Girl Charlee Houndstooth Shift Dress

Hello there!
My name is Rosa and I vlog about my sewing journey over on my YouTube Channel Sewn. I'm so excited to be here today to share with you my latest make, made using cosy houndstooth Girl Charlee Ponte de Roma fabric.

I have been sewing for the majority of my life, and over the years have become somewhat of a geek when it comes to fashion history. I am obsessed with studying the incredible collection of vintage pieces at the V&A and have an obscene number of historical fashion books in my library (too many for our tiny, one bedroom flat, some may argue!).

So when I chose this houndstooth fabric, I decided I wanted to find out more about it's history, where the print was from and who has influenced it's evolution over the decades. The image in my mind when I think of houndstooth may well be very different from your own, and it's these subtle differences in our individual interpretations of fashion, shaped by our different experiences and nostalgic bias, that interest me most.

Personally, when I think of houndstooth I think of mid-century glamour, pillbox hats and Jackie O stepping gracefully from aeroplanes without a hair out of place. But houndstooth fabric was created long before Jackie graced the White House. The fabric is, in fact, from closer to home and was first woven in Scotland in the 19th century. Originally made from wool, the substantial and heavy fabric was originally used for outer wear and was, apparently, a favoured by shepherds! In fact, in it's earliest incarnation the print was also referred to as Shepherd's Check. The print later became a popular print for cosy winter skirts and scarves. Adorably, a smaller scale print was developed named Puppy's Tooth.
Dior, 1957

Fast forward a few decades and we hit the aesthetic I most associate with Houndstooth, the 1950s and 1960s. Admittedly, I have an unhealthy obsession with Mad Men and the whole mid-century vibe as it is, but who can resist this Christian Dior coat from 1957, or this 1960s cosy yet achingly chic houndstooth polo neck fit for Audrey Hepburn to dance around Montmartre in? Anyone else obsessed with her beatnik style in Funny Face?

Fast forward another 50 years and the great Alexander McQueen basically dedicated his entire AW09 collection to the iconic print, with larger than life ruffles, frills and collars constructed origami-like from houndstooth cloth. McQueen proved that this classic print so rich in history can be brought well and truly into the 21st century without losing any of it's original charm.
McQueen 2009

So, how can the home sewer interpret the trend in a way that is both stylish and ultimately wearable? I was inspired by this gorgeous Boden shift dress with it's nod to the 60s to create my own houndstooth shift dress.

Ponte de Roma lends itself perfectly to cosy winter shift dresses as it is thick and cosy enough for the dress to take on the qualities of a jumper dress, while the smooth, wrinkle resistant look keeps the dress looking smart enough for work. Plus, next to no ironing, win! I chose Simplicity 1593 for my dress but lengthened the sleeves and bodice by 2 inches to ensure the dress is wearable in the coldest London weather with lovely opaque tights and, of course, my handmade coat.

However, I do not feel shift dresses are the limit of how you can use this fabric to look stylish yet stay warm this winter. Another alternative are houndstooth trousers, which I made myself years ago for a trip to Paris. Ponte de Roma makes super cosy trousers and the stretch is forgiving and comfortable around the waistline.

If you are not a trouser girl, a stretchy Ponte de Roma mini skirt is an absolute winter staple, and you can't go wrong with the Colette Mabel skirt. I think it would look gorgeous in houndstooth.
Colette Mabel

That's everything for today. Thank you so much for reading and I hope you have learnt something new about this gorgeous and historic print and are inspired to whip up your own Ponte de Roma piece for winter. I cannot stress enough how much I love working with Ponte de Roma fabric as it is stable enough to sew up quickly with a normal sewing machine, keeps you warm and cosy during the winter and perhaps most excitingly, comes out of the wash completely wrinkle free so you can spend five minutes longer in bed in the morning and skip the ironing!

Special thank you to Girl Charlee for providing me with this gorgeous fabric to work with and for giving me the opportunity to write this for their lovely blog.