Silk Statues, and swing cami dress tutorial

This dress skipped both the sewing and blogging queue. The sewing part was pure necessity because London has gone full heatwave (or summer is actually just starting for really-reals), and the blogging part just took advantage of this sweet golden morning light.

I’ve really got quite behind on blogging, because I bought this fabric on a recent trip to Hong Kong and I really expected to write up the fabric shopping situation there before sewing any of my purchases up! Anyway this is an absolutely gorgeous silk crepe de chine that I bought for about £7.50 metre in a treasure trove just off Ki Lung Street in Kowloon. The shop had a rainbow of plain silks and loads of my weakness, fun ‘conversational’ prints. It was unfortunately cash-only and one of the last places I stopped, so that hampered my buying a touch, but I’m very pleased with what I came away with, especially this one with its weird lady statuette print.


I decided to sew the fabric up rather impulsively, as I didn’t want to be too scared to use it and have it sitting around for ages, and silk crepe is perfect for aforementioned sticky heat season. I really wanted a chuck-on dress and have seen lots of this pretty square neckline around. The problem is this style is all but impossible to fit on me out of the packet. I look at people wearing things like the Tessuti Claudia dress in wonder: HOW is it not gaping at the top or straining at the bust?! HOW did your hips fit into that elegant column shape?! Pear-shape-hollow-chest problems. I knew to get the fit right I would need to go a self-draft/extreme hack route.

Here’s how I drafted the pattern. I used the Salme Double-Layer Cami pattern as a basis, which I had knocking round in PDF from ages ago (it looks like Salme have disappeared off the internet so no link, sorry); the True Bias Ogden would also work although it lacks darts.

1. Cut a line up the bodice front, stopping at the bust point. Also cut along the middle of the bust dart, stopping just before the first line so you have a little hinge point. (If your camisole isn’t darted, run this line all the way almost to the top of the front.)
2. Swing out the lower piece around this point until the gap at the bottom is opened up by around 2 inches. (Your final ‘swing’ will be 4x this measurement as it will be doubled on the front and back.) You might close the bust dart completely in the process, or just make it smaller.
3. Fill in the gap with paper, tape down and true up the side seam at the dart.
4. Add length, following the angle of the side seam and the curve of the hem. Mine is 32″ from underarm to hem. I would’ve gone a bit longer but this was all my fabric would allow.
5. Repeat these steps on the back, but take the vertical cutting line nearly all the way to the top and swing out from there.
6. Square off the neckline from the strap points to centre front. Fill in with paper.
7. Draft facings off the new front and back pieces. Come down about two inches from the underarm and curve up to the centre.
8. Make a toile! This is quite important to check the level of flare is good and that the front and back necklines are not gaping. I used my alternative construction method when it came to adding the straps and facings.


Annoyingly I found that even after a toile and making further adjustments, the front and back STILL gaped, just enough to be noticeable and annoying. My upper chest is very narrow and rather concave, so I can see why it’s difficult to encourage fabric to hug it nicely. I approached the solution differently on the front and back. On the back I nudged the straps inward by 1/2″ and shaved a bit off the side curve, which isn’t ideal as it doesn’t follow the line of my bra straps any more. On the front I sewed a strip of flat elastic into the facing seam, pulling it taut slightly. The result is a slightly puckered front neckline but it does finally lay flat. I’m not sure how I’ll fix this for next time. A narrow band across the top which is tightly eased-in to the bodice edge perhaps.

Outtake for ya to finish! Despite the minor neckline issues I’m thrilled with this dress and it definitely beat the heat today. Josh took these photos as my self timer has broken and I really like how they turned out. Much nicer to be smiling at my boyfriend than a screen… he’ll be delighted to have got the job I’m sure.

13 thoughts on “Silk Statues, and swing cami dress tutorial

  1. Kirsten

    I love this Katie, it’s so summery! That fabric is awesome. I was thinking about trying to make the Tessuti Claudia more swingy, so your tutorial will be perfect :)

    1. Katie Post author

      I really liked the Claudia on you! I should suck it up and try to fit a straighter silhouette on myself soon..

  2. Susan

    I have the same problems with front and back gap. It’s so frustrating! I’ve used your trick in the front with elastic (for me it works best with knits). I’ve had good luck, when cutting the back on the fold, moving the very top of the pattern off the fold 1/2″ or so (wish I could remember where I read to try this). I also do the same with the front piece, but I usually only need to move the pattern about 1/4″. I’ve tried all sorts of other tricks — darts mostly — with varying success.

    1. Katie Post author

      I have done that trick of moving the CF/CB past the fold too! A similar alteration could be done to the flat pattern before cutting, but I would pivot it out (similar to adding the swing, but coming from the top edge and overlapping rather than spreading) so that the CB/CF grainline is maintained. I had to resort to ‘on the fly’ alterations but I’m going to alter my pattern for next time.

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