Charlie Dress Sewalong: Pattern hacking & styling it up

We've said it before and we'll say it million times - one of our very favourite things about sewing patterns is their endless scope for hackery and reinvention. The idea that one foundation design can be subtly tweaked or dramatically transformed to suit all manner of seasons, occasions and moods is one of our main driving forces. In today's instalment of the Charlie Dress Sewalong, we'll be exploring some pattern hacking inspiration, plus how we like to style our Charlies for maximum trans-seasonal wearability.

*To be taken to all the posts in the Charlie Dress Sewalong, please click here*

Pattern hacking Charlie

Maybe too obvious to even call it a 'hack', but a girl can never have too many skirts in her handmade wardrobe! And as far as skirts go, both variations of Charlie offer indispensable skirts in their own right. Just whack on a waistband and you're good to go!

Both skirts from Lena Hoschek


The Summer isn't quite over yet - show off your holiday pins in a Charlie mini with Variation 1 minus the frill tier.

Dress from Oasis


I think it's safe to say that a significant proportion of the sewing crowd is partial to splash of pin-up glamour... Easily achievable by simply replacing the standard shoulder straps with a Marilyn-esque halter.


Stepping things up a little now and drawing inspiration from one of our (many) favourite designers: Alice McCall. Using Charlie's princess seamed bandeau bodice as a base, the scalloped neckline, tie straps and bold appliqué make for one fabulous frock.


Anyone else still riding the 90s revival wave? We've always wanted to recreate Rachel from Friends' strapless date-night dress, and we reckon Charlie + Charlotte (minus the straps and neckband, and with plenty of boning) is the way forward.


Another simple, but always welcome addition to any dress is of course a pair of pockets! Hidden side seam pockets will work best for Variation 1, while side slanted pockets would be perfect for the 3/4 circle skirt of Variation 2.


We strongly believe that it's the extra little flourishes and finishing touches that can elevate a simple handmade dress into "Holy WOWZA!" territory, and we're especially hot on embroidery and beading right now. No need to spend months painstakingly hand stitching acres of fabric though - an embroidered neckband or even just a decorative machine stitched hem is more than enough.

Details from a recent Charlie I made sans neckband and with the addition of some decorative topstitching


Why not ditch the neckband altogether and add a girly flounce instead? Check out Charlotte's how-to hack here.


Styling it up

In order to avoid the inevitable pitfalls of disposable trends, trans-seasonal sewing is where it's at, and how you style your handmakes is a big part of that. Just because Winter Is Coming, don't discard your floral sundresses yet!

For cosy Sunday pub lunches we love a slinky long sleeved top or turtleneck layered under a dress with sneakers or flats, while a classic cropped cashmere cardi layered over a sleeveless dress, worn with sparkly lurex tights and killer heels is just the ticket for winter weddings and Thanksgiving/Christmas parties. 

Next up: Time to get stuck in as we figure out what size we'll be making and how to print and assemble your pattern...

  • Elisalex de Castro Peake
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