Tent Dress Trials

I’m always a year or two behind trends – I don’t like them when they are breaking, but by year two, I’m like, “YAS! I need culottes/jumpsuits/whatever!” That’s where I’m at with tent dresses. Call ’em what you like – trapeze dresses, swing dresses – I want them! I toyed with the idea just a wee bit last year, but with my current obsession over the Santa Fe top, I’m all in.

The thing is, it’s a more complicated shape than it seems. My ideal tent dress has lots of volume, but not so much I look pregnant… it’s short enough to be sassy, but long enough to cover my rear when I bend or sit.

patterns

There are two tent dress patterns that seem really popular this summer: Papercut Sway dress, and the Made It Patterns Groove dress. Additional options include lengthening Hey June Santa Fe, or even the Papercut Clover.

And yet.. I’m starting my exploration/obsession with tent dresses with another pattern completely: the Jorna dress! Aka. a pattern I’ve barely seen sewn up before, and the one and only pattern release by blogger Jenna Brand. (She also has versions for girls and maternity.) Normally I’m a little sceptical of recreational pattern designers… but I sewed this pattern up for my Mom a year or two ago, and it’s super cute! Think art teacher chic, with unexpected volume and shaping in the skirt.

Voila!

Jorna Dress

Basically, it’s a tank dress on top, with a cut-on skirt (no wait seam) that veers sharply off at an angle. The hemline is cut on a pronounced curve so that it’s longer at front and back, but short with lots of volume at the sides. Sounds weird, right? But I think it’s actually cute, and combines sassiness with butt coverage!

Jorna Dress

Here’s how short it is at the sides, if I hold back all the fullness of the skirt – and how it looks from the side normally! 

The reason I thought of this pattern was that I’d asked a friend what the difference between Papercut Sway and Clover is… and she’d shown me that Clover has a curve giving shape at the seams, whereas Sway is a straight triangle. Jorna has that same curved side seam, but even more pronounced. The up-side is that it’s still a loose, flowly shape, but it’s got some waist definition.

Jorna Dress

I managed to just barely cut mine from about 1.5m of rayon jersey by including a centre back seam. The rayon is key – my mom’s version in rayon looked totally elegant, but the version I made myself back then in polyester ITY was appalling and went straight in the recycling bin. (It’s now been remade into underwear.) I think the weight of the rayon helps it cling to curves in an appealing way.

Can I hit you with a non-sewing non-sequiter? I had a strange allergic reaction to lipstick this spring, resulting in puffy, peeling and uncomfortable lips. I blame one product in particular, a lip crayon with minty scent… or maybe it’s SPF lip products? For a month or two, even my favourite wear-them-all-the-time lipsticks and lipbalms set me off! Anyway, long story short, I’ve been wearing a lot of eyeshadow this summer to make up for the bare lips!

Jorna Dress

Including this fun duochrome shade that is rust brown but reflects teal in the light. How fun! (And so hard to photograph! I swear it’s way bolder.) I feel like summer makeup is usually marketed as easy and sheer, but since I don’t work in the summer I really enjoy the chance to play and experiment. How about you?

Jorna Dress

So, round one of the tent-dress trials, and I haven’t really made a tent dress! I’ve got a Santa Fe dress ready to blog though, as soon as it goes up on Cali Fabric’s blog first… and the Sway and Groove patterns waiting in the wings! How do you feel about tent dresses? Wanna talk makeup? Let’s chat! 


70 thoughts on “Tent Dress Trials

  1. Tent dresses, or any dress with no waistline= yay! I feel like they are more sophisticated and rarely look childish, the way some fit and flares can. And they’re comfy, right ?!?!

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    1. SO COMFY! I agree that 50’s fit-and-flares can feel a bit like a little girl playing dress up – on me, at least. I like a more modern shape.

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  2. Before I saw yours, I thought tent dresses were, like, tents. Straight out from the bust and shapeless. Like the dresses I wore while I was pregnant. The shaping on yours takes it up a notch and I really like it! Great choice, and it looks fabulous on you!

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    1. Thank you! I think you are right, a true tent dress is what you are describing.. but I like how this pattern gets part of the “look” without the overwhelming volume!

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    2. This is exactly how I felt about them and how I feel about yours, Gillian. Yours is awesome. You look great. Thanks for all of the tips. Those little variations can make the difference between wonderful and awful.

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  3. First: Please tell me you still wear that dress from last year because I love it and it looks terrific on you. This dress also looks terrific but I wouldn’t call it tent-y. I actually think it’s loose-fit. I’ve never seen this pattern before. It reminds me somehow of the Lady Skater.

    Next: You may be having a reaction to the castor oil that’s in most commercial lip balm and lipstick. I suggest you try something without it. You could easily make your own (let me know if you want to talk about that). It takes 20 minutes to make 7 pots of it. Of course, you would need a few supplies but they’re not hard to find.

    If you don’t already use Burt’s Bees, you might also give it a try. It doesn’t have castor oil in it (at least it didn’t the last time I looked at the ingredients). Or for the really fast fix, just apply some coconut oil when your lips need some moisture.

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    1. Hiya! I have to admit, I’ve only worn that dress from last year a time or two this summer… must wear it more! I’d be curious to make my own lip balm – really at this point, I’m just trying to narrow down what works or doesnt! I picked up some Burts Bees yesterday so I’ll give that a try. I remember buying some in the past and not liking how it worked (which is part of lots of memories that make me think I’ve had some low-level reactions to lip things for years). This time I got the hypo-allergenic kind, and we’ll see how that goes!

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      1. Hi!

        I don’t know why K-Line is so down on castor oil, of all things. It’s a laxative when taken in large quantities. But it’s not typically a skin irritant. I don’t know why she’s so sold on Burt’s Bees either. I checked the ingredients list on several Burt’s Bees lip balms at Beautypedia. They all contain castor oil. Except for the Super Glossy Lip Shine, they also all contain irritants of one sort or another, fragrance being the most common culprit. My guess is that it’s the minty scent that you reacted to. Mint in its many forms is a known skin irritant. Once you’ve been sensitized, your skin can react to ingredients that previously weren’t a problem. My advice: avoid products with fragrance. That’s a big no-no. (If you wear perfume, put it on your clothing rather than your skin.) And look up any future purchases on Beautypedia. They are a trusted source of information.

        I love the dress on you, by the way.

        Cheers,

        Wendy

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  4. Mmm. I clicked on all the links. No, no for me for the Papercut patterns. I’m too old – think toddler granny (I saw something about that the other day). I don’t usually think of myself as too old but this pattern brought it out in me. I quite liked the look of the Made It pattern. I liked your Jorla a lot – more shape. I also like your grown up Santa Fe and look forward to seeing your dress.
    What you say about the hem is interesting as I’m having problems with those at present. They end up too short at the back as you mentioned earlier. I’m experimenting. I think I would like the Jorla a touch longer at the sides though. For the moment at least, I’m not jumping on this bandwagon.

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    1. I almost always cut my skirts/dresses to be an inch longer in the back hem than the front – that way they end of level over my rear!😉

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  5. The Jorla loos good, but I think I’m going to go with the Groove dress. I’m hoping to ride the tent dress train into the fall/winter, and I’m too lazy to try and frankenpattern sleeves into the Jorla. Fabricland had some beautiful drapey rayon knit in my colours last time I was in; hopefully it’s still there in a week or two.

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    1. I’m going to be making a groove dress soon! I’m really curious to see the pattern pieces, and just how wide they are!

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  6. I absolutely love this dress on you, Gillian. The bold, sophisticated print and great drape of the rayon make this a very classy dress, yet it still seems super light and comfortable. Hope you enjoy wearing it! 🙂

    Oddly enough, I’ve been toying with the idea of making a tent dress this summer too. I question how well this style would work on someone with a small bust (aka me) – too much volume on the bottom, but not enough on top? I’m mulling it over…

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    1. So interesting to read your perspective – because the convo I have with my busty sewing friends is that it’s a really hard shape to wear with big bosoms! So I say.. let’s all make tent dresses!

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  7. Great minds think alike! I loved your tries last year but wasn´t completely convinced yet but this year!! I feel like tent dresses are just a tad cooler to wear in hotter temperatures than dresses with a waist seam or an elastic waist. It´s like the air has a way of passing through. I adapted my Groove Dress by cutting everything above the waist 2 sizes smaller so I´d have some more shaping around the bust and I shortened it at the side seams like the Jorna because I had seen this on one of Emily´s dresses and on a dress Oonaballoona made recently. I like it a lot because it flashes some leg but gives enought front and back coverage😉 What I noticed about the Groove Dress as well is that the front hem is drafted to be longer than the back, I guess they calculate in the boobs, which is awesome. I´m definitely making another one as it´s really comfortable to wear and I feel really pretty in it🙂

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  8. Your dress is gorgeous! I’ve just started obsessing with this shape too by coincidence – just Pinned M7407, which is a simple knit version and looks good, but I’ve just bought Merchant & Mills Trapeze dress pattern, and when I’ve finished my current project I’m going to make it in a dark indigo chambray. You nailed that shape! Hope mine turns out as well as yours🙂

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  9. I love that dress. Simple and pretty.

    Since no one else has asked, what brand is the eye shadow? I had one that I used entirely up that was a soft beige but glinted emerald green like yours glints teal. I would love another shot at something that beautiful and unique.

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    1. Oops! I meant to link to it, then couldn’t find it online and forgot! It’s a NYC shadow from a palette of 8 – it’s a super cheap drugstore brand, but actually really nice shadows!

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  10. I’m the same when it comes to trends… I join the party a little late! I love how tent dresses look on others, but I had the same fears as you – looking pregnant and mooning people. I also think it might not look right on curvier people (I have a bubblelicious booty). BUT I am so glad you shared this pattern! I think it looks wonderful and I totally see it working on us non waif-ish people. That hem shape is the bomb, too! Thank you so much for sharing this!

    And I’m a fan of makeup, too! I’m not sure what’s going on with the lipsticks that have been setting you off, though. I usually just wear chapstick instead of lipstick because I usually end up with lipstick on everything. I find when I eat or blow my nose, it just gets all over my face. Haha!

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    1. Thank you! Sounds like you might enjoy this pattern, too!
      I”m giggling at you smearing your lipstick everywhere… I don’t have that problem to much, but I do worry about mascara giving me racoon eyes! I used tubing mascaras for year, which are budge proof, but then I got annoyed at the lack of volume and drama, which is after all why I wear mascara!

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  11. I am terrible at following trends. I just kind of try to sew up whatever appeals to me at that point in time, which right now is still anything loose and drapey. Flattering isn’t important, staying cool in this heatwave is!😀

    I❤ this on you! It gives that illusion of an empire line that is flattering on those of us with a softer middle (I'm gooey on the inside–that's a good thing, right?😛 ) this is the sort of tent dress I can actually see myself making. Great job!

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  12. Gillian I love this on you! But if you really think about it, these things almost always work out better when you make them in a fabric you love. And this fabric is indeed gorgeous.
    Sorry you had that awful reaction. I have sensitive skin so I have to be careful either lots of stuff. I’m clueless at the makeup thing and really plan on doing a course in September or October. I would like to be able to get dolled up or go full diva on my own sometimes.

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  13. This is super cute!!! I have a few vintage tent dress patterns I’ve been eyeing on and off for years, but I’m not sure how they would actually play out on my body—thanks for the rayon tip!🙂

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  14. I love your Jorna! I am feeling the tent dress these days, too. I made the Jorna tank ages ago when I had only a loose understanding of how to sew knits. It was rough. But the shape is really nice. Your beautiful version reminds me that I should try it again!

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  15. This Jorna is a lovely silhouette on you. The waist shaping accentuates your figure and looks so pretty in this fabric. I usually don’t worry about trends but instead try to dress to enhance my figure. Allergies are the bane of my existence, so I use makeup from the health food store with limited, more pronounceable ingredients. I also really like Crawford Street Skin Care products from Toronto for every day use for this reason.

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  16. This looks fab!! I have this pattern because it came with some kind of bundle and I always meant to try it, but haven’t yet. Typical! Actually, if I am completely honest, I have all the patterns you have talked about in this post. Yikes! I better get sewing. I’m really looking forward to seeing all your versions!

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  17. Gillian you’ve really hit the sweet spot with this dress! It’s gorgeous on you – its suits you to a TEE! I think I might even have this material in my stash – a jersey knit and it was the design on it that really grabbed me. Seeing it on you definitely inspires me to get going with that fabric!

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  18. I hadn’t heard of this pattern – it looks fabulous on you! Like you I’m never convinced of some patterns when they come out then see tons of versions that make me want to try it. I’ve made the sway dress but I’m not convinced I like it on myself so it hangs in my wardrobe unworn – but I love the whole idea of just throw on a dress and jandals! Might have to give this pattern a try 😄

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  19. I would add the Tessuti “Lily” dress. I just made a version that I cut to ~knee length and left off the hem tucks. Very nice fit.

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  20. You’ve nailed the look — classy, sophisticated and easy to wear. I’ve shied away from tent dresses because of my large bust and being, well, tent like. My mom had one that was a wide-stripe georgette that was fuscia and olive green with a fuscia under layer — it was her prom dress from the mid-60s. I loved to wear it.

    I’ve been in the same spot regarding makeup– except with my eyes. I had a terrible reaction and couldn’t wear ANY eye makeup. It’s passed, but the skin was so sensitive for so long, I don’t wear eye makeup a whole lot as I got out of the habit. This summer I’ve been wearing really bold red lipstick, a hint of blush and a couple of swipes of mascara and calling it perfect.

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    1. Thank you! Now my next dress needs to be really wild and colourful, because this is all feeling a bit too tasteful!😉

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  21. That dress looks great on you, Gillian! good choice amidst alleviate tent dress patterns …

    what a bummer on the lipstick front.. like Kirstin mentioned, do apply some coconut oil or some other healing oil for quick healing …

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    1. Have you had good luck with coconut oil? I generally hate oil-based lip products, but I’m willing to give pretty much anything a try!

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      1. yes! absolutely… i buy those huge containers of organic coconut oil and olive oil to cook and to use for personal bodycare products (just for us, I don’t sell anything). When I run out of my homemade products, I just apply the oil plain on my face, body, lips,.. until I get my bum off the couch and make more. If you have some good quality coconut oil or olive oil for cooking, try a drop on your hands to see if you react to it.. if no reaction, apply on your lips. if you have some of Kirstin’s salves, you could use that too if you haven’t reacted to those.

        butter or honey on lips are healing too..

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  22. This is a great shape for you! I didn’t realize there were more shaped tent dresses either. Like most styles, I think a lot of success lies in fabric choice and how you’re wearing it. This print is so fun, and I love how your eyeshadow makes for its own accessory. I’ve had that too with makeup. I had to switch to everything natural and organic a few years back because everything was an causing a burning rashy itch fest. I love lip tints though–Burts’ Bees and Tarte are my favorite…just enough color for me and no questionable ingredients.

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    1. I”m trying out a Burt’s Bees balm right now – trying to decide if it’s making my lips peel more than normal, or if it will work!

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  23. This looks fabulous on you! I love that print and the curved hemline on this design. Tent dresses are tricky, but you nailed it. And also by the by, your lips are a gorgeous color even when you aren’t wearing lipstick! I’m jealous — I think mine completely disappear without a little color. And since I frequently go without makeup, they’re invisible a lot. 😂

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    1. Oh no, I’m totally cheating by wearing lipstick for 10 min while I took pictures! My lips are actually a pale purpley bloychy colour that’s almost lighter then the redness of my chin/nose area. That’s why I miss wearing lip colours day to day so much!😉

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  24. I love your dress! It really looks great on you! I love the volume of tent dresses, but still haven’t actually ventured there myself. The more I see them, the more I want to try it out though!

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    1. I think it’ll be a good spring/fall work dress. I haven’t actually worn it yet for a whole day in summer – feels just a bit buttons up for my summer wardrobe!😛

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  25. This dress is gorgeous on you. I love your fabric choice and honestly would never have thought that anyone with even the hint of a bust could have got away with this style but you absolutely nail it. To me tent dresses belong to that Japanese sewing book aesthetic and while I adore those chic minimal draped looks have always passed them by as a bit too close to maternity for my massive boobage. Definitely going to give that a rethink now as you look amazing. I love make up and used to buy it obsessively. The best eyeshadows I have found are NARS, super-pigmented rich colour and from experience you can go out all night dancing, go to bed without taking your make up off and they are still exactly where you put them in the morning. I love watching Pixiewoo make up videos on You Tube or for a bit more drama, Miss Fame. Xx

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  26. Yo yo yo! This is Jenna! I am really happy to see your Jorna! It was a total flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants move to make my summer uniform into a pattern, and every time a sewist comes across it I am absolutely tickled. I’m leaving pattern making to the professionals, but this was super fun and you look lovely.

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  27. I’m pretty sceptical of tent dresses, but then I tend to clog on to trends by year 3 at the earliest. Thinking about jumpsuits for next year, atm.😉 That dress looks fabulous and you chose the best fabric! I’m very tempted to take the next plane to Canada and make off with it.🙂

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