Classic wardrobe for work, winter 2010 : skirt, dress, pants, shirt

Despite the huge range of styles on offer in shows and magazines, this is a good season if you like classics.

UK ‘In Style’ October issue suggests mainly current classics for a wardrobe for work.

Classic styles look best if they’re impeccable. And when fitted shapes are fashionable that means good fit. So I mention several Palmer-Pletsch patterns. (I’m not a fan of tissue-fitting, but their instructions are also good for fitting a muslin.)

It’s surprising how good fit can make someone look as if they have no figure ‘faults’. While a bad fit – well, I live in an area of lawyers and bankers and, oh dear, the shoddy sights that appear during the lunch hour. . . somehow their clothes don’t leave me trusting their integrity or ability to care about detail. . .

Classic also implies long lasting ‘investment’ quality. Though the In Style styles have ‘current’ proportions and detail, most of them are likely to be around for some time.

In home sewing, quality means good fabric. And good sewing technique, not just the easy skills for sewing simple casuals.
I’ve divided this in two :
This is about the skirt, dress, pants, and shirt : intermediate dressmaking and fitting skills.
Next week for the waistcoat (vest), jacket, and coat, which in classic styles usually involve more advanced sewing

– – –

Camel skirt

UK In Style suggests a skirt can be pencil, A-line, or mini (not micro) style, so use your favourite silhouette and length.

Many people get better fit with a waistband or waist facing, rather than elastic. And that means sewing darts and in-seam zips. A quality skirt also has a lining.

These are basic patterns for the main shapes :
McCall’s 3830 straight.


Taper a longer skirt in a couple of inches (5 cm), for the ‘pencil’ look.

McCall’s 3341 A-line.


(Tip : if you have high hips plus an indented waist, to fit the waist use 2 or 3 small shorter darts each side, not one big one.)

The ‘current’ emphasis here is on the camel colour. But though camel is the season’s key colour, not to worry if it doesn’t look good on you. Grey is another major colour, and likely to be more flattering if your colouring is cool. More interesting combined with other greys, such as charcoal, dove and slate, rather than with black.

– – –

Black dress

No need to be put off by the focus on black – the key current look here is the shape, a sleeveless sheath, fitted, but loose enough to wear over a blouse in US ‘jumper’ style. In your best dark neutral.


Designers are looking for more ways of keeping warm than just putting on a sweater.

Skills : fitting challenges, facings, and perhaps a lining (so it will keep its looks longer).

For the most general fitting help, you might use the fitting pattern Butterick 5746, because it includes a sheath dress. Though the dress doesn’t have sleeveless or scoop neck versions, and would need adapting to fit over a blouse.

There are many sheath dress patterns in the catalogues. For fitting help you could use Palmer-Pletsch McCall’s 6028. Though with that upper body seam shaping, this is not the easiest of starting points for learning to fit. And not easy to sew those curved seams so both sides are the same shape. There’s an easier sheath dress in Palmer-Pletsch wardrobe pattern McCall’s 5818.


McCall’s 5927 is one of several sheath patterns with front pattern pieces for 3 or 4 cup sizes. It also has 3 sleeve styles, but not much other fitting help.


Many wardrobe patterns include a sleeveless sheath. Check if you need a larger size so it will layer comfortably over a blouse. Many of these styles have high scoop necks, so would not be good with a frilly front shirt.

If you’d like more ideas about this look, see the Cynthia Steffe show, which has many of these jumper dresses worn over shirts and sweaters. You haven’t got to wear a dress that short !

– – –

Peg top pants

These are pants that are loose on the hips and tapered at the ankle – specially for showing off the season’s amazing shoes. (YouLookFab calls these slouch pants.)

Add pant fitting, trouser pockets, and a fly zip to the sewing skills.

Here’s a designer pattern from Donna Karan, Vogue 1201.


Or Burda 7438 . . . . .Burda 7463. . . . Burda 7439.


(Click on the PR image for a larger view. The only Burda site that works in my elderly browsers is in French :D)

– – –

Classic pants, current proportions

Obviously, the pants ‘In Style’ have chosen aren’t classics. So what can you do if peg top pants don’t suit your body shape, or you’re not comfortable wearing a high fashion style.

Follow UK Vogue’s pant suggestions for this year, as both are classic styles with current proportions.

The trouser style has an ‘easy’ loose fit over the hips, but falling to straight legged trouser shape. As in Palmer-Pletsch McCall’s 5239 View C.


This pattern gives advice about pant fit. It also works through a sequence of sewing skills as you make the 3 pant styles.

Often these looser pants appear in the shows with only a blouse, or a neat vest plus blouse. Jackets with them tend to be slim and long, either more structured with some waist shaping and perhaps a narrow belt, or soft and unstructured.

Skinny pants are another of UK Vogue’s choices – again classic style elements but this time with very slim proportions. I listed several patterns in my pant shapes post.

More possibilities : UK Elle is going for flares and bootcuts as pant shape themes for the season.

If you prefer classic shoes, rather than the current dramatic styles that peg top pants put on display, this season you can wear ballet flats, brogues, court shoes, or boots up to the knee.

– – –

White shirt

Blouses are a special item this season. Fitted and with a classic shirt collar. The key to being current is the added elements, perhaps some front frills, or back interest. Lots of bow collars.

To sew these does mean being able to fit sleeves and make buttonholes. Preferably also a shirt collar and cuffs. Sigrid has many links to tutorials on band collars and sleeve plackets. Though of course you can wear an easier to make convertible collar with a simple straight sleeve hem.

Butterick 5284 is just the thing.


If you need advice on fitting a basic style, try Palmer-Pletsch McCall’s 5630 (which includes a strip for an added bow).


For an attached floppy bow collar., here’s a attractive sleeveless designer top by Badgley Mischka Vogue 1127.


I haven’t found a current pattern for the classic big floppy bow collar on an otherwise basic blouse pattern.

Simplicity 2501 has a neat tie neck as seen in several collections.


Here’s a lovely version of a full bow collar from the early 80s, Simplicity 9581, to inspire us.


Perhaps I like the bows and frills because I’m small busted and best with upper body emphasis. Other body shapes may not feel the same enthusiasm for big additions 😀

The easiest bow – just tie a ribbon under the collar, in a different though neutral colour. The simplest matching bow is a strip of self fabric to tie under the collar (as in the Palmer-Pletsch pattern). Try different widths of strip and lengths of bow loops and ends, to find what looks best on you. Experiment with how long the bands need to be to get a bow you like.

With a little more effort, devise an attached bow collar from a pattern with band collar (there’s one in the Palmer-Pletsch pattern). Simply widen and extend the band (use only the softest fusible interfacing if any).

If white doesn’t flatter you, don’t despair. Cream, nude shades, and muted pastels are all current. Or a darker shade is another current look. A touch lighter than what’s layered over it.


In this outfit, the vest fabric is a 2-tone weave and the blouse is a 2-tone print. A sophisticated idea.

– – –

Next week I’ll be finding patterns for the classic waistcoat, jacket and coat styles suggested by UK ‘In Style’ for a work wardrobe.
UK Elle also says it’s a season for classics and tailoring.

And don’t forget this is only one possible take on the many trends this season – good if you like classic styles, but you haven’t got to wear them if you
don’t 😀

– – –

Patterns and links available September 2010
Photos from and UK In Style.

Explore posts in the same categories: current fashion, learning to sew

One Comment on “Classic wardrobe for work, winter 2010 : skirt, dress, pants, shirt”

  1. Popbabe7 Says:

    Great ideas- I’m looking to make myself a couple of woolly skirts for this winter- I was thinking about using Burda’s Sidonie 8281 skirt in a light wool mix. There is a fantastic brand of quirky skirts called Boden in the UK, their clothes are fantastic but too expensive for me so I might use Sidonie and sew some applique circles for a 60s vibe!

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