Red knit fabric
Matching cotton fabric
Doily or lace collar
8 buttons + one small button
Fusible interfacing (optional)
Pattern paper or dress pattern
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is one of my many favorite TV shows. I like the set style and chic darkness of the show. Ever since season 1, a Sabrina costume has been at the top of my list.
Platinum hair Sabrina after the dark baptism is my favorite look so I’ve decided the academy dress would be a semi-easy costume. At first glance it looks like a simple A-line shift dress with an empire waist. However, after some digging I did find clear pictures of the dress worn on set by Kiernan. As you can see it has some extra detail around the waist darts and hips and there is no empire waist.
Fabric for the dress
I have a burgundy velour (crushed velvet) on hand so that is what I used for my dress. It’s got a 60% stretch so there will be plenty of movement. Most apparel knits will have sufficient stretch. A ponte knit would be a great option if you’re looking for screen accuracy. It’s a double knit so its sturdier and heavier than your standard jersey knit. Plus, it’s easy to sew with.
For the collar, I bought a doily looking collar piece from Amazon.
The dress pattern
I patterned this dress from scratch to fit my shape. I needed a pattern that had no waist seam so I began with a bodice block and basic skirt block. I joined these two blocks to make a torso block. A torso block is good for making shirts and dresses that don’t have a waistline seam.
From the torso block, I extended the bottom to stop 4″ above my knee widened the bottom out 3 inches to make an A-line silhouette. Both front and back had waist darts and the front had a small side dart. I removed the shoulder dart from the back and also shortened the darts about 1″. Changes are seen in red.
If you are not into drafting sewing patterns, I would suggest using an A-line or sheath dress pattern with waist darts and altering it.
Always, always, always make a test of the commercial pattern to see how the sizing fits. You may need to adjust darts, armholes, neckline etc before drawing in your custom details. The same goes for your pattern blocks
The images below link to some starter patterns.
Adding curve detail and button placket
I added the front curve detail from the hip line to the bottom of the waist darts on the front. At this point, unrelated to the curve, I decided to shorten the side dart to give my bust some extra space.
I also curved the side seam a bit at the waist so there were no harsh angles.
Then I added extra width on the center front for a button placket. My formula for a button placket is seam allowance x 2 + half width of placket + full placket width. My buttons are about 1 inch wide so I wanted the placket to be 1.25″ wide.
The back does not need any altering besides adding a curve for the side seam. Try to mimic the front curve you added.
Cutting into separate pattern pieces
I divided the pattern pieces into 3 parts:
- BACK: stays whole pattern as it is
- TORSO: from shoulder to the bottom of the curve
- SKIRT: from the bottom of the curve to the hem
On the torso, I cut on the top line of the curve from the side seam to the dart. Then up and down the dart legs stopping at the bust apex. Next I cut down the other side of the dart leg stopping at the curve. I discarded the diamond shape from inside the dart.
Finally, I cut through the side dart stopping just before the bust apex. There needs to be the tiniest bit of paper at the bust apex to keep the torso piece together.
Then I closed the side dart about 1.5″ by rotating the side torso piece upwards.
I traced this new torso shape onto fresh paper and redrew the waist dart according to the reference lines I added.
I drafted a basic long sleeve (no elbow darts) using the armhole measurements from my torso pattern pieces. Since I am using a knit, I made the sleeve more fitted since it would have some give. the wrist is about 8.5″ around. Your sleeve pattern ought to look something like this image:
Preparing the patterns for cutting
There are a few things that need to be done to the patterns before they are ready for fabric cutting.
- Add seam allowance. I used 5/8″ across the board except on the inside of the waist darts. I reduced that to 3/8″ to fit it in the small space.
- Armhole notches. This should have been figured when you made your sleeve pattern.
- Mark buttonhole and button placement. My buttons were 1″ and I started them 1″ from the neck line. I had 8 buttons and wanted them to stop halfway down the skirt piece. My spacing ended up being 3.5″ apart. The buttonholes were 1.25″ long.
- Clearly label each pattern piece, size, seam allowances and how many need to be cut. Two for the front torso.
- Add seam allowances.
- Label “cut on the fold” on the center back.
- Clearly label the back pattern piece, size, seam allowances, and the number that needs to be cut. Just one for the back!
- Add seam allowance on all sides except for the button placket.
- Clearly label the skirt piece, it’s size, seam allowances and how many times it should be cut from fabric. The skirt needs 2 cuts.
Now you can cut the fabric! Take a moment to figure out the best layout for your pattern pieces.
REMEMBER, REMEMBER, REMEMBER…if you’re using napped fabric like velvet, your pattern pieces will need to lay in the direction of the nap. You can feel which way is correct if you run your hand over the fabric. Velvet will be very smooth when the nap is going the right way. It will feel bumpy when you move your hand against the nap. Basically, it feels like fur!
Also, the fabric stretch should be going in a horizontal direction around your body.
The two points above are SO important to remember. If you don’t take this into consideration you could end up like me and cut half the pattern out incorrectly. You will need about 2 yards for this dress, but I ended up using every bit of 3 yards because I cut a couple pattern pieces against the nap. The skirt part looked much darker in color than the torso. Ooops!
Sewing the dress
I started with sewing the torso waist dart closed. Sewing double ended darts should start in the middle sew towards the pointed ends. At the bottom of the dart stop with the needle down. Rotate the torso and the fabric to line up the curves. Make sure you are not sewing over any folds or bumps as you begin sewing down the curve.
Next, I sewed the side dart closed and then sewed on the skirt portion. I pressed the seams of the waist dart and curves. The dart seams went towards the center front. The curve seams were pressed inwards towards each other.
Then to save time and my own sanity, I sewed faux felled seams. Basically, I top stitched 1/4″ away from the curved seams and waist dart seam catching the pressed seam allowance underneath.
My velour fabric was not as sturdy as I preferred and I wanted the button closure to be somewhat rigid. To help the buttons from pulling and causing puckers in the fabric, I added some interfacing from center front to the raw edge of the placket before sewing. After sewing the other front torso and skirt, I folded over the button placket and sewed down the length of the front piece from neckline to hem. Below is an image of how I folded the button placket.
Starting from the very edge of the button placket, I folded the raw edge under according to the seam allowance. I then folded under again the full placket width + seam allowance. To secure the placket in place, I sewed down the open edge according to the seam allowance. This created a perfectly spaced button placket on the front.
Then I took the time to add button and button hole placement marks directly on the fabric.
On the back piece, I sewed the waist darts closed and pressed them flat towards the center back.
Then I joined the front and back pieces by sewing the side seams, right sides together.
Next came the hemming. I folded the neckline under one time 5/8″ (my seam allowance) and then sewed it with a 1/2″ seam allowance. I did the same for the bottom hem starting at the center front, through the back ending at the other center front. The sleeves have the same 5/8″ hem at the wrist.
Next, I set in the sleeves by matching up the front and back armhole notches. You may have to do some stay stitching on the sleeve cap between the notches if is longer than your armhole. This way you can pull on the stay stitching strings and shorten the sleeve cap if needed.
I opted for a faux removable collar because I felt like this could be a nice casual winter dress without it. So I drafted a collar stand with a button closure to fit the dress neckline. The stand was attached to the lace collar pieces and tucks under the neckline dress.
The stand is a basic mandarin collar with a curved center front edge and extended 1″ to make room for a button hole.
I cut two pieces from solid burgundy cotton and baste stitched the lace pieces on the top side of one collar.
Then I put the other collar piece on top, right side down, and stitched along the top and left and right sides.
Then I pressed the bottom edges of the collar in 1/4″ and top stitched it closed.
Lastly, I added a button hole and small button at the left and right edges of the collar stand.
I pressed the collar stand and lace downward so they would both lie flat on the neckline.