Return (Slightly Elevated, Not Yet Triumphal) of the Shirtdress

by Erin on January 23, 2012

I think I've posted about this before, but I can't find it: Simplicity 6894.


Anyway, I made it. Here it is:


I chose such a busy print because 1) I hadn't done tucks before and figured that if they were uneven, uneven on a bed of slightly abstract ochre roses was the way to go, and 2) I have had this fabric SO LONG that it has been giving me reproachful looks. Especially as new yardage has continued to come in … it was well past the eye-rolling stage, and into heavy sighs and significant eyebrow-raising. So. Now it's ready for its close-up:


You can see a little of the red thread I used to thread-mark the buttonholes. The buttons are vintage, I have no idea where I got them, either. This is not their first rodeo — they had little bits of cloth and thread on them that I had to remove. Looks like I cut them off whatever they had been on before. (Or maybe I bought them that way? My buttons are not what you would call "organized.")

The fabric is very lightweight, just a couple steps up from voile, so I did a very deep blindstitch hem. [PHOTO NOT AVAILABLE] 

Oh! I added pockets, slash hip pockets: 

And in lieu of my usual "here's the side zipper" picture (which is nearly invisible in this print, anyway, but you can see it here if you are so inclined) I present to you instead the "here's the set-in sleeve cap." Not my finest work, but not the worst I've ever done, either:


(My set-in-sleeve-setting life changed when I finally started taking the time to sew from the top center of the shoulder down to the underarm seam on each side, instead of trying to sew the whole thing in one go from underarm seam to underarm seam.)

Verdict: A+, would sew again. This is not so hard to make (after I figured out the tucks, which look FAR more complicated than they actually are) and it's fun to wear. I felt like a 1960s schoolteacher all day, which is better than it sounds. It did end up being slightly too big (it's fine through the bodice, but I added too much ease for the pockets). I will go easier on the wearing ease next time. 

I have another shirtdress coming … one I'm very pleased with, and another one cut out. Oh, and a semi-traumatic encounter with Simplicity 2180, but I think we managed to hug it out. Stay tuned!

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Claire Jain January 23, 2012 at 9:53 pm

Oh man, I laughed out loud at this! I love that you put pockets in all of your dresses, too. That is so the way to go.


Mary January 23, 2012 at 10:07 pm

This is giving me serious shirtdress envy and fabric envy and button envy…I am bored with my current projects apparently. :-) That is a beautiful dress and wonderful fabric.


Catherine Daze January 23, 2012 at 11:23 pm

Gorgeous buttons. I never heard that tip about setting in sleeves before. I’m going to give it a try as I need all the help I can get! Thanks.


Tracy Davis January 24, 2012 at 1:28 am

Really lovely job. The pleating is making me very envious. Can’t wait to see your others.


Laura January 24, 2012 at 3:07 am

It’s terriffic!


Serenity January 24, 2012 at 6:09 am

I like it. I too have come tot he same sleeve revelation. And you are making me sincerely guilty about the cut shirt dress I have just hanging out in my sewing room


Elizabeth January 24, 2012 at 6:19 am

Great shirtdress. I’m glad you liberated that fabric!


ReadyThreadSew January 24, 2012 at 7:02 am

I must try that trick next time I have to set in sleeves – it makes so much sense. I love the dress and that you did the same thing as I did the first time I sewed pin-tucks – picked a busy print so mistakes wouldn’t show :)


Renee January 24, 2012 at 7:35 am

Great dress. I love the fabric and the tucks. And thank you for the tip on setting in sleeves. I will definitely try that next time. I thought of you the other day when I read a blog post on that opined that women couldn’t be trusted with pockets and that’s why our clothes rarely have them. I always give you a high five when I see you’ve added them to your creations.


kathleen January 24, 2012 at 7:49 am

I’ve never heard that sleeve tip before, but I’ll try it on my next sleeve encounter.
Beautiful dress!


LinB January 24, 2012 at 8:01 am

Sew your tucks first, in the uncut yardage, as deep and as long as you please. Then put pattern pieces over them and cut out the pattern (remember to fold out the tucks on the paper pattern before you cut!). MUCH easier that way. Not nearly as much fidgety marking or angst about sewing them straight. Love this dress: it reminds me of how my mother used to dress, in the early 1960s, when I was but a tot.


Barbara S. January 24, 2012 at 8:26 am

I can’t tell from the photos–did you put cuffs in the sleeves? Will you wear a belt with it?


Cel P January 24, 2012 at 11:36 am

Adorable! great sleeves, will take that good advice.


Erin January 24, 2012 at 1:29 pm

Thanks guys! Barbara, I didn’t do the sleeve cuffs (too bulky under a cardigan) and I haven’t worn a belt with it, although I could …

Lin, thanks for the tucks tip! I am going to try that!


Cheryl Warren January 24, 2012 at 1:39 pm

This was THE dress of my high school years (1965-1967) and Villager sold them for $25, which was a small fortune in the 1960’s. So I made one or two, possibly from this very pattern. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!


Shirtdress Fan January 24, 2012 at 5:33 pm

Ah, this is so nice to see! You are responsible for my ever-growing collection of vintage shirdress patterns, after all.


Judy January 24, 2012 at 6:56 pm

Love the buttons. I have some just like them in my Grandma’s button can. Who knows where she got them. Half the buttons in there were cut off of old garments.


Judy January 24, 2012 at 6:58 pm

Also, what is with the hair on the gal in view 2? That is some serious scary hair!!


gail January 24, 2012 at 7:56 pm

I loved to wear shirtdresses in the Sixties.. during high school What I remember though is that the best shirtdresses of light weight cotton like this 1 you made:

The tops were not lined – esp the tucked ones..the tucks were the Modesty part–god forbid one’s bra outline would show!

but the bottom sections ( from the waist down) were lined in s very sheer pale cotton. It made SUCH a difference in how the dress hung on me! No dipping in–under one’s bottom. Additionally – one didn’t need to wear a slip~

The patterns didn’t show that–but our dressmaker always did it! And the upperend dress we bought ready made were lined! ‘

Try it on of your next light cotton ones and I think you will be impressed. You are such a great seamstress and blogger. We all benefit from what you share with us.

Reply January 25, 2012 at 12:26 pm

Beautiful dress and great fabric! I will make an attempt on similar dress before the spring, hope for a good result :)


Wink January 25, 2012 at 1:18 pm

This is the PERFECT fabric for this dress. Excellent choice, and nice looking all around!


Bri January 25, 2012 at 7:06 pm

This dress is fantastic, I love your fabric choice, the pattern and your workmanship. This dress can hang out in my closet anytime!


Susan Denney January 26, 2012 at 10:16 am

How could I have missed that sleeve-setting tip all these years? Can’t wait to try it. I had a customer buy two patterns from me this month and she told me it was because your blog inspired her with a love of vintage patterns. What can I say except thanks.

Reply January 27, 2012 at 5:43 pm

Huh. I doubt it ever would have occurred to me to start at the top of a sleeve and sew down either side. And it really makes a difference? I’m going to have to give it a whirl the next time I have a set-in sleeve to sew.


LINDA January 28, 2012 at 7:19 am

My sister made me those villager takeoff dresses from a pattern very much like this one in the 60’s. wish I still had them she is a great seamstress


Packrat January 28, 2012 at 11:26 am

When you set in your sleeves, are you doing it before sewing up the side seams? If not, that makes it easier, too. Amazing how the fabric can change the look of a dress. Well done. :)


angie.a February 19, 2012 at 7:42 am

So SO cute! I’m dying over the gingham version on the envelope. Gonna have to stalk this one in an ebay search I think!


Cruelzucchini February 24, 2012 at 11:23 am

Villager and Lady Bug made similar dresses in the mid-sixties. I took my ladybug pin off the one I bought and put it on the ones my mom made—no one seemed to know the difference. Hard to believe this was the way we dressed for school everyday.

I am loving your blog!!


Deborah March 24, 2012 at 3:13 pm

You’re making me feel very, very old. I wanted one of those Villager dresses so badly but couldn’t afford to buy one, so I found the pattern and made one myself.


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