Sewing the Rita Dress

Rita Dress from Charm Patterns

The Rita Blouse is one of Charm’s most popular patterns – for good reason! It’s simple to sew and incredible versatile, either as a blouse or (with a few tweaks) as a dress. If you want to turn your Rita pattern into a woven Rita Dress, just follow these steps:

Fabric & Supplies

  • The Rita Blouse pattern, of course!
  • Your chosen skirt pattern. I used the skirt from the Liz Dress skirt pattern, which is a flared gathered skirt, but you could also use a gathered skirt, circle skirt, or any of your choice, as long as it has a side zipper. Another classic choice for this style is a tiered patio skirt–check out the Patio Dress in the Gertie Sews Jiffy Dresses book. Note: A gathered skirt is super easy to add because you can adjust the gathers to fit the bodice. For any other skirt, you will need to confirm that the circumference of the skirt’s waist matches the blouse’s waist, and that the side seams match.
  • Woven fabric for the blouse plus skirt, and any additional fabric needed for ruffles on the skirt and/or bodice. A tiered skirt notoriously uses a lot of fabric, and we went through 8 yards of 45″ wide quilting cotton for this project!
  • A 22-inch invisible zipper (instead of the 12-inch zipper recommended in the pattern)
  • All other supplies listed in the Rita Blouse pattern
  • I added pompom trim to the dress ruffle and hem – totally optional, but totally cute! I also used a row of silver ricrac trim on my skirt tier.

You may also sew the Rita Dress with a knit. If you do, choose a knit that is on the stable side, like an interlock or cotton jersey. (Slinky knits aren’t well suited to garments with a lot of seams like this one, and heavier knits will weigh the skirt down). You will likely want to size down (see this blog post for more info).

Rita Dress from Charm Patterns

Pattern Alterations

  • We’ve marked the waistline on the Rita Blouse pattern. Trim the pattern at the waistline mark and add 5/8-inch seam allowance.
  • You may wish to remove some ease at the waist for a more cinched look, especially if you are adding any of the Charm skirts with less ease. I removed 1 inch of ease at the waist for this example.
  • My recommendation would be to make the pattern as suggested first (in a woven, exactly as instructed), and make any fit adjustments needed to the original pattern before experimenting with a Rita Dress. Many people need to adjust this pattern in the waist (waist adjustments are one of the most common I see in any design) so it’s good to start with the correct fit before trying something new! If this is your first time sewing the Rita Blouse, we’ve outlined all of the steps in our Rita Sew-Along Series.
  • Omit any waistband or waist facings on your skirt pattern.
  • We added a ruffle to the neckline. Cut a length of fabric approximately 4 inches wide by the length of your neckline opening (before inserting elastic), plus seam allowances.
  • We also added a 7-inch wide ruffle to the skirt. Cut a length of fabric 2 to 2-1/2 times the circumference measurement of your skirt hem, piecing it together as needed.

Sewing Instructions

  • Sew the Rita Blouse as instructed. Before inserting the zipper, assemble the skirt and attach the blouse to the skirt at the waistline.
  • Insert the zipper, flipping it around so that it is right-side up rather than upside-down.
  • For the optional neckline ruffle, sew the short ends together to create a circle. Hem the bottom edge of the ruffle and sew pom-pom trim to the wrong side of the ruffle so that it peeks out from the bottom edge. After attaching the Rita sleeves to the bodice, baste the raw edge of your ruffle around the neckline, with the wrong side of the ruffle facing the right side of the dress. Treat as one unit and follow the instructions to sew the neckline casing, lifting up the ruffle so that you only sew the casing through the dress and seam allowance layers (not the ruffle itself).
  • Follow the rest of the blouse instructions. Hang the dress for a day and then hem. Add the optional ruffle by hemming both the upper and lower edges first, then gathering 1/2-in from the top of the ruffle and applying directly on top of the skirt hem. Sew pompom trim to the bottom of the skirt and then sew ricrac over the gathering stitches on the skirt ruffle. Note: This method leaves an exposed ruffly hemmed upper edge where the skirt meets the ruffle. Alternatively, you can leave the dress and ruffle upper edge unhemmed, and seam the two together.
  • Depending on the weight of your skirt, you may wish to stabilize the waist by sewing waist stay tape or a length of 1/2-inch braided elastic to the seam allowance, stretching it ever so slightly.
  • If you are sewing the Rita Dress in a knit, follow the instructions in the blog post. You will definitely want to stabilize the underbust and waist seams with elastic, so the fabric doesn’t become baggy around the midriff or pull down due to the weight of the skirt.

Rita Dress from Charm Patterns