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.

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

  1. Margaret Porritt Jul 25, 2020 / 9:35 am

    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.


    • Jess Jul 26, 2020 / 10:38 am

      Thank you grandma! xx


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