As we bid adieu to Labor Day, the unofficial end of summer, the weather seems to have other plans. The relentless heatwave continues to linger for most of us, making white and cotton fabrics a staple in our wardrobe rotation. Recently, Syreeta (@syreetacfashion on IG) took a much deserved vacation and made an outfit out of cotton gauze that served a multitude of purposes. As a wardrobe planner, I appreciate Syreeta for expanding our fashion horizons and showcasing the versatility of this cotton gauze along with her sewing tips!
My vacation inspired me to sew a cotton gauze blouse! Vacation in a warmer climate automatically means “lightweight natural fiber” in my mind. I tend to run warm (read: sweat), so I also wanted something that would translate into a loose, floaty fit vs. clingy. I also enjoy texture over print on most days but was especially interested in something I could get multiple wears with during vacation, so this white + embroidered combo was just the equation to style in diverse ways yet still stand out!
Gauze is best for flowy looks. Although it’s a woven, the structure is soft and won’t hold its shape for a super tailored pattern. You can press it crisp for elements that have a facing but it’s best to let the rest be free — literally! You’ll appreciate the choice since it’s lightweight and soft drape pick up movement beautifully. If you wear it in an environment that’s beachy or boaty, it’s perfect. It will sway in the breeze but also respond well to other elements: the water will dry quickly and the sand will shake out easily.
If you’re working with gauze for the first time, I would choose a pattern that has minimal fit points. For me, everything anchored at the collar and the rest was free size. This same strategy could go for bottoms like a full skirt or wide leg pant where the waistband is the fit point. You can (inter)face a tailored waistband or work with something adjustable like elastic or a drawstring.
Gauze isn’t as intimidating as it may seem. Every fabric has its points of attention, just like stretch fabrics or sheers. A mock-up can help remove kinks if you need to understand the pattern in general and make updates before cutting gauze so you do not have to troubleshoot both. With practice, gauze will become easier. I personally like to fit as I go to catch and adjust preferences because it can be difficult for me to visualize in advance.
I craved a multi-functional piece I could layer. So I settled on a mini-dress with button-front closure. This way I could wear it as a shirt, dress, or swimsuit cover-up. I found a sleeveless blouse pattern with a cool swing shape that would suit the gauze well. Additionally, it had an interesting collar that was up my style alley.
I craved a way to add a little more interest and got curious about buttons. I’ve been obsessed with Schiaparelli lately (read: since college…) and was inspired by their gold mixed media buttons. I almost dipped into my own vintage button collection and thought “wait…” Come to find out Sew Much Fabric has a TREASURE CHEST of great buttons I’ve never checked out. Super win! Really super win! No, really… go shop the buttons right now.
I also decided to take the buttons up to the collar stand although the original pattern had them stop further down the placket. This would allow me to wear it a few more ways, plus I like a high neck.
In addition to adding an extra button at the collar, I also made an effort to strategize button placement on blouses. The button placement guides of most mass-made patterns get thrown to the side and I focus the first primary place based on where I want it to fall around my bust. For this top, I made the first one horizontally even with my bust point. This would allow me a nice, yet secure neckline if I decide to wear the collar unbuttoned.
I then custom-spaced them so they evenly split the collar button going up and were the same increments going down. I paid attention to how the button size would sit within the increments as well. I wanted them close enough to hold the placket without gaps but far enough to allow each button to shine! This also prevents that weird bubble gap (you know the gap!) that can happen around the bust when the buttons are in the wrong place or too far apart. It’s a good habit, especially when working with more fitted tailored shirts!
I modified the pattern by lengthening the hem. This is a pretty easy switch. Add your desired extra length to the hem while laying out the pattern. I added a bit more to the back than front for a soft high-low. After trying it on, my brain kept whispering, “shorter… shorter…” I’m actually not a short skirt girl, but I listened to my intuition. There was a moment of fear where I thought I went too short but when styling, it was perfect.
Another hem note: I adjusted the curve/cascade when I adjusted the length. I wanted it to be a consistent graduation from front to back rather than a choppy drop off and this was challenging to gauge during the flat pattern step. Wearing it and seeing the drape gave me the proper perspective.
I placed a pin to remind me where to taper my trim to before going back to the table to cut.
One last thing! After thinking I was “finished,” I was bothered by the shoulder width. It was too boxy for the proportions I imagined and I didn’t notice it upfront.
I tried to talk myself out of pulling the armhole off to change it, but I bit the bullet in the end and was much happier.
Take your time cutting cotton gauze fabric. Make sure your grainlines are straight. Use fabric clamps if necessary. I used an 8/10 needle and approx. 2.3-2.4 stitch length. Stay stitch to prevent cotton gauze fabric from fraying! And baste! Also, it may potentially help to switch back and forth to the serger more often vs. waiting to do as many as possible. This will minimize the amount of fraying while handling.
For seam finishes, the first thing I did was ditch the armhole facings. Not only did I not want to see that wide band through the semi-sheer fabric, but I also wanted more edge reinforcement. I finished the armholes with bias tape.
All facings were cut in a plain white lightweight crepe. This also helped with seeing a second layer of pattern through the white. All seams were serged.
I did a wide, single-fold for a tiny bit of added weight/definition around the hem.
Ok… I have a confession: I underestimated my yardage. I knew I was lengthening the blouse, so I allocated extra but didn’t open the pattern first. The pieces for the back were larger semi-circles than I anticipated and we all know circles take a ton of fabric. Especially if you want to make them larger. So… one of the back panels is very much so pieced together.
I creatively hid some of those seams in the ruffly folds but the puzzle did not make my life easier. Lol. My remnant pile tells the real story.
If you’re new to sewing or working with cotton gauze, focus on freedom! Gauze isn’t meant to be restrictive. Be floaty and have fun.
Also, have some extra reinforcements waiting in the wings. Stay tape, bias tape, interfacing, and lining. All of these things will help add strength where the gauze needs a little help.
The end look not only fulfilled multiple style opportunities on vacation but it was very well received. I not only had compliments on the buttons (especially the bee!), but I also had a lot of attention as the top rippled while biking the Toronto islands. I love the challenge of doing casual looks in chic ways and also… I don’t always love ironing. Ha! The crinkle of the gauze helped blend my casual chic goals and the design of the top totally fit the bill, too!