fabric scraps · Famous Frocks The Little Black Dress · foraged fabric · Liberty · Sewing · Sleeveless Shell

In Search of a Sleeveless Shell – Diana Variation

I’m on a quest and I think dear Reader that I will need your assistance.  I’m looking for a pattern for the perfect sleeveless shell.  I want a pattern that uses maybe a metre or a metre and a half of fabric.  A pattern that can be used with my odd-shaped leftovers, my remnants and my impulse purchases.  It needs to work well tucked out as I’m a hang-it-out-er rather than a tuck-it-in-er.  There has to be a good balance of pit-podge-coverage and collar-bone-display.  It has to pass the Shelving Test:  I need to be able to heft a weighty tome onto the top shelf without fear of rip-age or kidney display.  Work and play appropriate.

I’m asking too much you say?  I say, that together, we might find the one.  The Perfect Sleeveless Shell.

I thought that I would start my quest with the patterns that are loafing about my shelves and in my stash cupboard.  Here is the Diana Variation from Famous Frocks – The Little Black Dress Book.


Why start with this picture?  Well, it’s the one that I like the best.  (Rather sadly) I think that this might be compelling evidence that my back side is my best side.  Which is rather a shame because all of the interesting noises come from the front side.  Although my nearest and dearest might suggest that that too is open to debate!

The ‘Diana Variation’ is a princess seamed sleeveless shell, I traced an extra small grading out to a small at the waist/hips.  It is made from Liberty Tana Lawn harvested from the scraps bag.  As the arm holes and neck are finished with bias binding I suspect that I might have used around a metre of fabric.  I’d say it was a weeny bit tight around the arm.  Also, something that I didn’t spot until I came to sew the side seams… the back pieces run shorter than the front pieces.  Design feature or error?  The line drawing doesn’t suggest a deliberate discrepancy and there is no rear shot of the model.  I guess her best side is her front side!


What do you think of this pattern?  If I had to rate it today, it might get a 7.5/10.  With a few tweaks I think that this could be a really useful basic.  I have at least three more stashed patterns lined up to Test for the Quest, but in the meantime do you have any that you can recommend?


10 thoughts on “In Search of a Sleeveless Shell – Diana Variation

  1. I think I am up to about 8 Sorbettos. Everything I make I have enough to squeeze a Sorbetto out of it and do so! Made two more at the weekend – actually prefer the inverted pleat version but could manage without a pleat at all if fabric is tight. Look at the latest version on my blog. I add three inches onto the bottom as the original latter is a big short. I do like the pattern you have used already.

  2. Lovely! Did it pass the shelving test?have you tried the Colette Sorbetto – it’s free, yay! Also – not strictly a shell top, but this passed the shelving test with me and became a workplace fave – the waterfall blouse by Make It Perfect.

    1. It did pass the Shelving Test, I was pleasantly surprised! Haven’t tried the Sorbetto but in the interests of science I really should.
      I like the waterfall blouse, I’d not heard of that before. Another for the list! Px

  3. I like the look of this blouse but the test it doesn’t pass is the “easy to put on” test. All those back buttons – did you do them up yourself?

    I like shells too. Not the Sorbetto. For me I found it way too voluminous. I need more shape especially at the sides and back, which means I need a means of escape that does not involve pulling it over the head.

    So that means a back zip (awkward, but slightly easier than buttons). A separating zip works well although it is not very easy to do up. On RTW I have noticed they tend to use a shorter, exposed zip which is a modern take. When combined with a slightly stretchy synthetic this seems to work in terms of easy to put on.

    My own preference is to use a 1960s pattern as they excelled in simple, elegant shells. Or just do your own torso block and have done with it.

    1. Yep, the top buttons require quite some contortion to do on your own: Another point for the check list!
      I’m glad that you shared your Sorbetto experience as I think we have similar frames. I’ve always worried that it would swamp me.
      I’ve had a go at a bodice block. It was really, really snug as I didn’t realise that the drafting that I used didn’t include seam allowances… It’s probably the most efficient solution though!

  4. BTW, I just checked my shell patterns. Both are OOP but worth tracking down on ebay or someplace similar. McCalls 2031 pulls over the head and has darts. McCalls 8405 buttons up the back and has princess seams which makes it quite similar to the one you made. It also has an option for sleeves; the 2031 does not.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s