I don’t wear a lot of trousers or pencil skirts. I’ll be honest, as body positive as I am, I still find it hard not to feel self-conscious of my stomach in tight fitting clothing. It saddens me sometimes that I force myself to overlook dresses, skirts or trousers I want because I know I won’t have the confidence to rock them as consistently as I would need to in order to justify the purchase.
However, it’s just not practical to live all of one’s life in a swing dress. Sometimes pants are required. Sometimes a pencil skirt is just much more appropriate and attractive. And for those occasions I found the perfect solution: the Alika top by Tatyana.
It was one of the first items of clothing I ever reviewed here on the blog, alongside the Alika swing dress as well. I was smitten with the netted lattice design of the upper bodice on all the Alika pieces, I still am, but it was the blouse in particular I grew most fond of because the peplum style allowed me to pair it with my non-swing separates and feel more secure knowing it was offering coverage to my lower stomach, where I carry a lot of my weight.
I kept hoping and expecting that Tatyana would bring out the Alika in more colours than the original shimmery patterned ivory. They offered both the swing and pencil Alika dresses in multiple colours, so surely the blouses were soon to follow, surely surely?
They never came. The Alika blouse itself went into final sale and disappeared. It was one of those pieces that had made me immediately leap to purchase it the first time I saw a picture of it, so enraptured and entranced was I by its chicness, its elegance, its unique vintage glamour. Was nobody else as equally besotted with it? Were my fellow pinups failing to buy this gem of design?
I was so sad to think I would never get a chance to own this shirt in any other colours that I began wondering if it would be possible to dye the ivory colourway if I was able to buy up multiple pieces of it. The fabric involves glitter strands and risen sections, and a material composition that I, a true novice in the understanding of clothing, sewing and all that entails, did not understand. I confirmed via my costume-maker sister and my mother that the dye job was a no-go route, then lamented. That was it, I guessed. I had just that one Alika blouse to rely upon as my only shirt that really made me feel confident when wearing trousers. It was such a shame, too, that my black Alika dress never got worn, wasting away in my closet because the skirt wasn’t as full as my preferences required, and the awesome neckline made it feel a bit too fancy for everyday wear, even for me.
Oh, I realised. Wait. No, I couldn’t. Could I?
I never reached for my black Alika dress. It was in great condition, worn twice by me and once by a friend, and that was it. I couldn’t quite bear to sell it on because I loved the neckline so much, but it simply didn’t have as full a skirt as I had come to love in my dresses. Cutting up an $143 dress to make a blouse seemed too dangerous and wasteful, and yet it was a dress being wasted anyway sitting in my wardrobe unworn. Didn’t it make more sense to turn it into something that I would get more wear out of?
The great thing about this project is that it was simple enough that even I, a total sewing beginner, could have done it. I’ll be honest, I didn’t. I was still a bit antsy about cutting up such an expensive dress, but I knew it would literally only involve measuring the length of the peplum evenly around the entire circumference of the would-be-hemline and leaving enough hem allowance. I asked my sister to do it for my Christmas present while I worked on a different sewing project to get my confidence up, since it was dealing with the sewing machine I was most anxious about.
In the end, I actually decided to buy the red and navy Alika swing dresses as well when Tatyana were having a 50% off sale. At the time, buying the two dresses qualified me for free international shipping (their qualification value has since gone up) and that brought the cost of each soon-to-be top to just over $70, well worth it for a shirt I felt would get me into leg-baring separates more often. Tatyana regularly have 50% off sales these days, they even had a 60% off sale over the 4th of July weekend, so if you decide you need to snatch up an Alika dress for yourself to make a custom blouse of your own make sure you wait for the next sale, which probably won’t be too long of a wait.
Making Your Own
To make your own Alika blouse is a very simple process. The zip of the dress does not extend down past the cutting point of the skirt, so you won’t have to interfere with that at all. You’ll literally be measuring, cutting, and hemming. That’s it. If you’re a competent machinist it will take you less than 15 minutes, probably. If you’re a beginner go slower and cautiously just so you don’t make a mistake, but don’t stress yourself out because this really is as simple as it sounds.
(This method would work on any swing dress you might want to turn into a peplum blouse. However, if you do use another dress, make sure to check if the zip extends past the point you’d like to cut to create the length of the peplum. If it does, this means you’ll need to remove the zip and replace it with a new one as you won’t be able to cut through it without making it unusuable. That replacement will be slightly more intensive for a brand new sewer who hasn’t dealt with zips before, but it’s a simple process that you can research elsewhere on line for full instructions.)
The Alika peplum blouse measures 9 inches from waistband to hem. If you’re concerned you may want the blouse to sit longer on you, add another couple inches to that measurement when you make your initial cut and try it on before hemming to decide whether to shorten it further. If you think you want a shorter peplum length, cut to the measurements as listed below and try on before you hem, pinning the peplum to the length you like most and making sure to remeasure the entire hem circumference again before you make your second cut to shorten.
If you’re uncomfortable following sewing instructions, I’ve explained this all in super simple layman’s terms below because as a fellow beginner I know how easy it is to feel paranoid you might be misunderstanding what looks like a simple set of instructions.
The basic steps:
- Lay your Alika swing dress flat with skirt fully spread out flat.
- Measure and mark 9.5 inches from the waistband’s down the length of the skirt all the way around the skirt, front and back, marking with tailor’s chalk (That’s 9 inches for the length of the peplum, 0.5 inch for seam allowance for the hem.)
- Double check your measurements. Once you cut, you can’t uncut
- Join together your markings to form a solid line to cut
- Carefully cut along that line around the skirt and discard the extra skirt fabric (You can use this on any other projects you’d like.)
- Measure the 0.5 inches around for the hem and pin it folded under to make the hem.
- Time to sew! If you don’t have access to a sewing machine you can use iron on webbing tape to iron your hem into place rather than sew. (I know in England the most well known brand for this is Wonder Web)
- You’re done. That’s it.
Go rock your brand new custom blouse!
If you do create your own Alika blouse or a peplum blouse from another dress, please do let me know. I’d love to see pictures, so you can share with me on my @miss_amy_may Instagram, my PinupAmyMay Facebook, or by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.