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Charlie Dress Sewalong: Getting inspired & gathering supplies

Confession: I LOVE that back 2 school feeling you get at the end of the Summer. It's my actual New Year - when you're rested and glowing after a week or two away, and you get home full of positive productivity, plans and resolutions for the coming months (KonMarie entire house, sew whole new winter wardrobe, make jam etc). What better time to get stuck into a brand new sewalong?? If you've been wanting to expand your sewing skills, try something new or you just like to take your time and sew-along with a bunch of likeminded creatives, then you're in the right place at the right time, my friends! 

We'll be talking everything from pattern alteration to hacking potential; breaking down each step in the making of the Charlie Dress with clear photographs and in depth instructions. You can chime in at any point in the comments below each post if you get stuck, or even if you'd like to share some of your own tips & tricks so that we can all benefit. Needless to say, this sewalong will remain right here on this blog for all time, so you can refer back to it again and again for future makes.

Kicking things off today we're going to be going through all the things you'll need in order to make a Charlie Dress - mostly just swooning over all the delicious fabrics out there that we want to make Charlie Dresses from, but hopefully also giving you a solid idea as to what fabric types will bring out the best in your Charlie, and inspiring you along the way...

To make the Charlie Dress, you will need to buy:

General sewing supplies that you will also need:

  • Pins
  • Tape measure
  • Two hand sewing needles (for Variation 1; optional)
  • Matching thread
  • Dress makers shears
  • Tracing paper (optional)
  • Your sewing machine
  • Your serger/overlocker (optional)


Light to medium weight wovens will work best - Variation 1: quilting cotton, chambray, lawn, cotton silk, viscose rayon etc. Variation 2: as V1 and also, flannel, linen, eyelet. 

Variation 1 - Princess seamed bandeau bodice with neckband and gathered two-tier skirt

Unashamedly feminine, and with endless scope for colour blocking and print clashing, I've already made up three of this variation and I think it'll be up there with the squillions of Kim Dresses I've made before long - it's just the perfect party dress! Better yet, this variation is ideally suited to quilting cotton - so the world of novelty prints and contemporary designer fabrics is your oyster.

The separate frill tier and neckband present the perfect opportunity to show off two complementary fabrics. The only rule here is to always pick two fabrics that are of the same weight and fibre content, and other than that, you're free to go as wild as you like! If you're nervous about clashing prints, a good place to start is by picking complementary prints from the same collection, for example:

Birch-Periwinkle & Rosa-Peach from the Les Fleurs collection by Cotton + Steel, available from the Village Haberdashery


Japanese indigo cotton prints, available at Dragonfly Fabrics


...And a good rule of thumb is to opt for one large print and one smaller, and keep at least one colour consistent throughout both. Shopping online for complementary fabrics can be very tricky, so your best bet is to get out there and experiment with your fabrics together in real life! 

Liberty Tana Lawn


Another super fun way to play with the tiered skirt is to use a border print fabric. Border print fabrics were very popular in the 40s and 50s as they were an effective way of elevating the effect of a simple gathered or pleated skirt. They've been mostly out of action for a while recently, however, due to the generally impractical nature of dressmaking with border prints, but they are finally making a comeback (yay!) thanks to designers like Michael Miller and Gretchen Hirsch.

Gertie for Jo-Ann Fabrics


Michael Miller border prints, unicorns available at Sew Scrumptious; navy floral available at the Village Haberdashery (and that's the one we're using for variation 1!)


Variation 2 - Princess seamed bandeau bodice with neckband and 3/4 circle skirt

Here you have a more run-of-the-mill dress in terms of fabric options - everything recommended for variation 1, plus slightly heavier, drapier fabrics such as sateen, flannel, eyelet, linen and wool crepe etc will work a treat. Variation 2 Charlie has clean, simple lines, and her 3/4 circle skirt effortlessly walks the line between what can sometimes feel like a too-full full circle skirt, and a not-quite-full-enough half circle skirt (if you know what I mean...?!), so you can keep things classic and simple with block colours or let your fabric do the talking and opt for loud geometrics or romantic florals - the possibilities are literally endless.

Here's a little round up of what's floating our boat for Charlie variation 2 right now...

Drapey viscoses from Fabric Godmother


Vintage geometric prints at Ditto Fabrics


Melody Miller for Cotton + Steel


Cotton sateens from The Fabric Store


Liberty silks from Ray Stitch


Printed cottons from Art Gallery Fabrics


The only important thing to take into consideration with Charlie variation 2 is that the circle skirt requires wider width fabrics of 60" in order to fit the skirt pieces on. However, if you fall hard for a narrower fabric, or you'd like to add a few extra inches to the length of your skirt, then fear not - there is a trick we'll be showing you in due time... ;) Just bear in mind that you will need more fabric than stated on the pattern - probably a metre or so extra to be on the safe side.

Next up: We'll be getting even more inspired for future Charlies to come as we explore her pattern hacking potential, plus how to style your Charlie up or down whatever the occasion or season. Until then, happy fabric shopping!!

Comments on this post (1)

  • Sep 01, 2016

    Ooh! I’ve gone with Trail Mix for Dear Stella for my fabric and am planning to make TWO Charlies for my back-to-school wardrobe (I am, quite literally, going back to school, as I’m a teacher and I do it every September…). They will get a bit of use this month and will, I hope, become go-tos once the Canadian winter ends and I can trot them out again in the spring.

    My fabric is only 45" and I want to do the circle, so I am just planning to lay out the skirt on a single layer of fabric, rather than on the fold. Should work, right? I’ve also indulged in some yummy, teeny-tiny pompom trim, which I know Elisalex will appreciate, as she shares my love for the poms!

    Looking forward to the hacks as I think this pattern will be joining the Charlotte skirt as one of my favourites!

    — Erin

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