Still thinking about shirtdresses ….

by Erin on January 24, 2008

Butterick 2626

I've made three shirtdresses/shirtwaists so far and I have to tell you: it's NOT ENOUGH. I have three more patterns lined up and just bought this one, too (from The Sisters Five on eBay).

A few things: making a shirtdress takes roughly TWICE as long as it takes me to make a dress that doesn't have thirteen buttons and buttonholes. It's not a four-hour task to make a dress any more; it's a lot like eight. Or possibly ten. And, no matter how many buttons I buy when they're on sale, I either don't have the right color, or, if I have the right color, they're not the right size, OR, if I have the right color & size, I am short THREE. (One or two, I could fake, but THREE is really impossible.) But despite all this, I am committed (or is that, I should be committed? Different "committed") to doing more of them. Like this one, which caught my eye with that fabulous color green, but kept it for the stripes (with that jaunty half-turned-up collar). I seem to have purchased quite a bit of striped fabric lately and the thought of matching them all … is not a good thought. Thus the raglan sleeves, yay!

Oh, and for interfacing, especially of light cottons, I've been using silk organza, instead of any fusible stuff. You can buy it cheap at Dharma Trading, and it really works well. Nice and crisp without being crisp-y; sewing it in isn't too onerous, and it never bubbles the way cheap fusible can. I bought some Shirt-Tailor interfacing but it was just WAY too stiff for me. I only use the organza to interface the collar and the front buttonhole/button facings; I baste it in just inside the foldlines of the front facings and then zigzag over both the fabric and the organza to finish the raw edge — and it's worked out nicely, so far!

Eventually I will have pictures of the three I've made, I promise.

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Allison January 24, 2008 at 7:53 am

silk organza for the interfacing, hmm? I’ve a question for you about that: do you wash it before, or just steam shrink? Do you dry clean your shirtwaists, or machine wash? I’m a pretty anti-dry clean kind of gal, as long as I can get away with it, but I’ve worried about using silk organza losing some crispness if I’m going to machine wash the garment.


Erin January 24, 2008 at 8:07 am

I wash both the organza and my fabric (which is usually cotton, anyway) in the hottest water possible (sometimes twice, if I’m worried) and dry on high as well, so that I can machine-wash with impunity later.I also steam the organza interfacing pieces with my iron, too, just to be safe …


Gaile January 24, 2008 at 9:08 am

Awesome tip about the silk organza. I am dying to see your dresses!! I just got a set of 4 patterns on ebay myself, and am wondering what fabrics to use so they’ll be cute without looking dowdy, so yours will be great to see!!


paisleyapron January 24, 2008 at 10:11 am

Quit teasing us Erin! Post the pictures! Post the pictures!


Julia January 24, 2008 at 10:23 am

Two words for you: covered buttons. Hey, it worked for our moms and grandma’s – oh and I’ve heard about the organza interfacing, but didn’t have a good source, thanks.


Anonymous January 24, 2008 at 10:45 am

Careful about the green dress. I recently found some fabulous green cotton sateen which I lovingly crafted into a shirdress…only to find I looked like a fancy girl scout. I recut it into pajamas which actually, I get to wear more often.


Calico January 24, 2008 at 11:50 am

Ooh, I look forward to seeing the pictures of the shirtwaists. I just bought a couple patterns myself and I’m ridiculously excited/intimidated to start. I made a blouse last week, so I don’t think I’m biting off too much more than I can chew — but nevermind interfacing problems, I always pick the wrong weight of fabric. Do you think you could suggest fabrics suitable for shirtwaists? Thanks so much…


angldst January 24, 2008 at 1:47 pm

I have a bolt of black fusible interfacing that I’m slowly using up in projects of this&that, but for my husband’s shirts (and shirtwaist dresses, & blouses, etc), where the fabric is of medium weight cotton or wool, I actually use a cotton muslin for interfacing. It works a treat (I baste it in place) and I can starch the hell out of the resulting collars/cuffs, if desired. :) I’ve used silk organza in the past, it’s very helpful for lighter fabrics that still need crisp shaping and where I don’t want the interlining/facing ‘showing through’. :) -d


mamafrog January 24, 2008 at 2:43 pm

If you’re short three buttons or so, just use what you have from the bottom up and put a few different, fancy, decorative ones at the top toward the neckline, or vice versa, even!


lucy tartan January 24, 2008 at 3:02 pm

Organza’s good but if you have fusible to use up, it can be washed & preshrunk in hot water before cutting without the adhesive coming off.


Jenny January 24, 2008 at 4:07 pm

I love your dresses and your blog! By the way, you had mentioned Liberty of London fabric….I’m here to tell you that there’s a better cheaper place to purchase it at:!!!!


enc January 24, 2008 at 4:47 pm

These are really nice incarnations of the shirtdress. I like the idea the raglan sleeves free you from having to match stripes. Plus, what a ripe opportunity for piping (that’s what I think is going on with the green dress)! I hope you have fun with this pattern.


jessica January 24, 2008 at 7:30 pm

Hi, I just discovered this blog and I am just tickled pink. You see, I’ve had a thing for shirtdresses for a while now, and it’s so gratifying to see that I’m not alone. I’ve yet to complete one, although I’ve purchased a few vintage patterns. I’m REALLY looking forward to seeing the pictures of you, namely because I don’t (who does?) look like those ladies in the pattern illustrations. What does the thing look like on a real person? I’m dying to know. Thanks, and so glad I found you!


Miss Kitty January 24, 2008 at 8:33 pm

Ohhhhh…such awesomeness. [sigh] I will be sending my Mom this link. I think she has a pattern very similar to yours in the pic, from around the same time period.


lorrwill January 24, 2008 at 9:11 pm

I have purchased silk organza from Dharma too. Just don’t buy their thread; they sell coated quilting thread as regular thread. It will gunk up your tension discs if you try to machine sew with it. And yes they know and no they have no intention of changing because they say I am the only person who has a problem with it.Yay! Raglan sleeves. Cool pattern. Can’t wait to see what you make with it.


/anne... January 24, 2008 at 10:01 pm

I’ve been obsessing about shirt dresses for some time now; which is odd, because I haven’t worn a dress in years. For a long time, I was too fat – separates looked so much better on me – but now I’ve lost weight, whenever I try on a dress I feel _naked_. After years of skirt/top/cardiganorjacket, I feel like I’m in my underwear – not enough layers!I’m planning a full-skirted gorgeousness in indigo fine linen/nylon with a navy silk sash around the waist, and a slinky sheath number with a tab front (less buttonholes!), maybe in navy, maybe in bright blue. Then again, there’s always black… Re buttons – I just bought the Heirloom Buttons book; some of them would look wonderful down the front of a simple gauzy full-skirted summer shirt dress. The metal ring ones were invented to survive turn-of-the-20thC washing techniques (boiling and wringers).They might take ages to make, but they could be portable if you commute.


Duchess January 24, 2008 at 11:37 pm

Hi Erin,I don’t comment very often, but I wanted to let you know that I had a dream about shirt dresses last night. I’m not sure what it means, but it has to be good, right?I can’t wait to see the photos of your dresses.


Daphne January 26, 2008 at 3:25 pm

I LOVE SHIRTDRESSES.Sorry, I just need to be super clear. I had two, bright red and kelley green, bought at the thrift store back when I was a bigger size, and eventually had to release them. For some time I was bereft of shirtdresses. I bought a pattern here and there but as you said, it’s a lot of time, an ever-shrinking commodity. And then last weekend: shopping: no pants fit out of 10 pairs. Whatever, because then I happened upon an Anne Taylor “olive brown” shirtdress. I would probably have gone bride-at-a-wedding-gown-sale crazy if necessary for this dress. I jumped up and down in the fitting room for joy over a $40 new dress… then it turned out to be only $20. I left the store in disbelief, but had to return & spent another hour or so combing the racks for another just the same in more colors (or the same color, whatever, I could just wear the same dress day in and day out, right? Different accessories, maybe embellish it?)–none. I did find another shirtdress that’s just a bit more fussy, and we all know shirtdresses should not be fussy! Oddly, the second has pockets, even though the fabric is a sheer-ish cream color, and the first, though fully lined and a deep “breen”, does not. I do not really care. I have two shirtdresses again and I am strongly considering logging off to paw through my patterns and immediately begin a homemade third.I think you and some of your readers may be the rare individuals who can appreciate the happiness of this story. Of course I wore the first, less-fussy dress to work right away and received several compliments.


D January 26, 2008 at 9:46 pm

Love your blog!I’m just wondering about that banner on the front of the pattern envelope – what is a “proportioned shirtdress”?


Erin January 27, 2008 at 7:38 am

A “proportioned” dress is one where they make allowances for short- and long-waisted people, and include three different bodice pieces to make fitting easier.I always think I’m short enough for the short-waisted and I’m always wrong. I’m only about an inch too short-waisted for “regular” bodice lengths, and the short-waisted proportioned dress is about 2 or even 3 inches shorter.


CC January 27, 2008 at 8:56 am

found this and am thinking a fall shirtwaist with bronzy/brown accessories


D January 27, 2008 at 11:47 pm

Thanks for the info! I love vintage patterns but I’ve never seen that. Wow – three bodice pieces! I’ll have to keep an eye out for those. I have a 15″ BWL, so I’m sure the short would fit me, unless the short is too long.Thanks!D


Rebecca January 30, 2008 at 9:48 am

i love love the shirtdresses! unfortunately, the waistline finds my love laughable….. oh well, good for the morivation to keep on my ‘making good choices’ not a diet diet.


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