A Taste of the 60s // Striped Coco Dress

Tilly and the Buttons Coco Dress // Boots and Cats

I’ve got another really fun one to share with you today. For the second look capturing the fun and bright spirit of the 60s, how could I deny you the most perfect retro-made-modern dress that is the Tilly and the Buttons Coco?

I realized that I don’t really have much to say about this dress, yet it’s one of my favourite makes to date. It’s funny how that works out that way. When I initially got this striped fabric, I knew right away this was exactly what it was going to be. A striped Coco has been on my sew-do list since I first laid eyes on the pattern. I talked about my finding-a-good-striped-fabric woes in the post about my Coco Breton top last month, but if you got any good stripe sources, hook me up!

Both striped Coco projects were actually cut out at the same time. I cut out the dress, then noticed I had enough left to make the breton top too. Probably because it was still pants weather at that point, the top got made first.

On that note about pattern cutting, I have to ask, what’s your process with sewing projects? Do you work on a single garment, start to finish before starting something new, or do you have multiple things on the go? I used to be strictly one-at-a-time, but I found I ended up sewing less frequently because of it.

Cutting out pattern pieces is definitely my least favourite part of the process (it doesn’t help that I don’t have room for a table and I work off the floor) so it takes a lot of inertia to get started on a project, especially if I am short on time. I have started to cut out a few projects in bulk when I have lots of energy, so I have at least one or two projects ready to go when sewing time is scarcer. I do have to be careful not to prepare TOO many projects or else they stare me down and make me feel guilty they aren’t done yet, but so far this is working pretty well. I’d love to hear how you work around your projects and prep things to sew. I’m all about streamlining.

Anywho, back to Coco.

I was trying to think about why this dress just worked for me. It was hard to narrow it down to describe. It’s this perfect blend of simple yet bold, classic yet unique, different but everyday wearable. It’s everything all in one, and it just ‘clicks’.

This makes my third Coco overall. I said it before, but I think this pattern will be my ultimate TNT. I remember when I first started thinking about what I truly wanted from my clothes, I was often pinning styles that had the 60s funnel neck collar, without pinpointing that was a design element I loved. Once I discovered Tilly, it totally made sense to me, and it was one of the first indie patterns I bought. Unfortunately my first top was made of a poor quality fabric and hasn’t worn super well over time.

Construction notes are super basic: Straight cut in size 2 with usual waist length added. I wanted to play with the graphic nature of the stripe so I opted for the option with contrast cuffs. I thought of adding in the pockets too, but it was much too busy. It was all sewed with the overlocker except for the hem.  Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Tilly and the Buttons Coco Dress // Boots and Cats

The thick ponte makes this dress the perfect transitional piece for this strange winter-spring (winting?) hybrid season we are currently having. It’s soft and snuggly with a print that says bring on the sunshine. I also want to make more Coco tops in a selection of basic solid colours (though my stash is currently lacking in the solid color department…) to wear year-round so keep your eyes out for more retro goodness.

One more look coming from this photo session with Breanne Marie Photography comin’ atcha next week.

Stripes & Solids // A Colour-Blocked Coco Top

Colour Blocking your Coco Top // Boots and Cats

If you asked me to describe my style I would probably tell you something along the lines of: classic, kinda preppy, with a vintage twist. I have a tendency to make some very loud statement pieces that step outside of that description, but on the daily I tend to feel most comfortable and confident in neutral colours and classic cuts. You’ll find me often in skinny jeans and cardigan, or if I’m feeling fancy, a high-waisted skirt and a comfy sweater.

But for the longest time a crucial staple in the classic-preppy-vintage style profile was glaringly missing from my wardrobe selection: a Breton top. (Or as most people know it, a striped shirt, or sailor shirt. Tilly rounded up a wonderful history of it here)

I’ve always loved the ease and style that was exuded from a Breton. So effortless, so chic. This admiration, of course, made me unwittingly picky about what it should be. Not too sheer or draped, has to have the classic wide neckline, long sleeves, preferably colour blocked, with smaller, unbalanced stripes.

How could any shirt possibly meet those standards? Turns out, they couldn’t. It seemed the more I looked for the perfect shirt, the more elusive it became.

Colour Blocking your Coco Top // Boots and Cats

So I turned to the wise muse that is Dr. Seuss in one of his all-time classics.

Did that stop the old Grinch? No! The Grinch simply said,

“If I can’t find a Breton top, I’ll make one instead!”


(That’s totally how it goes.)

Though, as you sewing folk will know, simply deciding to make the perfect Breton top isn’t as easy as waltzing in to the nearest Fabricland to get started. Finding a halfway decent striped knit can be like searching for a needle in a haystack. Even when I did manage to find a fabric that was soft, had good stretch recovery and weight…it was always in the weirdest colour. You’d think black and white would be far more in demand.

Thankfully, this Christmas I received the most wonderful gift. I opened the box and inside was a beautiful black and white striped ponte knit from Girl Charlee. The heavens opened, angels sang, and many projects were planned.

I unquestionably chose Tilly & The Buttons Coco for the pattern because it perfectly encapsulates the vintage and modern vibes I love. (I plan on making many 60s funnel neck versions soon too! I think I can safely say this is one of my first TNT patterns)

Colour Blocking your Coco Top // Boots and Cats

I wanted to soften the look of the stripes for this top and opted to colour block the shoulders. Ideally it would have been in white, but the ponte I had was a slightly cream colour and didn’t match. Luckily, black goes with everything.

I looked into some colour blocking pattern hacks in bloggerland and it seemed like a pretty simple adjustment. The Grainline Lark tutorial was the easiest way I found to line up your blocked seams. I did start to notice, however, that the shoulder curves on the Coco sleeves were quite shallow. I feared this would mean that if I blocked my pattern straight across from the armpit seam it wouldn’t cut straight across my body as I wore it. I didn’t want to lower the blocking either (it would look strange if it cut across the bust), so I would need to do some crafty drafting.

Colour Blocking your Coco Top // Boots and Cats

Using a highly professional (made-up) method, I had to determine the shape of the sleeve cap so it would appear straight as I wore it. I put on my first Coco I made and took an elastic band and wrapped it on my arm. I moved it up until it was touching the underarm seam and arranged it to look straight. I then got Rory to take a measurement of the elastic to the shoulder seam. This distance was about 12 cm. (If I cut straight across the pattern piece, this distance was closer to 10cm, meaning it definitely would have angled upwards when I wore it).

To make my pattern pieces, I traced the sleeve onto some paper and measured 12 cm (+the seam allowance) down from the center of the sleeve. Using a dressmaker’s curve, I met the center line with the underarm seam points, so it would match my blocking point on the bodice. I then cut along this curve, added seam allowances, and had my new pattern pieces!

Colour Blocking your Coco Top // Boots and Cats

It was stressful cutting out the pattern pieces, not knowing if this would actually work or not (yet not stressful enough to make a muslin it seems…). The stress must have impeded my attention to cutting detail and I totally miss-cut one of my sleeves (it was the bottom layer and I didn’t notice I hadn’t enough fabric in that spot). I hate that feeling of wasting fabric on silly mistakes.

Then for some strange reason after I re-cut my second sleeve and compared it to the first, even though they start on the same stripe and measure to the same length…they end on different stripes? I tried to even it out when hemming but I didn’t want to make one sleeve much longer than the other. Can’t really explain how that was accomplished…but hey I bet you didn’t even notice.

I cut a straight size 2, but added my usual 6cm length to the bodice and sleeves, and took down the flare of the pattern a bit at the hips.

Colour Blocking your Coco Top // Boots and Cats

The sewing was a breeze, as this wasn’t my first Coco rodeo. Tilly’s instructions are beautiful and simple with helpful tips thrown in. I just love this pattern so much.

And wouldn’t ya know, my pattern hacking totally worked out! It can be harder to see in the photos because the stripes and fabric movement, but the line of the colour blocking is DARN NEAR PERFECT! Aha. Victory. Pattern drafting and I have a nice streak going.

I am so pleased to welcome this classic staple into my wardrobe FINALLY. The ponte is soft, stretchy and quite thick, making it a wonderful winter top. Come summer though, I might want to make a lighter weight version.

I guess the search for stripes continues.