Category Archives: Tunics

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.  

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

Tunic Time

Nothing says Summer quite like crisp white and bright navy blue. Pair those colors with an easy-wearing, dress-length tunic, and it is a recipe for comfort and versatility.

This is one of those projects which took a couple of years to evolve. I purchased the white polka-dotted cotton voile from Britex Fabrics about two years ago, thinking I would make a blouse. I considered patterns for it every once in a while, and then put it back in the cupboard. What was keeping me from moving forward on it was the fact I had over 2 yards of this 56” wide fabric, more than enough for a blouse. Using it for a dress seemed the more efficient way to proceed. All I needed was some inspiration.

Then last Fall, I purchased a copy of the then-newly-released The Tunic Bible by Sarah Gunn and Julie Starr.

Well, there is lots of inspiration in this book, and I especially was drawn to this style, but in a dress length.

Shown on page 65 in The Tunic Bible is this top. The combination of the wide split placket, the angled collar, and the split cuffs really appealed to me. All three are really lovely details. (I purchased my copy of this book on Amazon.)

(Now here’s a bit of trivia: a tunic dress is not the same as a dress-length tunic, according to the number one definition in Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion. A tunic dress is “a two-piece dress with a long overblouse worn over a separate narrow skirt,” although the definition was expanded a bit in the 1960s to cover a tunic mini-dress.)

Detail from page 459, The Fairchild Dictionary of Fashion, Third Edition, by Charlotte Mankey Calasibetta and Phyllis Tortora, Fairchild Publications, Inc., New York, New York, 2003

Back to my dress: I knew I wanted to embellish it with Petersham ribbon (which is so malleable and cooperative!) In choosing a color, I went for bright navy blue, also ordered from Britex Fabrics.

I actually have three tunic patterns in my collection, one just a couple of years old which I have used, one from the 1980s (also used), and this vintage one, not used yet:

The description on the envelope does not describe this as a dress length tunic, rather an “A-line dress with a caftan neckline.” But, of course, it has a tunic look.

But I decided to give the pattern included in The Tunic Bible a go. I transferred my size to pattern tracing paper and made my muslin. I knew I would have to line the main body of the dress (the fabric is translucent.) After considering two types of light-weight white linen, which I deemed not quite opaque enough, I went with white muslin.

The tapered darts in the back of the tunic are optional, but help to add some lovely shaping.

The first thing I did was make the stand collar, so that I could see how the blue Petersham ribbon would look; I was a little worried that the intensity of the blue color might be too much for the delicate white fabric, but I was pleasantly rewarded with a look I liked:

The first line of trim goes on…

The stand collar is such a flattering design, even from the back.

I used Dritz Wash-Away Wonder Tape to make the application of the ribbon precise. This was the first time I have used this product, and I thought it was wonderful! I haven’t washed my dress yet, but supposedly the Wonder Tape washes away without leaving a residue.

It is especially important to follow the sequence of construction when it comes to the front of the dress, as the neckline trim needs to be applied even before the bust darts are sewn. Once I had the front and back of the dress together, I decided it was a little too baggy (this did not show up in my fitting muslin, which sometimes happens…)   So, I added tapered darts to the front, which was an excellent solution.

Applying the trim to the hemlines required four mitered corners. One way to help get a precise corner is to use a straightedge to guide the miter. Here you can see I used the end of one of my little slide rulers which was the perfect width:

A nice, precise corner.

With the ribbon trim all applied.

And here is what the hem looks like on the wrong side.

One of the things I love about this color combination is its versatility. In these photos I have paired it with turquoise, but it looks equally good with accessories in orange, red, yellow, green, and of course, blue.

The darts I added to the front give the dress a nice fit. I also used a 12″ side zipper, or else I would not be able to get the dress on!

The dress is loose but not baggy.

Here I have the split cuffs hanging down. I think I prefer them folded back, as shown in all the other photos. However, it’s nice to have the option of wearing them either way.

I suspect there will be a couple more tunics to sew in my summers to come. If there will be in YOURS, I would definitely recommend picking up a copy of this book, if only for the abundance of photos and style options which are handsomely presented. I do recommend that you familiarize yourself with the layout of the book before starting your project. The layout is logical once you understand the formula, but it’s best to give the book a thorough study before you proceed.

And now, with my sights on Fall and Winter (I can’t believe I am saying that!), I think this will be the last of my sewing for Summer. However, I should end with this MEMO to family and friends: Expect to see me in this dress often over the next six/seven weeks.   It is Tunic Time, indeed!

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Filed under Book reviews, Linings, Tunics, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s