Pattern Picks for Your 12-Piece Wardrobe – Under-Layer Tops

If you’re sewing your 12-piece wardrobe, your under-layer tops can take many shapes and styles — from tanks to turtlenecks, pullovers, button-ups and many more.  Since I’m a big fan of layering top garments, I usually prefer sleeveless or short-sleeved “unders” so I’m not struggling to fit a long sleeve under another long sleeve.  (However you can side-step that issue by choosing vests for your over-layers.)  Unders that fit relatively close to the body make layering easier, too.  And classic styling will give you more versatility than unders with too much bulky, frou-frou detailing.

I’m a huge fan of knit unders, both for ease in sewing and comfort in wearing. And I look for styles with narrower necklines/wider shoulder seams to insure that there’s room to tuck in a small shoulder shaper and keep the look crisp rather than droopy.

Pamela’s Patterns #104 Perfect Tee gives three neckline and four sleeve length options plus an alternate darted front pattern piece for full-busted figures. It’s less shaped at the waist that it appears.  I sew this pattern a lot – both in ponte and in jersey – but I do cut the shoulder with a bit more width and less slope to accomodate a shoulder shaper. Best sewn in jersey rather than ponte.

McCall #7092 by Palmer-Pletsch provides beautiful shaping for a curvy figure plus enough style detail to be an attractive stand-alone top as well as an easy under-layer.  Pattern includes a sleeveless version and a dress-lengh option.

The under-layer tank in Pamela’s Patterns #108 New Versatile Twin Set is another favorite, especially for its alternative darted fromt pattern piece. (I also use the various cardigans as over-layers.)  I sometimes subtitute a knit binding finish for the pattern’s turned-and-topstitched edge.  This tank works beautifully in ponte knit — great when I want to make a skirt/tank or pant/tank column from the same fabric.

For unders with more distinctive styling, you can’t beat the StyleArc line.  Here are a few options that meet our criteria of staying layer-able.

Left-to-right: Emily, Kellie, Eva, Dee, Patsy and Avery.  Notice how all these are sketched with a beautiful, strong shoulder line?  Unless you’re a runway model, you’ll almost certainly want a removable Shoulder Shaper to get that flattering effect!

NOTE: These related posts have suggestions for bottoms and for over-layer tops.

Which unders do you like best?  If you have other favorite patterns to recommend, please share in the COMMENTS section below.

About Nancy Nix Rice

I help other women feel confident about how they look every day - regardless of their age, budget, lifestyle or the size tag in their pants - so they put wardrobe concerns on the back burner and go share their gifts with the world.


  1. Susan on October 12, 2017 at 10:42 am

    My go-to pattern is Silhouette’s 195, the sweater set. I have made the basic tee probably 25 times! It is so easy to do a little pattern work to make it look different.

    • Nancy Nix Rice on October 13, 2017 at 3:10 am

      I love “noodling” with a basic pattern to make a variety of looks. It’s fun … and cost-effective too.

  2. Marlette on October 12, 2017 at 7:19 pm

    I really like all these tops because they’re something different than a plain T. I’ve not sewn Style Arc patterns but think I”ll take a look now!
    Thanks Nancy

    • Nancy Nix Rice on October 13, 2017 at 2:55 am

      I’ll be curious to hear which styles you decide to try first.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.