Make the 211 Middy Blouse into a Dress

With fall weather upon us and the promise of much cooler temperatures, change is in the air. Part of this feeling of change comes with the excitement of a change in wardrobe! There is a simple comfort in being reacquainted with one’s old favorite clothes and being inspired to make new favorites as well.

Illustration of the 211 Middy Blouse/Dress

One of the best things about Folkwear patterns is the excellent foundation they provide for making a garment all your own. In this blog post, I am going to show you how I made this pattern into a long-sleeved dress!

I turned View B from 211 Two Middies blouse pattern, into a dress perfect for fall! This blouse, with the nautical collar and all it's great details, is one of those pieces that is welcome in any wardrobe no matter the season. It is the perfect warm weather blouse with it’s flattering short sleeves and nautical flare. Even if you do not want to make a dress, you can lengthen the sleeves and continue to enjoy wearing the Middy Blouse as the temperature drops. Lengthening the sleeves is easy… just decide on the length you would like and use the “lengthen or shorten here” line marked on the pattern for a warm and cozy version of the Middy Blouse to be enjoyed all winter long.  You can also follow along in this blog to learn how.

The 211 Middy Blouse pattern, fabric, and thread in the making of my dress.

The 211 Middy Blouse pattern, fabric, and thread for making my dress.

The roomy fit of the Middy blouse makes it a perfect candidate for an easy transformation into a comfy dress. The bottom edge of the blouse is made even fuller or wider when the bottom band and little pleats are eliminated. The width of the bottom edge easily accommodates additional fabric for creating a dress.

There are any number of ways of adding a skirt portion to create a dress. The length of the blouse can be shortened or lengthen to change the position of the waistline. It just depends on the look you want and how you want your dress to hang. For a few examples, the blouse could be transformed into a dress by raising or lowering the bottom hem, to create an empire waist or a drop waist or somewhere in between. The blouse and skirt portion could be combined and cut as one piece, or the skirt portion could be added separately with gathers or pleats. I used the Middy Blouse pattern as it is and simply attached a slightly A-line skirt to the bottom edge of the blouse.

I made my dress using View B of the Middy Blouse as my foundation with only a few simple changes to alter the fit that allow for a bit of winter layering and a vintage aesthetic. For example, to create a roomier fit, I simply graded the side seams of the blouse to be wider at the bottom edge.  To learn how to grade the side seams of the blouse check out the 211 Two Middies Blouse Sew Along: Day Three. The main consideration is being sure the bottom edge of the blouse is wide enough to easily clear your hip measurement to provide a nice hang and give you enough ease of movement.

The other adjustment I incorporated is to make the sleeves longer. I also decided to make the sleeves just a little bit fuller without having to disturbing the armhole construction. To do this, I widened the sleeves slightly from the armhole to the bottom sleeve edge.

The blouse becomes a dress when a simple A-line skirt is added. To give the bottom of the dress a bit of interest I incorporated two horizontal pleats. I also added pockets to the side seams, because nearly all side seams are made better with pockets!

Fabrics

For suitable fabrics, have a look at the blog post Fabric Suggestions for 211 Two Middies. I am using a mid-weight linen with a lovely drape and a scrap of leftover linen cross weave fabric for the collar and cuffs. Check out the fabrics for purchase on our website, where you will find some options for this project. The European Linen-Goodnight, and the Tencel/Linen-Brick Red, and the Muscovado Cotton Needlecord in deep mustard are perfect for fall sewing.

You will need additional fabric yardage for making the skirt portion and for adding length to the sleeves. I added an additional 1 yard (91cm) for the skirt portion and an extra 1/2 yard (46cm) for the sleeves. The fabric I used is 59 inches (150cm) wide.  

Note: If you make length or width adjustments to the pattern pieces, be sure to re-check your yardage requirements before purchasing fabric.

Get Started

First, make the blouse pattern according to the instructions. Be sure to make any adjustments you require to your pattern first.  But, to make adding the skirt portion easier, do not sew up the side seams of the blouse.

Have a look at the 211 Two Middies Blouse Sew Along: Day One, 211 Two Middies Blouse Sew Along: Day Three and the 211 Two Middies Blouse Sew Along: Day Four on our blog for any questions you might have in constructing this version of the Middy Blouse.  

The early stages of sewing up the blouse portion of the dress.

The early stages of sewing up the blouse portion of the dress.


Adding Length and Width to the Sleeves

The sleeve can easily be made longer or shorter, depending on your requirements. I decided to add width and length to the sleeves.

If you want to add width to the sleeve, adjust this first. I made the sleeve 1/2 inch (13cm) wider by grading the sleeve. To do this, I added 1/4 inch (6.35mm) just to the outer edge of each sleeve side seam, for a total of 1/2 inch (13cm). Remember this sleeve is comprised of a front and a back sleeve piece. Therefore, you do not add any extra width at the connecting center seam. Starting 1/2 inch (13cm) down from the under armpit seam edge, draw a connecting line to the bottom edge of the sleeve at the added width. Using a hip curve to create a smooth connecting line. The idea is to widen the sleeve, without disturbing or altering the armhole opening.

After widening the sleeve I was ready to lengthen it. I decided to lengthen my sleeve pattern to measure 19 inches (48cm) long, keeping in mind the 3/4 inch (1.9cm) cuff to also be added.

I simply cut on the "lengthen or shorten here" line to separate the sleeve into two pieces. Then I inserted another piece of tracing paper behind the two original sleeve pattern pieces, to allow for the increase and connect the top and bottom of the sleeve. Be sure the extra tracing paper is big enough to provide enough overlap on the back side to secure to the original pattern pieces with tape. A bit of tape added to the front side will help as well. Use a hip curve or French curve to create a smooth continuous drawn line connecting the two separated pieces of the sleeve. Trim any access tracing paper away. Now the sleeve pattern has been lengthened and ready to use.

Using Swedish Tracing paper makes this task easy and it can be pinned and reused over and over.

 

Preparing the sleeve pattern pieces to make a longer sleeve pattern. Notice the graded outer edges.

Preparing the sleeve pattern pieces to make a longer sleeve pattern. Notice the graded outer edge.

The front and back sleeve pattern pieces graded and cut.

The front and back sleeve pattern pieces graded and cut apart.

The sleeve pattern pieces separated to create a new longer sleeve pattern.

The sleeve pattern pieces separated with more tracing paper underneath to create a new longer sleeve pattern.

The two new longer sleeve pattern pieces.

The two new longer sleeve pattern pieces.

The new longer sleeves sewn together.

The new longer sleeves sewn together.

I edge stitched the seams of this dress to add stability to the linen I am using. Due to the weight of the fabric I am using for this project, it will benefit from the stabilization edge stitching provides. This is especially relevant if a fabric is not tightly woven. To edge stitch, press the seams towards the back of the garment and edge stitching on the back side of the seam. I edge stitched the shoulder seams, the sleeve seams, and the waist seam, as I constructed the dress. Edge stitching adds a nice finishing detail and and strengthens the seams all at the same time.

The wrong side of the sleeve edge stitched with the seam pressed to the back.

The wrong side of the sleeve edge stitched with the seam pressed to the back.

  Right side of the sleeve edge stitched on the seam.

Right side of the sleeve edge stitched on the seam.

The two sleeves sewn together and edge stitched.

The two sleeves sewn together and edge stitched.

 

Becoming a Dress

As mentioned before, I constructed the blouse portion of the dress according the pattern instructions, but left the underarm and side seams un-sewn.  It is easier to sew the side seams all at once, after the skirt and pockets are attached.

The blouse portion is complete, except for sewing up the arm and side seams.

The blouse portion is nearly complete, except for sewing up the under arm seams and side seams.

Now to construct the front and back skirt portions of the dress. The skirt portion I designed is a simple A-line with two horizontal pleats near the bottom to add a vintage touch.

The bottom edge of the blouse determines the width of the top of the skirt portion. The bottom edge of the front and back portion of my blouse measured 23.5 inches (60cm) wide, therefore the top of the front and back skirt must be the same. I cut the front and back of the skirt from my fabric folded in half, so the bottom edge of the front and back skirt was as wide as my fabric would allow (29.5"/75cm wide or half of the 59"/150cm wide fabric) and the top was 11.75 in.(30cm) at the fold (and 23.5"/60cm when opened). 

You can cut your skirt as long (or short) as you want.  I wanted my skirt to be a bit longer than mid-calf length, and I wanted to add pleats to the skirt for interest.  The pleats meant that I cut the skirt about 4 inches longer than needed, to make two, 1-inch pleats.  If you add pleats to your skirt, make sure you make the pleats at the exact same place on the front and back so they match when sewn together.

First, sew the front skirt to the front of the blouse at the bottom hem of the blouse.  Then, sew the back of the skirt to the back of the blouse at the bottom hem of the blouse.  

One of the two skirt pieces with it's two pleats ready to be added to the bottom blouse edge.

One of the two skirt pieces with it's two pleats ready to be added to the bottom blouse edge.

Making sure the horizontal pleats o the skirt align.

Making sure the horizontal pleats of the skirt align.

The blouse and skirt portions are ready to be assembled.

The blouse and skirt portions are ready to be assembled.

With right sides together pin the skirt and blouse edges together.
With right sides together pin the skirt and blouse edges together and stitch.
The skirt and blouse pieces sewn together.

The skirt and blouse pieces sewn together.

 

Adding Pockets and Sewing the Side Seams

Add the pockets to the side seams of the skirt before sewing up the side seams of the dress. The pockets are optional, but this is a perfect opportunity to try your hand at putting pockets in a side seams. To learn how easy side seam pockets are to make check out the Pocket Series: Side Seam Pocket blog.

Pinning the pocket pieces into the side seams to the skirt side seams.

Pinning the pocket pieces into the side seams to the skirt side seams. 

Pin the side seams and stitch the seam allowance starting the the bottom edge of the dress and sew to the bottom edge of the pocket, being sure to back stitch. Then start the stitching again on the top edge of the pocket and continue up the blouse side seam, pivot at the arm pit and finish stitching at the edge of the sleeve.  Repeat for the other side.

The side seam and pocket bag pined and sewn using the seam allowance.

The side seam and pocket bag pined and sewn using the seam allowance.

 

Add the cuffs and little pleats to the sleeves according to the pattern instructions or simply hem to produce the length you require. Binding the sleeve edges would be a nice touch too.

Hem the bottom skirt edge and enjoy your new dress just in time for cool weather!

Front view of the Middy blouse turned into a dress.
The Middy Blouse turned into a dress.

 

Back view of the Middy dress.
Back of the middy dress.

Back view of the Middy collar.

Back view of the Middy collar

Cuff and side seam pocket.

Cuff and side seam pocket.

View of the pleat detail.

View of the pleat detail.

By using the 211 Two Middies pattern and making some simple changes you can turn this lovely blouse into a whole new wardrobe stable. Learning to look at a pattern with fresh new possibilities, is a great way to create new versions of old favorites and enjoy your patterns even more.

We, at Folkwear, look forward to seeing what you are inspired to make!