Two piece dresses

The Japanese call a dress a “one-piece”. But many wardrobe planners suggest a two-piece dress, as it adds more options. Look at these pieces from Butterick 3037.


In a solid light wool or linen, they might be called a suit. In a pretty print, a dress. The print top with the linen skirt would be separates. I don’t think it’s helpful to worry about the words. Just think whether a top and bottom made from the same fabric, but too light and unstructured to be called a suit, would be useful in your wardrobe.

And what pattern to use ? Of course you could just make your favourite blouse/ top with a simple skirt in the same fabric. But what about specific patterns for 2-piece dresses ? Here are some pointers.

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Butterick 3037 in full has a good range of choices. A top with 2 necklines and 3 sleeve lengths. Straight and A-line skirts in 3 lengths.


If you like classics you could base a whole wardrobe round this. Remember an over-layer needs to be larger. Add pants with the same waist style as the skirt, to increase the options. Learn how to change necklines and hem shape (see my post on pattern variations), and you’ll never need another pattern 😀

There are some similar patterns in the evening sections of the catalogues. Skirt and bodice options. Make a knee length skirt and they’re wearable for day too. Here’s an example : Butterick 3843


There are few two-piece patterns in the dress sections of the catalogues. The best source is wardrobe patterns. Many contain a top and skirt that can be made in the same fabric. Not all, often the top is knit and the skirt woven. I’m not listing these patterns because there are so many, especially at Simplicity and New Look.

Here’s one example, Butterick 5147.


Tuck that top into a big New Look skirt for a vintage 50s effect.

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The trendy version of a two-piece dress is a tunic top over a short skirt. Here are some examples.

McCall’s 6288 by Rebecca Turbow.


Simplicity 2305 by Cynthia Rowley


Simplicity 2059 by Lisette.


And what about this, which intrigues my pattern loving self 😀

Donna Karan Vogue 1259


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Separates in different fabrics

Interesting, there are some patterns which include a top and skirt that the designer wants made in different fabrics. They are in the ‘separates’ sections of the catalogues.

Rachel Comey Vogue 1170.


Rachel Comey Vogue 1247


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Other styles

Try the two-piece approach for other personal styles as well. It may be easier to combine favourite blouse and skirt patterns.

If you like ruffles and wraps, how about Kwik Sew 3474 for example, with a mock wrap skirt.


A casual person might prefer a tunic over a longer skirt in a knit fabric. Simplicity 3568 perhaps.


For lovers of the arty oversized : here’s a wide top combined with a long handkerchief skirt.

from Wall London.

Perhaps copy this using the largest size of The Sewing Workshop Hudson top. And a DIY handkerchief skirt pattern. (or see this tutorial by Shams on her ‘tablecloth’ skirt.)

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I used to think two-piece dresses are dowdy. But now realise I was looking in the wrong direction. This is just a sample of the interesting possibilities if you look beyond the dress sections of the catalogues. Check the separates. Or combine blouse and skirt patterns.

Two-piece dresses can also be good for someone like me, very different sizes above and below the waist. Easier to make two different size items than to try to join them together at the waist !

Judith Rasband has whole DVD, Look Changers, on the different ways you can wear a 2-piece dress. The particular styles may be dated, but the general styling ideas apply in any decade.

Doesn’t matter whether you call the two pieces a dress or separates made from the same fabric. Two items made from the same fabric have a stronger visual effect than the same two items made in different fabrics. Is that effect an option that you want to have available from your clothes ? If so, a top and skirt in the same fabric are garments you’ll want to have.

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Patterns and links available October 2011

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Explore posts in the same categories: Nancy Nix-Rice, wardrobe planning

One Comment on “Two piece dresses”

  1. Nancy Says:

    There are lots of great ideas here! I will look into a few of these patterns for myself.

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