Tutorial in Pictures: The Shirtdress

If you are a certified stitch addict, you must already know one of our not-so-secret little secrets: we don’t always buy or download patterns whenever we want to whip up something amazing. Sometimes, we just open our closets. This is one of those times. For this project, I used a favourite shirt to draft my pattern pieces, with some modifications.

Project: The Shirtdress

You will need:

2 mts 60″ width fashion fabric

8 small buttons

matching thread, tape measure, tailor’s chalk, tracing wheel

Pattern Used: Self-drafted and modified using an old button-down shirt


Step 1. Prepare your pattern pieces.

Using your tracing wheel, trace half of the front and back bodices, collar, and yoke of your old shirt onto paper, as shown on the photos below. Note: Make a 1.5-inch allowance at the center front for the button stand.

Tracing half of the front and back bodice, collar, and yoke

Take a closer look at bottom two photos and note  how the shirt sleeves were positioned  to draft the sleeve block.  (Note: this sleeve drafting short cut is possible on a loose fitting garment like a shirtdress, where armhole measurements need not be precise.)

Drafting the sleeve block

These are the final  pattern pieces:

1. Half of front bodice, 2. Half of back bodice, 3. Half of yoke, 4. sleeve block, 5. half of collar, 6. half of lower collar (I don't know the official name for this)
1. Half of front bodice, 2. Half of back bodice, 3. Half of yoke, 4. sleeve block, 5. half of collar, 6. half of collar stand

Step 2. Transfer your paper pattern to fabric.

Remember that your pattern pieces in halves (1, 2, 3, 5 and 6) should be cut on the fold. From your fashion fabric:

#1 – Cut 1 piece. Further cut this piece in half, vertically, representing two halves of the front bodice.

#2 – Cut 1 piece. This is the back bodice and should remain whole.

#3 – Cut 2 pieces

#4 – Cut 2 pieces

#5 – Cut 2 pieces

#6 – Cut 2 pieces

Fabric pieces draped on a dress form
Fabric pieces draped on a dress form

Step 3. Make the button stand.

On your front bodice pieces, measure 1.5 inch from the center front and draw a line from base of neck down to hem. Fold along this line towards the right side of the fabric, further fold 1/4 inch under, and sew four rows of topstitching.

Making the button hole
Making the button hole

Step 4. Attach the yoke.

Take the back bodice and sandwich the top edge between the two yoke pieces. The outer yoke is visible at the back, the inner yoke is visible from the front and usually bears the brand name. With right sides together, attach one piece of your front bodice to the outer yoke at the shoulders. Stitch the inner yoke over this seam. Repeat these steps to attach the second piece of front bodice.Please refer to the photos below as guide.

Attaching the yoke
Attaching the yoke

Step 5. Attach the collar stand and collar.

The collar stand is the base on which the actual collar is attached. It gives definition to the collar by helping it stand out more (literally) and is used in making traditional buttoned-down shirts. There are two ways of doing this: either you stitch the collar to  the collar stand before attaching the whole thing to the neckline or you attach the collar stand to the neckline first then stitch in the collar to the stand. The former is the easier of the two, if only for the lesser amount of fabric maneuvering involved . Of course, as this is my first time doing this whole collar-stand-collar affair, I chose to do it the hard way. Lucky for you, I came across this detailed tutorial which will spare you my troubles.

The troublesome collar-stand-collar affair
The troublesome collar-stand-collar affair: counterclockwise from top left: Attaching the collar stand to the neckline, attaching the collar to the collar stand, closing the seam

Step 6. Button and buttonholes.

With the collar in place, you can now attach you buttons to the button stand. Start by marking equidistant points along the stand where each button will go. Stitch the buttons in place. On the opposite side, mark corresponding points for the buttonholes. Use the buttonhole feature in your sewing machine to make the buttonhole stitch. If your sewing machine doesn’t have this feature, use the zigzag stitch in  the tightest setting to recreate the stitch. Use a sharp, pointed blade or a seam ripper to make the actual holes.

Of buttons and buttonholes
Of buttons and buttonholes

Step 7. Make the pockets.

This is an optional step. I just thought pockets are a charming addition. If you’re interested, this is how I made mine.

Making the pocket
Making the pocket – make two of these pleated babies, and cut two back pieces according to size.
How I made them pockets
Clockwise from top left: With right sides together, stitch the front pocket piece to the back piece, leaving a gap at the bottom for turning over; Turn pockets right side out ; Using the same technique, make rectangular flaps with buttonholes; Attach buttons to the pockets, corresponding to the holes.

Step 8. Attach the sleeves.

Match the center of the sleeve crown to the shoulder seam, pin and stitch the sleeve to the armhole. Note that at this time, the side seams of the garment are still open, making it easier to attach the sleeves. Note further that this technique is more practical with loose fitting garments where armhole and armscye measurements are not as precise.

Attaching the sleeves
Attaching the sleeves

Now we can close the underside of the sleeves and the side seams of the garment in one go.

Closing the sleeves and side seams
Closing the sleeves and side seams

Step 9. Hem the sleeves.

To hem the sleeves, I used this quick (genius) technique from this minefield of a book: 10.20.30 Minutes to Sew by Nancy Zieman. The image below was lifted entirely from the book:

Hemming technique
Hemming technique, Left to right: Fold once up, fold twice, stitch at the bottom making sure to catch the edge of the first fold, turn the sleeve right side out as shown.

Step 10. Now all that’s left to do is hem the garment. A simple folding technique will do.

Ta da!

The finished shirtdress in khaki Irish Linen with pocket details and slightly oversized collar
The finished shirtdress in khaki Irish Linen with pocket details and slightly oversized collar

Hope this inspires you to make one!

Happy stitching!



One thought on “Tutorial in Pictures: The Shirtdress

  1. Thank you so much. So detailed and easy to understand….
    I totally understand about Patience as a virtue. Lol

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