Orange gingham dress

While I’m still due an update on the cheongsam toile that is now at risk of becoming a UFO, I finally completed my very first official make: an adorable self-drafted gingham midi dress.

Here I am wearing it, posing, awkward but proud, in front of the giant mess I made making it:

The orange gingham fabric came from Fabricland in Bristol – a cheapie poly x cotton mix that nevertheless feels quite lovely and light against the skin. In fact it it feels comfy enough that I decided not to line it at all and just wear a slip if I really must. It’s meant to be a breezy summer dress after all! I love the orange colour and I’ll probably buy a few more meters for a proper shirt!


Like I mentioned, once again I didn’t bother using a pattern. Pfah! I can totally do this sewing shizz myself! Who needs patterns anyway!

I whipped out my trusty sloper and began drafting from there. It’s a very simple dress really – all it needed was some dart manipulation on the bodice, stand-up collars, plackets, and a tiny bit of maths for the pleated skirt.

Here’s what the bodice pattern looked like after I rotated the shoulder and armhole darts away. I chose to ignore the waist dart to allow for room for eventual food babies. Also, because I didn’t want to disrupt the gingham pattern in such a visible spot.

shirtdress bodice from sloperThe teal lines show where I traced: simples right?

To draft the stand collar (my first!) I followed Em’s tutorial for drafting a shirt collar from sketch — which I can highly recommend. She also has a button placket drafting tutorial too so if you’re making a shirt/dress, she has you covered.

After some false starts I figured I would make the button placket extend below the waist and almost to the hip line — it felt pointless adding a zip at the side when the shirt top already opened all the way down the middle.

This is where i ran into some trouble though as I didn’t really think through the order of construction. I should have finished the waist seam first before stitching the placket on, that would have resulted in much less awkwardness and neater finish for sure. ¯\_()_/¯ Will know better next time.

Constructing the collar was easy enough as far as putting together the collar itself went… But attaching it onto the neckline was a right bitch. I ended up finishing the inside of the collar by hand, with a very clumsy line of semi-invisible whip stitches. Funny how easy these thing seem when you learn about them, but execution is a whole another realm of skills… 

Speaking of finish… if I’m honest, I kind of butchered that in general. The inside is not neat, even though I tried. I mean, I started with really good intentions, French seamed the bodice and zigzagged the skirt and pockets and all! But by the time I got to the plackets and joining the skirt to the bodice, I was a bit overwhelmed and lost and I started settling for less than best looking plackets, dreadful top stitching, imperfect gingham alignment, etc… anything to get the job done. I won’t even explain how I finished the armhole in the end — it’s embarrassing. Again I had the best intentions, I was going to use home made cotton bias tape, but I messed up making the tape so I improvised in a huff instead. It kind of worked so I’ll call it a day.

Here is the finished collar and plackets. Far from perfect but they will do for a first ever make I say!

The buttons you see are from my Gran’s old stash, and I love them. They catch the light beautifully and somehow match the tone of the orange quite well.

One look the Mr took at me wearing this and he instantly pronounced it “the 50s housewife dress” and “something straight out of Mad Men”. Now that’s perhaps a bit far-fetched, and it was never meant to be a vintage dress eithrr, but I know what he means… the length and the shape have a strong echo of that era. Fine by me!

I can see a few more shirt dress attempts in my near future. At the very minimum, I’m definitely going to make it in a sturdier fabric in navy blue, perhaps with a two piece collar and 3/4 sleeves — that should be the most versatile dress up / dress down piece ever! I also toyed with the idea of eliminating the waist seam for a super casual chambray version with a simple straight knee length skirt and a curved hem… and I did consider it in bright florals too, which seems to be the most obvious choice on the sew-o-sphere, but somehow I find the idea of that a bit less exciting… it would be a bit too much of “florals” for me I think.

^ my face in response to a suggestion of florals.

With all its many flaws I’m just happy that I finally got this dress completely finished. Even though I know I only just started learning the dressmaking craft, it can be very hard to dot the i’s and cross the t’s on items that you know will look slightly homemade. However, a growing pile of throwaway unfinished “learning pieces” is not what I’m after and so I’m glad I powered through. It’s been a hard slog, mostly due to lack of planning and jumping into things too quickly without proper thought (my forte!) but many lessons have been learned — and that’s kind of a win, right?

The best thing about this dress though is that I got it done right in time for my whirlwind family visit to Hungary this weekend — the gingham is light as a breeze and I’m looking forward to wearing this out in the sweltering Budapest summer heat that awaits.


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