The Dress Shirt

If you thought I was done with the Summer of Dresses because it’s now pretty much autumn (in my hemisphere, anyway), then you were wrong. I should call it Lifetime of Dresses probably. My next project also happens to be a dress. And oh, what a dress she is. The pattern is the Dress Shirt by Merchant and Mills. The fabric is the 2″ Carolina Gingham by Robert Kaufman in black and white. (I purchased both at Harmony Provo, a little jewel of a local shop.)¬† And the feeling is true love.

The Dress Shirt

Merchant and Mills classifies the Dress Shirt as a beginner pattern. While I think any confident and spunky beginner could definitely make this dress, there are a few parts that require extra time and care. The hardest part is the bib front and the bib lining. It’s just a big curve to sew and you’ll want to go slowly and make sure everything is lined up properly.

Side note: It’s called the Dress Shirt. But it’s a dress, and not a shirt, so I kept calling it the Shirt Dress. But then I was like…”That doesn’t sound right. (insert checking of the pattern yet again) Oh yeah. It’s the Dress Shirt. But wait, it’s not a shirt, it’s a dress….” and repeat. I’m insane probably, right? Yeah…

The Dress Shirt

I set myself extra challenges with this huge plaid print (which is so gorgeous I could kiss it on the mouth, by the way). It’s large enough and simple enough that it’s easy to see where you need to match, buuuuut that also makes it more noticeable when it doesn’t. So I had to give all that plaid matching a little more time. I decided to do the bib front and the back yoke on the bias for design purposes, but I cut the corresponding lining pieces on the straight grain to stabilize the bias pieces. My plaid doesn’t match everywhere, but I was pretty darn proud of my plaid matching on the front piece. I cut the sleeves identically on the plaid and the back yoke and all my pleats are fairly centered, which was no small feat.

The Dress Shirt, detail

This dress has a very loose, relaxed fit which makes it extremely comfortable to wear. I always have to be careful with these silhouettes though, because they can be a bit unflattering on me. I’m on the petite side and also pretty curvy, so I’ve gotta be careful with clothes that have volume. The first thing I did was make I chose a fabric that wasn’t too heavy. The Kaufman gingham is 100% cotton but really soft, light, and not stiff at all. I would stay away from anything super heavy, unless you’re tiny and can pull off the extra volume and boxy shape.

The Dress Shirt

The original pattern features a box pleat at the center under the bib front. For this version, I chose to invert the pleat so the fabric would move inward, for a more streamlined and flattering shape. The back of the dress is also gathered in the original pattern, and I instead sewed another inverted box pleat for the same reason. It took a little volume out of the dress and the pleats were just really well suited to the plaid print.¬†This dress has a fabulous curved hem which gives it a beautiful shape but I added extra length by grading to the largest size at the very bottom so it wouldn’t be too short on the sides.

The Dress Shirt

Oh, and I added pockets, because duh. I always add pockets to my dresses if they don’t have them. Dresses always ought to have pockets if they possibly can.

The Dress Shirt

Seriously though, this dress makes me feel things. Happy things. I’m planning to live in it ALL YEAR LONG! I strategically chose the print, colors, and short sleeve so it works all year, because I knew I would love it so much. With tights, boots, and a cardigan, it will be perfect this fall and winter. Come next spring and summer, I can throw it on with sandals and be golden. Three cheers for the Dress Shirt!

P.S. My gorgeous friend Rachel took these fab photos for me. She sews, has an adorable Etsy shop, and is an awesome photographer, so check out her page over at Little Fish! A few of us seamstresses got together to take photos in the city (SO FUN). Made a nice change from my backyard, eh?

Summer of Dresses: the Tea House Dress

So maybe it’s not summer anymore? But it’s Indian Summer where I live, so I say the Summer of Dresses lives on! And this dress deserves its praises to be sung, you guys. I had originally intended to post about tons of dresses (a Summer of Dresses sounds like it has a lot of dresses involved), but you know, I moved. Instead I’ve been putting a lot of my heart and soul into working on my 1920s cottage. That old lady is high maintenance, I tell you.

Speaking of vintage treasures, I’ve got this new dress to show you. It’s the Tea House Dress pattern, by Sew House 7, and it’s got this 1930s day dress feel about it that I’m really in to these days. This dress was the very first project I made in my new (er, old) home. The Tea House Dress is what gave me back my sewjo, or “sewing mojo,” if you like. I was a little bit nervous about how this silhouette would look on me, but I don’t even care if it doesn’t look good. It FEELS good, and that’s good enough for me.

My Tea House Dress was crafted from Cotton and Steel’s lovely gingham in their Checkered collection. I scored some of this pretty medium gray on clearance at a local quilt shop and thought it would be just perfect for a dress in the last days of summer. You’ll notice that some of my pieces were cut on the bias; I wish I’d had enough to do the front yoke as well, but I squeezed every last bit of fabric out of the three yards that I had.

The nice thing about this pattern is that the fit is very forgiving, as it’s meant to be relaxed and it ties at the waist. If you love dress making but dread complicated fitting issues, this dress is a good bet. I didn’t have to muslin and I love the fit of my dress.

Sew House 7 classifies the Tea House Dress as an intermediate pattern, and I’d agree, but only because there are more pattern pieces than a basic dress would have, and you’re dealing with facings and things. That was the hardest part for me, stitching the facings in correctly. But the pattern is extremely well written with very clear directions, so as long as you follow the pattern, you’ll do just fine. It’s a good “intermediate” pattern to try if you feel like you might be a beginner but want something a little more challenging. No zippers or buttons, so that’s always nice.

You guys, I was not expecting to love this dress as much as I do. It’s like a prairie gingham dream, I tell you. I wore it to a concert with my sister Chloe (check her out on Etsy!) at the most beautiful venue that we have in Salt Lake City. (It was the Decemberists at Red Butte Garden, if you care about all the intricacies. Prettiest venue, one of my favorite bands of ever, and a lovely time to debut my new dress.) As we walked on the trail into the concert area I picked a wild sunflower and put it in my hair, because it just felt right, you know? This dress has summer magic.

I shook my quilt out on the grass and as I sat down, this girl in front of me said “You look like a dream in your gingham dress with your braid and flowers in your hair.” Then my sweet sister said “She made that dress herself! Last night!” and I confess it was a nice feeling when the girl and the surrounding people further marveled at my hard work. It’s nice to get compliments, isn’t it? And it’s even nicer to give them. It made me want to go about my life complimenting strangers because I think if more people did that, there would be more good vibes and less horribleness in the world.

But anyway, the Tea House Dress is true love.

I don’t have any photographic proof, but I wore this dress three times the first week I made it, and I got SO MANY COMPLIMENTS on it everywhere I went. Like, more compliments than I ever get on any of the clothes I make. It’s a special dress, I tell you, and only good things happen when I wear it (except for the fact that I spilled buffalo sauce on it, but I sprayed it and that mess came out, thank heavens.).

Make yourself a Tea House Dress (I’ve already made a second!) and please hop over to my lovely friend Nicole’s blog to see her Tea House Dress. It’s too good to miss and she has some great things to say about it as well. And maybe go out and compliment someone today. It’ll make more than one person feel happy.

Happy sewing, loves!