Sorbetto Sundress :: 30 Days of Sundresses

Sundress_Sorbetto Top into a Dress | a happy stitch

It’s around this time of year that I lose all tolerance for annoying things like jeans or tight-fitting dresses. I want to either be wearing grub-wear in the garden or a dress I can throw on over a swimsuit. I also have pretty nit-picky criteria for sundresses…they should be so easy and comfortable you can wear them all day in the sun and also feel free to stop in at the ice cream shop or indulge in a boardwalk funnel cake without shame/discomfort.  You should be able to sweat freely, no pools of sweat that collect at a tight waistband.  They should allow enough length for sitting but not so much that the breeze can’t dry any sweat behind the knees. They should never, ever involve anything that even stands a chance of scraping or itching such as a zipper.  Save all that other stuff for the fancy dresses!   I’m a delicate flower in the hot sun of summer and my tolerance for irritation plummets to all time lows.  I really don’t think I’m the only one.  Let’s be honest, summer days meander with uncertainty and a sundress should be ready for all of it.

This is why attacked my mission to create a sundress for Melly Sew’s series 30 Days of Sundresses with the focus and determination of a Dothraki soldier. I could not be swayed. My dedication paid off and I’m sharing the love with quick notes on my Sorbetto Sundress! It is a hack of the famous Sorbetto Top from Colette Patterns…the best part is, it’s free!


If you are familiar with the Sorbetto Top, you know that it has an outward facing pleat and sits at about the top of the hips on most women. The pleat can be left open at the waist, giving it generous width at the waist and hips or sewn shut to really give the pleat a chance to show off. Best of all, the pattern is so simple to make. There are two pattern pieces and bias tape. That’s it. Also, did I mention it is free!  It’s really versatile, I made an earlier version here (don’t judge my baby blog post, please!) but it is the most-hacked pattern that I know of in the sewing world.

Sorbetto Sundress (30 Days of Sundresses) _ a happy stitch

I wanted to take it a few steps further so I made a few basic alterations to the length, the pleat, the hem and the neck binding to create this dress.  Here is the lowdown on what I did:

Length: I lengthened the original Sorbetto pattern so it would hit just above my knee. On my body, this meant adding 12.5″ to the length.  Be sure to add from each edge of the hem curve so the final hem maintains the same curvature.  Lengthening at the center fold of the pattern is pretty straight forward but it’s gets a small bit complicated at the side seam.  In order to maintain the a-line silhouette, draw the pattern’s additional length along the side seam at only a slight angle outward, you don’t need a dramatic a-line because the middle pleat ensures width in the hip area as it lengthens.

Pleat Alterations: Instead of creating an outward-facing pleat I inverted the pleat and left it open at the hem. I did the same here with this top. To invert the pleat, you do the opposite of what the pattern calls for.  When it asks you to place the pleat marks wrong-sides together, you line them up right-sides together. That creates the inverted pleat.  Additionally with this dress, stitch down along the fold of the pleat 3.5″. The original pattern only calls for creating the pleat and then sewing it across at the neck facing.  I wanted to create a more dramatic shape so I stitched it deeper.  Plus, I knew I would need to accommodate the neck facing, discussed below.  Quick note: I am fairly small-busted so this change doesn’t impact the fit of the dress for me.  HOWEVER, for larger-busted women, you might want to stitch down 2.5″ or less, that way it shouldn’t tug at the armpits.  Play around with what works best for you but se sure to stitch down at least 2″ so the neck facing fits.

Sorbetto Sundress (30 days of Sundresses tour) | a happy stitch

Hem and Neck bindings:  I decided to make my own bias tape out of luxurious Liberty of London fabric and hemmed both the armholes and also the bottom hem. Really, I did this just for fun. You could add another 1/2″ to your length and do a simple double-fold hem but I wanted to try a bias tape and hem and it turns out I love it.  It’s really only visible to me but I love the little sneak peek of something pretty.  If the outside of our clothes is for the rest of the world, I like the idea of an inside with something for me.

Sorbetto Sundress detail | a happy stitch

Sorbetto Sundress hem binding | 30 Days of Sundresses | a happy stitch

Neck Facing:  The neck facing is the most obvious alteration and what makes the dress stand out. It appears like a faux yoke, which is what I was going for.   As I mentioned above, I stitched the pleat down 3.5″ vertically. The neck facing is a strip of bias tape that will be sewn onto the neckline to create a facing.

To start, make a 2 1/4″ bias tape the length of the neckline. Iron a 3/8″ fold alongside one long end of the bias tape. Determine the length of the neckline for your size of dress and sew together the short ends of the bias tape facing with a slight angle from the un-ironed end outward to the folded end. This will give you a little extra length when you are easing on the faux facing at the bottom edge.  Next, attached the un-ironed end of the neck binding to the neckline with the RIGHT SIDE of the BIAS STRIP to the WRONG SIDE of the NECKLINE.  Sew in place, with a 3/8″ seam allowance. After sewing, flip the bias strip around from inside the dress to the outside.  Pin it in place and stitch along the bottom fold to secure it in place. You should be able to use the stretch of the bias fabric to help it sit but you will find that the neck facing fabric doesn’t lie perfectly straight.  This really doesn’t bother me but if it bugs you, play around with adding length to the bottom, folded edge of your bias strip.  Because the width at the bottom of the bias strip needs to be longer than the top, the fabric has to stretch and bit, that is what is causing the wonkiness.

Phew. I know that was long.  Thanks for sticking with me!

Sorbetto to Sundress | a happy stitch

30 days of Sundresses | a happy stitch

The back in this photo look like it dips down but it’s just because of how I’m moving my body. Either way, the back and front of the dress have a little something something to show off.

This will not be my last Sorbetto Sundress.  I have already worn this dress half a dozen times and I will clearly need at least one more.  I can’t wait to play with new ways to combine textiles on this simple dress.  I’ve been ogling these ikat prints from Michael Levine, lately…especially this one and this one, oh and this one.  So beautiful.  I have never ordered from them, has anyone? Any thoughts on their stuff?

Sorbetto (from a top to a Sundress) | a happy stitch

Fabric details: linen-cotton chambray in indigo for the main body, Liberty of London lawn for the bindings at the neck and hem both purchased at Rock Paper Scissors and Anna Maria Horner bias binding, which was a lovely gift from Jenny Yarborough.

Photography: I spent a lovely afternoon with an old friend, Sabrina, who nows runs a successful photography business, Outdoor Family Photography.  She was kind enough to take pictures of me before we took the kids to the beach for an afternoon.  Thanks Sabrina!! You are an inspiration.

7 Comments on Sorbetto Sundress :: 30 Days of Sundresses

  1. April
    June 11, 2016 at 9:49 am (2 years ago)

    I LOVE this! I’ve been mulling over easy tank style dresses, and using the Sorbetto pattern for the top as a starting point did occur to me, but I never thought out where I’d go with it. Your dress is absolutely perfect! I am going to have to make a couple! Fantastic design, great explaination! Thank you!

    • Melissa Q.
      June 11, 2016 at 10:58 am (2 years ago)

      You are awesome! I really hope you make some! If you do, I hope you show me. The best part is that it doesn’t even take that long to make! I want to make another one as well, I could wear this kind of dress all summer!

  2. Ginger
    June 11, 2016 at 11:17 pm (2 years ago)

    Great dress. I made a few Sorbetto tops last summer. Thanks for the dress idea.

  3. Beal
    June 14, 2016 at 1:30 am (2 years ago)

    That’s a super cute dress! Thanks for sharing the details on how to make it. I have a question about the neck facing… is the finished width 1.5″? (If this comment appears twice, please delete one of them! I got an error message the first time and couldn’t tell if the comment went through or not.)

    • Melissa Q.
      June 14, 2016 at 11:36 am (2 years ago)

      Oh, sorry about the comment hassle! It does come out to 1.5″. I just measured it to check. Thanks for saying such nice things about the dress. Are you thinking of making one? If you do, please share it. I’m considering making another one myself. Just so comfortable.

      • Beal
        June 14, 2016 at 6:59 pm (2 years ago)

        Thanks so much! I’d definitely like to make the dress, but I need sleeves to cover up my pale, spindly upper arms. 😉 I have an add-sleeves-to-Sorbetto hack (that hopefully I can dig up again), but it may be a while before I can come up with something wearable.

        p.s. Both Chrome and Firefox gave me a “Please enable referrers in your browser” error — ack! Maybe I have an add-on that’s interfering with your comment system? Microsoft Edge works for me, though, so no worries. 🙂

        • Melissa Q.
          July 1, 2016 at 12:04 pm (2 years ago)

          I hope you share it if you do add sleeves!! That’s awesome. Thanks for the comment error tip. If only I were more tech-savvy! I will look into it!


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