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21 Days ☆ 21 Dresses

a sewing stunt by melissa caringer

twenty one done!

twenty one done!

dress #21: mixy monroe!

it’s with a surprisingly heavy heart i present you with the final dress of the first round of 21✩21. i saved one of my favorites for last though with mixy monroe!

this adorable little sundress is a remix of five t-shirts. it has a full twirl skirt and sweet sash that ties at the waist.

i cut the backs of four black t-shirts to make the skirt.

then i used this awesome threadless shirt as the bodice. love!

flirty, urban and sweet!

if you’ve liked the dresses, come back for round two….skirts! 

♥ thanks to model maggie watkins and photographer trevor shorey


dress #20: sailor june

with a comfortable knit top and sturdy skirt, this little sundress is ready for adventure.

it’s actually a combo of a top that got very little play and a heavy striped fabric with some sheen to it. one plus one equals dress! 

it was the fastest of all the 21 dresses, coming together in under an hour. (hooray!) this is an example of my playing god sewing sin. 

the top already tied at the bust, but i added a longer tie to give it the sailor feel. crisscrossed straps in the back add to the fun.

pass the cracker jacks!

♥ thanks to photographer trevor shorey


dress #19: mia sparrow

slim and scandalous yet down-to-earth, like miss farrow this dress may cause a scene.

rosemary meets peter pan in a body-hugging silhouette topped off with a cowl neck and dreamy sparrow appliques.

this is one of the dresses that began as a pillowcase. i used my dress form to figure out the draping of the neckline then attached satin neck ties. 

on two different shades of green satin, i drew sparrows, added interfacing to the back and cut them out, leaving the edges raw for drama.

eat your heart out, woody.

♥ thanks to photographer trevor shorey


dress #18: half-past neptune

this simple knock-around dress is comfortable enough to throw off all sense of time and space.

everything about it is made for kicking back, including dolman sleeves, drapey jersey, elastic waist and a simple split-bodice. if you want shape or to dress it up, just add a belt.

here’s the pattern i used. it promised “easy 2 hour” and it delivered on that. (hooray!) the sketches on the envelope promised cuteness and i think it came up a little shy there. (boo) maybe that’s why they shot the model leaning over in such an awkward pose???

to whip this one up in even less time, i macgyvered the cutting process. instead of using pins, i used scotch tape. bam! way faster.

pickup line #482: “is that a space dress cuz you look out of this world!?”


♥ thanks to photographer trevor shorey


dress #17: pollyanna post-grad

today’s sundress is all daisies and dreams with a touch of sophistication. ideal for unassuming shmoozing at company picnics. “i’d like cotton candy and a raise please.”

white cotton overgrown with embroidered flowers has this dress bursting with optimism. meanwhile the frayed black-and-white herringbone trim keeps it realistic.

this darling was part of the triple dipping sewing sin, made in tandem with betty blue and firecracker.

the herringbone was rescued from a pair of pants that saw one too many board rooms.

"well, roger, at the end of the day that strategy simply doesn’t resonate in today’s marketplace….ooooooh snow cones!!!!"

♥ thanks to model maggie watkins and photographer trevor shorey


meet the photographer: trevor shorey

introducing the man behind the camera in front of the dresses.

in front of every great dress is a great photographer. mine is trevor shorey. he’s an advertising art director by trade but a photographer at heart. everywhere he goes he sees patterns, moments and moods to capture.

here’s a sampling of his work beyond fashion photography:

for comments or queries, give trevor a shout at info@trevorshorey.com.


dress #16: ginger snapped

spicy and poised for the summer heat, this earthy cotton dress gets some sass with a cascade of asymmetrical pleats. it was inspired by gilligan’s island bombshell:

when i first made it, it turned out way too basic. it’s the same pattern as chocolate-n-bubble gum, but the fabric seemed flat. so i started pleating. i made them random to give it an edge.

since it’s cotton you could dress it up or down, but i think it’s perfect with wasabi heels. just right for sushi dates and trips to the record store.

oh snap, marianne!

♥ thanks to model maggie watkins and photographer trevor shorey


dress #15: green tea

this hot little granny get-up is demure yet streetwise. perfect for silver fox hunting, tea time and green tie events.

the antique-olive jersey features tuxedo ruffles and smoldering gray trim at the neck with a matching tie in back.

here’s my original sketch:

this is actually a do-over of a tunic top i made last year and never wore. it was granny too, but dowdy-homebound-granny.

a nip, a tuck and we’ve got a foxy world-travelin’, heartbreakin’ g-ma!

this was actually maggie’s selected payment for modeling services rendered. a perfect match!

♥ thanks to model maggie watkins and photographer trevor shorey


dress #14: dewey decimal dress

nerd alert! today’s shift dress defines geek chic with textured checks and two tones of 70s avocado.

like a sultry librarian, there’s a bit of mystique with the distressed satin and random topstitching at the hem, sleeves and neckline. larger-than-life buttons top it all off.

green is my favorite color and i love combining multiple shades and textures of it in the same piece. here i used a flashy satin from the octomom costume i made for a superhero party and a sturdy suiting material left from another dress.

the pattern was simple and easy fitting with a zipper in back. but, after i finished it, i looked at it and yawned. boooorrring. 

i liked the nerdiness of it, but it needed a little edge so i rumpled and distressed the satin then added giant buttons and several rounds of random, light blue topstitching.

ideal for library dates, documentary premieres and rowdy evenings of “settlers of catan”.

♥ thanks to photographer trevor shorey


dress #13: penelope james

well how do you do #13? penelope james is the sleekest of the 21, doing more with one ruffle and sleeve than most dresses do in a lifetime.

this cool blue wonderdress has a secret past though. uncover the truth in pillow talk.

the slim fit, cascading ruffle and single shoulder is spot-on for impossible missions or girls night out.

the name’s james. penelope james.

♥ thanks to photographer trevor shorey


dress #12: mix tape

nothing expresses a person’s many facets better than a mix tape. same for this little dress. rock out to “mr. roboto” and “99 luftballoons” in the same twirl! 

the top is slim fitting and stretchy with a drop waist that gives way to a full cotton skirt. great for mixing metaphors, messages and drinks!

this was made in a little over an hour after a dress i’d been working on for about 4 was just not coming together. it’s another example of playing god. (oy)

i love the colors and unexpected playfulness of the combination. i almost called it mullet….business up top. party at the bottom. ☺

rewind and play it again and again!

♥ thanks to photographer trevor shorey 


dress #11: soda jerk

this sweet bubbly halter dress serves up a stretch lace empire waist, raw-edged satin applique and saucy satin ties.

before it was a refreshing sundress, it was actually an unloved top i had and a jersey sheet purchased in fabric desperation.

i cut off the bottom from the lace down and replaced it with chocolate jersey for the skirt. then i snipped out a flower from the satin, added interfacing and sewed it on for a fresh corsage effect.

this is one of the sewing sins i committed to get 21 done. i call it playing god. read about it here if you can handle the truth. ☺

quick and easy, yes, but just as craveable as a chocolate-cherry-cream soda.

♥ thanks to model maggie watkins and photographer trevor shorey


confession: secrets of getting 21 done

forgive me friends for i have sinned. 

when the clock strikes 2:00 a.m. (again) and your goal is slipping away, you better get crafty. i mean that less in the respectable diy way and more in the shady way.

i’m still new so i attempted dresses that took twice as long as expected. to make up time, i begged, borrowed and stole—figuratively speaking. now it’s time to come clean. hear my sewing sins:


✩ cheat #1: pillow talk

this is bad. with only a few days left, i was at work panicking because i was low on fabric and time to buy it. at lunch, i crept over to bed, bath and beyond, shlepped back to the bedding section and i….i….found a couple jersey pillowcases. cut to me at home tearing them open. i shamelessly slit the bottom and pulled one over my head, looked in the mirror and approved. (sigh) i did this, friends. one got a ruffle and one got satin embellishments. they ended up surprisingly stunning.

see this sin in action in penelope james and mia sparrow.


✩ cheat #2: triple dipping

in the post factory girl, i spilled about this little trick. by layering two pieces each of three fabrics, drawing a simple dress shape and cutting them all out at once, i was able to churn out three sundresses in record time. a beginning sewer could whip one of these out after breakfast in time for a lunch date…with her priest.

see pollyanna post-gradbetty blue and firecracker for evidence of this transgression.


✩ cheat #3: playing god

finally, under the cover of night with my dog and husband snoring happily in the next room, i plundered my closet. i searched desperately for shirts to sacrifice for my experiment. three shirts were forced into marriages with other fabrics. two will forever be connected to curtains parading as skirts. one will live life adjacent to a sheet. yep. i did this.

see an unholy (but awesome) union in sailor june, soda jerk and mix tape.


judge me if you must, but i feel better getting this off my chest. this isn’t how featherweight clothes will ultimately be made. it’s just how these designs came to be and it did get me to my goal. maybe these sewing sins with inspire you to create some quick frocks with bits of time and scraps of fabric. if so, i will have redeemed myself.



dress #10: firecracker!

crisp cotton americana. if ever there was a dress destined for parades and picnics, this is it.

this little charmer was made in the same batch as dress #6 betty blue. it’s a lightweight cherry cotton with contrast stitching and vanilla twill tape for the belt and ties. read more about it in factory girl.

it has a thin elastic band inside to add some shape. i almost left that out on this one, but i just always feel better in fitted clothes. the belt is four pieces of twill tape sewn together and attached to D-rings. it’s my first belt like this. so simple.

pass the sparklers and cherry pie!

♥ thanks to canine model penelope and photographer trevor shorey


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