My shift dress is the most reliable article of clothing in my closet. I actually own quite a few, so I am always ready to put together a quick and stylish outfit. Let me explain why they are basically my fashion lifesavers!
A shift dress is essentially a short, sleeveless dress. It hangs straight with a simple line and hangs loose on the body from the shoulders. They typically have high, boat-neck collars and sometimes an empire waist.
What I love about this dress is its simplicity. There is almost no detailing and the waist is de-emphasized. That means I can roam and move about freely even though I am wearing a dress. Trust me, they will rival even your most comfortable pair of jeans.
It’s the basis of a perfect day-to-night outfit. To dress it up, all you need to do is accessorize and slip into a pair of heels! Another great thing about them? They are not form-fitting, so they flatter just about every body type.
The easy to “shift” or move around in dress rose in popularity during a significant cultural shift during the 1960s. Beginning even in the late 1950s, the female youth culture embraced this new fashion style. In a sense, the dress embodied the youthful, free attitude of this revolutionary generation. Twiggy knew what the shift dress was all about- and she wasn’t the only one!
The dress’ mobility and shorter hemline reflected the overall feel of independence taking over the youth. The feminine, yet androgynous, shape signified a new trend in women’s clothing and redefined the feminine shape. It allowed the modern woman to go to work and then hit the dance floor if they so desired.
It still remains a dress that can be worn by practically all woman, regardless of her age. It is versatile enough to be worn for any occasion and season. In the winter, all you need is a proper pair of tights and perhaps a coat.
One last thing (before it sounds like I’m ready to marry one of my shift dresses)… the reason I have more than one in my closet is because I always find one in another color that I have to have. You might already know what I mean by this. Or maybe I am just a complusive shopper, because that is the same excuse I use when I buy yet another woven sweater (“but I don’t have one in this color!”).
Today, I am going to make my own shift dress. I don’t have one that is made of linen and should probably resist the urge to go shopping for one. It is such a simple style that making your own is a cinch. My wallet will thank me too.
- 2 yards of medium weight, 100% linen IL019 (your measurements will determine how much fabric you’ll need)
- Sewing machine
- Tape measure
Measure the widest portion of the body with the tape measure and add 4 inches. Measure the distance from the collarbone to the desired length and add 5 inches. Measure from the top of the collarbone to the bottom of the underarm.
With these measurements, make your pattern. The image above shows the cut I chose for mine. You only need one pattern because the front is exactly the same as the back. Pretty simple, right?
Trace your pattern onto you preshrunk fabric. Your fabric should be folded so when you trace and cut it, a full front/back is formed. I used IL019 linen in Hunter Green for my shift dress.
Cut your linen according to the markings you made. Do this twice to get an identical front and back piece.
Sew the tops of the shoulders with a ½ inch seam.
You can finish the collar and sleeve edges using bias tape or by creating a basic ½ seam. I used a handmade “bias tape” to finish my collar. If you are unfamiliar with sewing with bias tape, I’d recommend simply seaming these edges. The dress will look great regardless of the method you decide to use.
The picture above shows me sewing on my handmade bias tape. I just folded the fold (biased cut) fabric and seam its to the edge.
Then I folded the bias tape over the edge and seamed it again. This creates a finished edge for the collar and sleeve edges. Basically, the “tape” overlaps the raw edge to create a clean border.
You can buy bias tape at any craft or sewing store also.
Another option for the sleeve edges is to fold the sleeve edges under ½ inch and ½ inch again and sew the sleeve edge hems. I’d recommend this method if you have never used bias tape. It is simple and looks beautiful!
Sew up the sides of the shift dress to the underarm point with a ½ inch seam.
I finished the bottom with a 1-inch hem. First, fold the fabric in a ½ inch and then 1-inch again. Seam the edge and you are all done!
Now that you’ve seen how easy it is to make a shift dress, you’ll find out that making excuses to sew more is even easier!
Would you like to make this dress? You can browse our selection of colors and purchase your 2 yards of medium-weight 100% linen IL019 here:
*Let us know how you like shift dresses! What linen color will you be using? How will you style your outfit?