Shirt dress: 3 rounds in the ring

Starting point: New Look 6449

  • Traced a size 20, removed the bust dart (shortened the front hem to match the back length at the side seam)
  • Boxed out the side seams to skip the waist shaping
  • Cut 2 yokes to do the burrito method and enclose the yoke seams
  • Skipped the continuous lap placket on the sleeve and subbed in the tower sleeve placket from Butterick 3364 (men’s shirt pattern)
  • Adding the tower placket made the sleeve circumference at wrist larger than the cuff, so I deepened the sleeve pleats to 1.5” each
  • Skipped the sleeve tabs

Sewed up a wearable muslin from a white cotton bedsheet. Put the sleeves in flat; flat felled the sleeve-shoulder seams and the side seams. It was good for the heatwave but took on sunscreen stains so I need to dye it.

  • The hem didn’t seem quite right, and didn’t match at side seams, so I shortened it: 0.5” CF, 1” side front, 1.5” side back, 1” CB. Ie more at the sides than the centres, and more off the back to bring it up to match the front. Then folded up CF 1.5” more post hemming, not all the way across to the side seam.

Black mother of pearl buttons from my Nana’s stash, 3/8”. Buttonhole settings on Jones: 3.5 width at top, 1 width for sides, F length, 3/8” long buttonhole.

Post-humously put slits into the side seams, as I didn’t want to put pockets in the shirt but wanted to be able to reach my trouser pockets. Undid the side seams 7” up, unpicked the flat fell to 2” above that, pressed the seam allowance open, double folded each side under itself and stitched down. The bedsheet was worn and ripped easily under pressure so I then added a little triangle to the top of each slit for strength and to distribute the weight on the fabric.

Collar and collarband seemed very large for the size; and were large compared to the two men’s (vintage) shirt patterns I have. I guess a womenswear shirt dress pattern isn’t drafted to do up under a tie. Shoulders also seemed narrow on me, especially as I was really looking for a blousey/slightly oversized, dropped shoulder effect.

Which leads us to…..

Second shot: terracotta and blue florals

  • Subbed in the collar, collarband, neckline for yoke and front piece from Butterick 3364 – effectively sizing down the collar and raising/narrowing the neckline slightly to reduce it and make it more fitted
  • Also subbed in the large pocket from B3364, and adjusted the placement
  • Widened the yoke 1” (on each shoulder; 2” total across whole back)
  • On both front and back, widened body by 1/2”, and then extended point of shoulder seam out 1/2”
  • Extended sleeve 2”
  • Extended sleeve placket 1-2”(?)
  • Transferred the side slit measurements to the pattern pieces
  • Shaved off the height of the sleeve cap by 3/4” at the top, tapering to nothing by the notches. Rough move to reduce/remove all the ease that had to be heftily gathered in from the womenswear pattern. It worked! No gathering needed, just gentle easing.
  • Shortened front hem by ???

I cut the inner yoke, cuffs, collarband, and under collar from a blue gingham cotton for stability and I was extremely glad I did, as the printed viscose was very shifty for me, and was very happy to stretch itself out of grain/shape. I also sewed this whole shirt (except buttonholes) on my Nana’s Singer 99K which was super fun. I didn’t have a terracotta thread in stash and I wanted to bring out the blues from the palette so I used a couple blue threads from her stash too. The gingham helped with the blue too, and with avoiding the floral viscose showing through itself. The assortment of mismatched blue buttons are from my own hoard of trinkets.

The viscose was so flimsy in the Singer that I needed to routinely put some tension on the fabric behind the foot, to stop it gathering up in the stitches. I couldn’t get the pocket stitched flat at all until I pinned it to some tracing paper and ran it through the machine straight through the paper and all, and I glue basted the pocket to the shirt when I was sewing it down (good old pritt stick). I was worried I’d need starch to pull off the sleeve placket but they turned out okay as no stitching through a single layer is required.

When attaching the collarbands, specifically when pressing under the lower seam allowance of the inner band, I thought I had the smart idea of pressing under slightly less than 3/8”. The plan was this would mean it would be slightly extended beyond the outer band, and therefore would definitely get caught down in the ‘top stitch from the outside and pray it works’ step. Technically, that did happen, it just also meant that I didn’t always catch the seam allowance in the stitching all the way along. So I had to put a second row of top stitching, in the ditch from the outside, to catch both layers of the inner collar, and made a note not to do that again.

Something went wrong with my drafting in of the neckline/collar pieces, as the collarband came up about 3/8” wider than the neckline on each side. Possibly a seam allowance differential mistake? On the spot I just sewed it a 3/8” closer in, to line up with the shirt CF, which made the collar a little tight to do up.

Third rendition: pink big cats

  • Re-examined the drafting in of the collar and neckline from B3364. There are several different front and collar pieces in that pattern which made it confusing, but the issue seemed to be with seam allowance on the front neckline and also with a different width of facing for the buttonband, affecting placement of CF. I redid the merger and crossed my fingers and it came out good this time!
  • Sewed the top of the cuffs with a 3/8” to increase the width by a quarter inch.
  • Spread the collar and band 1/2” in 2 places total (1” total increase to full circumference)
  • Widened yoke, front, and back by 1/4” at the centre on the fold (so a 1/2” total across the back, 1” total increase to full circumference)
  • Shortened the back at hem: 2 1/2” at CB, 1 1/2” at side seam
  • Lengthened the front just 1/2” at the side seam to shallow down the shirttail curve, tapering to nothing by the plateau of the curve.

The extra width on the fold at CB made the pleat slightly weirdly wide and I probably should adjust that if there’s a next time. That said, I did very basic pattern arrangement and no matching, and I was very pleased one of the leopards showed his face on the pleat.

I cut the inner yoke from the same gingham, but the inner cuffs, collarband, and collar from this great and super saturated tiger-jungle print quilting cotton. I couldn’t put the fat quarter down when I came across it in hobby craft, and once I got it home this fabric combo was just calling my name. It makes me laugh every time I look at it, I love it so much.

All my alterations are adding up to a great shirt now, but I’m still having a suspicious time with the hem length. Not sure if I’m overthinking it, but I’m struggling to locate the ideal spot for the hem to hit, in terms of gender. Does the single perfect length exist, that could be short enough to be oversized or just tunic-y on masc days, but long enough to be decent over bike shorts or leggings on fem days? I actually suspect that the step difference between front and back is not working for this. If/when I give it a fourth shot, I think the front can be lengthened 1-2” and maybe the scoop of back shortened a bit. Maybe it’s a lost cause to try to find one garment that can fluidly adapt depending the gender mood, and it would always be a bit uncomfortable and stuck in the middle. The front length does seem to be good to steal for an oversized t shirt.

The sleeves would also need shortening 1”, and narrowing 2” or so.

I’m also pondering using this now-hybrid pattern with the sleeves and body length cut off to make a boxy summer shirt – think ‘grandpa grilling’ in maybe a bright plaid or check cotton. Maybe I should try a proper menswear pattern instead, and enjoy not having to battle the draft, possibly Colette’s Negroni? I do have a couple proper men’s shirt patterns (a western style, and a ‘normal one’ – that’s Butterick 3364) but they’re vintage off eBay so the collars are wide and I think I’d have the alter the fitted bodies to get the boxy fit I’m thinking of. I do have a boxy camp shirt pattern (actually from a 70s pyjamas pattern), but I suspect the armscyes would be too different to easily nick the torso shape off that.

I’ve also got dreams of a full-fledged shirt dress, à la @ciscosews, made of pieced/bogaji cotton fabric in an ungodly combo of prints. That would need to be properly longer, probably with pockets and no side slits, and a subtle a line draft to allow walking room. But I think I could do it from this pattern; not sure if it has sleeves or not.

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