A Blue, White and Pink Tunic Top

Perhaps many of you are familiar with this famous quote from Edith Head (American costume designer, 1897-1981): “A dress should be tight enough to show you’re a woman and loose enough to prove you’re a lady.”  When it comes to tunic tops, my very inelegant redo of that quote is: “A tunic should be fitted enough to not be baggy and loose enough to be able to get into it.”  I find that combination to be a difficult task.  Let’s see how I did with this one:

When I saw this pretty fabric on Emma One Socks’s website, I just knew I needed to purchase a length of it. All cotton, it is finely woven and silky soft.  Originally, I thought I would make a dress, but when it arrived, I saw it as a tunic top, trimmed in pink, of course.  I have a couple of tunic patterns, but I went back to this one because the front opening is longer than most, making it easier to get on and get off. 

Yes, I needed to shorten it to be a tunic top rather than a dress, but that’s an easy thing to do.

The interesting thing about this pattern is that there is no fastener/button indicated for that long opening.  I’m not sure how one would keep a degree of modesty – or even keep the tunic properly on one’s body – without a button or at least a hook and eye.  More about that later.

There are a couple of features of this pattern I like, besides that long opening in the front.  It has shoulder darts in the back, which I always find add just a little necessary fitting finesse. 

I love these diagrams which give so much information about the pattern. The shoulder darts are clearly indicated here.

I also like the way the front facing is constructed, and the width of the stand-up collar.  However, the pattern lacks slimming darts in the back.  My limited experience with sewing tunics has taught me that without long defining fisheye darts in the back, my tunic is going to be baggy and look like a sack.  So, I added them.  

There are darts there!

I also shortened the sleeves, as I prefer a length just below the elbow, and I took out some of the width of the “trumpet.”  Even with a narrower sleeve, I knew turning up a hem on it would result in a less than smooth finish.  To get around this, I took the pattern piece for the bottom panel for the long sleeve (shown on the pattern), flipped it, narrowed it, and shortened it to give me a facing which would be a perfect fit into the lower curve of the sleeve.  

The “trumpet” design of the sleeve is evident here.
Here is the facing piece I cut from the pattern.
And here it is pinned in place.
The seam connecting the sleeve to the facing is visible here. I turned up a scant 1/4″ of the unfinished edge of the facing and machine sewed it in place. The pink thread you see is from the attachment of the trim.

Back to that front opening:  when sewing the facing on, I added a loop to the right side so that I could strategically place a button to keep the gap closed.  On this fabric, it seems hardly noticeable, but oh my, is it necessary!  

One of the beauties of tunics is there are no rules on how trim is applied or placed or even if it is used.  I had purchased two widths of Petersham ribbon for use on this garment, fully intending on using two rows to echo the front opening.  However, I determined that would be too much.  Instead, I used the narrower ribbon on the collar and as the second row around the hem and the side slits.  The sleeves seemed to look better with the wider width of ribbon. The ribbon adds a degree of stability to the hem, especially, which helps the tunic to hang properly.  

By the way, sewing all that Petersham ribbon on is helped immensely by the use of Dritz WashAway adhesive tape.

Obviously I have not washed this tunic yet, but in its first laundering the tape securing the ribbon will, indeed, wash away. I expect a softer appearance of the ribbon at that point, which seems to have a few waves in it at present.

Pictures often are the best way to check fit on a garment (even after multiple try-ons to fine-tune it), and I was pleased with the final, slightly fitted, non-baggy appearance of this tunic.  In other words, it does not look like a sack!  It is easy to slip on, less so getting it off, but still very manageable.  (Sometimes a side zipper can be – or needs to be – added to help with this task of dressing and undressing.  The abbreviated length of this example precluded that option.) 

If I make this pattern again, I may make the darts a little bit deeper for more definition.

I’m not sure what Edith Head would have thought about tunics, if anything (!), but I am thinking positively about this one.  


Filed under Blouses, Fashion commentary, Loops for buttons, Tunics, Uncategorized, Vogue patterns

27 responses to “A Blue, White and Pink Tunic Top

  1. Beautiful! Perfect choices re: placement of ribbon widths.

  2. I’ve learned so much from you and will follow your example when thinking’s about how a top should fit. This is cute on you and it’s a vibrant, casual and beautifully made.

  3. Caroline

    Such lovely work! Thank you for sharing so many details. Very helpful. Wishing you well.

  4. lynnetangolynnejim

    Darling tunic! I made one using The Tunic Bible pattern (Sarah Gunn)and it too needed the back fisheye darts. For those of you who can’t get this pattern, it is a good option but a little hard to get on. A side zipper is suggested in their book too. Your sewing is impeccable.

    • Thank you, Lynne. I, too, made one using the pattern from The Tunic Bible and added darts to the back. I prefer this pattern for a number of reasons, but there is much, so much inspiration in that book!

  5. I have this pattern: thank you for all of the practical, style, and fit tips! Lovely tunic top, beautifully made. I like your fabric choice, as well!

  6. Linda D.

    Looks nice. Thanks for sharing the pattern and process.

  7. mery

    I love your tunic. Well done. Perhaps the neck slit is so low to allow for stepping into it rather than pulling overhead lol.

    I know what Edith Head would say about your tunic. During her single years between her two marriages she decorated her home in French Provincial style with much femininity, and her at-home and loungewear matched her surroundings. When she remarried to a man whose home style was rustic southwestern, she replaced all her at-home wear with cotton caftans that blended with the look and feel of his home. I am certain she would approve of anything that suits your current life and activities. Your tunic is pretty, classy, and fun. I am sure she would smile and give you a very positive evaluation.

    Edith Head was so talented and was reputed to be ideal to work with. I am glad she won so many academy awards (8, more than any other female).

    • Now I want to read that biography of Edith Head I have at home in Pennsylvania! Thank you for such fascinating details about her – it is reassuring to know that her exceptional talent and work was recognized – and that she was also such a lovely person! I am so glad you shared this information!

    • I remember watching her on the Art Linkletter show. She was a revelation to me at the grand, old age of seven!

  8. Katja Weil

    Very nice colours, the tunic is perfect for you!

  9. Good idea to add darts to shape the back. So many patterns today omit darts where they would improve the fit of the garment. I could say the same thing for facings.
    On the subject of getting in and out of garments – I recently started this jumpsuit project. https://sewing.patternreview.com/Patterns/48366
    I made a muslin and discovered that managing the back zipper was impossible! I’ll put the zipper in the front and take extra care to make it neat and tidy.

  10. Diana Mizer

    Karen hello, I do enjoy the posts you right. I used to sew as a teenager and loved having a finished outfit to wear. I have not been able to plan sewing into my days other than a pillow project or two. Actually, just about to begin making a pad and cover for my sleeve board (I think so essential for keeping the crease out of the sleeves:). Market availability is pretty paltry for them. Regarding this post, is the Petersham grosgrain pre-shrunk? Also wonder if you would consider posting the tunic after the washing? I am curious if there is any straightening of the ribbon following the launder. Looking forward to your future posts. Diana


    • Hi Diana, The Petersham ribbon I used, from Farmhouse Fabrics, is rayon and therefore does not shrink. It washes beautifully and is soft and pliant. You will notice the edges are small loops (not straight like grosgrain although sometimes you see the terms interchanged). That makes it ideal to sew around curves as it has a lot of “give.” No promises on a photo after washing – I will if I remember; it also will probably be the end of the summer season before I do any washing of this tunic. I did prewash the cotton fabric so I can be assured it will not shrink.
      There are certainly times in one’s life when finding time to sew is next to impossible. I have been there myself! Good luck to you!

  11. Annette Bollig

    Such a lovely top and so beautifully crafted.

  12. Looks fabulous! Maybe the original pattern was designed for a Kardashian with the open down to there slit!!!

  13. Cheryl

    I enjoyed seeing your latest creation and hearing your thought process. Thank you for taking the time to write it out, there always something to be learned.

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