Simplicity 1805, Silk Dolman Tee

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One of the things I've been meaning to get into my wardrobe is a pullover top with a cut on sleeve.  It's a dolman top, so how hard can it be?  But I've been too lazy to draft my own, so when Joann had Simplicity at 5 for $5, I picked up Simplicity 1805.  Had it been $2 I wouldn't have gotten it.

Zooey Deschanel in Derek Lam
It turned out to be fortuitous because I got a haircut the next day, which is a whole other conversation, and while I was waiting I picked up the Lucky magazine they had out and was instantly enchanted with this dolman top on Zooey Deschanel.  It's Derek Lam, and I just love how the simplicity lets the fabric be the star, and the perfect proportions.  And I already had the pattern!  The "Eh, it's only a dollar, it's ok if I end up giving it away" pattern was muslined and earmarked for a fabulous silk within 24 hours!

This has been a popular style with designers for several years.  There are plenty more examples out there, like this Michael Kors satin top ($542) and this Rachel Comey from Fall/Winter 2012.  The silhouette seems simple, but if you make it in a high-end fabric it drips luxury.

Back Pattern

Before cutting, I used my TNT pullover woven top pattern to determine the side seams, add a center back seam, and add darts in the back.

The back neckline was seriously, seriously wide.  Here is my final pattern laid over the drafted pattern.  And keep in mind that my final pattern has a center back seam, so the cut edge of the tissue is not even the seam line!  I normally have to narrow the back neckline of commercial patterns a bit, so I didn't think too much of it other than remarking at how ridiculously wide it was drafted.

Gaping Neckline

I actually muslined this *gasp.*  Although it is a wearable muslin.  When I sewed up the muslin I realized I should have had an inkling there was something going on with the front neckline too.  There was *serious* gaping at the front neckline.

Inverted Pleat to Take Up Excess Width

As a slapdash fix to the muslin, I took up 2 1/4" inches total in an inverted pleat at the center front neck.  I swear they rotated the bust darts to the neckline but then forgot to remove the excess width.  I don't see how this would work for anybody.

Front Pattern

You can see the dramatic change in my final front pattern where I folded out that gape!

After my muslin, the additional changes I made were to increase the width of the sleeve opening to match my inspiration, cut it to the length of the TNT (the tunic length just doesn't work for me), add a keyhole opening at the center back neck, and correct for sloping shoulders by shaving a slight amount off the shoulder edge from a few inches out from the neckline.  The muslin was sticking up a little at the neck edge of the shoulders.

Floral Front

When I was done getting all the information I needed from the muslin I chopped the sleeves short.

This is an airy cotton batiste ($3/yd on our Pilgrimage to Fabric Mart) that will be nice to wear in summer.  

And designers haven't left the short dolman sleeved top in the cold--check out this Reiss silk top for $210.

With the pattern altered and it being two fairly unshaped pieces, the silk version was...not a breeze.  I was using a silk charmeuse from Paron, puchased last November; it was $15/yd, but with a Groupon I ended up paying an average of $5/yd for several silks.  A steal!  As beautiful as it is, though, silk charmeuse is just fussy to sew with.


I used French seams, which makes for a lovely inside, but I am severely disappointed with the puckery back seam.  For some reason, although it has perfect tension on regular seams, my machine cranks up the tension when I sew the second pass of a French seam.  I honestly have no idea how the machine can "tell" that's what I'm doing, but I have to actively stretch the fabric from both sides of the presser foot to get a smooth seam and I clearly didn't stretch enough for the CB seam.  I am loath to unpick it because silk does not recover from needle holes and I'd rather live with a puckered seam than a shredded one.  Does anyone know why this happens?

Sew Bias Take to Wrong Side

For the back keyhole opening I first cut a shaped keyhole and staystitched it.

Next, I stitched self bias tape on the wrong side, right side of bias tape to wrong side of blouse.

Fold Bias Tape to Right Side

Once the first pass with the bias tape was sewn, I pressed the bias tape over to the right side and pressed under the remaining raw edge.

Hand Tack Upper Keyhole Edges Together

Next I topstitched that folded under edge in place, and steamed steamed steamed to get it as flat as possible.

Finally I hand tacked the neck edges together to complete the keyhole--this is just decorative, I did not need a slit to get it over my head.  Then I bound the neck in a continuous bias piece.

Completed Back Keyhole

Before binding the keyhole I made two tiny horizontal darts.  Because of my "forward head" (aka bad posture), I sometimes get gaping at back slit openings and I didn't want that.  I don't know that the darts were totally necessary, but they made me feel better.

Hair Clips to Mark Hem

Marking the hem on silk is a pain because pin holes.  I have a couple of packs of hair clips for millinery and was like, duh, use clips to mark the hem!  It wasn't quite as easy as using pins, but I got a reasonably straight hem considering I am working with silk charmeuse here.

Sleeve and Lower Hems

I decided to do a regular stitched hem for the sleeves and the lower hem.  I normally do a blind hem or a twin-needle hem, but somehow the stitched hem seemed right for the style.  I think it works.


All the care taken on this simple top was worth it for the end result (other than that stupid center back seam, ugh).  It is as luxe and classy looking as I'd hoped, and looks and feels high end.  I have some dressy events coming up and I feel pretty confident this will be making an appearance at least once in the next couple of weeks.

All photos are here and the pattern review is here.


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