Club Tropicana – My Charlie Caftan

Hello Folks, and welcome back to my poor, neglected blog! I could wax lyrical about why I’ve been so quiet on here, but that would be a post in itself, and as you can see – I have a new dress to talk about! Far more interesting really, so let’s push on and forget about the radio silence, and enjoy some sewing talk instead…

As soon as Closet Case Patterns released their Charlie Caftan, I was in love. I knew I needed this pattern, and particularly view A, with it’s pleat (I don’t really do gathers at the waist anymore…thank you mummy-tummy!). And at the time of release I was also deliberating what to make out of a recently purchased banana leaf print table cloth from H&M – let’s just say it was meant to be!

Before I go any further, and let you all commend me in my amazing idea to use an amazeballs tablecloth as fabric for clothes – I 100% took this idea from Rosabella (@rosabellaangelica on Instagram and Sewn on YouTube), who made a really beautiful skirt from the same fabric (although hers started out life as curtains). I’m sure you have all already heard of her, she is an brilliant seamstress with a fanatic YouTube channel. If you haven’t – check her out!

So the plan for this caftan was formed, but unfortunately life got in the way (not really, I was out having fun!) and I only just got around to making the caftan last week. Luckily, it’s a pretty simple make so it didn’t take too long to whip up. I went for a size 12 in the hips graded to a size 10 in the bust area, based on my measurements.

Because I was using a tablecloth, I had limited fabric and so decided not to attempt any pattern matching. Which meant that I also didn’t think very much about pattern placement either. I honestly didn’t think it would matter at all…but I have actually ended up with a bit of a pattern repeat across the front which I would really rather wasn’t there. It’s not a deal breaker, and if it was RTW I probably wound’t be too bothered, but I notice it (and now that I’ve told you – so will you!).

I was prepared for the centre panel to be a bit of a head-scratcher, as I had heard such rumblings on Instagram and Heather-Lou had released a tutorial on her blog about it as well. And yes, it did confuse me quite a lot…until I suddenly realised that the panel sits behind the bodice, rather than in front of it. The fact that it is called an ‘inset’ panel really should have given me that clue, but apparently not. Doh. Anyway, once I realised this, it was pretty straightforward. Not easy, and I did hold my breath while sewing it (does anyone else find themselves doing this during tricky sewing?!), but I was super pleased with how neat it turned out. And the fact that you then sew on an internal panel to cover all the seams is very lovely. Every seamstress loves neat insides in their work.

The next tricky part was getting a neat V in the neck-line, and surprisingly (to me), I ended up finding this a lot harder than sewing the panel. I ended up drawing seam lines in, which certainly helped. And I thought I had drawn accurate topstitching guidelines for the neckline, but annoyingly my topstitching ended up not being centred. Again, its something most people wouldn’t notice – why am I confessing all of this to you?!! Ha.

The rest of the dress is very straightforward. Pockets in, sew up sides, hem the sleeves and the dress and you are done!
The pockets are MASSIVE! I can imagine having this dress at the beach and not needing to take a bag…just put your suncream, book, towel and hat in your pockets and you are good to go. OK, maybe not, but seriously, they are big pockets, and I love them.

As I said, I cut a 10-12, and other than that slight grading, I didn’t make any other alterations. The hem length is as is. Unfortunately, when I tried it on, I just wasn’t sure about the shape. It really did feel rather big and square on me. I presume that this is mainly down to the fabric. The fabric is very stiff, even after washing, and the pattern is printed on, which adds to the structure. This meant that the sleeves were sticking out very straight and the dress almost had a life of it’s own, and didn’t feel very ‘me’. I toyed with the idea of shaving off some width from the sides, but that would involve unpicking the pockets. And I’m lazy. This idea did not appeal. It was at this point that I wished I had sewn in the ties, that are an optional extra and get sewn into the centre panel. Too late to add at this stage in the game.
BUT…I could easily add ties to the side seams. Which is exactly what I did.

And to prove how lazy (resourceful?) a seamstress I am, I literally just trimmed the hem off of the original tablecloth remnants that were still lying at my feet (because, no, I don’t tidy up as I go) and used it as my ties! It was the perfect width, already sewn and I didn’t have to faff around with cutting long rectangles/sewing/trying to turn out tiny sausages of fabric! And I am so pleased with how it turned out. The ties really have made all the difference for me. The dress is still very loose, but just has that touch of definition (and of course you can change that depending on how tight or loosely you tie your ties) that I love.

I would love to make this dress again, still in view A, but I think I’ll reduce the size and then I can forgo the ties. I imagine in a softer fabric with more drape, this would be my dream Summer dress that I would happily live in. A well-worn linen perhaps. Lovely.
This particular dress also looks great layered over skinny jeans, so it has a bit more longevity and I’ll be able to wear it as the weather cools down. Actually, I’ll probably wear it a lot more casual than in these photos – I just wanted to have some fun blinging up the banana leaf print and going all-out Club Tropicana (minus bronze limbs…I live in Northern Ireland guys, I don’t have a tan! lol)!

Reader Interactions


  1. Sue says

    Great print, especially for this dress. I am all about adding ties! I'm sewing a Fen dress right now (fancy tiger crafts) and am adding ties to help the waist be more defined, and adjustable! I think the Charlie Caftan reminded me how great ties are!