The Return of the House Dress

According to NPR, the house dress is having a renaissance. Why wear sweatpants all the time (and I do that, too) when you can be just as comfy in a cute dress? As the temperatures have risen and we can't escape to a movie theater or even open the window due to smokey air from the California wildfires, I have found myself reaching again and again for comfy, loose shift dresses. If you gotta get dressed during the apocalypse, might as well be comfy, amiright? 

Pattern: traced from RTW
Fabric: mid-weight cotton woven
Cost: gift from my mum

This dress is traced off of a second-hand sleeveless Old Navy dress that I just couldn't stop wearing this summer. It is loose but still shapely, with bust darts and a v-neckline. I had originally added on the Inari sleeves as well, but found the fit to be horrible in woven - much too constricting for an easy-wear dress. I went back to the original sleeveless design and was much happier. And of course I added pockets, too, which have already proven useful. 

This dress was very experimental, especially around the placket and collar as I didn't put too much thought into it before tracing and cutting my pieces out. The button placket is a bit off-center and probably not the recommended way to do it, but it ended up working in the end. Plus I found the perfect red snaps to go on it! 

I traced the collar off of a button-up shirt pattern but ended up needing to pinch out a lot of the fullness because, like a button-up shirt, the collar I cut stood away from the body. Luckily I had just enough fabric for all these little changes and ended up pretty happy with the results. While you could work all this out ahead of time, I sometimes like just cutting into something and seeing where it takes me. Very freeing! 

The fit is also fairly forgiving, although the bust dart ended up being pretty big for me - I wonder if the dart on the original got pressed down and conformed to my smaller bust over time. For me, this dress works fine with a bra and without. In fact, while I put make up on and everything for you guys, I didn't realize that I hadn't put on a bra until I was walking down the stairs to take photos. I think the no-makeup, no-bra look is here to stay and this dress works perfectly fine for that. 

Another fun feature of this dress is the mix of stripes. It's nothing radical, but I cut the left side on the crossgrain and the right side on the lengthwise grain to mix things up a bit. I do love a good stripe! My mom was curious if you're "allowed" to cut your pattern on the crossgrain (she's much more of a rule follower than I am!). I think in a stable cotton like this you should have no issues, as both the lengthwise and crossgrain are "on grain." Where you might run into trouble is with a fabric with an obvious nap (like velvet) or one that has a two-way stretch or is very loosely woven and might grow more in one direction than another. But so long as you cut it with the grain (crosswise or lengthwise) and not off-grain you should usually be fine. 

I added a nice deep curved hem traced off another button-up shirt pattern for interest and ease of movement. I'm all about the comfort here! Curved hems can be really hard to turn under and hem, so I used my final scraps to trace a facing that I turned under and stitched in place. Don't forget to clip around your curves to help things turn easily to the inside. I didn't have enough to do armhole facings so you'll see a bit of bunching there where I used bias tape and pulled just a bit too tight. 

Honestly this dress is far from perfect but it's not bothering me one bit. There's some frayed ends sticking out from my french seams, there's the aforementioned bunching around the armholes and also some at the back neckline, and the pocket openings are maybe a smidge too small (but the pockets themselves are nice and deep!). But it is so comfy and fun to wear. It got me putting on my best sun accessories on a sunny Saturday. And that should be the essence of a good house dress - no fuss, easy to wear, and a hint of style. 

I hope you're making the most of the weekend, or at least hanging in there. Today I took my aggression out on our communal hallway laundry door - completely stripped two layers of paint, sanded, and repainted. And then slipped back into my house dress. 


  1. that is so cute and the stripe variation looks good. Make another one :)

  2. I just couldn't believe your post honestly! A few months ago (the beginning of summer roughly) I found this wonderful rayon shift dress at a thrift shop that I thought would be great to wear around the house on hot days. When I bought it little did I know that I would wear it to rags. I immediately went to work making myself up a few shifts and discovered that this was more fun than a litter of puppies! I could get as experimental/creative as my heart desired without worry that I would never wear it because I WOULD wear it; I could venture into those gorgeous Japanese soft cotton fabrics that have been languishing in my stash for years knowing I would again make FULL use of this fabric in a shift I would wear to rags. I'm still working this project with great fun! It has also given me a change to try out different patterns for their sizing/block just making them up in a super large size to get an idea of what I would have to do in the future to adjust the fit in the event I need an "out" top or dress :) Housedresses were a very popular garment for women to wear usually it was an inexpensive but sturdy cotton dress that they could wear around the house, doing their chores without worrying about messing them up. Thank you for this great post! I'm glad this tradition is growing.

    1. That's amazing Kathleen! Best of luck on your adventure :)

  3. I must make a few of these type of dresses. Coming into Spring here in Melbourne and we all in full lockdown, so can't see me going too far from home over the summer. And I do have a lot of pretty fabrics that could be made up in this style. And a matching mask for my allowed once daily walk.


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