Shirtdresses. Again. What Is It With Shirtdresses?

I’m besotted with shirtdresses again. I bet you could go back through the archives of this blog and chart the periodicity of my shirtdress obsession; it probably peaks in Nov/Dec and March/April, then trails off in the summer, when it’s too hot for buttonholes.

I have a semi-complete shirtdress on the dress form that is taunting me; I’ve put the skirt on and taken it back off again three times, and none of those times did it look even remotely like the front of the pattern envelope. I’m letting that truculent skirt think about its mistakes and then maybe this weekend I will say “Fine. If you don’t want to be pleated, I *will* gather you …” and we’ll see what happens from there. It’s my second try at a shirtdress in this same fabric, and I Will. Not. Stop. until I have the perfect version of it. (Expect a long post to this effect, later.)

I found this shirtdress on Etsy that is either perfect or perfectly frumpy. You can never tell with newspaper patterns, in my experience:


I really like that triangular yoke in the back. It’s crying out for piping, isn’t it? Just a little, and then a little along the top of the pockets. The collar is slightly 1970s, but that might turn out to be a good thing. It’s hard to tell. I will definitely shorten the sleeves; I like my sleeves to just hit the top of the biceps, because if I start competitive bodybuilding I don’t want to have to alter all my dresses. (I plan ahead. I also once had a Latin teacher who lifted a lot — I mean, A LOT — of weights, in-between his stints bartending and teaching us the Aeneid, and his biceps were so huge his sleeves had to be slit at the underarm seam to accommodate them. Which evidently made more of an impression on me than our friend Virgil, although I suppose now I am in effect “singing of arms and the man.”)

I almost didn’t buy this because the illustrated fabric pattern here is a dead ringer for some wallpaper my parents once had. (The dots were brown and blue on a beige background. I disliked it quite a bit.) But I will make this dress in something spare, perhaps  a nice crisp gray shirting cotton. Or maybe checks!

And … sorry it’s been a while since I’ve posted regularly. Lots of work — the thingy at the bottom of my blog entries here, that shows related posts? That was released in beta today. Also, I got hit by a car while riding my bike. (I’m fine, but I totally feel like a Real San Francisco Bike Commuter now.) And there was that turkey-enabled holiday, for those of us here in the States. I’ve got more excuses if you need ’em …

17 thoughts on “Shirtdresses. Again. What Is It With Shirtdresses?

  1. ehh – i can see pleats only at the bodice. cero in the skirt in this picture. ??? it looks just like a simple 6-piece A-line skirt to me.
    if i could see the pattern…….
    p.s.: missed you 🙂


  2. Shirtwaist dress–the classic American style! You are showing your good sense of fashion history. And as someone who also took a lot of Latin, I love your joke about arms and the man.


  3. HIT by a CAR!!!! sheesh girl, I sure hope you had that helmet on…and that you aren’t too beat up. (how’s the bike?) Street riding is no joke, to me it’s best taken on by those guys wearing day-glo greenish yellow vests over their team riding kits. You know, those guys who beat the traffic to each signal the whole way down El Camino Real in the morning.

    Dress pattern: this is a ‘half size’ pattern, meaning that it’s shorter in the back length (and bigger in the bust) than the ‘missy’ patterns–are you OK with that? It’s got a 70’s length and collar style too, which could be really cute with piping, like you say, but I’d turn the bust tucks into darts for a smoother fit.


    • I definitely had my helmet on. 🙂 And my bike was fine but I managed to get a hole in my dress, which was more upsetting!

      These half-size patterns fit me really well, probably because I’m bigger in the bust and shorter than I would be in an ideal world. 🙂


      • To me, patterns in the ‘half size’ range should really be called ‘curvey petite’, rather than the original target customer: grandma. Not many fashion sewers are aware of how great a fit this is for the petite figure.


  4. For some reason my mind read “Latin Dance teacher!” Then when bartending and biceps were added in, I started to swoon a little. Mmmm….


  5. The yoke is the best part of that dress! You should make it in stripey something and cut it on the bias. 😉 Rather impulsively, I ordered a vintage shirtdress pattern from Etsy last week…although now that I inspect it closer, it looks a bit like a lab coat! Yerp.


  6. So glad you are okay! Shirt dresses are classy. Agree with you on the newspaper patterns, but I’ve run into the same thing on “expensive” name brand patterns, too, where the actual finished product is not what the picture shows or pattern pieces don’t line up. Good luck.


  7. I have an Amy Butler pattern, Liverpool Tunic and I have made it twice and I feel like the third one will be perfect. : ) I always get compliments on the first two even though I still need to adjust the pattern. I agree with you on the piping. I saw a great child’s tunic in black with peppermint stripe piping. Quite darling. Can’t wait to see yours.


  8. I was taught Latin by a possibly insane monk (may he rest in peace). I don’t remember a word of Latin but there was this little song about leprosy he used to sing…

    I’m a huge fan of shirtwaists, especially early-Sixties shirtwaists which are insanely flattering on my pear-shaped figure. In fact, the last dress I made for myself was a Liberty of London shirtwaist ( and I felt like I was channeling Erin the whole time. I particularly love shirtwaists for using really wacky novelty prints, and on a related note, Nancy Drew Fabric!
    If I don’t make a shirtwaist dress out of that book-spine print, my life will have been for naught.


    • Joni, I’m working on that shirtdress pattern right now, and for the life of me, I can’t get the front placket of the skirt right! Would you have any time to take a close-up pic of yours? I love it btw …


      • Here you go (warning: BUSY PRINT ALERT)

        I really like the front placket, the way it is hidden behind a pleat, and eliminates the need for a side zipper! I did put in a snap at the waist to keep it closed.


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