Sewing Project: Shirt Dress Pt. 3 – It’s finally done!

Its finally finished! I am beyond proud of this dress, its the most complex thing I’ve ever made. It contains my first collar, my first buttonholes, my first self-adapted/self-drafted bodice pattern. I actually finished this dress exactly a week ago but I’ve held back on writing this post because I wanted to reflect on this make properly. I’m not going to tell you how I did the buttonholes because honestly I’m not sure how I did them and they didn’t go as well as I would have liked however i started at the bottom of the dress and worked up so the ones at the top which are the most visible are also the neatest. Plus its black thread on a black dress so its okay, not super noticeable, and I just straight hemmed the sleeves, nothing tough about that really. No this post is definitely not a how-to or a sew along, this post I want to reflect on this garment and what I’ve learnt from doing it.

Pattern Fit

Firstly I have A LOT to learn about fit but actually, for the first pattern I’ve ever adapted the fit is fairly good. I think my main mistake was that I forgot just how much I had had to enlarge the darts on the bust and waist and forgot to adapt the arm holes accordingly so the arms are a little snug. However, I can still move my arms properly and the buttons don’t pull open when I do which is a pretty massive improvement on my current relationship with fitted shirts. Equally I could have done with shortening the back piece a little aas the waist on the front hits perfectly because I put aloot of work into personalising the measurements however I did not do the same with the back piece. I now realise that what I should have done was to enlarge the back darts to ensure the waist fit was more snug and potentially I should have shortened the pattern piece as I have quite a neat back.

However, the main aim was to make create a shirt dress that fitted my bust, waist and hips correctly. To hit all three points seemed almost impossible to start with but I did it and I am honestly so impressed with the result. The shirt not only closes but closes comfortably and the buttons don’t pull threatening when I move around like a normal human. The skirt sits well on my hips and has enough structure to maintain the sillouhette I was looking for from this garment.

Buttons & Buttonholes

Firstly I learnt is that I love attaching buttons. It’s super relaxing. I was actually sat attaching them while on the phone to my sister. I was also very pleased that when I laid my buttons out on the dress by eye and then went back to measure the distances I had laid them all exactly 3 inches apart without any assistance. I then just made sure the white markings were in the same palce on each side. Simple.

What was less simple were the buttonholes themselves. Two things here. Firstly I completely forgot that my stitch length would influence what these looked like. I did twig this after my first two however I probably should have checked beforehand. Secondly… HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN TO STOP SEWING?? Seriously, I did everything I could think of. I marked my buttonholes with an I shape so there was a line at the top and bottom however I then realised while sewing that I couldn’t see those lines at all. Also which side are you meant to sew buttonholes on. Is it from the right side or the wrong side? I also found the distancing of the stitching extremely challenging. However. I did do them and they actually look fine, only and anyone else who actually knows how to sew will notice how messy they are and as I mentioned earlier, thankfully they are black on black fabric. In restrospect I was suffering from sewing hubris, the ‘I’ll figure it out” attitude. While this works for a lot of things, buttonhole sewing is not one of them and I will be watching many a youtube video before I attempt this again. Anyone with buttonhole advice, hit me up I’m genuinely interested in tips and tricks.

So how do i feel about this project now? Honestly I still can’t quite believe I’ve made it and I don’t think I will believe it until I wear it outside. Whether thats to work or out for dinner or to see friends. It has been a fantastic experience, forcing myself to think. I sort of made the pattern up, the skirt is from something I made ages ago, the bust is from the book pattern but hacked to anything so that it fits me, the sleeves are from another pattern; so you see that this was a complex project on every level and I’m proud that I managed to do the ‘dressmaking thinking’ to achieve it.

Whats next for me? Well I’ve FINALLY managed to get hold of some elastic, its taken two weeks, so I need to run up some face masks for my lovely grandparents in Scotland. I’m going to do the body of the masks tomorrow so the second I get the elastic I can get them posted off straight away. Then its on to my lovely fabric hoard from the Rainbow Fabrics Kilburn sale to make some beautiful things.


  1. Well done Jess. What an achievement to have made the dress without a proper pattern, it looks a lovely fit. You obviously have a talent for sewing. Look forward to the next project.


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