Hey y’all – today is the last post on the theme of Wardrobe Basics, and I’m sharing the dress every woman should have in her closet – the Little Black Dress. To make mine truly seasonless, I prefer it to be sleeveless, so I’m also going to show you how to sew a sleeveless dress. That way it’s cool enough to wear in hot summer, and not bulky if I add a jacket over it when the weather is cooler.
I also feel like a sleeveless, knee length dress is the easiest to dress up or down, which is what makes the Little Black Dress so timeless. In these photos I'm wearing a hack of the newest Blank Slate Pattern, the Auberley Dress.
I sewed this dress in a lovely lyocell, which is a form of rayon. I like this fabric for the drape and because it releases wrinkles easily (good for travel).
The Auberley pattern does have sleeve options and will have a hack pack for more sleeve options, but like I said, today we're going to talk about how to take any pattern and make it sleeveless.
So to do this, you'll need to fully line your bodice. And the technique I'm going to show today only works with a bodice that has a center back seam (or a center front button seam). The Auberley back is cut on the fold, so I took my pattern piece and added a seam allowance to the center back.
You'll start by sewing any details on the bodice front and bodice back. For example, the Auberley has a princess seam in the front, so that needs to be sewn first. Once you get a full bodice front and bodice back, you'll sew the shoulder seams of the bodice on both your lining and outer fabric. I used the same fabric as lining, so keep that in mind as you look at the pictures.
Once your outer and lining fabrics are sewn at the shoulders, place the outer and lining bodices right sides together, matching the shoulder seams, neckline, and armscyes. Stitch around the neckline and armscyes. This step removes the seam allowance that would have been attached to your sleeve, so the dress should now fit without falling over the shoulder as long as your original pattern had a shoulder designed to hit at the shoulder point. Clip the curves and if you have any notches (like the V notch on the front neckline here), clip into those.
Turn the bodice right side out and press along the edges. Use a point turner to help flatten the seams.
Insert a zipper in the center back of the outer fabric. For more help with zippers, see this post. Once the zipper is installed, I prefer to blind stitch the lining to the zipper tape, but you can also fold the lining under and topstitch over the zipper again to secure it. Note: if your particular pattern calls for a zipper that extends below the waistline, skip the zipper for now and install it after you attach the skirt.
Fold the bodice so that the outer fabric pieces are right sides together, then fold the lining pieces up so they are rights sides together and match the side seams for both the outer and lining bodice. Match the armscye seams. Sew each side seam in one seam. Now all your raw edges are enclosed except the waistline seam, and you can continue with your dress according to the pattern instructions. Congrats on sewing a a sleeveless dress bodice! Read on for styling tips for your little black dress.
Casual Styling Tips for a Little Black Dress
- Add color. Head to toe black will always look more formal, so add color with your bag, jewelry, shoes, etc. You don't have to add color with every one of those, but pick at least 2 other colors to wear with your dress. Above I have aqua beads, a brown bag, and the blue denim jacket.
- Add unstructured shapes. The unstructured hobo style bag and the long beads I'm wearing with this both up the casual factor.
- Add worn in accessories. My denim jacket, though dark, has a lot of fading and wear along the edges that help keep this look casual.
- Wear casual shoes instead of formal shoes. Depending on how dressed down you want to take your look, wear flats, sandals, boots or even sneakers instead of high heels.
- Keep your makeup neutral. Here I'm wearing my basic face with a nude lipstick.
Classic Dressy Styling Tips for a Little Black Dress
- Think monochrome accessories, with metallic accents. In this version, I've got black shoes, silver earrings and necklace and a gold clutch. If the weather was cooler, I'd add a black jacket and black tights to keep it on the dressier side.
- Keep accessories structured. A strong lines on my clutch, geometric earrings, and necklace
- Wear heels. This pair has cutouts, which keep the dress looking modern, but the heel adds more elegance to the whole look.
- Add red lipstick. A classic little black dress paired with classic makeup is a recipe for timeless style.