity 1941. I’m also a fan of the Afternoon blouse and the Sew Over It Pussy Bow blouse.

Liberty Print Espadrilles

I could go on and on. There are jumpsuits, trousers, bags, pyjamas, jersey tops, espadrilles… What do you enjoy sewing when you don’t want to sew a dress? And are there any new non-dress patterns out there I haven’t spotted yet?

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40 Responses to Drop The Dress

  1. Jenny Lester says:

    As a sewer all my life – culminating by becoming a soft furnishing tutor at the age of 50! I do find that I have various sewing projects on the go at any one time!! My current challenge is to replicate a well worn but loved pair of harem pants for one of my knit group friends. Rather than deciding that I am going to make a “dress” my choice of project now is supposed to be aimed at reducing my fabric stash!! As I have what my daughter calls “stash beyond life expectancy” in both fabric and yarn I am trying to use what I have in stock so to speak!! However when visiting my local fabric store to help said friend buy suitable length for her harem trousers, I was strangely drawn to some gorgeous fine wool in a lovely aubergine colour – just right for my first attempt at the Ultimate trousers! So whether it be another dress, pair of dungarees, blouse espadrilles or maybe a roman blind (come in you can do it Karen) just celebrate that we are talented ladies who find happiness crawling across floors cutting out beloved just bought fabric or crouch over a sewing machine in the dead of night to finish a must wear tomorrow garment. Make another dress Karen and wear with pride!! PS just off to cut out my trousers!!

  2. kitkatkrispie says:

    What do I enjoy sewing? I just want to sew something that fits me!!!!

  3. Lorry says:

    Karen this is a professional way of making a blind https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NxgHJO993Rk

  4. SACRILEGE! I’m not sure we can still be friends after this shocking revelation, Karen!

    While I obviously disagree that you can have enough dresses, I do occasionally enjoy seeing other things. I made a skirt for a friend at the weekend and I have been known to make cushion covers and bunting. I have another jacket in Mr somewhere too…maybe!

  5. rachelo says:

    I definitely agree! I’m not much of a dress wearer, I love making jeans and tops and skirts and stuff I know I will wear and use. Having said that though, nearly all the projects on my (very baby) blog are dresses – I think because I’m scared of working out how to put outfits together to blog separates. So this has made me think! It should reflect more what I actually love to sew! Thanks 🙂

  6. Debra says:

    Great post. What really made me laugh though is that I am at the opposite end of the spectrum. I don’t make dresses or skirts because I cycle everywhere and just can reconcile the two things. I am currently conducting ‘cycling in skirts’ experiments to see if I can come up with a solution. At least this means the one skirt I made three years ago gets the occasional outing, if only for empirical research! I was so impressed by your jeans but although about 70 percent of my sewing time this year is spent working on trouser muslins I’ve yet to resolve my (many) fit issues. Currently following the pants sloper class on Craftsy, it’s really interesting.

    I’ve recently enjoyed sewing bags (leather and textile), bras and knickers so those might be some possibilities for those on a ‘dress break’.

  7. Well you say these things, but I have just discovered that I can pretty much wear dresses every day of my life and I am delighted. One decision in the morning and off I go. Hoorah! I just made two toasty warm knit dresses for our “Oh my God has is ever been this cold ever?” winter. If I put one in the wash and dryer the night before , I can wear them on rotation until I can introduce another couple. Then all separates will be binned. BINNED, I tell you. I am a maxidressophile and a lost cause!

  8. Did you ever blog about that wonderful navy jacket? Please inform – I need details ;-0

  9. I only have three dresses. Two of them are from M&S and the other one is vintage 40’s. Being the wrong shape for a dress I have not yet sewn one for me, only for other people. I have been having the opposite feeling recently that I might just have to sew up the odd frock as there are so many nice ones out there. I like the idea of just flinging on one garment and being dressed instead of wrestling with which separates go together. Xx

  10. S says:

    I’ve realized that my sewing love is pants! Dresses are nice and make for easy dressing, especially in summer, but pants are the meat of the meal for my life – everything from skinny pants to YSL circa-1970s wide leg “smoking” suit pants. Second would come nice tailored shirts.

  11. Tracy says:

    I feel the same way about t-shirts — I don’t need another one, ever, but I can’t seem to stop making them. After my last one, I said, Nope, last one. That’s it. No more. I should really learn skirts, and I should really practice waistbands and zippers, so I’m going to make a skirt.

    Guess what I’m making? A blouse. Out of a t-shirt pattern. HELP.

  12. Jacana says:

    I have noted that on the sewing blogosphere there is an obsession with dresses. I hardly every wear them. It is not that I don’t think they look good but they are so limiting; it is difficult to layer up to keep warm – my usual winter apparel is:- on the top vest, long-sleeved shirt, jumper, topped of with gillet, scarf and fingerless gloves when very cold and a coat when outside. On the lower half l trousers and knee length socks . I would be perished if I wore dress and tights. In the summer it is T-shirts and capris or shorts (not too short!) and cardi when necessary. Dresses are only for very special occasions. The other problem is that when sewing a dress there are two sets of fitting issues to be addressed – both the top half and the bottom, especially if you don’t fit into the standard pattern sizing. At least with separates you can address these issues one at a time. So yes Karen go ahead ‘Drop the Dress’. Oh and roman blinds are a breeze compared with fitting issues.

    • Emily Handler says:

      I have the opposite problem; I’m terrible at layering but a dress I can always work with. A dress that works alone in summer I would wear in the winter with tights (or double tights), a full slip, a long-sleeve T or button-down shirt, cardigan and scarf. After surviving the last few winters with skirts and dresses alone, I found tights are actually warmer than trousers. Different strokes for different folks, I guess 🙂

      • Leigh Ann says:

        I’m the same: tank or tee, dress (or skirt), wool tights, boots, cardigan or other sweater, scarf…and, good to go. I do have and wear pants and jeans, but I find skirts and dresses to be more comfortable both summer and winter.

        What I mostly sew however, is skirts, skirts, and more skirts. (I’ve got a dress in the works at the moment, though.) Sewing pants terrifies me. I really should figure it out, since I have some fit issues that make buying RTW pants a bit of challenge.

  13. Carolyn says:

    I’m another sewist who (almost) never sews or wears dresses, so yes, I can confirm that there are indeed plenty of other things to sew! 🙂 I also don’t quite understand the sewing blogosphere’s obsession with dresses. I mean, dresses are pretty and fun to sew, but who wears a dress everyday??

  14. I wear a dress almost every day! The foremost reason is it’s a whole outfit without any thought to matching. Pull on, leave house. Which for mornings that I have to teach at 8:30am, it’s a necessity. Plus, I’ve found that practical dresses can really make life easier, you look nice, but you still have pockets!
    That said, I need to make bras, undies, stretchy pants and tees. I really need to make undies. I tend to overlook bras, undies and coats as parts of sewing in my dress-frenzy.
    I’ve got 2 coats, plans to make 2 more, and 2 hoodies.
    I need a bra pattern that fits for work.
    I need to just suck it up and spend a week making undies. Most of mine is extremely religious (holy pants!).
    Oh, and thanks to some minor health issues, dresses really are more comfy in certain regions. I imagine post-surgery I’ll be in dresses every time I leave the house, just for the comfort-factor!

  15. Robin says:

    I am also a less-dress sewist, but I do understand the appeal. When my bod and the pattern were in sync, dresses were a breeze. Plus I worked in an office and actually had a use for them. Now I work from home and have beyond-mid-life fitting issues to deal with, so they are more of an imposition. That said, my next make will be a plain all-business dress from worsted, but maybe I should rethink that…

    My pattern drawer has plenty of hat, glove and bag patterns, even patterns for shoulder pads (circa 1984!) for when I tire of making separates. Lately I have thought a lot about socks and indoor booties. I have one pattern for costume footwear (think Greensleeves and American Frontier re-enactors) and have been saving up old wool jumpers to felt for this purpose – so if you know of any more conventional sock or bootie patterns, I would love a suggestion. I may just have to draft my own (I don’t knit or crochet – no one knew how to teach a lefty, back in the day)

  16. Just gotta say, for all the hoopla about Ginger Jeans, I’m sorry I bought the pattern. NOTHING about them worked for me. I’ve been sewing 40 years and I took a lot of time and trouble to fit those things. After a week of fiddling with detail sewing it was a total wreck. All ended up in the trash. Remarkably, a muslin of a free Marfy pattern was a total hit. Don’t take blog hype as gospel!

  17. I hear you, sister! I love to sew dresses, but usually want to wear pants. More high- and natural waisted pants patterns please blogosphere!

  18. Jen (NY) says:

    My sewing addiction is skirts. I have so many, and there are many more in uncut form that are still waiting in the stash. I’m trying to branch out, but it’s hard when it takes me so long to make a pair of pants and I can sew up a skirt in no time–and the fitting is so much easier! Years ago I used to sew nothing but dresses, but now I actually need more.

  19. LinB says:

    Blouse blouse blouse blouse blouse blouse blouse … I like to sew shirts and blouses. Have you sewn the Folkwear Armistice Day blouse? It is astonishingly easy to sew, despite its intricate appearance. Those 1918 gals knew about comfort, for sure. Throw on a Walking Skirt (no zipper! Only one button or hook for closure! All the fullness at the back! No need for walking ease or a vent!) and an Armistice Day blouse and you are prettily and decently covered for any occasion.

  20. Jane says:

    I agree with you Karen – I have more than enough dresses now, but it still won’t stop me making them because I love them so much! I am making a concerted effort to sew other things though. x

  21. KW says:

    I remember reading an article ages ago which stated that ‘women tend to buy clothes for the life they WISH they led’! Hence the whole thing about only wearing 30% of your clothes 10% of the time (or something like that). If you throw sewing into the mix, in which you make things partly because you enjoy the process of sewing, it becomes even more likely that you will sometimes make things you may never really wear. So make dresses for the pleasure of making and other garments for the actual wearing – nothing wrong with that!

  22. Bunny says:

    I’d like to sew a dress. I just don’t need them other than for a rare special occasion and they are just not practical in this environment. I have a few in the closet that should be “every day” but trust me, it is not the norm here Life where I live demands pants and maybe long skirts occasionally. I could live here for years in many iterations of your Turia dungarees and be considered well dressed.

    However, I do try to sew a bit of everything. I do much home dec for my daughters, love making bags of all sorts and really really enjoy one off artistic pieces, which believe it or not, work well up here. We’re a quirky bunch up here in the North Country.

  23. kaitlynssimplyvintage says:

    Sewing dresses will always have a special place for me. Something so satisfying about separates as well though; a little quicker to sew, and they take less fabric. But again, there are so many interesting dress patterns out there to move me away from the basic fit and flare. But then I get a strong desire to sew a coat. Maybe I will just have to resign myself to sewing everything 😛

  24. Hélène says:

    You are totally right: dresses are lovely, but I know now that everything is possible + fun. Even dungarees! Yours are convincing me that this style might be good for me too. You look so lovely in every style.

  25. Stella says:

    I NEVER make or wear dresses! Always separates because I enjoy the process of co-ordinating styles and colours on a daily basis, so I get to wear a huge variety of outfits. I get bored with dresses after a very short time (one print or colour all the way down) and end up giving them away. So it’s tops, jackets, trousers and skirts for me all the way. Having said that, I am hopelessly addicted to Dolly Clackett’s blog!

  26. Stephanie says:

    I sew whatever I can. Cushions, backpacks, and bags, baskets, clothes. Sheets and pillowcases. All for the making.

  27. Whilst I reject entirely the claim that a woman could ever ‘not need another dress’ (if it’s hot wear it with flipflops, if it’s cold pull on the cowboy boots) I do agree there are lots of lovely non-dress things to sew; and that in fact sewing different things is one of the best ways to build up skills.
    I kind of can’t believe you’ve never made a roman blind, as they’re actually super easy as long as you have a tape measure and are good at maths/possess a calculator. I’ve loads of non-dress stuff on my to-make list, including a bra I bought a kit for about a year ago! I’d like to make espadrilles and jeans too but I keep putting jeans off as they seem like they’d be hard work to fit. Plus, I keep pretending to myself that I’m going to lose weight, so there’s no point making them until I’m thin!!!

  28. OferMeSew says:

    oh, yes! I have too many dresses (that a bought before starting sewing) and 4 dresses I made from 2 patterns. As I was gazing at 3(!) more patterns that I’m considering buying I realized that at least 2 of them will not be is not useful. just like the ones I already made… Not that I’m not going to try a few more dress patterns, but I will avoid the same “type” of dress that I don’t ever wear. At least my sewing obsession is not dresses…it is Belcarra shirts. It is the default sewing project for me.

  29. Gail says:

    I set a goal this year to make a dress a month, but lost interest pretty quickly because while I loved the dresses they aren’t that practical in my business wardrobe. I don’t like to wear the same dress within a 10 day work period. Whereas a skirt, shirt, blouse or jacket teamed with different pieces looks different. I’m interested in tailoring projects.

  30. I know exactly what you mean! When I first started sewing all I did was make dresses, which I love, but I’ve been going crazy for separates and jumpsuits this cold Aussie winter. I’ll never give up dresses though – who doesn’t love an all in one outfit?

  31. Paula says:

    Hi, I’ve followed your blog for a long time, and I really enjoy reading it. I was wondering if you would have a minute to answer a couple of questions about Simplicity 1941.
    1. How did you finish the princess seams?
    2. Do the princess seams match perfectly? I am having a hard time getting all notches aligned.
    Thank you so much for any help you can afford. You are an inspiration!

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  33. gingerella says:

    Until fairly recently, I’d definitely been caught up in just sewing dresses but have definitely become more aware of the other great things you can sew. The Francine jacket is a lovely pattern and I really want to make espadrilles.

  34. Pingback: look at me! look at me! I’m doing it! I’ve made a Papercut Bellatrix Blazer | coolarama

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