Welcome to my November post on the Blogger Network.  I’ve always wanted to make a shirt dress and never really found just the right pattern and fabric combination.

My original choice was McCalls 6696, however, I wanted a classic shirt dress with breast pockets and opted for Vogue 8903.  I recently saw a lady, who was a similar age to me, wearing exactly this style, in a stretch polyester type fabric, and that made the decision for me.

The pattern suggests a silk jersey fabric or Crepe de Chine and, instead, I opted for this Portuguese stretch suiting fabric with a polyester, viscose and elastane blend.  I ordered 2.2 metres of fabric to make version B with short sleeves.  It was just enough without creating much waste and allowed me to add some extra length to the dress. 

This fabric is so lovely to work with and has a beautiful quality, the weight & drape are perfect and better than I envisaged.  There is just the right amount of structure and 2 way stretch to give some ease for wearing.

You could say I’ve been a lazy sewer in the past, or rather I just wanted to get on with making.  I rarely pre-washed fabric, didn’t trace out the pattern pieces nor make a toil.  Instead, I fit by holding the pattern pieces against me and cut the actual pattern to allow extra room in the seams if necessary.  I also never did a full bust adjustment.  These habits have resulted in many items being left unfinished due to poor fit.  Years ago, I could get away with this fitting technique when I had a smaller bust.  It’s taken me a long time to realise that a toil is vital to achieve the perfect fit.  In reality, it doesn’t add much time, if any, to a project because the time it takes to make the toil is saved on all the fit adjustments, trying on and off and then sitting sewing in my underwear!  I now prewash fabric before use.

I made my usual adjustments of taking in the nape of the neck and grading up a size over the hips.  I also did my second FBA using the advice from Melly Sews.  Simply, I cut off at the shorten/lengthen line, cut vertically up to bust apex and cut up towards the centre of the armhole, stopping about an inch from the edge.  I add the required adjustment and fixed in place with plain paper and tape. Finally, I re-joined the lower piece where it had been cut off and graded the side seam.

The dress is very classy, yet simple, and the pockets and top stitching add to the professional finish. 

I always neaten seams which does take extra time but this pattern, with its yolk and facings, enclose the seams – the only seams that needed neatening were the side seams and the armholes.  There is little to no hand sewing, such as hems, as the design incorporates top stitching.

I considered adding pockets to the side seams but felt I should make the pattern as described for the first time, pockets could change the shape although in hindsight the fabric would keep the shape well and I will definitely add them next time. 

I had some black stretch interfacing in my stash which I used for the collar and pocket flaps, although regular interfacing would be suitable too.  The front sections have self-facings and don’t require interfacing although a lighter fabric may benefit from applying some.  I recommend practising buttonholes on some scrap fabric before putting them on the actual garment as there’s nothing worse than an incorrectly placed buttonhole right on the front.  There are 11 small black buttons on the front and 2 on the pockets with a handy placement pattern piece for accurate spacing.

The fabric is a pleasure to work with, little fraying, holds its shape after ironing and sews well.  Care needs to be taken when pressing and it’s important to iron on the reverse or to cover with a pressing cloth, as ironing will mark the right side of the fabric especially over the seams.  I use a baby muslin cloth.

This classic dress can be dressed up for a night out with heals and a smart jacket of worn casual with pumps or boots and its debut will be for an upcoming Christmas lunch in a couple of weeks.

Thanks for Minerva for the kit and to everyone for reading.