How to Sew an Outrageously Beautiful Overlay Simplicity 8545

Shontae Buffington in front of green door wearing a hand sewn green dress Simplicity 8545 with hands in front

Everyone loves a fancy overlay, so why not sew Simplicity 8545? You already know this diva loves a good dress pattern, and this pattern is essentially two dresses in one.

Close up shot of the sleeve of Simplicity pattern 8545 in emerald green

Why Sew an Overlay?

It’s fancy. And it could be fancy and fussy, but it doesn’t have to be. Overlays add an extra layer to a garment. Some would call it the extra frosting on top. They add texture and dimension to your garment. The fabrics used can range from lace, chiffon, organza, tulle, or anything else. It’s fun and plays a little trick on the eyes.

Shontae Buffington in front of green door wearing a hand sewn green dress Simplicity 8545 with hands in front

Pattern Features for Simplicity 8545

This is a sweet sewing pattern; I promise there is so much potential and gratitude to sewing this dress or top. First, let me start by saying there isn’t a lot to this pattern. You can do this.

The Simplicity 8545 pattern features five unique pieces:

  • a top,
  • an underslip,
  • a cami top,
  • And a dress in two lengths as an overlay.

Skills needed to sew Simplicity 8545

  • Working with sheer fabrics
  • Invisible zipper placement
  • Working with and making bias binding

Fabric for this dress pattern

For sheer (no pun intended) fun, I wanted a “see-throough” fabric. I was incidentally shopping in Orlando, and my hand touched this fabric at Jo-Ann. I’m extremely tactile.

Once my fingers brushed up against the flowers, I was in love. This soft organza-like buttery light fabric felt free and expressive to me, and the flowers immediately made me smile. I knew immediately the sewing pattern I would reach for, Simplicity 8545. I used crepe back satin for the slip and this fancy organza for the overlay.

Steps for successful sewing

Sewing Simplicity 8545 will require you to plan. If that’s not your jam, do it in parts.

  1. Plan out what each part will look like–especially the sleeve and neck binding. I use the same fabric that is underneath the sheer dress, but that may not work for you and your design.
  2. If your overlay is sheer like mine, play around with different types of fabrics and color shades. Trust me, variations in light will change how your dress or top will appear to the naked eye. Even in these photos, you can see the difference with lighting changes.
  1. Test your fabrics. Mine melted. Rookie mistakes: I knew this fabric melts, but I forgot and melted an entire back bodice piece. I think we inherently want to pick up that iron and press without thinking. Thank God I had extra fabric; otherwise, this would have been a whole mess.
  1. Prep the fabric. I had to trim away quite a few of my precious green flowers. The prep is similar to the one I advise in the sequins article.
  2. If your fabric has a motif, decide what you want on your chest, arm, etc BEFORE cutting simplicity pattern 8545. For example, I didn’t want a flower on my areola. It’s worth taking the time to think about this kind of placement before cutting. The paper pattern is a great resource. Pay attention to wear darts end and go from there.
  3. After cutting all the paper pattern pieces and fabrics, lay them on your cutting table. If you hate it on the table, you will hate it on your body. I ended up recutting the front bodice because of where parts of the motif landed. Ideally, again, you want to do this well ahead of your cutting, but we all make mistakes.

Pattern Hacks and Ideas for this Simplicity 8545

We all love a good hack, and this pattern is full of them. I’ve seen plenty of make online where the person sewed the slip and the overlay as a solid piece. This only makes sense if the overlay is super sheer, not descent to wear out, and the overlay is solid.

Shontae Buffington walking down stairs wearing a hand sewn green dress Simplicity 8545

My first hack suggestion is the sleeves– you can definitely make this dress short-sleeved or sleeveless, and you immediately have an entirely different look. Certainly, changing the dress into a solid (as opposed to sheer fabric) and making the sleeves sheer is chic. That’s a slayed look any day. Another consideration is to replace the back zipper with buttons or snaps. Finding a suitable zipper that you can’t see was one of my biggest challenges. By the way, there is no forest green zipper, so I used black, and it worked very well.

Successful Petite adjustments, All the details

As you know, I’m 4’11”. So y’all know good and well, I didn’t sew the long length. I chopped approximately 7 inches from the bottom of the overlay and then some more after I tried it on. I also altered the sleeve length just a bit for a sleeker look removing approx 1-1.5″ prior to adding the bias binding. I’m short y’all. My blog is all about making it work when you are short, so I made a load of short-girl-with-round-bottom adjustments. I played around with both hemlines until I was satisfied.

Close up shot of the sleeve of Simplicity pattern 8545

Remember to measure your bicep and hip if you are muscular like me. These two body measurements are the most crucial for the fit of this pattern. Remember also that Views C and D are cut on the bias.

Other Sewing Patterns with Amazing Overlay Potential

  • Kay Unger for Vogue Patterns V1393
  • Nicola Finetti for Vogue Patterns  V1471
  • McCalls 7090
  • Shift Dress pattern McCalls 7533
  • Cynthia Rowley for Simplicity Patterns S8086 Partial overlay
  • Cynthia Rowley for Simplicity Patterns 8599
  • New Look 6540
  • Full Lace top Simplicity 8016
  • Simplicity 8545


  • The essential guide to sewing with Lace by Alison Smith on Crafts
  • How to sew an overlay by Seamwork Patterns: here

Why I’m sewing in the color green?

The color green represents so much. One of its greatest attributes as a color is positivity and rebirth. It symbolized growth and enrichment, hope, health, and nature. Let’s say I’ve been pulling green fabrics out of my stash left and right these days. I feel so blessed to be able to sew, to live, to experience life in a vibrant way every day, and most definitely to express that in my sewing.

Shontae and Eric Buffington on steps looking away wearing a hand sewn green dress Simplicity 8545

According to chromatherapist (yes, that’s a thing), the color green can help relieve stress and relax a person.  All of us have some much going on; who wouldn’t want a little stress relief while making a dress or a pair of pants? And during this emotionally driven political world we live in, green brings us refreshment, peace, and a sense of tranquility. Over the years, you may have noted that production rooms and medical waiting rooms were painted shades of green. This intentional use of color was certainly to bring the waiting individual a sense of calm.

With Simplicity 8545, I was drawn to the green flowers in this fabric from Joann for my anniversary dress. They seem to stand alone, to signify the growth of an individual but also the relationship in various stages. It’s year 24 for us, and we are still growing and changing just like the flowers in this dress.

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