Sew the look: A lace-up shift dress


IMG_1735In Oregon, it does not feel like Summer. Today, temperatures hovered around sixty degrees. Still, I’m sewing like it’s ninety! The weather may not be great but my fabric stash is. Who can resist sewing with crisp cottons and linens at this time of year? That’s why I made this dress even though I can’t wear it now. It’s a linen cotton blend, perfect for the sweltering days to come.

This dress was inspired by RTW. Lace up dresses are everywhere and many of them are blue.

The last one is denim, by Current Elliot.  I love the way they used the denim selvage on the hem. Since my fabric had frayed selvages, I just had to try the look. I added the selvage as trim to the pockets, the front band and the sleeve band.


My pattern: McCalls 7391. It’s a pullover top/ tunic pattern that is long enough to be a dress on me. This is the upside of being short. It doesn’t take a lot of fabric to make a top into a dress!  This top/tunic has a front band, shaped hemline and an option for roll-up sleeves and a lace up front.


Fabric: A denim/cotton blend with great drape that I had in my stash.

Modifications: I basted a 5/8″ wide selvedge trim on the pockets, front band and sleeve band.


I made the sleeves 3/4 rather than long. It is cold outside, but some day it won’t be, and I will want to roll them up, and I’d rather not have a ton of fabric to deal with when I do.


Fit: Because the style is ‘shift’, this pattern is very forgiving in the fit department.  I did taper the dress in at the waist, to give it a bit of shape. There are very few darts and no zipper! Love an easy, fast sew – – especially after finish a pair of jeans.

Challenges:  The instructions are easy to follow with one exception. I struggled with the last step in the insertion of the front band, which has to do with a triangle of fabric you’re supposed to get rid of somehow. The diagram that wasn’t great. I  finally figured it out (you just fold it back and stitch it in place), but I think the instructions were weak at that point.


Inserting the metal eyelets for the tie: Well, in one way, these things are super fun to insert! You poke a hole in the fabric, push the front eyelet piece through it, then pound and pound and pound with a hammer until the back piece hooks to the front. So fun and…therapeutic.

But it’s scary too. You have to punch a hole in your fabric to accommodate that eyelet(and not that easy when there’s interfacing to contend with). No matter how sure you are about placement, poking a hole feels risky. Of course, every time you cut a buttonhole you take the same risk, but somehow this felt a bit scarier to me, maybe because I used the sharp point of the scissors? I don’t know.  However, the end result is satisfying. So, it’s way worth a scary moment or two, right? You just transfer the pattern markings carefully and all will be good!

All in all, this is my kind of project. The pattern was pretty easy, I learned a new skill (the eyelets!) and I have a comfy but stylish dress/tunic to wear. Not sure if I’ll ever wear it as a tunic….

…but I guess the option is open. If the weather doesn’t improve…I’ll have to!

Have you ever inserted eyelets into fabric? What did you think of that (crazy/fun/manic) process? Also, the ‘tie’ is a piece of cording that I knotted at the ends. But there must be a way to finish those so that they look better. Would love your thoughts and advice.

Happy sewing and thanks for stopping by!




8 thoughts on “Sew the look: A lace-up shift dress

  1. This looks great – love the selvage treatment. Yes grommets and eyelets are scary! I bought a hand-held press when I made grommet top curtains one time. It’s hard work to get the press just right. My husband had to do it. My machine sews eyelets like a buttonhole. Is that an option for you?

    1. Thanks! I don’t think my machine does that but maybe it will if I buy a special attachment? Husbands do come in handy for things like that. I’ve used grommet presses before and they are tough going!

  2. that’s a pretty tunic/dress 🙂 I like the way you decide what projects to make starting with your inspiration and than using the comercial patterns to make your own version!

    1. Thanks! Yes, I do love to peruse a good ready to wear catalog 🙂 I think the quality of the fabrics we can buy is so much nicer, though.

  3. Great style and maybe when it’s colder you’ll enjoy wearing it as a tunic, I think it would look really good like that!
    And yes, piercing holes in your fabric is definitely scary!!

    1. Thanks! Yes, my husband has volunteered to take that job on next time I do eyelets, LOL, as if!! I think you’re right about that style, though, definitely wearable as a tunic and it’s still cold here, so I just might give it a try.

  4. Very cool! I don’t think I’ve worked with eyelets before, but I’m thinking of investing in a nice tool that makes snaps. I’m hoping that if i get comfortable with inserting snaps, that may be a good alternative to buttonholes. Something always seems to go awry with damn buttonholes. Plus I hate having to hand sew all the buttons on. Right now I’m working on a button up dress but it may become a snap front dress. We’ll see . . . Have you worked with snaps before?

    1. I have worked with snaps. I put them on a denim look peplum top and it was pretty fun! You get to do some pounding with a hammer. The trick for me was getting them through the thick interfaced front band and I had to use an awl to poke a hole to get the snaps in. I hate sewing on buttons too, total drag! I do enjoy buttonholes though since purchasing a Bernina). It makes a consistent buttonhole every time in spite of me:) can’t wait to see your dress!

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