I promised you a post about tops to wear under cardigans, and it’s turned into a monster. I’m attempting to boil it down here and will expand on it over time, no doubt. Suffice to say: My favorite thing to wear under a cardigan is a sleeveless top with a non-plain neckline of some sort. If it is shirttail-hemmed and/or tunic length, even better. And the be-all end-all is pockets. (Especially since somehow none of my cardigans have pockets of their own.) The two tops I wear the most right now are 1) the Endless Summer Tunic my friend Alyssa Minadeo made for me in that Robert Kaufman dotted chambray the whole sewing world is quite reasonably in love with (seen here and here — I’d like another one about two inches shorter and a hair less flouncy), and 2) a natural linen sleeveless tunic I bought at Express twenty years ago, which I know for certain because I wore it to a concert with my now-husband in the summer of 1994. (I found it in a box of sentimental favorites under the bed when we were packing for the move.) It buttons all the way up the front and has, uh, half-kangaroo pockets — do you know what I mean? — and despite being linen I’ve been wearing it all winter. Like, I’m in jeopardy of wearing it out.
I like both of these because the fabrics go with everything, they both have something other than a plain round neck, and I’m really into that length right now; I think it’s great for layering over. In third place is a collarless, half-placket chambray shirt that I cut the sleeves off of. And right behind that is this, which I’m desperate to duplicate in a natural fabric.
It’s a matter of personal preference, but I don’t like shoving shirt sleeves into sweater sleeves if it can be avoided — it always feel too bunchy. The only thing that would make my existing sleeveless tops better as winter layering pieces (or even wear-alones in the milder parts of spring and fall) is if they were made of heavier fabric, or even a brushed cotton or flannel or boiled wool. So that’s where my head is at.
The photo above is my Instagram pic from the other day of Sonya Philip’s Dress Pattern No. 1, for which my sweet friend Marlee is hosting a sewalong. I believe it’s actually tunic length, and if I were to split the front and add buttons, and change the shape of the pockets, it would be my beloved linen tunic. So I might do that. But I’ll probably sew it as drafted first. Sonya has been a big influence on me in my desire to craft a handmade wardrobe, so I’m thrilled to be about to sew one of her patterns.
With all of that said, here are a handful of sleeveless sewing patterns that are simple and reliable (by all accounts) and that lend themselves to modifications of length, hemline, neckline, etc. All on my to-sew list—
– Wiksten Tank by Jenny Gordy is the only one on this list that I have sewn before, and I can vouch for its being an excellent pattern and suitable for new sewists. It’s no wonder there are thousands of them on the internet. For my next one, I’m planning to sew a longer version and raise the neckline. (See also: Grainline’s Tiny Pocket Tank)
– Sorbetto from Colette Patterns (free pattern) is another simple tank, but this one has bust darts. It’s easy to imagine adding length and/or volume to it, and I love the box-pleat detail down the front. I’m eager to hybridize this and the Wiksten Tank.
– Alice by Tessuti is one that Felicia Semple has sewn multiple appealing versions of. Those gathers under the bustline would provide just enough interest if you’ve got a cardigan over it, and I love the sleeve-cap detail for when it’s worn alone. I also really want the dress version of this one for my summer closet.
– Tova by Jenny Gordy is not a sleeveless pattern, per se, but one of my favorite Tovas I’ve seen is Sam Lamb’s sleeveless version (check out her Wiksten tank in that same post).
– Sailor Top from Fancy Tiger is the next best thing to sleeveless. I think those little sleeves would layer quite nicely, and the wide neckband with gathers makes it an appealing layering piece to me. (By the way, there’s a Creative Bug class for this one.)
– Endless Summer Tunic from A Verb for Keeping Warm, noted above, has lots of really nice details — including optional side-seam pockets — but is probably the most challenging pattern on this list. I’ll get there.
Just typing this up has me itching to grab my Fashionary and sketch out all the mods and hybridizations that are running around in my head, which I promise to share. And I’m sure many of you have other great suggestions, so please add them below!
This weekend I’ll be sketching, sewing, knitting and taking Bellows pics. (Yes, that is a glimpse of it in the top photo up there.) Love to hear what you’re working on—