Almost Cocktail Attire

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09 Apr Almost Cocktail Attire

In my next life I’d like to live in a historic house in Charleston with a decorative gate and  creeping fig wall.


Perhaps you follow Teggy French, one of my favorite fashion bloggers. Last fall her social media led me to Shein, a website of inexpensive clothing where I purchased a ruffled bell sleeve top. When it arrived I hated everything about it… the triple tiered sleeves looked ridiculous on me, the  fabric was cheap and the cut was skimpy. I was ashamed of ordering this garment. I knew better ….. but I kept it anyway and stashed it in the back of my closet.

Over the weekend we went to a birthday party in Charleston, and the invitation read ‘Almost Cocktail Attire’…….. not that I know what that means.  The weather turned cool and my almost cocktail attire kept changing. In desperation I pulled the cheap top from the closet to try with the skirt I was finishing.

IMG_5182 2After a closer look, it occurred to me an easy fix awaited………. all I needed was a pair of scissors.

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I bought the top before the pattern companies released so many cute tops with decorative sleeves.  If I stand still it looks fine, but since there is no set in sleeve the top constantly shifts and  moves around.


However, I’m loving my new skirt!


I bought the whimsical stretch cotton from Promenade Fine Fabrics in New Orleans. The fabric is designed in panels and I ended up with extra yardage due to the design – enough extra yardage to make a simple straight skirt, and another garment is on the way……

My pattern is New Look 6492 which I bought after View C (with the flounce) caught my eye.


I lined the skirt and finished the waistband with Petersham ribbon. If you don’ already use the Petersham waistband technique, I encourage you to give it a try, as it will result in a comfortable fit and neat finish.

  1.  Stitch skirt and lining at waistline wrong sides together
  2. Cut ribbon the same size as garment plus 2 inches
  3. Stitch ribbon to right side of skirt in a 1/2 inch seam
  4. Understitch, trim seam and turn ribbon to the inside of skirt.
  5. Turn ends under ribbon and handstitch ribbon to  lining.


All Done!

I must remember to always expect the unexpected for that perfectly describes my sewing experience this week – one part from desperation and another from serendipity…. maybe that means all is balanced 😉

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Long live Almost Cocktail Attire!

  • Eileen
    Posted at 18:59h, 09 April Reply

    Amazing what you can do with a pair of scissors! Love your skirt. I have not tried a blouse with all that interest in the sleeves. You have managed to pull it off.

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 07:20h, 10 April Reply

      Thank you, Eileen! I love the gorgeous sleeves popping up on the runways, but like all other clothes I have to be careful as they easily overwhelm women my height. 😉

  • Cindy Symes
    Posted at 19:21h, 09 April Reply

    Good call cutting out the third tier on that top! It’s got just the perfect amount of swing to it now! And that skirt fabric is just too cute! And thanks for the link to yet another great fabric store – I’ve been scrolling through pages and pages of gorgeous fabrics! So many fabrics…. congrats on almost cocktail attire! I think you nailed it!

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 07:22h, 10 April Reply

      Many thanks, Cindy! Actually I like the way this sleeve is constructed and will try to recreate it. The tiers are flounced and not gathered which keeps them from being too full. This was my first purchase from Promenade Fine Fabrics. The store has a great Instagram feed. 😉

  • Patricia Brown
    Posted at 19:29h, 09 April Reply

    Your outfit looks great! I like what you did to the blouse. Less is best…..The blouse doesn’t look overwhelming with the skirt as you removed the busyness of the third bell tier.

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 07:24h, 10 April Reply

      Thank you, Patricia! Less was definitely the better option here 😉

  • Susan Kelley
    Posted at 20:25h, 09 April Reply

    After visiting Charleston, who would not want a decorative gate and fig ivy! I deconstruct statement necklaces that are too much, usually a third layer that makes me look awful! Less is better as Chanel used to say. Remove at least one thing before you leave your home! (Not really a direct quote but hopefully you get the point) The whole outfit looks great on you, Now I have an idea of what :almost Cocktail attire: means. Thanks!

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 07:25h, 10 April Reply

      Many thanks for your comment, Susan! I’ve never thought about deconstructing necklaces, but that’s a great idea. 😉

  • MaryEllen
    Posted at 21:09h, 09 April Reply

    I love how creative you are in changing the sleeves !
    BUT this skirt is amazing !! I’ve even gone online to promenade but couldn’t find this fabric . It’s sooooo versatile & stylish . I’ve loved,loved,loved border prints since my college days of sewing . ( quite a while ago😍) . Both items are another hit !

    • MaryEllen
      Posted at 21:12h, 09 April Reply

      BTW -I’m going to Houston in August with Susan khalje’s couture school . Promenade is supposed to come the day before 😘

      • goodbyevalentino
        Posted at 07:27h, 10 April Reply

        Oh how fabulous!!!!! Have you taken one of her classes before?

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 07:26h, 10 April Reply

      Thank you, MaryEllen! I fell hard for this fabric and am planning a shirtdress with the remaining fabric 🙂

  • Mary Funt
    Posted at 21:35h, 09 April Reply

    Good call on eliminating the lower ruffle. Your outfit is smashing and very appropriate for ” almost cocktail”.

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 07:28h, 10 April Reply

      Thank you, Mary!

  • Sheri Lewis
    Posted at 22:58h, 09 April Reply

    Very inspiring! Way to think outside the box.

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 07:28h, 10 April Reply

      Many thanks, Sheri! The scissors did the thinking on this one 😉

  • Susan
    Posted at 03:05h, 10 April Reply

    Good move unpicking the offending ruffle, it looks great in its new form! Love your skirt, too.
    Thanks for the instructions re using petersham to finish a waistband. Minor point; but am I correct in thinking the skirt and lining are sewn wrong sides together??

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 07:00h, 10 April Reply

      Thank you for catching this Susan. You are correct!! 😉

  • Rianna Brown
    Posted at 04:05h, 10 April Reply

    What a beautiful look Sarah!! I wonder how many RTW garments I have had to alter over the years, as I have realized the construction and/or style flaws relevant to my figure! It just makes sense after all these years to make my own wardrobe from scratch. Thank you for the encouragement time and again as I regularly read your blogs.

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 07:30h, 10 April Reply

      Thank you for your lovely comment, and for being a regular reader,Rianna! You’re exactly right that construction and style flaws almost always are more about the person than the garment.

  • Kathie Bennett
    Posted at 05:15h, 10 April Reply


    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 07:31h, 10 April Reply

      Thank you, Kathie!

  • Juls
    Posted at 06:22h, 10 April Reply

    I like the print of your skirt 🙂
    The sleeves are very much improved minus one layer, the 3 reminds me of a Spanish Bullfighter… not the “almost cocktail look”

    Ps. The photos of the petersham ribbon waist treatment are a bit too small, is it just me? I preferred it when you have your full size pictures like your hemming of knits pictures. I like your tips and tricks Sarah, they are always so informative, so thank you for sharing 🙂

  • Juls
    Posted at 06:27h, 10 April Reply

    Oops, It was me on the photos.. I’ve managed to enlarge the view , please forgive me!

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 07:05h, 10 April Reply

      Glad you could open the photo, Juls! On occasion the link will mysteriously disappear.

  • Donna Strawser
    Posted at 06:43h, 10 April Reply


    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 07:31h, 10 April Reply

      Many thanks, Donna!

  • Beth
    Posted at 06:45h, 10 April Reply

    I love everything about this!!

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 07:32h, 10 April Reply

      Thank you so much, Beth!

  • Becky Bagwell
    Posted at 07:13h, 10 April Reply

    You did it again! Great look!

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 07:33h, 10 April Reply

      Thank you, Becky! You could easily pull off the three tiers of ruffles 😉

  • Sew Jean Margaret
    Posted at 07:21h, 10 April Reply

    Lovely outfit Sarah. Amazing how just removing a ruffle on the sleeve has improved the proportions. Your skirt looks fabulous and thank you for sharing your petersham ribbon waistband finish. I must try this next time I make a skirt.

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 07:35h, 10 April Reply

      Thank you, Jean! It’s all about proportions isn’t it? Susan Khalje uses the Petersham ribbon waistband technique, and Julie encouraged me to give it a try after becoming a convert. I think you will really like it 😉

  • Annie
    Posted at 10:30h, 10 April Reply

    Took me a long time to wrap my mind around “dressy casual.” Now you tell me I have to learn “almost cocktail.” The rules were easier. After five, short cocktail, after 8, long dress, etc. Southern girls do know how to dress for the occasion. And thanks for the petersham tutorial. Making a linen skirt and that will be a useful waistline finish.

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 12:31h, 10 April Reply

      LOL – I agree, and the funny thing is many of the attire codes mean the same thing 😉
      Good luck with the waistline finish and thanks for the comment, Annie!

  • PsychicSewerKathleen
    Posted at 10:58h, 10 April Reply

    What a brilliant re-make on your blouse and your skirt is so pretty! Thank you for that tutorial on the Petersham ribbon technique. I read about it somewhere in the past and bought some of it at our local fabric shop then failed to use it mostly because when I’m making a skirt I make it an elastic waist for comfort 🙂 But it’s such a quality ribbon I’m sure I’ll find a use for it if not as a waist band in the future – it makes a nice embellishment or stabilizer for sewing buttons onto a cardigan as well.

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 12:32h, 10 April Reply

      Thank you, Kathleen! I agree with you Petersham ribbon is the absolute best , with dozens of uses 😉

  • Jennifer Shaw
    Posted at 13:08h, 10 April Reply

    What a fantastic save! It is a cute blouse, with the skirt and your gorgeous necklace, well that upgrades the look to almost cocktail.

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 14:23h, 10 April Reply

      LOL – ALMOST is the operative word! Many thanks, Jennifer 🙂

  • Amanda S.
    Posted at 14:39h, 10 April Reply

    Lovely outfit! Those sleeves are just right now. I have several pieces of clothing that I’m steadily altering to make them better suited to my lifestyle. I don’t especially love altering but being able to even out a high/low hem on a clearance-rack dress or shorten the sleeves of a top bought from Goodwill is really satisfying, inexpensive, and fast.

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 18:58h, 10 April Reply

      Thank you, Amanda! Refashioning has always been great fun for me. I love imagining the potential of unwanted garments 🙂

  • Esther Mozo
    Posted at 21:32h, 10 April Reply

    You look great! Your panache makes this inexpensive blouse look designer. About the petersham tutorial, the last step says to turn ends under the ribbon, by “ends” do you man the part where the zipper is attached? or does it refer to the seam allowance? or something else? Also, this means no more waistband, right? So all I have to do is make the skirt body, cut the same in lining, attach the zipper and then the petersham — and voila!? Sorry for the many questions, I’m a beginning sewist and this is all new to me. Thanks for making it all sound so easy!

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 07:08h, 11 April Reply

      Many thanks, Esther! By “ends'” I mean the overhang on the back of the skirt (picture three). Turn the ends under so they are even with the edges of the back.

      This technique is used for lined skirts without a waistband. so it does not replace an attached waistband. You are correct in the steps 🙂
      Good luck!!

  • Vancouver Barbara
    Posted at 22:56h, 10 April Reply

    Your outfit looks great – you did the right thing with that third ruffle.
    Where do you get Petersham? It seems very hard to find. Grosgrain just doesn’t do the trick.
    Thanks always

  • Claire
    Posted at 12:25h, 11 April Reply

    Looks like “Almost cocktail” to me! Great waistband tutorial. Will try your method on my next skirt. I also follow Teggy French’s blog and had a similar experience when I ordered a white top with statement sleeves after seeing it on her site. I wore mine for the first time this past weekend as well and couldn’t stop fiddling with it. I don’t plan to ever order from a Chinese e-commerce site again…the fit and the fabrics are all wrong. But it’s great inspiration for sewing.

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 12:39h, 11 April Reply

      Well put, Claire, but kudos to Teggy for making everything look good!

  • Bambi Drisko
    Posted at 00:48h, 12 April Reply

    Great looking outfit! What width Petersham are you using for your waistbands?

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 08:11h, 12 April Reply

      Thank you, Bambi! For this skirt I used a 1″ but next time I will use a wider width 😉

  • sally
    Posted at 09:26h, 01 May Reply

    agree with you ! there’s so much that is bad about ‘shein’ it is all over the net and appalling fashion to say the least – I thought it was too good to be true when it showed up ‘everywhere’ and I read the reviews on it -have to say however I love the skirt on trend and great finish

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 07:02h, 16 May Reply

      Live and learn! Teggy makes it all look so good I couldn’t resist 😉 Many thanks for the comment, Sally!

  • Ember L. Flack
    Posted at 20:34h, 10 May Reply

    Another winner, and great story. You really know what you are doing. I love the skirt…The shoes look like a very nice quality. May I know the brand/model? I prefer a more substantial heel like yours here. Beautiful!

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 07:03h, 16 May Reply

      Thank you, Ember! The shoes are Tory Burch which I splurged on for my daughter’s wedding last year. Because the heel is substantial,the shoes are actually comfortable 🙂 🙂

  • Cynthia Willis
    Posted at 00:49h, 26 August Reply

    New to your blog, love your classic style! Removing the lowest ruffle improved the look of the blouse ten-fold. Thank you for the tutorial on the waist finish.

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