Helter Skelter Dress

My latest creation is another simple shift dress to wear to work, this time with a slight cut-away shoulder. I love all the exposed shoulders around lately, and it’s a wonder I don’t already have any dresses of this style. It has been so hot and sticky lately that I decided I needed one right away. It is amazing how much cooler you feel with just a few centimetres missing at the shoulder!


Viscose helps too – being cool to the touch I find it one of the most comfortable fibres to wear in our humid summers. This was a viscose challis that I scored for $12 at the Moa fabric clearance last year. The print reminds me of helter skelters – do you remember them? For me they were a storybook fantasy as a kid and I always wanted to ride on one. Despite living in England for a few years I never realised my dream, sigh. Therefore I’m naming this my Helter Skelter dress, because of the way the print spirals around the body and resembles that famous fairground slide.


This print also has a dark border along one selvedge, so by cutting the dress on the horizontal grain instead of the usual lengthwise grain, the border became the hem.  I also cut the collar from the border panel to balance the dark area a bit.

Collar? What collar you say? Hidden by my hair in almost every photo except this windblown one is a stand collar, which is cut on the bias so it rolls nicely around the neckline.


I really wish I did a tutorial on this now because there are so many tricks to share about constructing a bias roll collar. Meanwhile, here’s my most important tip for sewing one: never ever press the folded edge or you will ruin it forever!


I will try and remember to put a hook and eye on that CB collar.  If you have read this blog for long you will know that I am really good at missing out those final finishing bits and pieces. Sometimes I have to force myself to 100% finish things!


The only other details are that it has a CB invisible zip, back waist darts, front french darts, and faced armholes.


As usual there are a couple of minor changes I would make to the pattern to perfect it, but I think it is safe to say that this is my current favourite make.  I am trying to stick to sewing things that are my personal style and I’ve definitely succeeded with this one.  Plus it is practical and comfortable in the viscose, which is reflected in the number of times it has been worn already!

Are you a viscose (rayon) fan too? Have you ever cut a border print, or sewn a bias roll collar?

But most importantly – have you ever ridden on a Helter Skelter?! I watched a YouTube video and it looks kind of scary – like you are going to slide right off!


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34 thoughts on “Helter Skelter Dress

  1. What a beautiful fit! The contrasting hem is so effective and you look gorgeous in it. I have never ridden a helter skelter OR sewn a bias roll collar so clearly I’m missing out. I’m intrigued by both now, though 🙂


    1. Thanks Bella! When I first bought the fabric I thought I wouldn’t use the contrast border, but I’m glad I did now as I really like how it works along the hem.


  2. Love the shoulder shape – is this a pattern you drafted yourself? I have never sewn a bias collar but I have been on a helter-skelter! I brought one of my kids when they were too small to ride alone- it did feel like we’d fall over the sides!!


  3. Rayon is one of the true miracle fabrics of our age. It is a delight to wear in a hot and humid climate. And perfect for the collar application on your new dress — it doesn’t like to hold a pressed crease, anyway.

    In the U.S., “helter skelter” has long had the connotation of horrific serial murder, thanks to Charles Manson and his deadly crew. How sad when parts of our language are hijacked to serve the interests of evil … the slide looks like a lot of fun to ride.


  4. Very nice dress, Sherry. I envy you having the non-sloping shoulders to wear it. The very first cut in shoulder blouse I made went straight into the donate bag. I do like those colors on you.
    Theresa in Tucson


  5. I really like this pattern and the fabric is great. Very flattering style. I never made a bias roll collar and I am now all curious about it! I like viscose as long as it’s not too slippery ;o)


  6. Really pretty dress and I love the print! (I never knew what a helter skelter actually was – it has a far more ominous meaning in the U.S. Thanks for the information.).


  7. Fantastic dress and fabric – it really does suit you. Linen is my first love but definitely viscose is my second most favourite fabric. It has beautiful drape. Also love it when it is blended with other fibres. Love it and your dress!!


  8. What a great dress. The fabric is lovely. I really like cut out shoulder dresses but you have yet to convince me about wearing a collar in the heat despite it’s obvious good looks.


  9. Oh, it’s fabulous! The fit is absolutely perfect. I’ve gone down a fitting rabbit hole lately and have realized how little I really know about fitting myself. The color is gorgeous on you.


  10. Your dress is lovely! a bit mod and 60’s, very cool and very you! The only reference I have of the term helter skelter is the book about Charles Manson, so I’d never known its real meaning.


  11. A very cool looking dress for the humid weather that we have been having. Love how you have used the border fabric, being 5’2″ I have to be very careful with them. I haven’t sewn a rolled collar before but seeing this and the orange top that may change.


  12. I’ve just discovered your blog so am very late commenting but I am a child of the 80s and remember going on Helter Skelters. A great memory I’ve not thought of for years so thank you. I love your dress. I’m still a beginner and have been holding on to a length of Atelier Brunette viscose I bought on a trip for fear of ruining it. I’ll have take the plunge.


  13. Looks amazing. Love it. SO inspiring. One question…Please Sheryll.. I have some border print fabric and a pattern for a shift dress. The hem is sightly curved on the pattern. So I’m wondering if I should just go ahead and cut the hem straight?


    1. Thank you Jan! For your shift dress, if the skirt is relatively straight and the curved hem is only slight, it should be fine to cut the hem straight. If you have any doubts it might be best to run up a quick mock up.


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