I’m not much of a beachgoer. Blame it on not living anywhere near a beach. But also, I can blame it on my very sunburn prone skin. Summer is often when I either hide from the sun or resign myself to painting myself with enough sunscreen to pass for a layer of primer on a wall. And yet, summer styles are so fun, and when I came across this vintage McCalls pattern from 1982, I couldn’t pass it up. Paired with buttery rayon challis from LA Finch Fabrics, this rayon challis culottes beach set is my new favorite summer look. Pass the sunscreen please (or the aloe)!
Rayon Challis Culottes Beach Set
My War on Culottes
I’ve never successfully made culottes. It’s not for lack of trying. I had a pair of knit culottes many years ago that I’d wear in the summer. They were so easy to wear and comfy when the mercury was on the rise. When I started sewing, I tried to recreate those knit culottes with this Burdastyle tutorial. Unfortunately, these never stayed on my hips. Another time, I tried to draft my own. I was short on fabric though, so the culottes didn’t have a good amount of hem sweep, and I made the elastic waist a little too tight. I dismissed the style completely!
Then Helen’s Closet started popping up with all of her gorgeous versions of her Winslow Culottes. I watched Rachel try and then succeed in spades with them and decided that it was time for me to try again.
So many pleats!
I’m discovering as I look through culotte patterns that there’s many different variations in culottes. All of them produce that characteristic volume at the hem that makes these pants “hang like a skirt.” Some use a series of pleats, some inverted pleats, some box pleats. My knit culottes that I used to wear had no pleats at all. The volume in them was created by splitting the original shorts pattern in intervals and adding wedges of width into the hem.
This particular pattern features 6 pleats across both the front and the back. In the soft rayon challis, the pleats hang so beautifully. After a muslin, I lengthened the culottes by an inch so that they’d hit me around my knee. It wasn’t totally necessary to do this, but I like my skirts to hit around my knee, so ditto for culottes.
Invisible zip in a pocket
The pattern has extensions on the pocket that you fold back on themselves to finish on one side that joins a buttoned opening on the waistband. I’ve seen this kind of finish on a pair of vintage pajamas I made (my first actual vintage pattern, and it was a dud), and I hated the breezy side opening. Instead, I cut off the extensions on the left side and put in an invisible zipper. I sewed in the zip wrong twice before I watched this video. When finished, the left pocket looked odd to me, but I have a pair of lace rtw shorts that have pockets made the exact same way.
The not-romper top
I originally fell for this pattern because I think the combo of the top plus the culottes has a romper look. I know rompers are currently super trendy, but I’m a little shy with the style. The simplicity of being able to use the bathroom without getting undressed is a big plus.
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After a quick muslin, I widened the straps by sewing the seam allowances at 3/8″ vs. 5/8″ and I lengthened the top by 3/4″. The culottes are meant to sit at your natural waist, but I figured they would fall down a little (they totally do) given that all pants and skirts do. I wanted to make sure there was enough coverage so that I wouldn’t have to sunscreen my extremely white tummy.
I also reduced the top seam allowance on the facing/top edge for a little more coverage. A top casing keeps the top snugged in and prevents gaping or falling down. It’s really a well-designed pattern! The next go round, I’ll add a little more elastic–it’s quite snug!
I even bought a convertible bra that actually fits me. My ribcage is really narrow (28 or 30 band), and it turns out that strapless bras have never fit me because I never bothered searching for one with a small enough band. Repeat it with me: bands are where your support come from! It turns out that strapless bras are not the devil when they actually fit.
I’d love to pop this top onto a sundress for a different look.
About that aloe.
You think I jest about my dependency on sunscreen, but before I took the beach pics when I was in LA recently, I managed to get all lobster red at a ball game with my family. Some quick application of aloe faded things down to a calmer shrimp shade and kept me from peeling.
I had enough leftover fabric from the ensemble to make a sweet Ottobre top for my daughter. We can be twinsies!
So what do you wear to the beach besides swimsuits?
Elizabeth Farr is the writer behind the Elizabeth Made This blog where she shares helpful sewing tips, step by step sewing tutorials and videos to help you explore your creativity through sewing. She has written sewing Eguides and patterns, been a featured teacher at Rebecca Page’s Sewing Summit and Jennifer Maker’s Holiday Maker Fest and her work has appeared in Seamwork and Altered Couture magazines. She also created a line of refashioned garments for SEWN Denver. When her sewing machine isn’t humming, she’s playing and teaching violin, and hanging around a good strategic board game with her husband and 4 kids.
19 thoughts on “Rayon challis culottes beach set”
Your daughter is adorable in her new top! Melt your heart adorable.
Rayon challis is the perfect fabric for summer, isn’t it? I totally cover up for the beach, so loose, long sleeved, high necked blouses is where its at. I enviously eye off all those gorgeous caftans with their plunging necklines, but it just isn’t worth the burn.
She’s a charmer that one! 🙂 Caftans do look like the way to go–they’re so beautifully flowy, but yes, neck burn hurts so bad.
Very nice and I love the fit.
Thanks Faye! It’s such a comfortable set and it was good to go outside of my usual style.
You 2 are so cute together!
Thank you! You’ve been inspiring me to look more at my remnants and make stuff for her! Mommy and me is fun!
Love the set! I always think about making a set like this for the summer, but never get around to it. Looks great on you! 🙂 Love the top for your daughter. A pair of cuties!
Thanks Andie! I saw the pattern and got kitty grabby hands! It was a must make now, and I’m glad I did, though our weather has not been near as hot since we got back from LA. Ah, it’ll be there to wear next year if I can’t now. 🙂
Beach or no beach: this is such a beautiful set and your daughter looks so cute. In the garden in the shade this will still be a great to wear.
Thank you Sonja! I’d love to wear these at a BBQ! A morning in the garden sounds lovely!
Darling matching outfits! You are both so photogenic:) gray outfit for the beach! I always wear long sleeves, lol, as I sunburn easily too. Rayon is so perfect for those culottes!
Thank you! At my in-laws, the beach is cool enough to warrant sweatshirts which I promptly put on after the rashguard pics. 😀 I’m getting the point now of guazy long tunics and beach coverups!
Wow! These are so cute! The culottes are good for summer. I think they are perfect beach wear. Love them:)
Thank you! I hope I get to wear them more next summer. We’ve had a lot more rain and cooler temps than we usually have.
I really like your outfit. A+.
Before 10 and after 2 is my beach rule. And aloe. And shade. A good hat. SPF 5,000 would be good too… Cute outfitS, and your daughter is beautiful!
I’ve been toying with the idea of long culottes/wide leg pants. Like a calmed down, tamed Winslow. A Winslow/Flint… I wish I had your spatial view of pattern design & fit. It’s always amazing to see your alterations/changes!
I also wonder what all of my favorite bloggers actually wear. That would be a fun blog tour!
Thank you! Those are good sun rules. I hadn’t seen the Flint–that’s definitely a different wide leg interpretation vs. the Winslows. DG Patterns has the Wallace culottes too which I have in my queue. I think it might be what you’re looking for. It’s a wide leg, but it still has the inverted pleats, so it’s somewhere between that looks like a skirt extreme of the Winslows and the wider leg of the Flint. Hacking patterns is my favorite sport, and I’m glad you’re a happy spectator!
That would be an interesting blog tour. Watch this space come September (I’ll announce on YT the last week of August). I’ve got something up my sleeve that should be really fun. 😉
I’m laughing at your comment on rompers and bathrooms, because my husband and I just had that same conversation a few days ago. The set is lovely, as is your daughter‘s dress. I feel like I need to make some new beachwear. I used to have a refashioned hooded t shirt dress as a cover-up, which I loved. But that was sized for my prebaby body. I took the toddler to the beach yesterday, and all I had to wear was a hand me down one piece from a friend, and clashing athletic shorts to wear over it that are a little snug. I was kind of cringing when I saw the pictures that my dad took of the two of us together.