Combining different coloured fabrics – or colour blocking – is a great way of highlighting interesting style lines on a garment, such as the Zadie dress. Those panels are just screaming out for contrast colours!
Today I thought I’d share some thoughts on how to approach colour blocking a dress that you’re making – from planning, through sewing, to after care. I’d love to know your thoughts on this too!
1) Choose complementary colours or prints
When it comes to choosing which fabrics to use, there are various approaches you could take. A classic method would be to pick two or three colours that are on opposite sides of the colour wheel. For example, magenta, bright blue and yellow would look really striking together if you're feeling brave.
Alternatively you could pick colours that are next to each other on the wheel, or two tones of the same colour – such as a light turquoise with a darker teal. This would create more subtle colour blocking that looks interesting without being too out there.
Or you could go with classic black and cream with a pop of one bright colour, such as cerise or mustard.
Consider mixing printed fabrics with solid colours too – pick one of the colours in the print to highlight in the other panels. You could even combine two prints – a striped bodice with floral sleeves could look amazing.
2) Plan your design in advance
Let’s face it, colour blocking has the potential to end up looking a bit weird. So before you start cutting into your fabric, it’s worth spending some time planning out your design, and trying out some alternatives you may not have originally thought of. This is the fun part when you get to play designer!
If you’re making the Zadie dress, download the free colouring sheets and print them as many times as you like so you can test out a few ideas. Colour them in with pencils, or use the shapes as templates to cut out mini versions of your dress in different fabrics. I love the designing stage!
3) Consider clever placement
Which colour or print should you put where? I always thought that if you put darker colours on the side panels and lighter colours in the centre, it creates the illusion of a slimmer silhouette by kinda "blacking out" the sides of your body. I still stand by this - although I've now seen some people making the Zadie dress with the lighter colours and the sides and that also looks really slimming, as the sides seem to fade into the background. So the jury's out on that one!
If you're mixing prints and solids, I would definitely put the busy print in the centre panels and solid colours (or less busy prints) on the sides, to draw the eye inwards. On the Zadie dress, try a print on the bodice and skirt, with a solid colour on the neckband, sleeves and side panels.
As for vertical placement, putting darker colours on the bottom half and lighter on top can also make your outfit look less top-heavy.
Please take everything I'm suggesting here as a rough guide rather than a prescription. Colour blocking is definitely one of those areas where any rules can be thrown out of the window in the name of creativity, so have a play around with different combinations and use your own judgement to decide which way round the place the fabrics.
4) Match your thread to each block
If you’re taking the time to plan out your design and cut two or more fabrics, you may as well take a bit of extra care to match your thread to the panels too – especially when it comes to topstitching.
For example, when you’re topstitching under the Zadie neckband, sew it in four sections so you can match the thread to the bodice and the sleeves separately. Back tack at the start and end of each section so the stitching doesn’t unravel. Beautiful!
5) Hand wash your dress
If you’re colour blocking darker and lighter colours together, it’s really worth hand washing your finished dress the first few times you launder it. The last thing you want is a bright red colour running into a white panel! I know hand washing is boring, but it’ll save tears in the long run.
If you’re making the Zadie dress, we’ve created cutting layouts and fabric requirements for colour blocking – download them at the bottom of this page.
I hope you have fun planning out your dress designs. I’d love to know what colours or prints you’re putting together, and other combinations that you think look nice. Do share in the comments! You can also take a picture and share with us on Instagram @TillyButtons using the hashtag #SewingZadie. Can't wait to see!