So it would seem this is going to be the summer of wearing shirt dresses for me! A couple of months ago the lovely ladies at Sew Over It asked me to test their latest release, the Vintage Shirt Dress. After falling head over heels for their Ultimate Pencil Skirt pattern (I'm still looking for a big vivid floral print to make my third out of!) I jumped at the chance to try this dress. I was also really happy with the way they responded to the tester feedback and how readily they incorporated suggested changes last time and this occasion was no different. As with all their patterns the design is really classic and wearable and features pleats in both the bodice and skirt to give the dress it's shape. I was a little concerned that this style might feel a little too feminine for me as I was keen to make a casual dress and tend not to dress that girly from day to day; but for me personally the skirt has the perfect amount of flare and fullness to avoid feeling over dressed.
I chose the sleeveless version to make a breezy summer dress. I don't own many dresses with anything longer than a short sleeve, I'm not sure why I don't tend to wear them. However, I forget what it was I was watching the other day, but I spotted a stunning navy blue silk shirt dress with three quarter length sleeves which was almost an exact match for this design. I now can't stop thinking about making one in a scrumptious silk moroccan or double crepe...this pattern does eat up a lot of fabric though so I might need to win the lottery first!
As I was testing the pattern sewed up the straight size 8 with no adjustments. The only change I made was to take 1.5" off the length of the skirt and use 1" for the hem to suit my personal length preferences and also my lack of height! I chose the size 8 based on my previous experiences with Sew Over It patterns, despite my measurements falling between the 8 and 10. The finished result doesn't nip in at the waist quite as much as I'd hoped it might so I'd skim an inch or two off of here next time. I should have paid more attention to the finished measurements on the back of the envelope as I would have seen that there is quite a bit of ease included in this area! Other than that I'm really happy with the fit, especially across the shoulders where I often have trouble.
Looking at the side on photo I can see the hem is sitting slightly higher at the front than the back, I think this means I need to look at the length of the front bodice so it's something I'll try and address next time. Getting the waist to fit snuggly will probably help everything sit a little neater too!
I was able to choose my fabric from the Sew Over It online shop and jumped on this Atelier Brunette origami birds cotton lawn. In my quest to make this not too girly I thought this monochrome design was a good choice to give it a bit of edge. I must admit I was a bit rubbish at keeping track of how much yardage I needed for this one but I'd say I used around 2 metres. It's a beautiful quality lightweight cotton that's lovely to sew and wear but I must say I was surprised at how sheer it was when it arrived! I decided that it was going to need lining if I was going to wear it in the sunshine. I used a plain black cotton lawn from Classic Textiles on Goldhawk Road for this, it's of almost exactly the same weight so worked perfectly. The plan was to underline the bodice pieces as that seemed easier than trying to draft lining pieces to work with the facing, then use the lawn as a separate lining in the skirt. However I changed my mind at the last minute and underlined the skirt pieces too to give them a bit more structure and body than the warty quality the two separate layers would have had.
As I had two layers of fabric going on I deliberated for a while about using interfacing on the collar and facing pieces as I didn't want them to end up too thick and stiff. I decided to use the lightest weight interfacing I could get my hands on and am pleased with that choice as it's helped that front placket and buttons sit nice and securely. Now I've got some experience with sewing under my belt I'm fully on board with the appreciation for the difference good quality interfacing makes so for this project I purchased some from Maculloch & Wallis on Poland Street. They had a great selection, all of good quality and this particular one was £4.30/m which I didn't find too unreasonable for a central London supplier.
The buttons are just simple white shirt buttons from my stash. I laid out black ones at first because I wasn't sure that I wanted to make a feature of them but I felt the white ones gave the whole dress a lift and brought out the design. While I'm thinking about buttons Emmie posted a great tip about how she prevented gaping between the buttons at the waistline of her version of this dress. Well worth checking out!
All in all I had a great experience with the test version of this pattern. I had very few comments to make and found the instructions and illustrations to be very clear. You end up with a beautiful clean finish inside too; the armholes are finished with bias tape, the facing is under-stitched and the hem and the facing end up meeting super tidily as you can see above. I think this would be a great project to tackle if you've got some simple garments under your belt and fancy tackling some new techniques like a straightforward collar and buttonholes.
If you've fallen a little bit in love with this pattern I've got some good news for you! Sew Over It have provided me with a copy of the pattern to giveaway to one of you and also a voucher code for a 20% discount off the pattern from their online shop. I've been a bit tardy about getting the photos done for this post so unfortunately the code is only valid until Wednesday 10th June at midnight GMT but there's still time if you get on it quick! Just enter FIONA20VSD at the checkout.
If you would like to enter the giveaway just leave a comment on this post before midnight GMT on Saturday 13th June. Please make sure to leave your email address if it is not easily visible in your profile so I can contact the winner on Sunday. If you'd like to tell me what fabric you'd ideally sew this pattern up in too then I'd love to know! Good luck!