I'm sure many of you will recognise the pattern as the infamous McCalls 6696 shirtdress which has been taking the sewing blogosphere by storm over the last year or so. I can see why everyone has been raving about it; it's a fantastic pattern and is so enjoyable to put together. The cut is beautiful and it has some gorgeous design details. Not only that but it comes with bodice pattern pieces for different cup sizes and the construction method is spot on. I love the way the insides have turned out, especially with the contrast of the right and wrong sides of this lovely denim!
I've been thinking about making a denim shirtdress for a while now, they keep popping up all over my Pinterest! I think they're a great staple to have in your wardrobe and with changes in styling can work through all seasons. Then I found this beautiful washed denim in Unique Fabrix on Goldhawk Road and my mind was made up! It was so lovely to work with and great for this pattern as the washed quality means it's not too stiff, thick or heavy. I'm very tempted to head back and buy a bit more in a different shade to make myself a little seventies style button up skirt!
I then deliberated over what pattern to use for some time as I already have the Grainline Alder and Colette Hawthorn in my pattern collection but neither of them seemed quite what I was after; I wanted something more fitted than Alder and not quite as feminine and full skirted as the Hawthorne. I then remembered Clare from Sew Dixie Lou's gorgeous chambray version of 6696, decided it was just what I needed in my life and treated myself to the pattern! Boy was that a good decision. It's one of those patterns that as soon as you finish you want to start all over again. It's a good thing I didn't have any other suitable fabric in my stash or I could have disappeared down a shirtdress rabbit hole and the rest of my sewing queue would have gone out thew window!
I made View C, sleeveless with the more fitted skirt. I was so keen to make this dress just perfect that I actually made a muslin of the bodice which is fairly unusual for me! I'm always a bit wary of the amount of ease in the sizing of the big 4 patterns so I measured the flat pattern pieces to work out what size would probably fit best. The envelope suggested a size 12 but my measuring indicated I would be a size 10 maximum so I cut this with the A/B cup (which I also don't understand as that's not my usual size but I followed their measuring guide!). It was a pretty good fit as is. The only change I made was to shorten the bodice by just shy of an inch and the waistband now sits perfectly. Looking at the final dress in photos I think it's a little roomy in the shoulders so next time I'd skim a bit of width off the armholes or possibly even size down to the 8 with a C cup as I could probably stand to loose a bit of ease in the waist too. I like this shape of skirt to finish above the knee on me as I think my frame gets a bit overwhelmed by them being longer so I took 3.5" off the bottom and used 1" for the hem.
The main change I made to the pattern was to remove the gathering from the centre back. I quite like it as a feature in the version with the full skirt but I wanted to keep my straight skirted version streamlined and also felt like the gathering would be too bulky in the denim. To do this I removed a wedge from the centre back of the pattern piece, 3.5" at the top where the back piece joins the yoke, and 6" from the waist seam. One of the things that I really liked about this pattern (which I have to say I miss from a lot of indies) is how clearly aspects like the waistline, centre back and bust points are marked on the pattern pieces. It makes making alterations like this and analysing fit SO much easier. Marking things like this on pattern pieces and muslins is definitely something I will take forward from this project.
Most of the insides end up cleanly finished if you follow the instructions. The only change I made was to complete the yoke using the burrito method rather than slipstitching the inside yoke piece to the shoulder seams as recommended. I finished any visible seam allowances using a light grey thread on my overlocker. It's true what they say about grey thread; it really does blend in with nearly anything and I'm really pleased I bought some cones of it a few weeks ago. While I'm looking at the insides and thinking about it I'm just going to take a moment and say how much I love the angled pockets on this pattern. I might end up using the skirt pieces to make my denim skirt just because I like the pockets so much!
The only aspect I'm not super happy with my finishing on is the collar stand. It's always a tricky element and in this denim it proved even more so. The topstitching worked out great but it was tucking in the seam allowance at the centre front points that proved tricky in the denim. It needed trimming down quite a bit so as not to be too bulky but I ended up with such a small allowance it was really hard to keep it tucked in neatly. As always I used Andrea from Four Square Walls' collar tutorial and trimmed down the interfacing, under collar and inner stand slightly which helped both with bulk and to keep everything sitting correctly.
I chose to use a mid weight fusible cotton interfacing after much deliberation. I was worried about it being too stiff and heavy, particularly on the button plackets where there is a double layer but it's worked out perfectly. I made my own bias binding from the denim to finish the armholes rather than using shop bought and am so happy with how this looks. The buttons came from Goldhawk Silks & Trimmings and were just what I was after; the metal look of a traditional denim shirt dress but still delicate and small. I only needed 9 as I had shortened it beyond the bottom button and omitted the one on the collar stand which I would never use. I had a bit of trouble with the buttonholes because the bulky seam allowance where the band meets the bodice/skirt was pushing the foot off centre but I got there in the end with a bit of unpicking!
As well as being ridiculously pleased with this new addition to my wardrobe I really learnt a lot from the process of making it and enjoyed that too. Despite my usual tendency to plough on ahead with a project because I have such limited time to sew I think I've finally cracked realising just how valuable it is to give myself a bit more time to think about fit and whip up a muslin if necessary. This one took no time at all and even though I barely made any adjustments I can see difference!