Wardrobe Basic Sheath Dress

The next garment in this Fit-Along series of Wardrobe Basics is the sheath dress (see the first post here). Every woman needs a classic sheath dress in her wardrobe.  A sheath dress will stand the test of fashion time and it’s a quick and effortless way to get dressed in the morning. 

What is a classic sheath dress? A sheath dress has a form fitting silhouette, a hemline that stops at or just below the knee, sleeveless with few if any design details.  Now don’t confuse the sheath dress with the shift dress or the little black dress.  The shift dress has no waist line definition-think the 60’s mod dresses.  The little black dress can be any silhouette as long as it’s black.   A classic sheath dress in your best neutral color is equivalent to a man’s navy suit.  Like the man’s navy suit, you can wear the sheath dress 5 days in a row and no one will notice.  Rotate accessories like belts, scarfs, necklaces and shoes for a different look.  Add a blazer, cardigan or blue jean jacket and it takes on a whole new personality.  It can become a jumper when you wear your classic white blouse underneath.  Cissie, a guest blogger, likes to call this type of dress a CCC Dress — Church, Cocktails, Cemetery.  It’s a fashion work horse!

Fabric Selection

Picking the right fabric is essential.  You want a fabric that works for all seasons and Ponte Knit is perfect!  The featured Ponte Knits are 16 oz making it just the right amount of body and structure for a sheath dress.   Other fabrics that would work well are cotton sateen or tropical weight wool.

The sheath dress is a universally flattering shape.  A few little design tweaks are all you really need to make it work for you. The key to the sheath dress is fit.  As I said before, I won’t be able to cover all of the many varied figure types.  And some patterns can work for more than one figure type.  But I hope this will help you to look at patterns more critically and analyze what will best work for you. Be sure to sign up for Sew Much Fabric’s mailing list (scroll to the bottom of the home page) for additional exclusive information including updates on videos by Sew-to-Fit on how to do pattern alterations for that perfect fit.  

Pattern Suggestion: McCalls 6920 view A or C The sheath dress silhouette has the hour glass figure type in mind.  Design details like a scoop or V-neck line (not too low) is the most flattering with a slightly tapered hem.  An A-line skirt can work just be sure the waist area is defined.      

Pattern Suggestion: Vogue 9025  This silhouette should bring the attention to the bottom half to balance out the top. Vogue 9025 has a nice dropped waist line that adds width to the hip area.  

Pattern Suggestion: Vogue 8786For this silhouette we want to bring attention to the upper body.  Vogue 8786 is a great pattern because the cap sleeves add width to the upper body and balances the lower half.  The hem should be straight down from the hip-don’t taper.

Pattern Suggestion: Vogue 8828 Sheath dresses with an empire waist line and an A-line skirt are a great choice.  I selected Vogue 8828 view A without the pocket flap.  View D is also a good choice.  The hem should not be tapered.  

Pattern Suggestion: McCalls 7085 If you want to create curves McCalls 7085 is a great pattern because the two darts really create a nice illusion of a waist.  Add a skinny belt in a contrasting color and you have created an hour glass silhouette.  Tapering the hem also helps to create a hip curve.

Once you have your classic sheath dress dive into your accessory box and get ideas for all the different looks you can make.  Have fun and add other sheath dresses with design details like color blocking, contrast topstitching and different necklines.


  1. Art Attack
    October 16, 2015 / 2:24 pm

    Super great blog post, Roz, and what a fabulous series, Andrea! I'm in need of a new sheath. I'll probably stick with McCall's 2401. It's been around forever and it's such a classic they still print it. Thanks for the reminder! I love Cissie's CCC label!

  2. SewCraftyChemist
    October 16, 2015 / 3:33 pm

    Great post!!!I have a couple of evening wear sheaths but nothing for day. Well I've set out to change that. I have a plaid one in progress and need to make some adjustments on a navy one that was sewn awhile ago with my more limited sewing skills. New Look 6261. I really like that one.

  3. Roz
    October 16, 2015 / 8:34 pm

    @Art Attack and @ Sew Crafty Chemist thank you for the great pattern suggestions and letting me know you enjoyed the post!

  4. Andrea
    October 17, 2015 / 3:00 am

    Great information. I'm looking forward to making my new sheath based on your suggestions.

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