A nautical shirtdress!

Nautical Shirtdress

I love shirtdresses. Since I’ve been able to sew, I’ve always wanted to make one, but was put off by all the tricky details, like topstitching, and oh all those buttons. Then Mary over at Idle Fancy launched the ‘Autumn of 1000 shirtdresses’ back in October, and after seeing so many beauties, it made me think that maybe, just maybe I could have a go. I had to prioritise my Christmas Sewing first, then the New Year got into full swing and my sewing schedule filled up so I decided to wait until I was a little less busy before embarking on one!

A few weeks ago, I was having a little potter around Darn It & Stitch, my local haberdashery in Oxford, and saw this gorgeous Robert Kaufman chambray. I knew it would make a gorgeous version of McCall’s M6696, which I’d bought on sale in March. I managed to resist it at the time, but a few days later I caved in and sent them an email to see if they still had it in stock… the lovely Makiko agreed to hold a length for me until the weekend!


As you would expect from RK chambray, it’s lovely quality, smooth and soft! It’s got a softer hand than the other chambrays in the same range (several of which are currently sitting in my stash, awaiting the perfect pattern…). I bought 2.25m originally, which is exactly what it said on the back of the pattern. However, when it came to laying out all the pieces ready for cutting… it didn’t fit! I think it must have shrunk a lot in the wash – a testament to why it’s so important to wash your fabric before you make up your garment! (NOTE: Actually, when I looked it up online, it’s listed as being 56″ wide rather than 60″, so that might also have accounted for the difference!)

I measured the length of the skirt, as I often take a few inches off before hemming (I’m only 5’4). I decided to chop off 3” from the skirt pattern before cutting my fabric. After doing this, I managed to fit everything… except when it came to the waistband. Because of the direction of the print, I knew I would have to cut it on the cross grain, not the grain as the pattern suggests. So off I went back to D&S to get an additional long quarter of the fabric. I also picked up some matching buttons. I’ve made a mental note that next time I make this pattern, I’ll get 2.5m fabric to be on the safe side!

Luckily, the drama of cutting this dress out didn’t continue into construction! It went together very smoothly. Rather than slipstitching everything, I followed Mary’s lead, and topstitched where possible. My topstitching is getting better, but still needs work. I have to say though, I’m mightily chuffed with how this dress turned out!

A close up of the button band and pleats.
A close up of the button band and pleats. Look at the topstitching! The button at the waist has been lowered so I can wear this comfortably with a belt.

I used Andrea’s tutorial for a shirt collar, as I thought it made a little more sense to me than the ‘conventional’ method. It worked perfectly first time!! The yoke was attached flat, rather than rolling it into a burrito – I’m afraid I haven’t quite got my head around the burrito method, and found that putting it in flat worked just fine!

Close up of collar
Close up of collar

I had half-made the dress before I went to visit my parents in Yorkshire for the Easter weekend. I decided it would be an excellent opportunity to finish my dress by acquainting myself with my mum’s shiny new Janome 8200. It was really fun to use a different machine, and see all the options it has compared to my trusty old Bernina 801. Although I didn’t use any fancy stitches this time, I am certainly going to be making the most of them at some point! The main thing I wanted to use was the automatic buttonhole setting, as my Bernina has a 6-step buttonhole which takes a lot of work, practice, sweat and tears to come out right. Just take a look at these beauties that the Janome makes – I was seriously impressed.

Buttonhole – bang in the middle of the anchor 🙂

Pattern: McCall’s M6696 Ladies/ Misses shirtdress, view B (with belt loops from A) Size 12, C-cup pattern

Fitting: -I couldn’t honestly be bothered sewing a toile (I know, I know), but did a quick tissue fit (following the Palmer/ Pletsch method in ‘Fit for Real People’) before cutting to see if there were going to be any horrible issues. There weren’t!! I’m pretty happy with how it fits, but I’ll wear the dress for a day before deciding on any changes.

Overall changes:
-Shortened skirt length by 3”
-Shortened bodice length by 1”
-Reduced back gathering by 1” (I found it too puffy on me before that)
-Sewed sleeve with 3/8” seam allowance to give me more space in the arm/ shoulder.
-Finished hem with bias binding slip-stitched into place. I did this after adding the button band as I wanted to see the overall dress before deciding on the length.

Back gathering - with 1" fullness removed.
Back gathering – with 1″ fullness removed.

Problems? The only problem I encountered was that the band came up about 1 1/2 inches short when sewn to the bodice and skirt. I wonder if this is because it was cut on the cross grain, as I haven’t seen anyone else mention this. I fudged attaching the button bands a bit, so it came out alright in the end! I’d add 2” to the length of the waistband next time, just in case!

2.5m Fabric: £38.75
Pattern: £4
Thread, interfacing: £3.50
11 Buttons: £2.20
Total: £48.45

All in all, I’m delighted with this dress, and it’s made me realise how much my sewing has come on in the last few months. Now I just need to restrain myself from making ONLY shirtdresses!

Here's one of me looking at the neighbour's trees
Here’s one of me looking at the neighbour’s trees. This is before I hemmed the dress – that’s why you can see the pins in the hem. Whoops.