(Woohoo! This is my 400th post!)
When I stitched up my prototype Lady Skater Dress, this sleeveless cowl-neck version was already jumping around in my mind. So, I made it.
I drafted the cowl a while ago to use with some tops and just stole it for this dress. In retrospect, I really wish I had made a more dramatic cowl.
The armholes were a little gapy, so I did something I've never done before: I finished them with FOE, using the technique you would use to face with bias tape, except I stretched the FOE ever so slightly to just barely snug in the armhole.
I left the inside edge of the cowl raw, but how to finish the back neckline? In previous tops, I actually made the back neckline cowled, too. But here, I wanted a simple back neckline. Usually I would coverstich a simple hem like this, but I always feel a narrow neckline "hem" is more likely to flip out than a pant or skirt hem, revealing the less-than-appealing coverstitching.
So, I decided to finish this with FOE, as with the armholes. FOE works perfectly here because it's stretchy (if you want to gather it) and it stabilizes the fabric so you can use your regular needle. Awesome.
In this case, I cut the FOE to the exact length of the back neckline. In the photos below, I'll show you the FOE finish, plus how I enclosed the shoulder seams in the cowl.
1. Pin and stitch the FOE to the right side of the neckline. Stitch about 1/8" from the edge. (Pinning is optional - I actually took the pins out after I took this photo.)
2. Press the FOE out. Then press it over to the inside, creating a clean, smooth edge.
3. Stitch the free edge of the FOE down (from either the right side or the wrong side).
4. Lay out your front bodice with cowl, right side up.
5. Find the lower leg of the v-shape. This is the shoulder. Pin the back bodice shoulder to the front bodice shoulder right sides together.
6. Fold the upper leg of the v down over the shoulder edge, carefully aligning the edges. Re-pin.
7. Stitch. I serged here, but I machine-stitched my other shoulder, to get closer to the edge, which is better for when you do the next step:
8. Turn the shoulder pieces right side out.
9. Repeat for the other shoulder.
If you want to try your hand at drafting and changing patterns, I highly recommend Make Your Own Dress Patterns by Adele Margolis. I probably learned more from this book than any other sewing book. It's inexpensive and gives you the tools to do drafting all the way from scratch, or to just change up patterns when the fancy strikes.