Monday Outfit: Ye Old Halter Dress


Good morning! Due to our road trip and other vital things (like sewing clothes for myself), there’s still no sewing for K happening, but it occurred to me that she’s been wearing this halter dress I made several years ago a lot lately and that I’ve never posted it here. If you saw my nani IRO post last week, you might have noticed a very similar muslin, and it was inspired in part by this dress.


The pattern is from this book, and I vaguely remember sewing this before she started kindergarten. At the time it was huge on her and was more of a maxi dress, and three years later, she’s starting to outgrow it. I love these types of patterns that make a visual impact but are so easy to make and can be worn for years on end. The fabric, in case you’re wondering, is some kind of quilting cotton.

It wasn’t until two days ago, when she was wearing the dress for the fifth time in a couple of weeks that I realized she was under the impression that it was store-bought. Hm. I’ve heard that the handmade revolt usually starts around 9 years old, but my child might be precocious.


It brought back a memory that hadn’t crossed my mind in eons. When I was in middle school, my mom had stopped sewing clothes for me due to my entreaties that they just looked too homemade. Of course, we couldn’t afford any of the trendy clothes all the kids at my school wore, which is a colossal bummer when you’re eleven.

But my mom had this friend. This friend was a professional violinist, who lived in this gracefully appointed, breathtaking house in Los Angeles. She had exquisite taste in everything. Because she was extremely petite and had a voracious appetite for clothes, she would often drop off bags and bags of items she’d grown tired of. They were all meant for me, and my mom would painstakingly alter them to fit me.


Isn’t it funny? Here I was, an eleven-year-old wearing Chanel and Diane von Furstenberg and Anna Sui and the like, and all I could focus on was how I wasn’t wearing the hottest jeans at the time (the brand was Guess, if I’m remembering correctly). My mom has more talent in her pinky toe than most people, but alterations weren’t her strong suit so the clothes never sat on my awkward preteen body quite right. I was also so so embarrassed that I was wearing second hand clothes — at that age, everything embarrassed me, but that topped my list big time. As I slumped shamefacedly in my hand-me-downs, I had no idea that I was waltzing around in crazy expensive, expertly made, beautiful designer clothes. I’m sure that my mom told me, but I’m also sure that I didn’t believe her. Because tweens are like that, and I was obviously too unsophisticated to know about these brands. I’d like to shake and throttle my eleven-year-old self.


I imagine that K will get to a similar point. There are murmurs of discontent already, but she still loves a lot of what I make. Yet no matter how skilled I become at sewing (and the hope is that I will become incredibly skilled), she may not be able to get past the handmade part of the clothes. I better mentally prepare myself….

And I wonder if those middle school years of reluctantly wearing my mom’s friend’s clothes actually embedded an appreciation for finely made garments? I never thought about it that way, and now I’m even more appreciative of her generosity.


K hoped that the butterfly looked real and insisted on certain poses to fake you all out. Did it work?

18 thoughts on “Monday Outfit: Ye Old Halter Dress

  1. I really did not notice the butterfly until the last picture. I was so focused on how nice K looks in her dress!

    1. Yeah, the butterfly thing was not our best photo execution, but I don’t like to deny K when she has flashes of inspiration πŸ™‚ Thanks Greta!

    1. It doesn’t get any simpler than this, Kristi! I’ve made this halter dress several times, and by the third one, I could crank it out within 30 minutes! πŸ™‚

  2. Ha! So funny she thought it was store bought! My grandma used to sew for me but stopped at some point. I don’t remember leading a revolt against it, so she must have stopped for some other reason. Considering how home made they looked though….I’m pretty sure a revolt was bound to happen anyway. Hahaha.
    Aren’t we such foolish little stinkers when we’re young? All the things I thought were so important or dumb….ugh. We’ll probably be saying the same thing or whole lives though. “I was such a fool at 30!”

    1. It’s so true, Tara – youth is wasted on the young and all that. And just when I think I’m getting wiser, something always happens to remind me that nope, still clueless. πŸ™‚

  3. That’s ok. You can focus onsewing for yourself.

    Im not sure where I’m headed with handmade clothes myself. I love to knit, but I just started sewing last year and I have a weird relationship with it.

    We are getting to the point where knitting has become a hobby we can pursue together, my older daughter just turned 8 last Thursday, and she has been sewing her own stuff, by that I mean stuffed cat shaped cushions, and little dolls of Elsa and Anna, by herself. I figure that by the time your K is 10, you can just point in the direction of the sewing machine and tell her to show you what she means by ‘the latest thing’.

    My mom was a big sewist and back then the sizes for kids clothes werent too precise, so anything she made was a real improvement on store bought. It was also the 70s, so I escaped a lot of the brown corduroy that my peers lived in. I don’t think I appreciated anything, but I didn’t object to anything. No clothes sense of my own, but when I look at old photos, I am grateful that my mom had it going on.

    1. That’s fantastic that your daughter is sewing on her own, Max! Every time K expresses interest in making something herself, her project sits half-done — very much the way I was when my mom tried to teach me how to sew (and knit and cook and…). I’ve come to understand that her thing is music and not crafty activities, and that’s more than okay. And it’s nice to know that you have fond memories of handmade clothes…I hope K feels that way too!

  4. Ah, I remember the revolt from my own life too. Around 11 too, if I remember correctly, although should check with my mother about that!
    Love the dress you’ve made for her, and by the way I did almost believe the butterfly was real. I am a bit scared of things that fly, and and half way through the photos I was thinking…wow she has a butterfly…

    1. Yes! It’s something about that age range from 9 to 11 when everything starts to feel ridiculous (at least it was for me). Ha, glad to know we almost fooled at least one person! K was quite proud of coming up with the idea. πŸ™‚

  5. I love that in your house the calendar matches the dress πŸ˜‰ I wish I looked half as good in a halter dress as K does in hers… I can understand she wants to wear it a lot. But I am going to try and make one for me anyway! I have to admit, I thought “well, if K does not like her handmade clothes anymore, we will get to see more things Sanae makes for herself!” But it would be a shame, as your sense of style is so great and your kidΒ΄s clothes so amazing. But I too went on a rebellion when I was about 10/11 and from then on went clothes shopping by myself because I would not wear the stuff my mom picked. I guess it is bound to happen no matter how wonderful your sewing is. When she is older she will come running to you again, I am sure! And in that second to last picture? Totally real looking butterfly! (Could be a tarantula, too!)

    1. Ooh, I think you’d look great in a halter dress, Ute! You know I’ll still make K stuff even if she scoffs at them, especially since she’s outgrowing a lot of her summer clothes from last year (and I need to make a swimsuit!). I am, however, getting WAY into sewing for myself so I may have to inundate y’all with way too many photos of me and it’s tricky to allocate time appropriately. πŸ™‚

      Isn’t that calendar great? They’re watercolor patterns, and I love it.

    1. I’m pretty sure this has been the longest-lasting handmade item I’ve made to date, Elizabeth! The calendar is fabulous, but the main reason we got it is because K wants a dwarf hamster for her birthday and she has to complete certain chores every day to prove responsibility, and she’s supposed to mark off the days. πŸ™‚ So far, so good.

  6. She is so cute and i’m loving scooped back things these days. I did the same thing to my poor mom – she made my homecoming dance dress in high school (satin!) but i made her sew a label into it, like anyone would ever see that anyway!!! But I was so embarrassed to wear homemade at that age. Granted, like you’re saying about your mom’s alteration skills, my mom seemed to have a bit of trouble picking fabrics. She’d pick cheap quilting cotton or something you’d never see from a store (not in a good way) so they didn’t “pass” like they could have even though her sewing was perfection. It’s why I take extra care with that in my own fabric choices. We have much better options these days too, I think.

    1. Haha, I LOVE that you made your mom sew a label – that would be something I’d do! So now I have to share a dance dress story: my mom made my senior prom dress, and it was actually a quite sophisticated, black velvet strapless dress that looked like something Audrey Hepburn would wear. But since she didn’t have proper boning material, she used some cardboard-esque substance, and the bodice was an armor! Think Madonna boobs hidden under velvet. My boyfriend actually said “Ow!” every time I bumped into him while we were slow-dancing (which was the only time he came onto the dance floor — my prom left a lot to be desired, I have to say). Quelle horreur!

  7. This made me laugh… my niece was never fond of my handmades until I started sewing labels into my clothes, then she started begging me to sew for her. Its funny how something so little can change their perception of a garment.

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