Let’s have another look at that halter neck

I associate halter necks with Princess Diana, who looked amazing in them. They can minimise large squarish shoulders. My shoulders are squarish but not so large. I don’t mind showing my back – it somehow seems less indecent than cleavage or a very short skirt. I like wearing a halter top but it does have to fit well.

You may remember that I tried to make a halter top through draping on the stand. I learnt an important lesson – that draping, unless your stand is precisely manufactured to your exact shape, is not the best method to get a good fit. As you can see below, where there is too much fullness across the chest, gapping at the armhole, and it is also too low at the back, revealing the halter bra. Draping on the stand is a good method to develop a design, but you will generally have to work further on the pattern.

Making a halter neck top
Disastrous halter top


I did persist with this pattern for a while, slicing a wedge out of the underarm/back section and building up the back. However the little piece of carefully pinned out calico somehow got lost. Maybe it was swept up with my cuttings, or maybe “someone else” accidentally threw it out, but after a week of cursory searching I decided to move on.  I did consider undoing the blue top and redrawing the pattern. Then I had one of those “life is too short” moments and decided to buy a pattern.

Isn’t eBay wonderful?  I searched and found lots patterns for halter tops – options from every decade.

The cheapest one I could find was £2.10 – a pattern provided free by the now defunct Me Magazine. It is one of those pull out and trace off arrangements which I used to use frequently in the 1980s. Did you? It is described as a “Glam” halter top – truly reflecting how we used to talk back in 1992. I showed the top to my daughter, who tells me that 1990s style is very fashionable at the moment. Who knew – a twenty odd year old pattern is fashionable? Am I the only one who has trouble understanding what 1990s style actually is? My friend Felica made some 1990s trousers the other day with a “paper bag” waist. I used to enjoy that style, which is also perhaps a 1990s thing.

Being lazy I traced off some of the pieces, cut out the rest and used a tape measure and chalk to draw the big sash on the fabric. I used some nice, slightly stretchy green cotton sateen.

There were no instructions, but I guessed it mainly right, I think. It did need a few adjustments as this one also had a fair bit of armhole gaping at the fitting stage.

Any way I wore it with jeans to see Richard II at the Globe.

I have enough fabric to make a skirt, but I think it may be too much. What do you think?

I have since altered the pattern  to be little bit snugger in the back, a tiny bit longer at the waist and to remove that 2cm armhole wedge on a permanent basis. I really love the style of this top – aren’t surplice tops flattering? I like a wrap round for comfort and adjustability. I may make another one in a more luxurious fabric as it is a terribly easy to make garment. The big tie does take quite a lot of yardage, so there is the option to narrow it down a bit.

24 Responses

  1. mrsmole

    Cute cute…have you thought about some boning in the side seam? Or maybe some interfacing in the back panel(s)? If the fabric is nice and drapey for the front, you might need some stability somewhere else to make it work. Pinching out an armhole dart in the paper pattern will snug that right up but otherwise you can really get away with this!

  2. Peggy

    I like this! The fabric is great, and I think a matching skirt would be adorable. The length of the surplice version looks right to me, but I’m glad you’ve made an adjustment to the armhole. That is one of my favorite necklines–so flattering!

  3. Geo

    Growing up in newly democratic Romania in the 90s, the style I associate the decade with is late 80s :D. Big shoulders and large trouser suits were still everywhere, big hair and colorful plastic jewellery. The second style trend I think of is ‘grunge’ but I know of it mostly from films and music, I haven’t experience it.
    Your top is timeless, it would’ve been stylish 5 years ago and I’m pretty sure it will still be 5 years from now.
    I have Richard II on my to see list.

  4. SewRuth

    Know what’s really nice (apart from your halter) is to see the garment in situ – being actually worn in real life. A matching skirt will then turn the two together into ‘a dress’.

  5. Kim Hood

    That top looks really good, and the colour is gorgeous. Do I spot matching colour in your shoes? Mrs Mole has already covered any adjustments I may have suggested but I definitely think you should make this again as you look amazing in it.

  6. prttynpnk

    Too much? Too adorable with a matching skirt, say I! Envy fills me- I have never found the halter that doesn’t make me look like I’m wearing a giant bib!

    • fabrickated

      I ate crab once in Baltimore and the waitress did indeed bring bibs for everyone. I was horrified as it is not a habit that has caught on here – we still rely on the napkin tucked into the neckline! But it was very funny.

  7. jennifer miller

    Very pretty! Great print and the color is just lovely. Fixing that little gap will do the trick….and I don’t think a matching skirt would be “too much”, it would be a wonderful little dress.

  8. Mary Funt

    I think a matching skirt, turning the top into a dress, is a wonderful idea. No, it’s not too much. A flared cut would complement the softly draping fabric.
    Mrs. Mole is right about the back needing more stabilization and boning the side seams would also give support. Halters such as this one demand that the front drape but you still need to give supporting structure to the back. Good job on the gaping armhole fix.

  9. felicia

    Nice. I think I prefer the bow at the front? I haven’t worn a halter top since I was 17 and made one from a little scrap of floral silk that a Greek neighbour (very chic) gave me. I was *so* self-conscious about the looseness at the sides though. I don’t think there was a gap, but it was loose. I kept my arms pressed against my sides, which made it not very practical.

    • fabrickated

      That’s funny. I think fit is very important with a halter neck, and am now thinking about Mary Funt and Mrs Mole’s comments that some boning might be needed. I prefer the bow at the front, but it looked a bit silly with the jeans. I will show it at the front with the skirt that I am now making!

  10. Chris

    I love your halter top Kate. But I really smiled at the pattern!… I learned to sew mainly from ME magazine patterns! My mother bought them in the 90’s and I’ve kept quite a few of them. When I was fifteen I made a halter – neck waistcoat from one of their patterns and wore it to a disco. I kept the pattern and I’ve been considering making it again 🙂

  11. Susie

    I have never seen a halter neckline that I didn’t like, and I love yours too! Fabric is great. I always assumed they looked good on everyone.

  12. Lesley

    Yes, love that fabric, this is so flattering on you. Personally I’m much happier showing my cleavage than my back, ain’t that strange- I’d not realised this before but an exposed back makes me uncomfortableness self conscious. Hmmm, more money to the therapist!

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