[Thank you, Joan Didion. In your spirit (or, as an affront to it), I did not proofread this.]
I remember exactly when my shirtwaist dress obsession started. It wasn’t with Betty Draper. Indeed, it was with a three-year-old.
A really flipping creepy-looking three-year-old, at that. The Purl Bee did a now-missing post and used Liberty Fairy Clock to make a shirtwaist dress, maybe seven years ago, and I thought, “I could get on board with that.” Then I went on a mad search for a similar dress for adults and found. . .nil. I found 30″-bust vintage patterns and Big-Four patterns sans collar stands. When I caught wind of Colette releasing the Hawthorn I got super excited, but was a little (okay, more than a little) disappointed by how non-traditional it was. Then, my ship came sailing in. M6696. The Platonic ideal. My east and my west. The alpha and omega. Since then, I think we’ve been living in the golden age of the shirtwaist dress. Mary hosted the Autumn/Spring of 1000 Shirtdresses, and every time I turn around, there’s a pattern release with MOAR SHIRTDRESSES. Hallelujah.
So, when Wendy from Coser Cosas asked for recommendations, I had no choice put to shamelessly parlay it into a blogpost. You’re welcome, everyone.
I’ve arbitrarily divided things up into three categories, because I have to get up at the crack of dawn, and this is just the way I roll. Deal with it. The first is waist definition. Since I am currently doing the whole “post-surgical schmatta” thing, waist-defining dresses actually have become an independent category for me. The horror and shame, I know. Let’s talk starting from top left and moving counter-clockwise, shall we?
McCall 6891 – Everything I used to hate about shirtwaist dresses. Circle skirt and no placket and no collar band. No thanks! But, now that I have that beautiful little blue number on the bottom left, I can see the appeal of the 6891, and have bumped it up in the old queue.
Colette Hawthorn – SEW THE COLLAR WITH A 1/4″ SEAM ALLOWANCE. I don’t know if the instructions have been corrected yet, but sweet baby james, I almost pitched mine into the nearest ravine when I realized that error. Ahem. Other than that, I am rather smitten with this dress. I have PTSD from it, and have yet to sew another one, but I am jonesing for a navy iteration with brass buttons. We shall see.
Butterick 6090 – Is this a shirtwaist dress? Is it not a shirtwaist dress? You know what this is? My rodeo, and it is what I say it is. I’m saying it’s a shawl-collared shirtwaist dress. So there. I think this is one of the more interesting offerings I’ve seen on deck, but I need a good sacrificial lamb to make it up before I take the plunge.* Anyone? You, madam, in the back?
Pauline Alice Camí – So, if this dress were out four years ago, I would have lost. my. wits. It is pretty fabulous, though I haven’t seen many of them floating around. Waddup, shirtwaist lovers? Why y’all not making these up? While we’re on the subject, I’m thinking about just lengthening a Carme blouse into a dress, as if I’m the sort of person who can get away with that sort of look. Let’s just call it youth, for now.
Vogue 9077 – First off, I am endlessly amused by the fact that BMV use real fabrics for their stylized technical drawings. This guy? Was available on Fabric Mart, but snatched up right from underneath me before the sale. Curses! Anyhoodle, isn’t this a more adult version of a shirtwaist dress? I can’t decide whether or not I’ll look as if I pocketed this from my mother, though.
McCall 6696 – I almost don’t even want to link to this one. How many have I made thus far? Three or four real deals, seven muslins through two sizes, one full version in voile lining. I love this dress.
The second category is a bit misleading. It’s non-traditional. Which is to say, stuff that I couldn’t shoehorn in elsewhere.
Simplicity 2215 – My school has a truly daft song that we sing for special occasions called “How Long’s It Been?” But, really, S2215, how long’s it been? I’ve loved and used this pattern for at least five years, I’d wager. Those asymmetric pleats ruined me for others. I’ve never made up the full dress version, though. Pity. I should.
Merchant and Mills Dress Shirt – I just bought this! Shall report back to HQ on how it goes as soon as I muslin it. We need to have an M&M discussion, though. I just muslined the Dea dress, it is one of the most stunning and body-complimenting things I’ve ever sewn, and yet almost no one ever makes them. I am an official fan girl convert. Plus, no zippers! One size! Cardstock! Exclamation point!
Grainline Alder – Show of hands, who among you has not made an Alder? Yes, my count is hovering around a dozen. Dozen and a half. It is a popular pattern for a reason. I thought I’d look dreadful in it, but I actually like the way I look. Gina from Feminist Stitch loves the second view, I can vouch for the first. I realized too late I messed up the interfacing on my really lovely silk, but I’m sure I’ll figure out a way around that. Optimism, etc. Where were we, before we started talking about me? Yes. The pattern. If you don’t mess up royally, I’m sure you’ll love it in any view.
Simplicity 1755 – This isn’t a shirtwaist dress! It’s not the messiah, it’s just a very naughty boy! Fine. This one barely makes it in under the wire, but I quite like Leannimal, so I had to include it. Plus, I’ve been looking for any excuse at all to make it up, and have come up with nil. Nada. Nunca. This is one of the few, “That’s just not my life, bro” patterns that exist. Even the Brooklyn art teacher patterns from Marcy Tilton can squeeze it in, should they choose. But, I maintain hope. If you live a more fabulous life than I, then this is the shirtwaist for you.
Princess seams are the last categories. First, we should review my method for doing an FBA on a princess seam. First, I use Mary or Alana’s FBA tutorial, which I am too lazy to find and link. Then, I invariably end up smashing down the 3D piece with my flat palm. Having an eff bee is not a pleasant life experience, it seems. But, these dresses make up for it. Sometimes.
Butterick 6091 – Collar stand, covered placket, seams that release themselves out into pleats in a way that I cannot explain. Can you say skill builder? I sound like I’m advertising for it. Now we know I’m getting sleepy. These are going to get shorter. No one on PR has made this one, though. Really, Pattern Review community. How am I supposed to free ride if none of you offer a ride?!
McCall 7084 – This fabric again. Princess seam dress with a v-neck and an A-line skirt. Seems legit.
Deer and Doe I-Passed-French-Proficiency-But-Misspelled-Bleuet-Dress – I’m going to sleep. What Anna said.
*There’s a really good Ezra Pound poem called “The Plunge.” I mention this because it might inspire you to take the plunge and make up this stupid bloody dress for me.