Bell Sleeve Peacock Print Shift Dress

You guys might recognise this flamboyant purple peacock feather print – it is the one featured in the article I wrote a while ago on pattern placement – yes, I’ve finally cut it out and sewn it up into a 70’s style dress!


Last year I made a black dress (oops – unblogged!) in a similar style, and always intended to make a print version too – but I could never find the ‘right’ groovy print.

Then one day sorting through my stash – as you do – I rediscovered this feather print. I had initially assigned it to a gorgeous vintage 50’s ruched dress pattern.  It was all tied up with the pattern and the zip ready to go, but the reality was that I wouldn’t be seen dead wearing it.  I suddenly visualised it in this style and ventured boldly ahead!

My black dress has a straight 3/4 sleeve, but I gave this style a bell sleeve as I thought the fabric lent itself to a boho vibe.


The fabric itself is a Tory Burch silk cotton damask from The Fabric Store in Auckland. It’s a gorgeous quality – it is really lightweight but not at all sheer, and so nice to wear next to the skin. I wore this a few times with sandals in late summer, and for the next few months it will be boots and tights – although I can see it is sticking to those in the above photo!

After all the fuss about pattern placement, once I had cut the fabric out I never gave it a second thought! I opted for the white feather line to run down the princess line region, which lead to a really uneconomical layout (see Instagram feed below for evidence!)

Luckily I had a ton of fabric. But even then I only used about 2.5m, so I have enough left over to make a top as well.  I’d like to say I’m happy that I get an extra garment out of the remainder, but it secretly annoys me that I thought I was finally using up some stash fabric, and now I have to use up a bit more!


I admit that I went through a stage that I thought this dress could be too young for me…..but what does that really mean anyway?  If you love something, think it is rather cool, and it gives you a little head spin every time you put it on – go for it, I say!

What do you think – should you tone down your fashion sense with age – or do the opposite? Do you worry what others might think of your choices, or do it anyway? And does it ever annoy you when you finally manage to use up some stash fabric, but still have some left over?!


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Designer, Patternmaker, Blogger Of All Things Sewing. Follow as I share projects, patterns, and my favourite tricks of the trade.

37 thoughts on “Bell Sleeve Peacock Print Shift Dress

  1. So groovy, I love it with the high boots! I think you chose the perfect design for that cool fabric.

    I do think about what I wear, if nothing else but to be ‘taken seriously’ – whatever that means! That’s mostly with work clothes though. On the weekends I wear whatever I want.

    By the way do you know a good way to stop fabric sticking to tights? Is a slip the only answer?


    1. Thanks Bella! I’ve been meaning to make a slip for ages to wear under dresses like this! Shiny tights help a bit but this fabric is partially cotton and still clings. I bought some Anti-stat spray from Centrepoint Fabrics the other day which I am hoping will solve the problem of another polyester dress that tends to build up static and stick to tights that way!


  2. It does annoy me when I hear that women should dress their age. If it suits you, and it does, by all means wear it! Even when I am a grandmother I have no intention of dressing like one. In saying that, I have reduced the amount of skin I am willing to expose over the years!

    Your dress looks lovely on you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Andrea! I agree, the idea of women ‘dressing their age’ is outdated. There are so many differing styles around and it is far more interesting to create your own than follow outdated concepts!


  3. I am loving the seventies trend right now. Your dress looks great Sheryll and the styling with brown boots is perfect! I have started to question whether some things are appropriate for my age, but if I really love something that is a bit “loud” I will still make it and/or buy it and wear it. However, like Andrea, I have reduced my skin exposure over the last few years, even if my husband doesn’t always agree!


    1. Thanks Ivona! I applaud a bit of ‘loud’ in everyone’s wardrobe! Everyone has their own taste and it won’t always align with others, but I think having the confidence to express yourself ‘loudly’ is a great thing and shows strength of character.


      1. Yes, a bit of “loud” in other people’s clothing always makes things more interesting to the eye. Wouldn’t life would be so boring if no one dared to be different and daring in the clothing department and we all dressed the same?


  4. Back in 1966, I made a dress in the exact style as yours. I loved it. It was made in a medium weight cable style knit with a fused lining, so no need to line. I wore it on a trip to NYC to visit a friend. I also made a small purse, over the shoulder style with gold chain, of the same fabric and wore cream stockings and bone Mary Jane patent leather. At age 22, I felt perfectly dressed for a trip downtown NYC where my friend worked. Your fabric is perfect too. I love purple these days. What a wonderful walk through in your previous post regarding pattern placement.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The purse kit was called “Pursenality:” It cane in a kit with pattern chain and findings, and interfacing, The sewist just added fabric. The trick was that by simply loosening a couple of round knobs, you could slip the purse off the frame and insert a new purse. Something got lost and I was never able to find the whole kit again.


  5. I shouldn’t comment about dressing your age as I am currently sewing a pair of flair jeans, and I wore them the last time around.
    I think if it suited you the first time you should wear it again. The only place I couldn’t go back to was puff sleeves.


  6. I think it is a fantastic shape on you and great pairing of fabric and pattern. As for the stash reduction observations – I had to laugh as I’m also sewing from the stash lately and feeling good when I use something, and yet can’t help but cut out things to retain enough yardage for a 2nd item. Must be something in our sewing DNA 🙂


  7. I think it looks great. I assume you made the pattern?

    Women, like men, should dress as suits them, taking into account age, body shape, lifestyle,and temperament.


    1. Its a lovely dress, and a perfect choice for the beautiful fabric. I hope you can use the rest of the fabric suitably, I can’t explain it, but 1.3m of left overs seems to take up the same amount of space in my fabric collection as the original 3m piece 🙂


      1. You are so right – I had 4m, and it still looks like 4m! I’m thinking of a tie neck sleeveless top, but that can wait till next summer!


  8. I don’t believe in certain kinds of clothes only suiting certain ages, and your dress looks timeless! The print and color suits you beautifully. I will say I used to wear tight clothing a lot more but I feel comfortable enough with myself to admit that I just don’t like feeling restricted.

    And I’m with you on the fabric leftovers! I pride myself on my economical layouts but I always end up with 1-yard pieces in my scrap box!


    1. Thanks Morgan! I dislike anything tight around the waist, those items in my wardrobe just don’t get worn like they should. They fit and look nice in the morning, but when I get home from work I can’t wait to get them off!


  9. Yes yes I’m gutted when I have leftovers! I want it gone! Haha! I say wear whatever makes you feel like you shine. I just made some crazy pants for work and a KNEW I’d get side-eye from some colleagues but I didn’t care. This is fabulous and you definitely shine in it.


  10. I have toned down my own style, mostly to provide more coverage — as much as to avoid too much sun as to preserve some mystery about what lurks beneath my garments.

    Also, many of my friends in their 90s still zip around in short shorts and sleeveless tank tops … and some of them in tube tops that they bought brand-new in the 1970s. (Those tube tops are less supportive than they were originally … and they have a lot more flesh to support than originally. ) My friends wear what made them feel sexy when they were in their 40s-50s. And more power to them, say I!
    Me? I want to avoid forcing others to look at my own bare legs and arms and back and belly, after having seen way too much of theirs for decades. It is possible to dress both fashionably and modestly, and to avoid skin cancers because of too much sun exposure.


    1. I agree that dressing fashionably and modestly isn’t mutually exclusive. I personally don’t mind bare skin whatever the age, unless it is rude. I suppose that is open to interpretation too!


  11. I think you’ve raised an important issue – re dressing for your “age”. Thank heavens much of that has changed a lot over the past decade or so – I’m 61 years old and honestly dress the way I like. I wear mostly tunics with leggings and tights or jeans and a Tee – skirts and comfortable tops. I dress for comfort and originality too (which of course is one of the MANY reasons I love to sew!) but not for “age appropriateness”. I really have a difficult time grasping what that even IS anymore 🙂


  12. I’m a bit late to this party, but….I think the dress is lovely, and absolutely appropriate! As far as the age question-I always put dressing appropriately for the occasion, ahead of age, because that has more of an effect on other peoples’ feelings. I would rather be pointed at for wearing something “too youthful” than for offending someone by coming inappropriately dressed to their wedding, for instance, or to a funeral…..I don’t really care whether someone thinks what I have on is too young for me, because that’s more their problem than mine, but I do care if I hurt someone by adding to the sadness or taking away the happiness of an event important to them.
    Besides, there is almost always a way, IMO, to adjust things to make an outfit more age appropriate if I have doubts-wearing solid-color leggings with a top that covers my behind, for example (though, to me, that’s simply appropriate, and age doesn’t factor into it!), or wearing a shorter skirt with opaque tights and a modest top, or wearing a low neckline top with pants or a modern skirt, or keeping the twee to a minimum-just not overdoing, the way I see a lot of younger people who haven’t really settled into their “fashion groove” yet doing. I also try to incorporate few to no trendy items per season-I have a pretty good idea now of what looks good on me, and what doesn’t, and I would rather wear an older style than a new trend that looks silly on me.


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