The Red Hot “Charmbie” Dress


Another completed project to share – victory! This one is my official contribution to the Sew Sexy Sew-Along hosted by Lisette, Wanette and Clio. Here are the details…

  • Pattern: Sewaholic Cambie (bodice) and By Hand London Charlotte (skirt)
  • Size: 4 bust transitioning to 6 waist/hip
  • Fabric:  Silk dupioni shell (Mulberry Fabrics), silk organza underlining, and China silk lining (both from B & J Fabrics)
  • Notions: 20″ zipper, stay tape at hem
  • Alterations: Cambie – shortened bodice 1/2″ and went down to a size 4 bust (I went with a size 6 last time); Charlotte – changes same as last time

I decided some time ago that I wanted to combine these two patterns so I could have myself a Charmbie dress. And I absolutely love how it turned out! I had this dress in mind before the sew-along was announced, but I’m so thrilled I joined because it gave me a deadline to finish this one. Plus, it’s been great seeing what everyone else has come up with!


I’ve made the Cambie before, but in that version I cut a straight size 6 for the bust and waist. Fine for the waist, too big for the bust. Here, I’ve gone with a size 4 at the bust and transitioned to the 6 waist – a much better fit without the gaping issues!

I’m going to say it also helped that I used Kenneth King’s method of stabilizing a neckline by using strips of silk organza. I basted these on at the very beginning of the process before the bodice had much of a chance to stretch. He shared this technique in a Threads article that’s now closed to non-magazine subscribers, but I managed to find Gertie’s post from her Crepe sew-along that shows it. Just note that she folded them in half differently to Kenneth’s (I ended up following his instruction).

IMG_0093 IMG_0094

Silk organza platter! The top photo shows all these little organza strips pinned to the neckline before I hand-basted them and then machine stitched them just inside the seam line. This took time but it was worth it, I say.


This was my first attempt at working with silk dupioni, so I did a little research on how best to handle it. Since it’s pretty delicate, and this dress is so fitted, I found that underlining it with silk organza was a common suggestion. Actually I learned this from a site called Artisan’s Square. Have you heard of it? It’s kind of like Pattern Review with all its helpfulness, and the name makes me want to go to there (confession: a lot of 30 Rock was watched during the making of this dress).

Each piece was hand-basted to the dupioni. I wonder if I even needed to stabilize the neckline with organza strips since it was already underlined with organza? If anyone knows if that’s overkill, I’d love to know. It was great having the organza already built-in to the dress to strengthen the zipper seams too. Handy!


A close-up of the fabric to see the texture. Isn’t that great?! Dupioni is made from two or more silk worm cocoons, which creates this neat effect. Also, randomly, when I was pressing it a smoked salmon smell arose from the fabric. Or maybe I’ve just been eating too many bagels with lox lately. 😉

I picked up the dupioni from a great little place near Chapel Hill, NC called Mulberry Silks (I chatted about that trip way back when). It was especially amazing because it’s housed in an old warehouse building. Yay, I love the adaptive reuse of historic buildings!! Okay, putting aside my geeky architectural historian self to get back to the dress…


This is to prove I can sit down in the dress as I stare at the phone, waiting for it to ring. Ring, ring? Actually if you go back up to the second photo in this post you’ll see how this dress reacts to bunching up after I sat down – it behaves beautifully! I had read that silk dupioni is good at resisting wrinkles, and it seems to be so, it seems to be so.


Okay, I must confess I’m a little bummed about the vent. I’m still trying to master the art of vents, and since mine is self-drafted I kind of think I messed something up (or I just need to work on it). The vent actually hangs just fine, but here I think I unintentionally added some bunching at the top of the vent (not visible from the outside) when I was stitching up the lining, and that’s causing it to hang a bit odd when I wear it. I shall have to work on that one.

I think it’s one of those things that you really scrutinize on your blog and then when you’re out in the world wearing it – for a drink at the Campbell Apartment perhaps – it’s not as big of a deal. That’s what I tell myself. 😀

But while I’m being nit picky, I think some of the fullness may need to be taken out of the hips. Yeah, we’ll see if I ever get around to doing that! It wasn’t an issue in my wool versions, as I recall…


I just threw this photo in for kicks because I’m walking forward so you can see the dress in action, kind of.

That’s about it! Red dupioni, red organza, red China silk. Oh, and red seam binding at the hem. Lots of red! I guess when I think of sexy (this is the Sew Sexy Sew-Along after all), I think of all those great actresses from Old Hollywood and how confident and classy they looked. And that’s the kind of dress I’d like to think I recreated here. This is all to say that if I ever happen to find myself in a room with Gregory Peck and Cary Grant, I’ll know what to wear. 😉


33 thoughts on “The Red Hot “Charmbie” Dress

  1. As the edges of the curve put the top of the dress on the bias it probably isn’t overkill to have straight pieces along the top edge.

    • I think I might stabilize almost every neckline I see now with organza! Well, maybe a little dramatic, but it’s definitely handy to have in there. 🙂

  2. SO beautiful! and i love your double dream drinks date :). i’ve got to look into that neckline. sometimes i want a stash of every color of silk organza made. just in case.

    • Ah, Peck and Grant – I should’ve put in a black and white photo to complete the dream sequence. 😉 And I know what you mean about organza in every color. This is the first time I’ve used it, and it’s amazing!

  3. This is so perfect. I know I already told you on instagram, but I feel the need to gush some more. I adore your mashed patterns and you/your dress look incredible. I might need to go buy both patterns so I can make this. I can’t wait to see this in real life!

  4. FABULOUS! What a stunning dress! Love the color, love the fit. It turned out beautifully – what a great idea to combine those two patterns. Well done, and I hope you get to wear it often!

    • Thanks, Meg! I’ve been thinking about this pattern combo since early January so I’m glad it finally became a reality. I loved your Anna dress contribution to the sew-along!

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