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.
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…
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.
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 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.
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.
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?