The first question you might have is "What the heck is a blouson dress"? And it's a fair question. We have lots of common names for different types of dresses - baby doll, empire, fit and flare, maxi - but blouson may be more of an industry term. It's basically a dress with a cinched waist and a loose, blousy top, as if you combined a box top with an elastic gathered skirt.
The beauty of this style is plain to see (and sew!). The blousy bodice is easy to fit and feels light and airy to wear, plus the gathered skirt is swishy and relaxed. It's the elastic waist pants equivalent of a dress, and we are here for it. Especially in August when the heat is on, and loose-fitting clothes are a must.
The other bonus of this style is that it transitions so nicely into cooler weather. Two of the patterns have long sleeve versions, and all work really well with tights, boots, and maybe even a turtleneck underneath. And hey, getting autumn wear out of your summer clothes is never a bad thing!
With the transitional weather in mind, I was on the hunt for fabrics that were cool and light for heat, but with colors that would work well into October and November. That meant linens and rayons in bolder colors like rich blue, deep oranges and pinks, and classic neutrals.
So, without further ado, let's dig in!
Sew Essential Box: Eliana Dress from Pauline Alice
It has been an age since we used Pauline Alice patterns, but in fact, this dress has been on my list of patterns since I started Needle Sharp. I'm so excited to finally put it in a box!
I love the simple elegance of the pattern: the way the skirt drapes so nicely and how the raglan sleeve softens the top, complementing the bloused waist. It's just so effortless and chic. Plus, the option to make either a sleeveless or a long-sleeved dress opens up so many more possibilities. The sleeveless option is finished with contrast bias tape and has a drawstring waist while the long sleeve one has an elastic waist and gathered sleeves (which are all the rage right now). So whether you're making a dress for the end of Summer or looking forward to Fall, this dress will have you covered!
For fabrics, I wanted to capture the feeling that you get at the end of summer when everything feels vibrant and lush. That meant deep, deep hues and bolder patterns. All in fabrics that will beat the summer heat. So let's take a look!
- Black and White Fern Print Crepe - This crepe is our favorite for the summer months. It is deliciously light, like a georgette, with a very small creped texture. This combination gives you a fabric that simply skims along your skin: silky and fluid. The pattern ups the ante with a black-on-white, line-drawn fern print that feels tropical yet neutral. The light background does have some translucency, so we'd recommend flesh-colored undergarments, but it's still opaque enough to not need a lining. A simply stunning fabric!
- Jade Rayon Challis - This fabric, a floaty, silky soft challis, combines a semi-fluid drape - for movement and swing - with a deep teal color for instant luxury. The jewel tone is bright and bold and will add a glorious pop of color to your wardrobe. Go glam with this dress; we promise you won't regret it!
- Pink Expressionist Print Rayon Poplin - I'm always drawn to painterly prints, and this one is a doozy. A dark navy background is slashed with brushstrokes of pink, turquoise, and white for a fabric that is vivid and unique. The geometric lines, all angles and corners, contrast so nicely with the soft, draped shape of the dress. And the colors are an instant mood boost. Make a one of a kind dress with this vibrant option!
Sew Select Box: Lotta Dress from Tilly and the Buttons
I started thinking about this style of dress so long ago that my original plan was to use Tilly's Bettine Dress as the pattern. Sadly, while we were doing other themes, they have turned this pattern into a pdf only one, thus dashing our plans to bits. Luckily, for us and you, they released the Lotta Dress a few years back and revived our hope of using Tilly in these boxes.
There are small differences between the Bettine and the Lotta Dress, notably a more higher neck and a fuller skirt on the latter, but the impact is the same. The dresses are relaxed, easy-fit wardrobe staples that you'll want to live in all the time! A cut-on sleeve flows into a loose, blousy top attached to a swishy, semi-full skirt perfect for twirling. Patch pockets round out the look or you could very easily hack it into inseam pockets for a more streamlined effect. All in all, a lovely everyday dress. Oh, and did we mention you could also make it in knit?
I stuck with wovens this time, in keeping with the theme, and I wanted fabrics that had drape and softness. This led me to lightweight lawns and twills, two of my favorite substrates. In summery tones, these fabrics are lovely. So here they are!
- Turquoise Country Floral Rayon Lawn - The silky, smooth hand in immediately recognizable in this rayon lawn, from our favorite company Cotton & Steel. A mix of rayon and cotton, it has a semi-fluid drape, but tight weave for a look we adore. The print is a country/cottage-core floral with peachy pink and blue flowers on a deep, blue-green background. Sweet but not saccharine, this fabric will give you all the right vibes!
- Watermelon Rayon Poplin - Normally this poplin comes in bold prints that we have swooned over in past boxes, but we recently discovered a line of solids that has us over the moon. A tighter weave than a challis, this poplin is completely opaque and deeply saturated. The orangey, melon pink is summery and fresh, and will transition beautifully into the traditional, earthy tones of fall. A gorgeous fabric!
- Hilma Painted Flowers Viscose Twill - If you look closely at this fabric, what seems like a wild, abstract line print is actually a bold, modern floral with blush pink and ochre blooms all across the surface. Modern and unexpected, this print is a sight to see. Plus the ecovero twill is silky soft, with a flowing drape and light weight, perfect for the late summer heat!
Sew Curvy & Sew Indulgent Boxes: Cuff Sleeve Dress from The Assembly Line
Do you ever have a pattern that you see, forget about or think, "eh, not for me", then start seeing it everywhere to the point where you now love it and think it's crazy that you ever didn't love it? This happened to me first with the Kielo Dress and now with this one. And I feel like a fool for ever ignoring it.
The Cuff Dress from The Assembly Line is as simple as its name. A simple, clean cut, like all Assembly Line patterns, this dress is defined by its elastic waist and elastic sleeves. But it is so much more than the sum of its parts! The smock style front adds vertical lines that a subtle yet gorgeous, and the simplicity of the dress makes it an amazing canvas for so many outfits. A bold necklace and heels dresses it up; a long sleeve tee and tights underneath make it great for cooler weather; and layers like jackets, scarves and sweaters allow you to transform the dress to express so many styles. It's a wardrobe staple you truly need.
Because of its versatility, there were many fabric options to choose from. Anything from cotton to silk to wool will work. Because it's still summer, I leaned towards linens, tencel, and silk to keep the dress light and cool. So, without further ado. . .
Sew Curvy Box (Sizes XL-3XL):
- Tangerine Geometric Print Tencel Twill - Summer is a time to play with color, and boy does this color play! A bright, tangerine orange, it's sunshine in a fabric. A geometric print in a slightly darker orange adds a subtle hint of pattern, but this option is really all about the color. And it's only boosted by the cool, dry hand of the tencel and diagonal twill weave of the fabric. If you want a vibrant summer dress, this is the fabric for you!
- Faded Royal Washed Linen - Washed linen is one of our favorite fabrics because it's like sewing clothes that have already been broken in. The linen is soft and supple, with a slub weave and faded quality. On the lighter side of medium weight, it is heavy enough to not be translucent but light enough to keep you cool through the end of summer. Plus the color is luscious, a dark blue, almost like blue jeans that have been washed a bunch of times. For a classic dress, look no further!
- Black and White Pointillist Leaf Ecovero Twill - If you've noticed a pattern for these boxes, it's that I keep getting drawn to black and white botanicals. They're just so elegant! The classic pairing is represented here with an unusual take on the traditional leaf print. Tiny pointillist dots create the leaves as if each one was hand painted on the fabric. Used with this dress, you get a look that is simply gorgeous - your traditional black dress, accented with these large-scale fronds. A stunning dress you'll treasure in your closet!
Sew Indulgent Box (Sizes XS-L):
- Midnight Petal Print Cotton Gauze - My mind always goes to gauze for patterns that have fewer seams. Because the fabric can fray and stretch, using it for large pattern pieces, like this dress has, is ideal. But that doesn't mean that gauze is boring. This gauze, with its petal pattern, like it has been rubber stamped by hand, is a stunner and will shine from the bodice to the hem in this dress. The fabric has a dry, smooth hand, almost like quilting cotton, but a light, airy feel. It's sure to keep you cool this August and beyond!
- True Blue Silk Noil - If you have fallen in love with the silky noil that has been popular the past few years, meet its upscale cousin. 100% silk, this fabric is made of shorter strands of thread, giving it a nubbly, handwoven feel. Because it is silk, it takes dye beautifully to create a lovely denim blue hue, like your favorite chambray shirt. Light, breathable, and a joy to sew, this fabric has it all!
- Bright Pink Abstract Floral Tencel Twill - There are large scale prints and then there are giant prints that take up nearly the whole width of the fabric. That's this printed Tencel which is like a mural of floral color. Huge green leaves and red flowers float on a bubblegum pink background, giving both a tropical and painterly feel. The tencel itself is dry and supple, and will transform into a truly gorgeous dress!
Whew! Can you believe it's already summer? This time of year is my favorite sewing season; summer clothes are just so tempting to make! I love the lightweight fabrics and lovely dresses that I dream of wearing all winter long. And it's finally here! I hope you're as excited as I am.
We did dresses last month too, so if you want a change of pace, we're reviving our T-shirt boxes in our Tried and True series. There's nothing like a comfy, relaxed tee to get you through the summer. You can pair it with shorts, skirts, even toss it over your swimsuit when you're at the beach or pool. So many possibilities!
Until next time. . .