Whether you spell it "shirt dress" or "shirtdress," this garment presents some challenges to the Apple. Typically it's a short, somewhat fitted garment. Ready-to-wear options are frequently unflattering, with "fitting" that hits all the wrong places on us, or a lack of fitting that leaves us looking like an egg in a really long dress shirt. Not an attractive look.
All that said, you CAN make a flattering shirtdress if you are willing to spend a little time up front on the fitting and pattern selection. It is a wardrobe staple, so the extra effort will pay off for years to come! Today I compared two shirtdress patterns: McCalls 7889 and 7890. Only one is going to land in my pattern box.
M7889 has lovely sleeve and hem detailing that will beautifully show off fabric lines and/or graphic elements. I can see how dramatic it could be with some of my ankara prints. However, I'm apprehensive about the waistline. It appears to sit pretty close to bellybutton level, while my thinnest point is higher. Additionally, the fabric above the belt blouses out - in a flattering way on the model shown. My experience is that this makes me somehow look fatter and as if I have no boobs at all. Attempts to move the waistline have met with very limited success.
Careful inspection of the M7889 line art and back of envelope description reveals the "gathers" are actually stitched pleats. This is promising, as it means less bulk. I look at the model pictured again, and set the pattern aside for now. Because if the pleats look like gathers in the picture, they will look that way on me. All the flaring over my belly won't matter if the top half looks dowdy.
On to M7890. It looks a little scary at first: a little "sheath-shaped" maybe. Yet look at that beautiful collar and neckline. That clean placket line provides a very crisp appearance that will help me look pulled together, even when I don't have the time for coordinating an outfit. M7890 also offers two waistline fitting points that work really well for Apples:
Stumbling across Ankara fabric last year changed my life. The large-scale designs, the brilliant colors, the vibrant Ankara sewing community...I was hooked.
Ankara is generally a cotton fabric, dyed using a wax process. The resulting fabric is nearly identical on both sides. It's a versatile, medium-weight woven that resists wrinkling and is pleasant to sew and comfortable to wear. What's not to love?
A bit of googling informed me that the fabrics were originally of Dutch origin, and quickly became adopted in Africa. Today, Ankara production is mostly African-inspired and African-owned. Wikipedia covers the fabric's background rather well.
What the Wikipedia article doesn't mention, is that many of the design elements have meaning. Being of mostly Irish descent, I love the idea of a story being told - in this case, through fabric! More importantly, you can buy Ankara that is made in Africa. If that seems like an odd statement, please investigate where your sewing fabric is made. I find most of the fabric in chain stores is made in China.
There is nothing wrong with Chinese fabric per se. Someday I hope to add authentic Chinese designed and made fabric to my collection of African, American, German, Irish, Japanese, and US materials. What I'm not into, is mass-produced imitations of other cultures' fabrics. JoAnn Fabrics "tribal prints" are a perfect example of this: cheap one-sided quilting cotton printed with a sort of kente print. Made, yes, in China.
We live in a fast, possession-heavy society. I'm no exception, and have opted for convenience or low cost more than once. Yet, we can choose to value authenticity, and appreciate the genuine. When you sew, you are creating something new, and you spend hours with your hands on that fabric. Choose that fabric wisely.
Most of my Ankara collection comes from Ankara Malkia - fantastic service owned and operated by the wonderful Roni Gordon.
Next post: first Ankara project completed!
Vogue 1297 is an excellent pattern for Apples. It looks fabulous in striped fabric, thanks to the giant pockets set at a slimming angle. It's also surprisingly easy to make, even when you're working with an older sewing machine like I do!
My first version of this dress was made with a substantial brick-red striped knit. It's not a scuba knit, but it is almost that substantial. I do think you could get away with a medium-weight knit. Anything too light might not skim over you as flatteringly (no surprise to most of us). The minor wubble in the front-facing pic is my not-very layerable shirt scrunching!
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