If there was such a thing as the Pattern Hall of Fame, the basic shell top would definitely be in it. It packs a lot of style using a small amount of fabric (usually a yard, give or take) and the minimal design details means it sews up fast. The shell can be worn short and boxy, or you can make it longer and belt it or tuck it in. And with or without sleeves, the shell top has been a year-round favorite of fashion designers for years.
I usually make at least two or more shell tops a year. They’re quick to sew and once it starts getting warmer outside I prefer to keep the patterns I make on the easy side. Besides, one of my sewing mantras is “let the fabric do the heavy lifting for you.” Choose a fabric with a bold print or an appealing texture and pair it with a very simple design, like a shell top. With the Butterick B6175 shell top I made here, I used an Oscar de la Renta brocade that’s been marinating in my stash for over five years:
Everything for this top came from my stash and not a penny was spent. Ok, so I did pay $50/yard for the Oscar fabric in 2009 and I bought the charmeuse and the zipper and the ribbon at one time too…. But since everything has been just aging and depreciating in my stash for years now, I can claim I made it for $0, right?! Do you apply that kind of logic too when you use up stuff in your stash?
Shell top sewing inspiration:
Shell top patterns from Butterick, McCall’s and Vogue Patterns:
Is a shell top pattern on your list to sew for the season? I just cut out another shell top last night, this time from Butterick B5948 in lightweight denim. What other pattern styles should be in a pattern hall of fame, if there was such a thing?