Katie and Me

The best thing about making shifts for ladies is that sometimes I get to meet said ladies, and sometimes we get to be friends! That is what happened with Katie and me, anyway.

This woman wears a shift like no one's business. She also made perhaps the most amazing ice cream I've ever had. And scones! And clotted cream! Seriously, home made clotted cream. Can you even imagine?

Thanks to Katie and her wife Christa for being so damn lovely and hilarious. Let's have brunch every day!

(These pics turned out slightly wonky -- hope you can deal!)

Cute Dress Alert! Áine, Madison, WI

Here is Áine, living the dream on a sunny day in Madison, looking perfectly springy and lovely in her "Once Upon A Fairy Tale" shift.

These photos make me want a denim jacket and an orange scarf immediately! And a little dog, too -- see him hiding?

Áine, thank you so much for (1) being ridiculously cute and (2) documenting said cuteness in photos for all of us to enjoy this fine morning! Wheee! Mondays are great!

Cute Skirt Alert! Kalpana S., Dublin, Ireland

Kalpana was Wear the Shift's #1 customer -- our first beta tester, and our first real non-beta order, too! I am grateful not only for her support and love, but also that she sent this picture of herself taking names in her Skate Party skirt with some rather rad hot pink tights and cute little oxfords. I go crazy for this combo of adorable and bad-ass. Love!!

Thank you for sending your lovely picture, Kalpana. And also for being WTS's #1 everything! Someday we will get you a foam finger like this!

Sewing and Wearing So Many Shifts: A Guest Post from Beta Tester Extraordinaire Julie

Julie lives in Philadelphia, possesses glorious red curls, and, as far as I know, has sewn more shifts than any other civilian! For 2013, she's challenging herself to make all her own clothes and accessories and is blogging about her project at Handmade Mess. Today, she takes us on a tour of the many shifts she's made using her custom Wear the Shift sewing pattern as a jumping off point. So many pretty ideas! Thanks Julie!

(And, my lovelies, everyone can get their own custom pattern starting tomorrow! Stay tuned!)

Each of these dresses was made using the same pattern: my Wear the Shift custom-fit shift dress pattern. What I’ve discovered while working with this is that once you have a basic, well-fitting dress pattern, the variations to customize that basic shape are pretty much endless. I feel like I’m only just scratching the surface of possibilities.

The basic shift design is a sleeveless, scoop-necked dress shaped with darts at the bust and back. Shown at the far left, above (and here), it’s great for a summer weight dress, a shell for layering, or as a jumper.  I liked it so much, I wanted to wear a shift in all seasons, so I quickly made another, raising the back neckline and adding short sleeves. (Julie's tutorial on how to do this is coming soon! -ed.)

From there, it seemed that every fabric lurking in my stash was another potential shift dress, each one lending different characteristics to the pattern.  A thick, stretchy bouclé fabric turned the design into a snuggly sweater dress. The neckline was raised for a more conservative shape to offset a flashy red wool. I removed pockets from the side for a smoother line, only to add them back later in the form of curved patch pockets as a design feature.

Along the way, the fit changed a bit, as well. I learned that even with the same pattern, the weights, thicknesses, and drapes of different fabrics required slight alterations to the basic shape. To dresses in thicker cloth, I added a small vertical dart to the front panels, under the bust, to create a waistline. I removed the side zipper, then later added a center back zipper on a version with a closer neckline, to make getting in and out easier.

I found it simple enough to make changes to the basic pattern, patching in new necklines, pockets, etc., using newspaper to add or fill, and marking other changes right on the original pattern, so that I could follow my notes in subsequent versions, if I wished.

And then, I started playing with the idea of a collar, creating a removable piece that could snap into the dress’s neckline, and then be removed for a different look on the same dress.

I still have more to figure out.  I’m still studying the art of darts, in particular. I know objectively that a basic “sloper” or dress form should have a bust point and static depth and length for proper shaping of a dart, yet I find that in practice, the length, in particular, varies with the weight of the fabric I’m working with, and I often end up adjusting darts a bit after the shoulders and sides have been seamed.

This photo shows the wide variation in dart positioning I’ve made, plus the vertical bust dart that I added to my basic front, whenever I’m working with thicker stiffer material, to keep the dress drapey and shapely.

The good thing is that I know the basic dress pattern -- my original shift -- fits properly, to my own unique measurements, so as I embark on creative variations on my own, I always have a strong foundation to return to. When in doubt, I can throw out my markings and alterations and go back to the original. In this way, sewing with my own custom-fit pattern has allowed me to be more adventurous in my sewing than I’ve ever dared to be with commercial patterns built to an idealized form. With those, I never knew if it was the pattern that was wrong (or just wrongly fitted to my body) or if it was I who had messed it up along the way.

I’m having quite a bit of fun learning in the classroom of my own home workroom, and testing my experiments in the form of fun, wearable dresses, out in the street.  If Wear the Shift ever expands to other garments (maybe slacks and jackets,?) I’d love to follow along.


Cute Dress Alert! Julie from Philly

So, I sent out the first batch of custom beta patterns on a Saturday, and by the following weekend I had these amazing photos from Julie from Philadelphia, who is apparently as speedy as she is adorable. :)

My heart leapt out of my chest when I saw her looking sooooo great in her beautifully made dress! It looks both cute and polished, and I think she could wear this just about anywhere from a family dinner to work to drinks on the town, right? And be, like, the sweetest looking lass in any of those rooms?

Julie, thank you SO MUCH for sewing fast, sending pictures, and giving me such awesome feedback on your pattern. I can't wait to see your next shift!

For those of you who have put your measurements in, your pattern will be in the mail this week ... and for those of you who want to purchase your very own custom pattern, I'll be putting them in the shop very soon! Give thanks!!

Help Jane Style Her Jane

Cute dress alert! This is Jane, who lives outside of Atlanta and describes herself as warm-natured. A few months ago, she got this shift, also named Jane!

She emailed me a few weeks ago with these adorable pictures and mentioned that she was still contemplating how to layer and bejewel her shift. So I offered to find some options for her and see if you guys had any ideas, too.

Based on a few things Jane mentioned in her email, I started thinking about lightweight layers and cute yet comfy and casual shoes. I also felt like natural stone and wood jewelry would look great on her, with just a little leather and sparkle to lift the looks up.

So I went on Pinterest and Etsy and started picking stuff out (which is SUPER FUN BTW) and here's what I came up with. Click the image to see this board on Pinterest, where you can check these items out closer-up and visit the shops where I found them.

I love idea of this shift with a jean jacket, gray oxfords, and a lightweight scarf in a saturated color. Or, to dress it up a little, a soft wine cardigan, a buttery leather belt, and some shimmery flats. Or with the tweedy blazer and those boots!? So many cute options. And I love the natural jewelry with this color palette.

What do you guys think? Any ideas to help Jane style her Jane?

(And if you need some suggestions for styling any of your Wear the Shift garments, drop me a line via the Contact form.)

Cute skirt alert!!! Katie H., Pittsburgh, PA

Well the feedback is starting to roll in from our beta skirts, and they are looking really good so far! Check out these pictures of Katie, who I was lucky enough to meet this weekend. As it turns out, she already knows everyone I know, which is one of the things I love about this town!

Thanks so much, Katie, for being a beta tester and helping us perfect this skirt. And also for being so darn cute!

Structured vs. Drapey fabrics revisited

We got a great picture from one of our beta testers this week -- hey Zelda! -- and when we saw it, we knew we wanted to share it with you. We've talked before about how a dress made from a structured fabric will look compared to a drapey dress ... now we can show you the difference.

Structured: Zelda

Zelda's dress is made from Space Mum, a heavy and slightly stiff cotton canvas -- one of the most structured we have offered. You can see how the fabric holds the A-line shape of the dress. I for one love this, because it skims the overall shape of my body without broadcasting the details of every curve. If there's not a huge difference between the width of your shoulders and your hips, then this kind of fabric will work great for you.

Drapey: Sarah

Sarah, who we've featured before, is wearing a shift made from the very drapey S'il Vous Plaid. You can see how it is more pliable, and falls in a straight line down from the fullest part of her body. This kind of fabric works really well for folks with wider hips/more junk the in trunk, because it doesn't add any additional width to the lower body. If your hips are a good bit wider than your shoulders, look for a drapey fabric.