Believe it or not, I’ve never owned a shirtdress before. RTW ones were always out of the question: no stores carry shirtdresses that fit my bust and waist, let alone not gape between the buttons. For some reason, they then got relegated to the “items of clothing that will never suit me” mental category (see also: trousers, blazers).
How foolish I was!
This creation, McCall’s 6506, came about due to the confluence of two events: firstly, my dear sewing friend Laney managed to accidentally order the pattern in the wrong size for her… but the right size for me, goddamit! Being the generous soul that I am, I took it off her hands. It still sat in the stash for a while though.. until Mary’s autumn of 1,000 shirt dresses. I mean, look at that lady! I figured I’d give it a whirl.
I indulged in one of the brand new Cotton + Steel offerings – the Moonlit cotton by Rashida Coleman-Hale. It’s really lovely – slightly lighter than quilting cotton but still with some heft, and it softened considerably after pre-washing.
It worked well for the pattern, which is a fairly classic shirtdress design, with a proper collar, separate button bands, and pleats strategically placed at the front and back but not at the hips. The collar as designed is comically large – unless you’re going for a hardcore 70s look, scaling back is a necessity – I took 1.5 inches off, but may reduce it even more in the future. Unfortunately I messed up by not scaling down the stand accordingly, so the whole thing sits a bit too high on my neck and hits the back of my head… To stop any gaping I carefully positioned one button at the fullest part of my bust, and I added an internal snap fastening between that button and the one above to secure the gap.
I used a straight 22 with the D cup bodice, and to my delight it fit straight out of the pattern with no FBA! Quite the thing. That said, there’s a weird poofiness at the upper back which isn’t evident in these pictures but is definitely there in real life. It could be because the size is too big, or maybe I need to do something else… take out a tuck from the upper back? But if I do that, do I have to change the collar stand as well? And if so, how?! So many questions.
The pattern generally went together quickly but I have a total mare with the buttonholes. My parents generously gave me a new Bernina 580 for my birthday, and despite lovely features like auto thread cutting and a knee lift presser foot, the buttonhole has been on the fritz since I bought it. I ended up having to get my old Brother out of the cupboard to do them (less pretty buttonholes but at least I *get* buttonholes) after ripping out so many that the placket was getting properly damaged. So much for the “perfect Bernina” reputation… Unfortunately it’s a 3 hour round trip to my Bernina dealer, and I’ve already been once for a “fix” which didn’t work, and now I have to find time to go again. If they can’t fix it this time I’m going to be climbing the walls.
Buttonhole trauma aside, I’m pleased with the end result, although I’m not entirely sure that high-necked (or at least, not scoop-necked), sleeveless garments are the most flattering on me – I feel like they emphasize my top-heaviness. If these photos are to go by, I also have a bit of a hem problem as it appears to be higher at the front than the back, presumably due to my chest hiking the front up. One to fix next time. The skirt is also notably short: I’m 5’6″ but the skirt is clearly a few inches above my knees.
Anyhow, the dress got road tested on my recent trip to Iceland over Labo(u)r Day weekend… such a fun place to go! Only 5 hours by plane from Boston, and it’s like being in a different world, full of volcanos and ethereal blonde men with man-bun hairstyles and large hipster beards. My brother and I thoroughly explored Reykjavik (i.e. ate a lot of Icelandic pastries), including multiple visits to the gorgeous Harpa centre, an architectural marvel of a concert hall (and cafe and restaurant and event space) that’s perched on the harbour front. How could I not take bloggy photos in front of the volcanic stone walls?
And in the honeycomb-like massive windows that overlook the boats… (this was taken furtively while watching for security guards – I’m such a rebel, me)
What’s your verdict on shirtdresses, dear readers? Yay or nay? I’m pretty sure more will be coming my way next spring… Until then, I have winter sewing plans in the works!