Hello! I'm Suzannah, a serious DIYer and mom of two little ones. Follow along with my DIY fixer upper house renovations, sewing and crafty projects, real food recipes, and de-stressing goals.
I believe you can love your home just the way it is, AND have the power to design and make big changes to make it better.
I'm also the author of DIY Wardrobe Makeovers!

Sewing Circle: That She & Him dress you love...

Welcome again to Sewing Circle!  You all are gonna love today's question... from Danika, who wrote:

Q: I've been following you blog for awhile and I love the things that you post!  I have a question about making an adjustment to a sewing pattern.  My friend is getting married in January, so I want to make a dress to wear to his wedding.  I love this dress that Zooey Deschanel is wearing in this She & Him pic (actually, I love pretty much everything that she wears). 
Here's my question: I have a copy of Elaine May's Coffee Date Dress pattern that I've used many times and have made adjustments to fit my body.  
Do you think it would be feasible to raise the neckline and add the sleeves to this pattern without screwing up the fit?  I'm not trying to replicate the cutout bits (although that would be cute, but seems too complicated at this point), just the general shape.  And for this type of sleeve, would that just be an extension of the 'armhole'?  I've never had much luck with sewing sleeves, so I'm kind of wary about it. 

A: Hi Danika! That is SUCH a cute dress. I think that the Coffee Date Dress pattern will work pretty well for the bodice, actually, but you’ll need to experiment a little with the lines for the shoulders!

I’d say cut them out both longer and taller than you expect you’ll need, then baste or pin the front and back together and try it on. You may want to cut it down but that’s much easier than not having enough sleeve!

 I would recommend using a much fuller-skirted pattern for the skirt… the Coffee Date Dress is more of an A-line than a circle skirt like Zooey’s. And instead of the cutouts, why not just get some geometric braid from the fabric store and sew it on in scoop shapes? This will be such a cute dress, good luck making it!!

Readers, what do you suggest Danika try for replicating this dress from the Coffee Date Dress pattern?


  1. The cut outs actually look like rick-rack to me... sewn between actual gaps in the fabric. Doesn't look difficult at all to replicate that part either.

  2. I think she needs a pattern with a full skirt and kimono sleeves. Lots of great vintage patterns out there like that.Maybe like this one:


  3. I agree with TLC. There are some excellent directions for this type of thing in some of my kwik sew books. I definitely think this is something that would be fairly simple to duplicate! And yes, a fuller skirt would be better. Very cute dress.

  4. The cutouts look like jumbo ric-rac to me, too. They would be fairly easy to sew in if you have experience with that sort of thing.

    As for the pattern, it would depend how many adjustments you usually have to make in standard patterns. If most fit you well out of the package, get a kimono sleve bodice. If you usually have to make a lot of adjustments, I would stick with the Coffee Date dress.

    Then, just slap a circle skirt on using a tutorial, like http://rufflesandrosescrafts.blogspot.com/2010/06/summer-of-skirts-circle-skirt-tutorial.html
    and presto!

    Good luck!

  5. Just saw this on pinterest, and the shape looked similar to this dress! http://www.sewweekly.com/2011/07/mtl-day-after-day-dress.html

    They recommend using a modified sleeve pattern to make the cap sleeves, which sounds right to me. Sleeves are tricky for me, too, but at least with cap sleeves there's far less fabric to waste if you have to try again!

    If you decide to add in the jumbo ric-rac (which is totally adorable on this dress), I'd recommend putting a little iron-on interfacing behind the main dress fabric where you want it to lay, and sewing over that. It would make doing the cutouts a lot easier and would help reinforce the dress. Depending on the fabric, it might even eliminate any fraying! (if not, fray check is your best friend.)

    Good luck and let us know how it goes!

  6. Here's my suggestion- go with a different pattern. I would recommend, Butterick 4443-view F or Vogue 8667-view C. I have sewn both of these patterns and they are both easy. These were two patterns I tried when I first started out and I thought the directions were very easy. With them both having the sleeve options/directions built into the pattern you wouldn't be working blind.
    I liked the previous idea about sewing in ric-a-rac for the cut out. Another pretty detail could be to use lace instead. Hope that helps. Good Luck :)

  7. Make it out of muslin first, and do your fittings. That way you can adjust that before cutting into your fabric.

  8. Great tips, readers! Some of those patterns would work very well...

  9. Great advice from other commentors. I think the rickrack inserts really make the dress. A google of ric rac insert came up with a lot of good instructions. Zooey is so cute, love her new show. But the fit on the bodice of this dress is horrible. The front bust darts end way above her boobs and she looks a bit squished. She needs to lift em up or adjust those darts!

  10. Hahaha, great point, @Audrey! The fit on Zooey is not great. I wonder if it was kind of intentional, to keep it playful? Nah, either way you're right, those darts end way too high.

  11. The only tricky part in learning this skill is learning how to draft a pattern as well as measuring your body. After you have learned these, everything else is easy. Practice makes perfect. Start with small projects like pillow cases, bed sheets and other items that need simple sewing. These projects can also teach you the basics of sewing that is pattern making and taking measurements. These will train you on sewing and other basics. This will be your starting point in learning how to sew and succeeding in this business.

  12. Anonymous4/12/2012

    I just want to start making my own clothes since i love fashion and i would want to be totality unique in my style. I am planning on buying a dressmaking/sewing machine next month and other matirials that comes with it. I don thave expirience and I would like to get some advise from you guys.



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