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April 20, 2015

The Shirtdress Returns!

If Mary’s taught me one thing, it’s that you can never make just one McCall’s M6996 shirtdress. No, that would offend the shirtdress gods and then who knows what might happen?!

So here is my latest offering: a straight skirted, sleeveless, splendiferously polka dotted shirtdress:

McCall's M6696 shirtdress by Cashmerette

I was still on the fence about my flared skirt Vlisco 6696 when I decided to cut this one out, to test out the different silhouette. The gorgeous fabric is from Mood (sold out, alas) and is a lovely garment-weight cotton that is most excellent to sew with. I used a black contrast for the waistband which you can just see peeking out under the belt (originally, I wasn’t intending to wear a belt but it’s a little boxy on me without it).

McCall's M6696 shirtdress by Cashmerette

Beyond the different view, I also went rogue and hacked the placket and collar. I never, ever, wear shirts or shirtdresses done up to the collar. It is just Not A Good Look for me. I always end up with floppy bits hanging around my neck, and no girl wants that. So instead, I decided to make this one more into a V, following Andrea’s Archer shirt tutorial.  The result doesn’t look dramatically different, but eliminates the floppiness and is more open. Much better!

McCall's M6696 shirtdress by Cashmerette

The good old back puffiness is still evident: good if I ever develop a stoop.

McCall's M6696 shirtdress by Cashmerette

For this version, I went up to a 22D without an FBA, and rotated the dart down by about 2 inches. The main issue fit wise this time is the armscye which is gaping quite considerably. If I make this sleeveless again, I’ll need to pinch out about 3/4 inch there.

Whether I will make another sleeveless one is a bit of an open question – I have a feeling that sleeveless shirtdresses accentuate my top-heaviness, so I feel a little uncomfortable in them.

McCall's M6696 shirtdress by Cashmerette

Are you on team shirtdress? Fit or flare? Sleeves or sleeveless? The world must know! For we must appease the shirtdress gods. I believe they live in the Garment District in a penthouse with Tim Gunn.

I will leave you with a shot of my dress in its mothership: the McCall’s Pattern Company!

McCall's M6696 shirtdress by Cashmerette


Cashmerette
April 13, 2015

Crazy lady: Vlisco McCall’s 6696 shirtdress

I’m a magpie for big and colourful prints, so naturally I’ve been stalking the Vlisco website for quite some time. Vlisco are a historic producer of Dutch wax print fabric, which is particularly popular in Africa (it’s sometimes known as “African wax print” as a result). When I lived in Malawi, well before my sewing days, I loved it and was duly amused by novelty prints like Princess Diana faces and household implements – sadly past Jenny didn’t have the presence of mind to buy it all. What a mistake.

I was a little hesitant to buy some Vlisco because of the 6 yard minimum (which I heard has just been reduced), but then I saw Sonja’s Vlisco Grainline Alder Shirtdress and Dixie’s gorgeous sheath dress and IT HAD TO BE MINE. In fact, exactly the same pattern, just a different colourway. Those ladies, they have good taste.

Having jumped on one bandwagon, I immediately jumped on another (it’s tricky dual bandwaggoning, ladies): McCall’s M6696. A.K.A. “Mary’s shirtdress“.

Let me present: my Vlisco shirtdress

McCall's M6696 in Vlisco fabric | Cashmerette

It’s a pretty classic pattern, with a separate button placket, waistband with belt loops and a traditionally constructed collar. It comes in bust sizes, which, while only going up to a D (the American average is a DD…), is still a sight better than the traditional B cup I have to contend with. For this version, I used the full skirt which is pleated at the top. Weirdly, though the fabric is a bit stiff it doesn’t like holding pleats, so the whole thing just expands out like a psychedelic mushroom.

In an effort to get a decent fit, I used the 20D size and FBAed by an inch, then used the size 24 waistband, and for the skirt graded from the 24 down to a 22. To make the 20 bodice fit the 24 waistband, I didn’t sew up the waist darts, and I did a little less gathering at the back.  The resulting fit is…. alright. There’s a bit of tightness across my high bust, as I was potentially a little optimistic with the 20. The skirt is ginormous so no problem there, and the waistband is nicely skimming, meaning I can actually breathe and sit down in it. Yay for sitting and breathing! Feminism in action.

McCall's M6696 in Vlisco fabric | Cashmerette

The puffy back is a slightly peculiar design feature of the pattern, and I’m not entirely sure what I think of it. The plus side is that it makes my waist appear to nip in a lot more than it does!

McCall's M6696 in Vlisco fabric | Cashmerette

I wasn’t sure if I was sold on the fit-and-flare silhouette, but it’s growing on me! Plus I love digging my hands into the pockets and puffing it up like a puffer fish. Clearly I made no attempt at pattern matching, but the pattern itself is so insane I figure I’ll probably hypnotise any passers-by before they notice.

Have you tried using wax print fabric? It’s a lot stiffer than I’m used to, though it does soften a little with washing. What else do you recommend making with it? I want more ideas so I that I can justify buying more crazy patterns!

And I shall leave you on a spin:

McCall's M6696 in Vlisco fabric | Cashmerette

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Cashmerette
September 8, 2014

Cotton + Steel shirtdress on tour up north

Behold, my first ever shirtdress!

Believe it or not, I’ve never owned a shirtdress before. RTW ones were always out of the question: no stores carry shirtdresses that fit my bust and waist, let alone not gape between the buttons. For some reason, they then got relegated to the “items of clothing that will never suit me” mental category (see also: trousers, blazers).

How foolish I was!

This creation, McCall’s 6506, came about due to the confluence of two events: firstly, my dear sewing friend Laney managed to accidentally order the pattern in the wrong size for her… but the right size for me, goddamit! Being the generous soul that I am, I took it off her hands. It still sat in the stash for a while though.. until Mary’s autumn of 1,000 shirt dresses. I mean, look at that lady! I figured I’d give it a whirl.

I indulged in one of the brand new Cotton + Steel offerings – the Moonlit cotton by Rashida Coleman-Hale. It’s really lovely – slightly lighter than quilting cotton but still with some heft, and it softened considerably after pre-washing.
It worked well for the pattern, which is a fairly classic shirtdress design, with a proper collar,  separate button bands, and pleats strategically placed at the front and back but not at the hips. The collar as designed is comically large – unless you’re going for a hardcore 70s look, scaling back is a necessity – I took 1.5 inches off, but may reduce it even more in the future. Unfortunately I messed up by not scaling down the stand accordingly, so the whole thing sits a bit too high on my neck and hits the back of my head…  To stop any gaping I carefully positioned one button at the fullest part of my bust, and I added an internal snap fastening between that button and the one above to secure the gap.
I used a straight 22 with the D cup bodice, and to my delight it fit straight out of the pattern with no FBA! Quite the thing. That said, there’s a weird poofiness at the upper back which isn’t evident in these pictures but is definitely there in real life. It could be because the size is too big, or maybe I need to do something else… take out a tuck from the upper back?  But if I do that, do I have to change the collar stand as well? And if so, how?! So many questions.
 

The pattern generally went together quickly but I have a total mare with the buttonholes. My parents generously gave me a new Bernina 580 for my birthday, and despite lovely features like auto thread cutting and a knee lift presser foot, the buttonhole has been on the fritz since I bought it. I ended up having to get my old Brother out of the cupboard to do them (less pretty buttonholes but at least I *get* buttonholes) after ripping out so many that the placket was getting properly damaged. So much for the “perfect Bernina” reputation… Unfortunately it’s a 3 hour round trip to my Bernina dealer, and I’ve already been once for a “fix” which didn’t work, and now I have to find time to go again. If they can’t fix it this time I’m going to be climbing the walls.

Buttonhole trauma aside, I’m pleased with the end result, although I’m not entirely sure that high-necked (or at least, not scoop-necked), sleeveless garments are the most flattering on me – I feel like they emphasize my top-heaviness. If these photos are to go by, I also have a bit of a hem problem as it appears to be higher at the front than the back, presumably due to my chest hiking the front up. One to fix next time. The skirt is also notably short: I’m 5’6″ but the skirt is clearly a few inches above my knees.
Anyhow, the dress got road tested on my recent trip to Iceland over Labo(u)r Day weekend… such a fun place to go! Only 5 hours by plane from Boston, and it’s like being in a different world, full of volcanos and ethereal blonde men with man-bun hairstyles and large hipster beards. My brother and I thoroughly explored Reykjavik (i.e. ate a lot of Icelandic pastries), including multiple visits to the gorgeous Harpa centre, an architectural marvel of a concert hall (and cafe and restaurant and event space) that’s perched on the harbour front. How could I not take bloggy photos in front of the volcanic stone walls?

And in the honeycomb-like massive windows that overlook the boats… (this was taken furtively while watching for security guards – I’m such a rebel, me)

What’s your verdict on shirtdresses, dear readers? Yay or nay? I’m pretty sure more will be coming my way next spring… Until then, I have winter sewing plans in the works!

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