During Ramona’s nap yesterday, I finally sat down & cut out the famous McCall’s 6696 shirtdress. It’s one of the first patterns I bought after I started sewing three years ago, & it has just languished in my stash ever since. I considered tackling it in the fall of 2014 when Mary from the Idle Fancy blog did her “Autumn of 1000 Shirtdresses” series. It seems like every other person in the English-speaking world in possession of a sewing machine made one then. But I just didn’t do it. I guess I was too busy making capes for Ramona & sewing pajama pants. & I was scared of all those tiny buttonholes.
I’m kind of glad I waited, because it’s given me the time to think about what I really want to do with the pattern, & to develop my skills to the point that I can at least attempt to make it happen. My initial impulse was to go with view B as drafted: short sleeves, full pleated skirt with side-seam pockets. The line drawing is cute & the vast majority of finished dresses I’ve seen online look great. (PS–That last link is actually to the sleeveless version but it’s so good! That border print!)
But that dress requires four yards of fabric (in the largest sizes), which is an awful lot. Especially given all the poofiness from the gathers in the back bodice, & all the pleats, which are features I don’t particularly like in garments I actually wear. I always like the idea of pleats but I never like the reality on my body. I thought about converting them to gathers, but…I don’t like gathers either. I also prefer the look of shirtdresses with button plackets on the bodice only. I don’t like buttons on the skirt. & I am developing a pronounced preference for side front pockets as opposed to side seam pockets. I feel like side seam pockets always pull open a little bit, even when the garment fits perfectly.
I considered other shirtdress patterns but none of them had all the elements I wanted. M7351 has the flat skirt waist I want, but side-seam pockets & the full button placket. M7314 is the half-shirtdress I want, but the waist is gathered & elasticized (!?!) & again with the side-seam pockets. B6333 has princess seams (love!), but also pleats, side-seam pockets, & a full placket.
So, any dress I made was going to need some alterations to have the features I wanted. I realized that the straight skirt version of M6696 (which I hadn’t even looked at because I don’t do straight skirts) has the side front pockets I wanted. It’s shaped at the waist with two darts each, front & back. It occurred to me that I could rotate the darts into the hem & get the flat waist & pockets I wanted, as well as the fullness in the skirt! I also slashed 1.5″ off the middle of the back to mitigate some of the poofiness there (there will still be some gathering, because I don’t want the bodice to be completely fitted) & lined the placket up with the front of the bodice & cut it off at the waistband. I cut 5/8″ off the center of the front skirt pattern piece & will cut it on the fold to make it one piece. I carefully measured the skirt waistline & the waistband to make sure they were the same size.
I didn’t cut any length off the bodice (half-shirtdresses tend to have slightly higher waists than full shirtdresses) because bodices tend to be a little short on me out of the envelope anyway. I decided to just chance it & see where it falls. I’m also going to leave a side seam open for a possible zipper, but if I can fit the dress over my head without one, I won’t bother with it. I mean, obviously. I have a couple of RTW shirtdresses with zippers & I never use them, so we’ll see if it’s necessary.
The best part of all is that these changes enable me to eke the dress out of just under 3 yards of fabric! I occasionally buy fabrics I think I might like to sew garments from even if I don’t have a specific plan, & I usually buy in three-yard lengths, so this is great! I haven’t cut my fabric yet, but I laid everything out last night to make sure it would fit & it worked out perfectly.
Obviously it remains to be seen how well this is going to work in practice, but I’m stoked that I took the initiative to make the changes I wanted instead of just sewing a dress that I knew had elements I didn’t love. I’m planning to sew it up in the blue strawberry print from Tasha Noel’s Vintage Market line, & if it pans out, expect to see Ciara’s Spring/Summer of 1000 Shirtdresses. I know I said in my jeans post that I don’t wear dresses often, but I definitely do when it’s hot, & it tends to be desperately hot in Kansas at least four months out of the year.
Also…Jared is presenting at a conference next weekend. In Wisconsin. Which means that I’ll be flying solo with Ramona for four days. Obviously I’ve done it before, it’s not that big a deal, but still…It’s always my preference to have a co-parent on hand. I’m trying to brainstorm fun things for us to do. Special meals, maybe a weekend playdate, maybe a trip to the indoor pool. If anyone has any good recommendations for movies for a three-year-old that don’t feature a lot of cross-branded characters, I am all ears.