How to wear stripes, when you hate stripes!

When Gillian reached out to me about writing a guest post for the Sewcialists for the #sewstripes challenge, I happily accepted. I frequently write about sewing over at the Curvy Sewing Collective, I use the #sewcialists hashtag on Instagram all the time (I’m @weboughtamanor), and any excuse to sew a new outfit is a good one, amitrite? However, when it actually came to picking out a striped fabric to sew, I ran into a bit of a roadblock.

Apparently, I hate stripes.

  • I checked my entire 4-season wardrobe, and there is not a single striped piece of clothing in the entire lot.
  • I have one black and white striped t-shirt in the donate pile because it felt “not me” after a couple of wears.
  • I have two striped fabrics in my stash (of more than 200 fabrics) — an Art Gallery knit that I’ve owned for at least three years, and a bold silk chiffon that I’ve pulled out and put back a dozen times over the last year.

After doing the Wardrobe Architect series in 2016, along with a heavy dose of The Curated Closet last year, I’ve been on a mission to refine my personal sense of style, and it’s become clear that I gravitate towards solids and neutrals — a style I have defined as “classic, comfy, chic.”

I want my clothes to be understated and polished — impeccably fitted, in luxe fabrics, and with an effortless feel. And while there are still definitely holdovers from my “big bold awesome prints” sewing days, my closet composition is definitely changing in that direction.

But back to the stripes.

After much dithering, I finally realized there WAS a fabric option that met both of my criteria: it was striped, and it was understated. This magical unicorn was a rayon ponte, with soft blue microstripes on an ivory background. From a distance, it looks like a solid color, but as you get closer the stripes begin to appear, giving a lovely sense of subtle texture.

The next step was to find a matching pattern, and I pretty quickly settled on the Cashmerette Rivermont dress. It might be my perfect knit dress: it’s suitable for work (just toss a blazer on top and it would even work in the board room), but can also be worn more casually for things like errands, book club, and happy hour. And it has deep, glorious pockets.

The process in a nutshell.

This was the first time I’d sewed up the dress, and it went together quickly — about three hours in all. I didn’t bother trying to match the stripes; because they were so small and blended together, it didn’t really matter. I included the optional kick-pleat at the back — that seemed to elevate the final dress and wasn’t difficult at all (although it seemed a bit overwhelming at first; if you try this pattern, don’t be put off!).

One trick that I will share is concerning the darts — the Rivermont has 12 darts in all, but this trick works on any pattern with any number of darts. So here it goes: CUT OUT THE DART (after adding seam allowances).

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Every dart instruction that I’ve ever seen tells you to fold the fabric along the dart line, pin it, then sew the dart and press the dart fold up or down. That fold then gets caught in the side seam (if it’s a bust seam) or in the waist seam (if it’s a vertical dart).

I dislike the bulk of dart folds. So a couple of years ago, I decided to try something new: I cut out the dart (adding seam allowance to the dart legs) and sewed the edges together instead. Instead of a big fold of fabric, I only need to press the seam allowance up or down.

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I do this in two steps: first, I use my sewing machine to sew the dart together (just like you would with a normal dart), then I serge the seam allowance together for a clean finish. Finally, I tie the ends of the serged threads together at the end of the dart to make sure they don’t unravel. (If I’m using a delicate woven fabric, I’ve also done a french seam.)

Now, I was concerned at first that the darts would unravel or pucker or otherwise fail after repeated wearing, but I’ve washed the original garments dozens of times and I’ve never had a problem. So now I do it every time there is a dart. Consider giving it a try yourself!

Okay, lady, get to the final outfit.

I am delighted with my new Rivermont dress — it meets all my criteria for a perfect “classic, comfy, chic” garment.

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I snapped these photos after wearing the dress all day, and you can see that there are some wrinkles, but even they look classy. I’m also not sure why my eyes are consistently shut: here’s the only one where I appear to be awake (although maybe plotting an evil scheme?):

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Anyway, you can see that it reads as a gray/blue solid, but up closer you can see the micro-stripe texture. Although it doesn’t capture well in a photo — look too long and you’ll definitely get a headache. My advice: don’t wear it to a TV interview!

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So there you have it: how to wear stripes if you hate stripes! Even if you don’t think you are a stripes person, consider using a tiny stripe to add texture without screaming “French mime” every time you look in a mirror.