Sew Over It Vintage Shirt Dress

Sew Over It Vintage Shirt Dress Collage

The Sew Over It Vintage Shirt Dress was nearly my New Year’s Eve dress. Then I recognised the ridiculousness of a self-set deadline and put this to one side. Didn’t I already have a wardrobe full of dresses waiting to be worn? Why sweat over a sewing machine when I could be popping a cork?

Instead, I climbed into one of my successful makes of 2015 – a 1960s pattern that has proved to be wearable beyond belief:

Vintage Vogue CollageBut back to the vintage dress in question. It’s made from a polyester something bought from Oxford Street John Lewis at £12.99 a metre. I can’t recommend this fabric enough. It’s warm to the touch, submitted to a 40 degree wash, benefits from a press, yet barely creases with wear. Plus, the print suited the pattern. The holy grail of fabric?

dress bodice

In terms of construction, I lengthened the skirt pieces by two inches and … that’s it. I cut true to my size. This pattern is known for being roomy in the waist and I’d urge you not to second guess that drafting. There’s a reason shirt dresses have loose waists. They allow you to sit down without buttons straining. Don’t judge a dress by how it looks in blog photos; judge when you gaze at your own navel after eating a large meal. Fitting ease is there for a reason.

Because I chose to work with a synthetic, drapey fabric I needed to pay careful attention to skirt hem trimming and stitching. The dress hung a lot lower at the rear. I also learned that trimming a back bodice does not by default necessitate the trimming of a front bodice. Particularly, when you have a sizeable chest. (Oh, how I now laugh in the face of all the teenage boys who once laughed in my face. If only they’d been looking at my face back then.)

But mostly, I judge this dress by how it’s performed after I made it. It stood up to a relaxed afternoon, sipping wine with friends. I never found myself tugging on the front, wriggling in my seat or sitting extra ram rod straight.

The dress also stood up to reinterpretation of its original era, teaming well with my Converse, to channel that early 1990s combo of sun dresses and Dr Martens.Converse CollageI like this dress. Do you? Actually, scrap that. I LOVE this dress. Isn’t that what’s sewing all about?

vintage button

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49 Responses to Sew Over It Vintage Shirt Dress

  1. Kate says:

    Super beautiful sewing on advanced level and I simply love design of your page.

  2. Linda Wilson says:

    I love this pattern, and I’ve enjoyed hacking it several times! I don’t often wear dresses, but the pattern makes a lovely jacket too!

  3. Jane says:

    This is lovely Karen! I have some viscose-y fabric that I was planning to turn into a shirt dress but couldn’t decide on a pattern, seeing this dress has made up my mind! Happy New Year my friend. x

  4. Caroline says:

    Such a lovely dress! Love the pretty pattern. Glad it fits so well!

  5. sewbusylizzy says:

    110% agree. Who doesn’t want comfortable clothes for living in?
    I think when we learn to sew we are driven by different motivations and are more easily influenced – or perhaps distracted.
    Perhaps sewing is like growing up, at some point you get comfortable in your own ‘sewing skin’ and embrace your own look – and how that works with your lifestyle.
    You don’t need your blog readers’ stamp of approval (although that’s always nice!) because you can give yourself one!

  6. madformod says:

    What a lovely fabric!! The dress is really great and fits very well 😊

  7. notsewsimple says:

    I have this fabric and hadn’t quite decided what to do with it – I may have to shamelessly copy your shirt dress! It’s a perfect match for the fabric.


  8. Louise says:

    Love this dress on! Tempting me to make one too!

  9. Elle says:

    You have a great skill in matching fabric to pattern, and in sewing garments that suit you wonderfully. Well done!

  10. Jeanette says:

    That is one gorgeous dress, the pattern and the fabric.

  11. Melody A. says:

    It is a beautiful dress that looks fantastic on you. Love the fabric!

  12. rillafree says:

    I’m definitely on team shirt dress! I made this pattern for my Christmas Day dress and the ease is just perfect. I can’t bear too fitted at the waist with my current softness around the middle and this just skimmed over it. Can’t say enough good things about this pattern 🙂

  13. ooobop says:

    Perfect bit of matching fabric to pattern. It suits you so much, Karen. And I can just imagine how lovely it feels 🙂

  14. Natalie says:

    Love this fabric! This pattern is on my ‘to buy’ list too 😀

  15. Ok I really need to get this pattern! Your version is so lovely

  16. “Don’t judge a dress by how it looks in blog photos; judge when you gaze at your own navel after eating a large meal. Fitting ease is there for a reason.” <–THIS! Sadly, this is a hard concept for me in practice, I don't know why. Great dress, and sounds like it will be perfect for so many occasions. 🙂

  17. mrscraftyb says:

    I’m looking forward to getting to a stage of sewing myself an item of clothing! Love the shirt dress.

  18. Jo says:

    I bloody love both of them! You look stunning!

  19. Jen (NY) says:

    Two really lovely dresses & nice button choice too!

  20. ellegeemakes says:

    Love that fabric – – great shirtdress and it looks great on you!

  21. Pretty sure this fabric was made for this dress!!! Love it! I also really loved your post on ablogogising! Makes s lot of sense, I don’t believe in beating myself up because of my flaws!


  22. Mags says:

    Love your dress. I’ve wanted to try it but been a bit concerned about the poof (is that a word) at the top of the sleeves, yours looks great though. Great choice of fabric.

  23. rosemary says:

    Brilliant dress! I agree that finding a fabric pattern that ‘fits’ your sewing pattern is often when makes it! Love the dress it fits/suits you wonderfully!

  24. Colesworth says:

    I love the fabric you picked. I’ve just cut out one of these and I’m really enjoying sewing it up – Happy new year ;o)

  25. Wow, I adore this dress. What a fabulous marriage of pattern and fabric, especially that fabric. That’s the thing when you do get some confidence sewing that you stop overfitting everything. I know exactly where you are coming from about seeing your navel after dinner. I had a button front RTW pencil skirt once. For the sake of decency I will leave it at that. 🙂 Xx

  26. vintage51 says:

    Reblogged this on and commented:
    Absolutely love this fabric, it is so awesome sewn into this pattern. Beautifully done.

  27. Looks like an amazing dress, think you have just convinced me to buy the pattern. But a quick question. My bust size is small so will fit the smaller size, my tum is 28 inches so will also fit into the finished measurements of the small size (31 inches) would you suggest I grade up at the waist?

    • It’s difficult to give an answer when I don’t have all your body measurements and don’t know which size you’re referring to by ‘smaller’. According to the pattern, a 28 inch waist would mean cutting out a size 10. The pattern design is quite forgiving around the bust area – gathers at the shoulder means that you’re not reliant on an uber-fitted upper torso. So maybe cut out a size 10?

  28. Looks great – I had to lengthen mine too. Would like to see it teamed with your converses.

  29. gingerella says:

    That fabric is gorgeous! Definitely a good fit for the dress and what a bonus if it’s lovely to wear too! Great make. I want to try the pattern too as I’ve seen so many wonderful versions, including this one.

  30. redsilvia says:

    Oh I adore this! You did indeed find the perfect fabric for the pattern. Excellent make.

    Ah, docs and sundresses were my uniform. How I miss those days.

  31. PsychicKathleen says:

    I love this dress too. I remember wearing shirt dresses back in the late ’60’s/early ’70’s and they always looked great. You did an amazing job – the dress is gorgeous and a great reminder that shirt dresses can be dressy too depending on the fabric you use 🙂

  32. I love the dress, the flowery pattern on the fabric and the pattern you cut. It suits you, renders you beautiful and it seems so versatile! Polyester is not for me either, though… I am too ecoconscious, and plastic does not wear well over my skin, in spite of its obvious advantages. A rendition of the pattern in a Liberty cotton would be lovely!

    • I was surprised when the label told me it was polyester. Agreed – this would be lovely in a Liberty tana lawn. It takes up a lot of fabric, though, so that would be quite the investment.

  33. Katrin says:

    I love both the dresses shown in this blog – very elegant and a good choice for New Year’s Eve. I hope you had a great start and wish you all the best for 2016.

  34. norma says:

    Love your dress – and the one you wore for New Year’s Eve. Fab!

  35. That pattern is on my hit list but first I want to try a vintage shirt dress pattern I have and if that is a no goer I am buying this one – sounds painful doesn’t it? But who wouldn’t think a non printed plain paper pattern for a teeny button up collared tennis dress won’t morph into a great shirt dress with a bit on length added?????

  36. symondezyn says:

    I’m really glad you posted this because I’ve been eyeballing this pattern and am glad to hear that it’s well drafted. Your dress is lovely – the fabric print is a really good match to the style and keeps it looking modern 🙂 Very good advice on the wearing ease – there’s nothing worse than adjusting size to your dressform or even a standing fit, and then remembering too late that sitting expands things! LOL ^_^

  37. That’s a lovely pattern and good choice on the dress! I must admit I fell victim to “trying to be more skinny” than I really am when cutting patterns just because it looked so good in the cover but ended up popping buttons everywhere! Shirt dresses are one of my favorites because it hides the bulge but keeps me “girly”.

  38. Lovely dress. I recently added this pattern to my collection. I’ve seen so many great versions of it

  39. Lovely fabric, an excellent choice for that dress!

  40. Patricia Ferrito says:

    Like the shirt dress, but love the dress from the vintage Vogue. Where did you find the pattern? I have looked online here in the states and can’t find it. I may have to do a pattern hack and come up with it myself. The bodice with the foldover, I can copy. But the detail in the skirt- maybe not. I think it would still look nice with a plain skirt. Wish it was warm enough here to wear any dress.

  41. char says:

    What a lovely pair of dresses. I often set myself targets to get dresses finished by, and then sometimes wonder why I put so much pressure on myself.

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  45. I love this!! The dresses are beautiful!!

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