I’m Back, with My New Favorite Shirt Dress!

Wow! I can’t believe it’s been more than four months since my last blog post. This spring has been a bit of a doozy, and something had to give – unfortunately what gave was my blog. Although I haven’t been blogging, I have been sewing (I said one thing had to give – and let’s face it, that’s never going to be sewing!). This means I have some awesome new makes to share, and for my return to the blog, I’m sharing what just might be one of my favorite dresses ever. Of course, it’s a shirt dress.

If you’ve been following me for a while, then you know I love a good shirt dress. And if this dress looks familiar, it’s because this is the third time I’ve made Simplicity 8546. The first was this blue and white striped linen number, which I have since given away. I followed the pattern exactly for this version, but I never really liked it. I think once I got it in my mind that it looked like a man’s nightshirt, a la Ebenezer Scrooge, I just couldn’t do it. So, I gave it to a friend who did really like the dress. I’m glad someone can get some wear out of it.  

My second version was this black and white dress that I absolutely love! For this version I added fullness to the skirt portion. I cut and spread the bottom half of the pattern, adding a total of 24 inches to the circumference of the skirt. It’s this version that I used as the basis for my latest one.

This dress got started when I saw the fabric in a “Recommended for You” email from Mood. It’s a little creepy how well Mood knows me and my tastes – or it could be that my closet looks like a clown car and there are hardly any colors/prints I don’t like…hmmmm… Anyway, when I saw this geometric print viscose batiste I knew it would make an amazing shirt dress. I previously used some of Mood’s viscose batiste for my flamingo shirt last summer and loved working with it. This fabric has a wonderful drape, but still enough structure to make it a breeze to sew.

But let’s face it, what really sold me on this fabric was the pattern and colors. The flashes of neon green mixed with the gray and black ticked all the boxes for me. Since I liked my last version of this pattern so much, I decided to make another version, this time with sleeves. I should mention here that I started this dress in the winter, when long sleeves made much more sense.

While I followed the same pattern as for the black and white version, I did make a few adjustments. The easiest of the adjustment was shortening the dress by three inches. While not very much, I wanted this dress just a bit shorter than the last.

The second adjustment is a game-changer. In my prior versions I noticed that the point of the bust dart didn’t line up with the apex of my bust. It was almost two inches higher. I’ve actually started noticing this a lot with big four patterns. I mean, thanks for thinking everyone has such perky breasts, but the positioning of these darts just isn’t realistic. To fix this problem, I lowered the dart by 1.5 inches.

Holy smokes! Just 1.5 inches has changed my life! The black and white version, as with all button downs I own, both me-made and ready-to-wear, need a little help to keep them from gaping. This help is usually in the form of a well-concealed safety pin. I moved the dart 1.5 inches, and guess what – no more gaping! Mind blown!

I have no idea why it took me so long to realize this was a problem, and if you think about it, it makes sense. By adjusting the dart to align with my body, it places the fullest part of the bodice at my boobs and not above them. Man…I’ve been missing out. I know a lot of people do full bust adjustments, but every time I’d look at the measurements of the garment and my measurements, an FBA didn’t seem like the right fix. Well no wonder…all I needed to do was lower my bust dart.

Ok…ok…back to the dress. When I set in the sleeves, I have no idea what I did, but when I tried the dress on it was uncomfortably tight. This didn’t make sense, since the white and blue linen version also had sleeves, and they fit perfectly. I thought my arms had maybe put on some weight and I’d need to do a full bicep adjustment. I didn’t have enough fabric to re-cut the sleeves, so I ordered more. After measuring the pattern and my arms (which I probably should have done before ordering more fabric), the measurements didn’t lend themselves to a full bicep adjustment.

So, I basted the sleeves in again, and ta-daaaaaa – perfect fit. I have absolutely no idea how I screwed this up so badly the first time, but I must have had something twisted. Oh well, now I have enough fabric to make a matching shirt or something, because who doesn’t need more garments in this fabric?

The rest of the dress went together like a dream. The pattern doesn’t call for interfacing along the button placket, but the placket needed some extra structure. So, I added the interfacing.

Every time I sit down to make my button holes and sew on the buttons, I wonder why I even bother adding either to my sleeve cuffs. I don’t think I’ve ever worn a button down actually buttoned around my wrists. Here is the obligatory photo to show the beautifully made cuff. Hope it enjoyed its 15 minutes of fame. It will never be seen again.

Instead of a self-belt, I decided to make a matching belt with a buckle. I ordered a kit for making a covered belt from Amazon. It included the buckle and a length of two-inch wide belting. I cut the belting into a point and then measured and cut my fabric to make the casing. I used the belting as a pattern to trace the shape of the point, added a seam allowance and stitched it up. It was surprisingly easy to get a nice snug fit when I inserted the belting into the fabric casing.

The matching buckle is where things got a bit dicey. You may notice the belt does not have a matching buckle. I followed the directions exactly to create the covered buckle. However, once it was assembled, the metal edges of the buckle stuck out a bit. I knew these rough edges would catch on the fabric and over time snag the front of the dress. In my opinion this is really bad design, and unfortunately, it’s the only covered buckle kit I can find out there.

After this disappointment, I decided to just order a black plastic belt buckle instead. I selected one that has a crocodile pattern in a shiny, patent leathery look. While I really wanted a covered buckle, I do like the contrast the solid black one provides. After wearing this dress once, I realized I need to add a snap to keep the belt in place as I wear it. Since this type of buckle doesn’t have the pin and holes, the belt easily slips through the buckle with movement. But this is a simple fix and one that will make this dress perfect.

Phew! I guess I’ve been away for so long I had a lot to say! I promise I’m wrapping it up now. I’m really jazzed about this dress, and I think it was a great project to ease back into blogging.

Writing this post has reminded me how much I love blogging, and I’ve realized I need to make time for it – even if things are a bit hectic. Plus, I have so many things to share, I don’t think I’ll be able to stay away!

Until next time,

Happy Sewing!

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  1. Welcome back!! I was so excited to see your post pop up, especially with such a chic dress! 😀 Your extra fabric will make an amazing button-up or something too.

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