Carnaby Dress – peplum top hack


Last week, when temperatures in London hit the mid-thirties, I had a heatwave-brainwave. What I really wanted to be wearing, above all else, was a super-loose, breezy top that would be a whiz to whip up – and I knew just the way to make one. Here's how I hacked the Carnaby Dress pattern into my perfect summer top.

To recreate this yourself you'll need the following 4 Carnaby Dress pattern pieces: the Front Bodice, Back Bodice, Sleeveless Front Facing and Sleeveless Back Facing. Plus obviously your fabric (I used around 1m), interfacing for the facing pieces and a button for the loop closure. (Apologies for the rough and ready nature of the illustrations to this post – I figured it was better just to crack on and publish rather than faff around making pretty pictures!)

Firstly, I worked out where I wanted the waist of the top to sit – I opted for my high waist and measured the distance vertically from my bust point down. On me this was 11cm, but I am quite short in the body so you'll definitely want to measure yourself. Then on my front bodice piece I marked 12.5cm straight down from the point of the dart (11cm + 1.5cm seam allowance for the waist seam). I drew a straight line across the bodice piece at this level, to mark the new waist (marked in yellow).

I then measured the distance between the new waist and the bottom of the pattern piece, and noted this measurement.

To mark the new waistline on the back bodice piece, I took the measurement I'd just made between the new waist and the bottom of the front bodice pieces and used that to measure up from the bottom of the back bodice (the side of the back bodice will appear shorter than that of the front because of the front dart).

Now I had new waistlines marked on both the front and back bodice pieces; to preserve my pattern piece I simply folded up the excess rather than cutting it off.

I then measured the width of the new front waist on the pattern piece, and quadrupled this measurement – this will give your peplum generous fullness in its gathers, but if you wanted less volume you could multiply the waist by just 3. I quadrupled the measurement because the pattern piece is of course only half of the front bodice.

To make the peplum I cut two rectangles of fabric the width-of-the-waist-x-4 long and 24cm deep (this height includes 1.5cm seam allowance at the waist and 1.5cm hem allowance at the bottom). You may want to make your rectangles deeper to start with as of course you can shorten the peplum but you can't lengthen it.

Next I simply sewed up the Carnaby 'top' as per the instructions, attaching the facings. I omitted the zip and instead created a keyhole opening – instructions for this can be found here.

Then I stitched the peplum pieces together at the short sides and finished these. I ran two lines of long gathering stitches around the upper (waist) edge of the peplum. Matching the side seams and adjusting the gathers to fit, I pinned the peplum (right sides together) to the top along the raw waist edge. Depending on how gung-ho you're feeling you might want to make centre-front and centre-back notches on your top and peplum pieces; I'll admit I just pinned and rearranged the gathers by eye.

Finally I stitched the peplum in place. This is the point where you can check the length and shorten if necessary (don't forget to include 1.5cm hem allowance). To finish, I pressed under a narrow 0.5cm hem, then pressed it over again 1cm so the raw edges were completely encased, and stitched. The top was finished! Easy peasy oh-so-breezy.

Full body photograph of Nina wearing a Carnaby peplum top hack and shorts

The fabric I used was a double gauze, but any lightweight cotton or linen would work beautifully. Rayons/viscose will be more drapey and might end up looking a little shapeless – I think you want a little body in the fabric to give it structure and create all-important air-flow! Having said that I can totally picture doing this again with a taffeta silk in the winter to make an exuberant party top... And of course, there's no reason why you should stop at the peplum level – you could easily make a dress version instead!

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