Handmade and Fabulous: The Tunic Dress

I have a confession to make – my secret to looking slimmer than I actually am is not what I eat but what I wear. In a word, tunic. I love tunics! I maybe a maxi girl at heart but when it comes to camouflage, the tunic wins hands down.

Worn by both men and women during ancient times, these robe-like garments are typically loose (for men) or close-fitting (for women), sleeveless, and may come in varying lengths. The Roman tunica said a lot about its wearer – its length, ornamentation, and width indicated his social status; Greek tunics, on the other hand, had decorated hemlines that represented the wearer’s city-state. During medieval times, the tunic sprouted sleeves and usually had embroidered necklines, hemlines, and wrists and are commonly made from linen or wool.

Roman worker dressed in a tunic

Modern day tunics are not as indicative of wealth, status, or address as their medieval cousins but they are just as prolific. Anyone can wear them, from the conservative Indian woman to the liberated all-American teen, from the fashion-challenged mortal to the fashion-savvy celebrity. They can be dressed up in sky-high stilettos or dressed down in flip-flops. They can be worn by themselves or paired with shorts, jeans, or loose trousers. They are as easy to wear as the ubiquitous t-shirt though a bit more glamorous and a lot prettier.

I started wearing tunics when I got pregnant with my son. For a tropical girl pregnant in England, those cute empire-cut maxi dresses were simply out of the question (yes, even with a chunky cardi).  The mere thought of strolling along Brighton Pier in the autumn months with my barely-covered legs gave me the chills, literally. So during those awkward months when I increasingly looked like I swallowed an overly inflated balloon, my go-to preggy uniform was a tunic-and-elasticated jeans/trousers combo. I thought my love affair with the tunic would deflate along with my bump, naively thinking my belly would shrink back to what it was before. Was I wrong. Nothing deflated back to its original size and so the tunic has become a staple in my wardrobe.

My recently completed tunic dress is plain as plain can be. I wanted it plain so I can accessorise it as simply or as ornately as I want to. I used some of the white Italian linen I bought a couple of months ago from a really old fabric shop in Iloilo and lined it in 100% cotton. To give it a pop of colour, I finished the neckline and armholes with yellow piping and put a yellow zip at the back . Following are photos of the finished dress modelled by my slimmer-than-actual self.

The Tunic Dress in white Italian linen
Fully lined in 100% cotton
The yellow zip at the back is almost decorative as I can slip in and out of the dress easily, without using it.

Fancy making your own? Please come back in the next few days for the Tutorial: How to Make a Simple Tunic Dress.

Happy sewing!


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