BurdaStyle 5-2010 #104: The Accidental Maternity Top

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I bought this delightful silk / cotton fabric from Mood four years ago when I was in NY for the Met / Brooklyn Museum High Style exhibition. I’ve really, truly, hoarded it looking for the right pattern. This fabric was everything to me. It’s got polka dots, has contrast, and has pink. And, to me, the pink dots remind me of the halo/pink sapphire of my engagement ring. Really, it’s screams my name.

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I didn’t check reviews for this pattern until after it was cut and I was sewing. Imagine my delight  (read: here horror) when I saw every review made it up AS A MATERNITY TOP. There’s a reason for that. I look three months pregnant. And, I am so not pregnant.

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Now, I like this top. I love the colors. I love that it’s breezy. But, there’s a definite expecting vibe. The pink and blue probably don’t help. What I’m not sure about the material is how ‘secure’ it is. I messaged Peter on Twitter (he made it up into a man skirt) and asked if he secured the seams in any paticular way. The design is loose enough that I’m not straining the seams. That said, I’m being super careful with it: hand wash, careful to take it off and on, etc. Yes, I could have used silk organza in the seams to reinforce… but, I didn’t.

I’m also not modeling it. Why? I don’t have any bottoms that ‘go’. Yes, I sewed an orphan. But, orphan sewing has stopped me from making the separates I so desperately need. So, I’m going to plow ahead and make separates anyway. Otherwise, I’ll jut never do it.

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For this pattern, I used the shirring method from the Vogue Sewing book. You use elastic thread in your bobbin, secure the ends with hand tied knots, and stitch over those with pink tucks. It’s a’ight. I’ve never shirred before so I’m glad I got to try it out. Not my greatest work. But, you have to try something to learn something.

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On the neckline, I used bias trip to create some interest. And, sewed up the V a bit for modesty’s sake (i.e. no cleavage in the office). I also took the sleeves from the dress version rather than the strips in the tunic top. Oh, I also made a one inch FBA. I think I could have added another 1/2 inch to the length to get it perfectly under the boobage.

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Ok. Now, my shame. The shirring is off center (and kind of sloppy). ARGH. I look at it and all I see is off-center shirring. It’s off by about 1.25 inches. I thought it was centered when I put it together. But, obviously it’s not.  Jordan assures me when on it’s not noticeable. Mostly, because I look pregnant. His words. Not mine.  I’ll be honest with you, it’s bad, but I have no interest in taking it apart and fixing. Mostly because I just don’t think the fabric can handle it.

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Nice enough top. Probably better for maternity.  Not my greatest work. Saved by my absolute unabated love of the print. I’ll wear it while I can. Hopefully, the material is stronger than I’m giving it credit for.

Youse guys! I have a new job that I start next week.  The thing is, I’m going from a strictly businesses dress/ political gig  for pretty much my entire career to a totally casual private sector job.  I mean, we had a strict dress code at my high school. I remember being absolutely startled when a mid 20s guy I was dating didn’t own a suit (we went to church every weekend growing up in clothes that didn’t get worn the rest of the week). Top ten embarrassing moment  was the Executive Producer at the Washington TV station I was interning at pulling me aside to say my knee-length short suit with blazer from Dress Barn was not appropriate for work and she wasn’t comfortable sending me to a press conference  on the Hill. I was mortified. I am super conscious of what I wear to work.

It was bizarre to me that this feels like an existential crisis. I’d actually had this post queued up for over a month now. But, worried I sounded crazy for not knowing what to wear to work or feeling weird about not being in business dress. Now, I  feel in good company! I read Audrey’s post last night about her office going to casual wear. In my position the last year, I was the one who instituted a business casual dress code (no jeans, flip flops) and people damn near revolted.  I still stayed business (dresses, occasional suit). Because, I’ve always had to dress up for work.

Robin and I talked about this a little (since new job is practically in the parking lot of her development) and we both think we couldn’t do totally casual. I’ve been home the last week sewing for the new job and just trying to take a mental health break. I’ve completed a dress, skirt and tunic. I plan to trace out three more items and sew at least one more before I start working again. The all-to-me sewing time is unbeatable!


  1. Regarding the work clothes-maybe casual silhouettes in more upscale fabric? Silk, but in a tee-shirt shape, slimmer jeans style trousers, in linen or lightweight twill, instead of slacks. Dresses can always be appropriate, I think, because you can spiff up a dress, or do just the opposite, with accesories-sandals instead of heels, costumer jewelry instead of precious stones.

  2. It’s a good think I checked your instagram link. I wasn’t sure whether to congratulate you or not (on the top)! Re: the change in dress – the spouse & I worked in professional environments for a long time before we went off to do our own thing. One of the first things decided on was business casual attire. For me, that usually means casual skirts & tops, dresses & chinos. I’m so much more comfortable dressed that way & it saves a bundle on the dry cleaning! It’s possible to look professional & pulled together without being suited up. Congrats on the job & enjoy not having to dress up!

  3. For me there is something about putting on clothes for work that aren’t what I might wear gardening. It is a single that it is now time for me to WORK, focus, and do those things that are not required of me anywhere else. I need that change of clothing to get into the right frame of mind. I would feel more confident and that was extremely important in a career that was heavily sales based.

    I am now in a job that is much more casual as I have returned to work after five years of retirement. I still try to look put together, use nicer fabrics, jewelry, etc. When I started I was approached by a coworker and asked “why do you dress this nice?” really. I replied, “it’s what I do and you’ll have to get used to it.” She did.

    • Yep. You’re always better off being the best-dressed person at work. That might not mean being the most-expensively dressed, or even the most-modestly dressed. “Casual” work clothes are different than “casual” play clothes. Follow your own excellent instincts, Miss Celie, honey.

  4. I’m a journo by trade and we are a bunch of slobs by professional dress standards. My best advice is that ‘casual’ and ‘sloppy’ are often conflated but aren’t the same thing! Also, my dad had a female boss who used to rant about seeing too many ‘pits and toes’ — not a hard and fast rule, but a good guide to whether things are work appropriate. Some of my rules: I don’t do t-shirts, ever. If I wear jeans, I make sure to wear a blazer, which keeps it looking one step up from too casual. I never wear sandals. I’m also a big advocate for wearing dresses, which can look pulled together and casual. In general, I think this is an awesome opportunity to dress more according to your personal style. (And to develop one, if you’ve had to wear a uniform.)

  5. I live in Oregon where a suit screams East Coast. We are totally in the way too casual zone. Where wearing your jammie bottoms to the store is tolerated (barely).
    I did a detail job within my company in downtown Portland and had to dress up from my previous uniform. Most were wearing business casual but one gal in particular wore the dresses and high heels and looked spectacular.
    My thoughts and I am sure most Oregonians share is that it looked like a spectacular amount of work to look that way. –The dry cleaning bills and the time spent shopping.
    I am back in my uniform-wearing job in a much closer location and I am happy to spend that time elsewhere – like in my fabulous garden or even more spectacular sewing room or with my family & friends.
    Dress the way that feels comfortable to you and remember that sometimes your expectations will sometimes make other people rise to the occasion.
    No need to feel weird.
    Happy new job.

  6. When I was in a business casual job, I wore alot of skirts with twin sets or a sweater. Pants with a tunic top also worked but you could just wear a casual knit top over pants. I did wear heels but that’s because I like them, however, I would also show up in flat thonged sandals in the summer time with long flowy skirts. I just remember a lot of skirts! Congrats on the new job, btw! Hope it is challenging and enjoyable and fun!!!

  7. I have the opposite problem — I just moved jobs from a more casual job to a job where people dress very nicely. The problem wasn’t that I didn’t have clothes — I just didn’t have enough clothes! And I still struggle with how I feel about wearing light-colored florals. I can’t think of a reason why they’re not appropriate, but no one else wears them! I’m not into pencil skirts, either, but it’s all I see in D.C. Oh the inner struggle!

    In terms of your new problem, though, I’d say to be comfortable. I don’t know about you, but in my daily life (unless I’m exercising/gardening/at the dog park) I’m more of a skirts and dresses person anyway. I don’t think I’d ever get behind wearing shorts at work because shorts are just not comfy for long period for me. And I doubt anyone would say anything to you if you just kept to a style you are comfortable with.

    Congrats on the new job!

  8. The silk top is beautiful. Perhaps you have some fabric left over? Enough to make a sort of obi wrap and tie band? That would pull the middle of the top close to your body and
    cover the ruching. It could make it look less maternity-like as well.

  9. Steam over the top of the area you shirred and it will pull up tighter and look much better. My office has been casual for twenty years and now they have decided we need to change to more business casual and I’m just the opposite. I’m going crazy thinking about wearing something other than t-shirts.

  10. Congratulations on the new job! I think you will adjust to your new working wardrobe much more quickly than you think. For one thing, you will be more comfortable, truly. I agree with everyone above. You can wear very put together separates or dresses that are more casual. I think you will find over time that it is nice to have a wardrobe that you can wear to work that is also appropriate for casual wear elsewhere. Casual doesn’t mean you have to be a slob, but most people dress like slobs these days, I think. Wear what makes you comfortable, and you will evolve. I have a number of tops that are airy and could pass for maternity tops, but in the summer, they are gold. I don’t care if people think I look pregnant, they are nice dressy/casual tops, and they are cool in the humidity and heat. Ah, air flow! Enjoy this time off before you start your new job.

  11. My husband has one pair of running shoes and a drawer full of novelty tees that he pairs with SHORTS = works at premiere advertising firm in Georgetown. Hahah, it’s the craziest!

  12. Wish the top had come out better for you. I think I’d have cried. Favorite fabric>>>maternity top. Oh…. ugh. and darnit. I’m a bit heavy at the moment and that silhouette goes straight to preggers on me every time, even when it’s so cute on everyone else.
    CONGRATS!!! on the new job. How exciting! I am out in Oregon, so we are pretty casual here. I have found that as long as I wear three pieces and accessorize, it looks ‘dressed up’. No tennis shoes, no faded jeans, no flip-flops of any kind and makeup is a must. After that, you’d be surprised what works. A dark wash jean with heels or ankle boots, paired with a silk jersey tee and a unique/interesting patterned jacket and accessories. It’s the fabrics and the accessories that will make it for you.

  13. Congrats on the new job, and what a bummer about the top that you made from your beloved fabric.

    I’ve worked in tech my entire adult life (and on the West Coast, to boot), so I’m used to the guys I work with wearing cargo shorts, Tevas, and hoodies to the office. That said, you need to be in your comfort zone at work. What about knit dresses, shirtwaist dresses, and that sort of thing? Sundresses + cardigans? I see those all over my tech campus (I’m wearing a me-made knit dress right now), and they definitely looks nicer than jeans but not overdressed.

  14. Congrats on the new job!! Anarchy can be fun 🙂 Out here in Nevada, even the CEO of the company doesn’t wear a suit to the office every day. In my corporate jobs, the dress code has never been much more than business casual except for those important meetings that warrant a suit. There are people in my office who wear PAJAMAS(!!!) to work when their boss is out of the office. Granted, this is just one of the culture differences between working on the West coast vs. the East coast. The folks in our NJ office tend to dress much more professionally than the folks in Nevada. Now for me personally, I always try to dress a notch up from the jeans and t-shirt dress code of most of my coworkers. But even my dressier work wardrobe is probably still considered fairly casual by East coast standards 🙂

  15. Congratulations on your new job I know you will find the right balance of casual and business as you are a classy lady

  16. A new job is always a fun time…everything is bright and shiny including you. I know you will find a way to “relax” your wardrobe so yo can fit into your new work environment. The top is really pretty and perhaps a belt will save it.

  17. Your top is beautifully sewn! I can relate to being the most over dressed person at work! I work in a hospital so most ppl wear uniforms but fortunately for me, I get to wear all my makes! Oh the envious looks I get!

  18. I hear ya on the dress code thing. I went from working in City Hall for a City Council member of our local government (which meant dressed up every day) to working for our city’s parks department in an adjacent city office building where people did show up in jeans, flip flops and t-shirts advertising who knows what. Since I was the exec asst to the deputy director, then the director, I always came to work in dresses (mostly me-made) or nice slacks/sweater/top. I got lots of positive comments on my clothing. Now that I’m retired, I take any excuse to put a dress on when I go out!

    I totally feel your pain on using a beloved piece of stash fabric and then not having the item turn out as envisioned. You will probably always notice the shirring, butI bet no one else will.

  19. Bummer about your lovely silk maternity top. Hopefully, you’ll find another gorgeous fabric and forget about this project.

    Congrats on the new job. I started at a very casual workplace a month ago and refuse to wear shorts and flip flops. I dress to be comfortable. That means no dry cleaning or nylons, but still pulled together. I don’t want to look like a grad student. 😉

    Plus, my office is in an iconic building that also serves as a weather and climate museum open to the public. I feel a responsibility to look nice for the little girls that drag their parents to the museum. I want them to know that scientists do not look or behave like the ones on TV.

  20. I’m one of those people who think Americans have crossed from casual to slobs. Sew up some quality separates and wear them with great accessories. It always helps to look together on the job.

  21. Hey, you never know, you might need a maternity top someday!? Right, Ms Newlywed? 😉
    Congrats on the new job, and wow, hope that you love it!
    When you say “knee-length short suit,” do you mean they were knee-length pants or a knee-length skirt? I can understand the objection if it was pants, but a skirt suit?
    We have a dress code that is pages and pages long. No culottes allowed. No clamdiggers, capris, or ankle pants. In fact, if you are wearing pants, your ankles cannot show and you also cannot have any bare skin from the waist down anywhere. Pantyhose is required, and fishnet is not considered pantyhose. (You *can* wear fishnet, but it must be over hose.) Shoulders must be covered. All visible tattoos must be covered, too. Women can wear sleeveless tops but men cannot. Piercings outside of the ear must be removed. Denim is OK in a skirt but not in pants. I can’t believe I know all of this stuff. And on and on.

  22. I have the same issue with another Burda top. I think it is all.the gathering being placed in the center.

  23. Congrats on the new job. Best of luck to you. They are very fortunate to have someone of your caliber.

    Regarding the “new” office casual, maybe chinos and polo shirts? Or a more feminine equivalent, if you prefer? Something that makes you feel professional without being over dressed.

    Regarding flip-flops and shorts…umm, not for me and not in an office. Even though I now work out of the house, and no one sees me, I still dress for work – no bathrobe and ducky slippers! They just don’t lend themselves to sounding professional over the phone.

  24. I work at home but when I travel to my corporate office I’m always a bit stumped what to wear. We are casual (shorts, flip flops, allowed). I never go that casual but I think jeans can be done without looking like a slob. Pretty blouses, long sweaters and skinny jeans etc… You also have to think about the culture of the company. At our company the casualness is part of the culture. You should embrace it – in your way. When I had a day of interviews to join the company, my now boss explicitly told me NOT to dress up, especially a suit. It would show that I didn’t ‘get’ them. He encouraged me to wear jeans or non-business slacks. I almost died. I wore denim trousers with heels and a sweater jacket and it must have been fine – I got the job! Good luck!

  25. Isn’t it funny how sometimes you have an idea in mind about how a finished garment will look and when you try it on it looks completely different than what you envisioned? Has happened to me a few times! Good luck on your new job. We have a dress code too and as the exec asst to the VP, dress is important. We do not wear jeans but can swing from business to business casual. I enjoy wearing skirts I’ve made and blouses too!

  26. I hear you on business “casual”. Yoga pants do not belong in the office, peeps! I don’t CARE if you pair them with an oversized tee from your alma mater!!! We’re billed as a skilled group of professionals in our mission statement but some days you would think we are getting ready for a game of touch football.

    Seriously though, just dress the way that makes you most comfortable. For the most part, I wear slacks and casual tops paired with cardigans. Dress down Fridays, I’ll wear colored jeans with a nicer top. I’m in the office in a factory environment and make frequent trips to the floor, so I gave up on skirts due to the “safety shoe” limitation.

    I’m older (56) than most of my counter parts, and my manager actually thanked me for setting the wardrobe bar a little higher. Which cracked me up because I miss my SUITS.

    And a BIG thank you on the Charles James book. The spouse gave it to me for my birthday and it’s SPECTACULAR!!


  27. Casual dress codes are a challenge. As a sewer, I finally decided what works is to sew casual styles in more sophisticated fabrics, or the reverse, structured styles in casual fabric. For example, Tshirts in silk or a sheath dress or blazer made in denim or chambray.

  28. I love polka dots too and am hoarding some D&G fabric right now for fear that what I make will not come out as I want it to. Gotta just do it.
    As an animator, it’s not hard to be the best dressed person in the studio. When I dress up for work everyone (all the young people) see me as the wise sage person that I am (haha) so it works for me. Then I dress in jeans and a nice top whenever I want to relax a bit. As far as work relationships go, there will always be negotiations around authority and respect. The dress of a person is the first clue and helps to foster that. I know that is getting to be an old fashioned view. I don’t care that all the rich guys wear jeans and black tees to their offices. Ima gonna wear all my amazing sewn duds and feel good cause I look good.

  29. I totally get it. I work in government and always ‘suit up’ for the office. I don’t do casual Friday and I don’t approve of what some of my younger colleagues think is ok for work.

  30. It is really cute–the print is great. I will admit that when I first saw the pattern when it came out I thought it’d be perfect for maternity. The back is beautiful!

  31. Congratulations on the new career choice! You will find the perfect niche for you when it comes to wardrobe choices. I’m hoping you will share them here!


  32. Maybe the “maternity” vibe top is trying to tell you something ?!? 🙂
    Congrats on the new job too. I remember going from a super casually attired job to smart – I was frantic for weeks trying to figure out what to wear. EVERYTHING in my wardrobe was inappropriate so I know the feeling (in reverse of course). You’ll do great. You always look chic.

  33. Too bad about the lovely top! I was so sad after a silk velvet shirt I spent hours on turned out to be a wadder that I have yet to return to velvet. Sigh. I second everyone’s congratulations on your new job! After many years working in hospitals and universities where I had to wear execu-drag, I went into the non-profit world and private practice. I sew in order to have nice clothes that fit. Although I have worked in places where the dress code is very casual (and I am in New Mexico, which rivals Oregon for casual) I never wear jeans, t-shirts, or flip flops to work. I agree with sewing casual styles in silk and more formal styles in bright colors or casual fabrics. I also sew from lots of independent designers: Sewing Workshop, Grainline Gear, Loes Hines, Christine Johnson, Cutting Line Designs, Park Bench Patterns, Diane Ericson ReVisions, Hot Patterns, Style Arc. I am not interested in looking trendy or cute. I am short and have to carry some authority. I am much more interested in art-to-wear, which you can do at a casual place. I get positive feedback on what I wear on a pretty regular basis. You now get to wear chunky jewelry, big earrings, hand wovens, batiks, and the full range of ethnic fibers! It is a LOT more interesting and comfortable than suits!

  34. This pattern had such potential for a cute, casual look. Maybe with a thinner drapier fabric, the shirred fabric would have been flatter. You know you aren’t preggers so wear it anyway with some tight fitting jeans or kickin shorts. I remember you sewing some fantastic fitting shorts. They made me envious of your shapely bottom. I am collecting lots of pictures of Jean ( fitted, dark wash) based work looks. Almost all have a semi fitted tops, sometimes a casual sweater or shrug, and cute shoes and accessories. Hope to post them sometime soon. I am trying to train the wardrobe planner in my brain to think “casual”, and it is not easy

  35. Congrats on the new job! Regarding your top, I am thinking the pattern has too much fabric in the front. Are you sure you don’t want to rescue it, since you love the fabric so much? I would probably remove the shirring, and then add a center seam and remove some fabric. Or you can always wait till you are pregnant to wear it! 😉

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