Thursday, February 19, 2015

Waistless Dresses

I've done a lot of thinking since last week about what dress styles would best suit my body shape. I decided to go through some Burda magazine archives to refine my ideas. I always use Merine's Pinterest boards for this sort of thing. She's been keeping them updated for years and has them organized by category (dresses, skirts, coats....) so I find them extremely helpful. Thanks for making this wonderful ressource available to us all, Merine!
So, I gathered some line drawings and I thought I'd share them here, in case they might be helpful to others.

I see 6 categories of dresses that don't mark the waist and that I could possibly envision myself wearing. I draw the line at dresses with lots of gathering above or below the bust: that's just too much volume for me! So keep in mind that these are my subjective choices, based on my personal taste and experience and they might not be ideal for you. I'm showing only Burda patterns here because it's easy, but I'm sure there are plenty of similar styles in other brands.
Most of these styles are pretty classic, so I think you could wear them for years!

 First, the shift dress

These dresses skim over your midsection and create a flattering uninterrupted vertical line. Burda has some excellent shift dresses, and I especially love this one, with its interesting insets and cute hip pockets:

Burda 06/2013-116
This one is all over the internet and it seems flattering on everybody, plus it has sleeves:

Burda 09/2012-109
And here's a very simple, but very smart looking version, perfect for summer (jewels optional):

Burda 04/2013-109

Second is the sack dress.

These are a roomier than shift dresses.
I made this tunic dress last spring and I wear it either belted at the hips or unbelted.


Now this is as basic as it gets, but it would be kind of perfect for summer in a pretty cotton print:

This one is slightly egg shaped and I think it has really interesting style lines.


Third is the empire dress.

These do often tend to look really youthful. This one for instance I think is gorgeous, but I wouldn't sew it for myself. On the right person though, that person being Sasha, it would look amazing ;)


I could see myself wearing this one though. I think it would be really pretty for summer in a flowy fabric:


I know this next one has a lot going on, but I've seen some simplified versions, sleeveless or shortened, that were really beautiful. Burda has lots of empire maxi dresses, but on most of them the skirt is gathered all around which isn't necessarily a very flattering look. This one has strategically placed gathers that would create a lovely drape in a fluid fabric :


Fourth is the drop waist.

I personally need a drop waist to hit at the high hip. Depending on your shape you might get away with a much lower waistline. The patterns I've selected for this section all have long sleeves for some reason, but you know you can modify them as you please.

I like this looser, fluid style. This is very "années folles":


Hmm, I'd never even noticed this one before, but it's nice and casual, and those welts on the hip line add interest. This one is really low though, but could easily be raised to high hip. This dress is from Burda Easy Fashion Magazine, and there are many different versions, short sleeved, sleeveless, with pleated or flouncy skirt, peter pan collar, patch pockets...

Burda Easy Fashion Magazine, Winter 2012-5D

I've made this next one twice and it's my favorite dress for the beach. Any shirtdress belted over the hips would give you that drop waist look.


Fifth, diagonal interest

Through clever draping or piecing, these dresses keep the eye moving on the diagonal so it won't linger on your waistline.

This particular pattern is a classic, and I've been meaning to make it since forever. Maybe next winter!


This next one is pretty bodycon, but in a substantial enough fabric, it could do wonders for your figure, especially with the colorblocking shown in version B:


This one has a strategically placed draped overlay and calls for a stretch woven, so it should be more forgiving than many knit wrap styles:


Finally, the faker

These dresses have clever style lines which, through optical illusion, might effectively fake a waist.

This one is gorgeous, and it has pockets!


This one would not only make your waist appear slimmer, but also add curves to your hips, if you need them:

And this one may seem unexciting compared to the previous two, but its geometry is perfectly balanced. The waist seams on the sides are broken up by vertical lines so the effect is slimming.  I've seen some gorgeous versions on the Russian Burda website's user forum.


Will I make any of these for spring? I haven't made up my mind for sure yet. The purpose of this little project was to consider some possibilities, and that's just what I'm doing at this point: considering. Many of these styles are a lot more structured than what I'm used to wearing but I think it might be fun to try something different. I really do like that first shift dress!

how about you? Do any of these styles catch your fancy?


  1. I love that 70's style empire maxi dress! Definitely loads of potential for some very wearable and multi-seasonal versions.

    1. I agree! I tend to shy away from styles with too many details, but I think that dress is actually very wearable.

  2. Fun! I'm looking forward to sewing some new things also. Just got the Pattern Fantastique Aeolian Tee/Dress. Thornberry has done some really cute ones, it's a shift dress, lots of potential. Somehow I missed the one you've done twice, 02/2013-121 - really like that. Also like the 12/2012-110 for you - nice! You did something similar in a green knit as I recall, that looks great on you I got a similar look, the Burda knot front dress, which is a little more eased at the bust, which works better for my me. Looking forward to your spring makes!

    1. Wow! I really like that Eolian dress, thanks for pointing it out, Coco! And I really love their Celestial dress pattern hack without the cap sleeves! Looks like heaven for summer. The dress I did twice was from before blogging :)

  3. I have made two of these...06/2013 and 04/2013. I love 04/2013, my latest, although I may make the other again at some point.

    1. I love your version of the sleeveless sheath! Really gorgeous!

  4. The half of these dresses in my list%) One I already made and in process%))

  5. So many great ideas. I love the first two 'fakers' and the shift dresses.

    1. Thanks Sarah! I like those fakers too, but they are a lot more va-va-voom than what I'm used to. The first one with the pockets seems more and more apealing, I admit...

  6. Thanks for sharing that pinner, so great to see all the line drawings in one place. Lots of fab dresses here, I'm especially drawn to 09/2013-134.

    1. You like that one too :) And yes, I find those pin board extremely useful.

  7. And then my comment was eaten by the internet… it's great to see a round up of non fit and flare dresses - they are not my favourite either. I really like the "egg" dress, I'll have to look that one up. And you might also like Vogue 8904, the shingle dress. I'm on track to have that one made up for spring - whenever that may be!

    1. That shingle dress is really cool! I look forward to seeing your version :)

  8. What an impressive round up - I love your methodical "scientific" like approach! You clearly know your body and you know what works for your body. That is a relationship with one's physical appearance to be envied. I'm more at an "let's see if it works" stage but I think you are absolutely right, I do tend to "empire" my waist - add in sleeve cap detail and I'm hooked ;)

    1. Truth is, bodies do change after children. I once had the flattest stomach you could imagine. I'd rather assess and adapt than force my body into clothes that I don't feel perfectly comfortable in.

  9. Hello Sarah! I´ve made three of the dresses you are showing, the one with the crazy dart and sleeves, the front knot and the potatoe sack tunic. The front knot is a winner.
    Looking forward to seeing what you make!

    1. Hey Merche! I'm not surprised. You've sewn so many great things from Burda!

  10. Your blog is really attention-grabbing for me; I will definitely bookmark your website. Thanks

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