Tunic Time!

If my favorite garments were ranked by how much wear they receive, this one would get the Blue Ribbon, the Silver Cup AND the Gold Medal.Now I get to see if my most recent tunic dress will earn its place on my list of favorites. 

 Practicalities occasionally escape my aesthetic sensibilities, and I made the casual dress out of a silk charmeuse I bought at Mood Fabrics during my first, but hopefully not last trip to Mood in December 2011.

Butterick 5415

The easy structure, whimsical nature and versatility of many tunics continue to intrigue me. The trickiest part of sewing a tunic for me is the fitting. I want it

fitted but not restrictive,

straight but shaped,

comfortable but not baggy.

Does such a garment exist? 

I practiced my couture techniques by inserting a hand-picked zipper, underlining the dress and my new favorite – coating the thread with beeswax. But as I added darts and changed seam lines, I questioned whether I should be spending sewing time challenging myself with a more complicated pattern….

While I don’t have an answer, I do have an easy dress I will throw on every chance I get. Lots of Love is going to face Lots of Competition to maintain her standing!


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57 Responses to Tunic Time!

  1. angela says:

    I love it!!! This is my type of dress. I’m even going out to buy this pattern because I love this dress so much! I bought a similar dress from J.Crew last year and I wear it as much as possible. Great job on this one, it is really spectacular and I say make what you will most likely wear and don’t worry about how much you are challenging yourself!

  2. Lauren says:

    Yup – this puppy is a winner for almost any shape. Very good pattern. What did you use for the contrasting black bands? Silk as well? Also – I think I would add a hook & eye at the top of the zipper to finish the look and have it lay flat instead of v spreading at the top of the zipper. Very handy versitile piece.

  3. Janine Whisler says:

    Oh, you know the old saying….. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Applying this saying to the pattern seems appropriate, even if you did go the extra mile when you used your couture techniques. Love the fit, love love with your boots (my new favorite thing)! One question though, when you say you use beeswax to coat your thread, in what way? Hand sewing or machine sewing? I picture you waxing the thread as it’s running through your machine….. but can’t imagine what a mess that would be.
    Beautiful dress, by the way!

  4. joen says:

    The dress looks fabulous! I have been reading up on hand picked zipper sewing but have not tried it yet – yours looks great! and I am told it really makes a difference in how a zipper lays. Isn’t beeswax the best when hand sewing! resently started using myself. Did you use beeswax when hand picking your zipper?

    • Joen,
      I learned about the hand picked zipper in Susan Khalje’s Couture Dress Class. It truly makes a huge difference and is not hard to do…. and thread is run through the beeswax and placed under the iron for the zipper and other hand sewing. Many thanks for writing!

  5. jillybe says:

    To die for fabric! And a great pattern to showcase it on – you wear a tunic so well :)

  6. Becky says:

    OK, I need references for hand picking a zipper and putting beeswax on thread, or I guess I should just google it! Lovely dress, and I agree with angela, make what you will wear and enjoy. Sooner or later, you will find something to make that you want and that challenges you.

  7. gingermakes says:

    This is GORGEOUS! I agree with everyone– while it’s always awesome to challenge yourself and learn new techniques, sometimes you need to just make what you’ll wear (and love wearing)!

  8. I agree with the others about the style and complexity aspects. It’s the quality of fabric and the construction methods which really stand out, as well as the fabulous fit. And you’ve done it again and again. Complicated patterns don’t necessarily look better!
    I’ve enjoyed following your blog this year, you have really made me stop and think about the direction my sewing is going in, to bring it up a notch! Thank you!

  9. Love it. Beautiful fabric, simple design = a winner in my book.

  10. cheryl says:

    So glad to see this made up! It looks great on you, and as always, perfect fabric choices! I actually have this pattern and fabric for it, so it was so fun to see that someone else had sewn it. Quick question – did you line your dress, and if so, what did you use with the silk charmeuse?

    • Hi Cheryl,
      I underlined the dress though I had planned to line it. I thought lining the dress would mess up the front band, so I lined the bodice but not the sleeves. I really like the results!

      • cheryl says:

        Thanks – that helps! I have a dress very similar to this by one of the fun (but pricey) designers…and they’d lined theirs in a kind of thin knit (It’s going to be my rtw ‘sample’ dress for this pattern!). I’ll have to try it both ways and see what happens!

  11. Lori says:

    Gorgeous tunic, this style looks so good on you.

  12. Tia Dia says:

    It’s gorgeous! What a lovely print. And silk anything may not be very practical, but it’s still perfect!

  13. I love the fabric choice. Perfect for fall and I like how you paired it with boots.

  14. Sharon says:

    I can’t fnd the words, your tunic is gorgeous and your fit criteria is so mine and you have shown me that I can get a tunic to fit me. Love the colour and you are all set for the cooler weather.

    • Many thanks, Sharon! I’m flattered by such a nice comment from someone with your sewing skills! The tunic is a smidgeon too loose in the front but I decided to live with it rather than add darts. I’m thinking of making it again later and believe I’ll be able to get it just right. :)

  15. Heather says:

    What a great dress! I’ve had this pattern for a while, but have never been sure if I should make it. Your dress is very convincing. I love it!

  16. Karen says:

    Complicated construction or not, it’s lovely, eye-catching and that silk charmeuse gives it a sophisticated feel. I like how you manipulated the fabric design on the back of the dress. Very clever.

  17. Wow! Another absolutely stunning addition to your enviable and gorgeous wardrobe! The fit you achieved is impressive and very flattering. :-)

    • Many thanks, Heather! I love your collection of Vintage patterns especially the McCalls 8990. I would love to find several Vintage patterns. I am convinced Kate Spade, Lilly and several other designers base their current fashions from these patterns. Any tips?

  18. velosewer says:

    I was taught to wax thread for hand sewing a while ago and it’s something that really stands the test of time with my clothes and when I mend my husbands clothes. How he manages to break buttons is beyond me. I suppose he’s a bloke and that’s the only answer I can come up with.
    You have a real knack for picking great fabrics.

  19. sewbusylizzy says:

    Sometimes a simple pattern allows us to indulge in lovely finishes and individual touches. You spend the time on these because you are not consumed with tricky seam lines etc. and the beautiful finish is even more evident because of the design simplicity.
    Lovely tunic BTW!

  20. fabricfan says:

    It would rank at the top in my closet, what a versatile addition to you wardrobe. Rosemary

  21. maggie184@comcast.net says:

    You look so stylish in your boots and tunic.  Very nice.  A. Maggie 

  22. robindenning says:

    The fabric is just gorgeous and I hope this one turns into a favorite. I know just what you mean about the fit being the hardest part. When a garment is well cut, it exists in the magic intersection between comfort and shaping. It is pretty mysterious how much of that is “the cut”. Any pattern can be altered to fit, but the placement of seams is crucial, too. The great designers are masters of cut, and as home sewers we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves we find it difficult. It always comes back to the TNT pattern :)

    • Valerie says:

      Lovely dress and great job! I also have this pattern and had idea it would look this cute make up. I’ll add it to my long list of to-dos.


    • Good point, Robin. I’m learning to make my patterns fit but few have that AHA! effect. Frankly, there are only a handful of RTW clothes in my closet that have that magical fit and cut.
      In the meantime I’m happy with beautiful fabric, adequate fit and lots of variety! Many thanks for writing :)

  23. Deborah says:

    I found your blog just as the year was ending. I love it! You have made some beautiful garments. I do have a question, what type of fabric did you use for your underlining? Silk organza perhaps? You have been such a great inspiration to me. Thank you for sharing all your wonderful projects that have turned into the most fabulous wardrobe! I bet your closet is the envy of many! lol


    • Thank you, Deborah for this nice comment! I have used silk organza for underlining a good bit, but with the tunic I used typical rayon/poly lining. I originally cut it out as a lining but quickly realized a traditional dress lining would interfere with the band placement so I treated it as an underlining. It worked out very nicely :)

  24. Julie says:

    Having experienced a “tunic trauma” on a project of my own, I realize how important fit, fabric and scale are to a successful one. Yours combines all of these elements and more. I agree – complex is not necessarily better and sewing garments that you won’t wear because they don’t fit your lifestyle is time wasted. I love that you pose thought provoking question in your blog that I can always relate to in some way (“Let’s Hang On to What We’ve Got” hit very close to home!). Your sewing continues to be inspirational, fashionable but not trendy and always fabulous.

  25. jstarr4250 says:

    Having experienced “tunic trauma” with a recent attempt, I realize now how tricky it is to get the fit, scale and fabric correct, especially when one is petite. Once again you have hit upon a winning combination. I agree that complexity is not necessarily better and If a garment doesn’t fit your lifestyle then the time spent making it is wasted. Your blog always poses thought provoking questions that I can relate to in some way (Let’s Hang On to What We’ve Got” especially hit home!) You are continually inspirational, fashionable and fabulous.

  26. ZoSews says:

    Another definite winner! Wouldn’t have thought to use satin for a tunic – must add to my list! Did you underline the whole thing? What did you use?

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