Elephants +Vintage Shirtdress = delight of the highest level

Oh I couldn’t think of anykind of title for this blog post, so forgive the arithmetic!

shirtdress 1

I gave you fair warning in a recent blog post that I was sewing up a cracker didn’t I.  That I had bought the latest dress pattern from Sew Over It – the Vintage Shirtdress almost as soon as it was published?  And look what fabric I had reposing in one of my fabric drawers, just waiting for *the right* dress to come along.  I think I found it, don’t you?  I bought this fabric a few years ago from Ditto fabrics, but it is available in other places too.  Ditto just has pink elephants at the moment (I’d forgotten I’d made a Colette Violet blouse out of this too!) , I even saw the red elephants (such as I had made my Simplicity Lisette Traveler dress out of) last month when I went to Truro Fabrics– in the shop, not online.   This fabric is a crispish cotton, almost a poplin, if I had to describe the drape, but I’m not sure if that’s officially correct.  When cutting it out, I did try my hardest to align the elephants along the horizontal & I think it’s just about worked.  This time the elephants were not too off kilter with the grainline, unlike my red Lisette traveler.

shirtdress 2

I launched into the Vintage Shirtdress for a weekend’s sewing.  i know I am lucky in that I have the kind of existence where I have weekends that are completely my own to do with as I wish, & quite often I finish my chores on Saturday morning & then it’s an afternoon of guilt-free sewing.  Saturday evening might involve a bit of cooking but then once Sunday comes around I get up early for a run in the country with my running buddies & might have the whole of Sunday afternoon to finish what I started on Saturday!  The trance is broken later on Sunday afternoons as I’ll emerge out of my badger burrow (officially ‘sett’) & catch up with family.  Come the sunshine though, the garden competes with the sewing machines…but that’s another story.

shirtdress 3

So we’ve talked about the fabric, what about the pattern?

Well I have seen this dress on Sew Over It’s classes for a while now & coveted from afar.

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I love shirtdresses, and this has sleeveless (my most fave) & a longer sleeved warmer version (hmm very appealing!).

shirtdress 4

I have made a few shirt dresses already.  You could call the Lisette Traveler dress already mentioned one, then there is Vogue 8829, which although I made the bow neck, actually is a shirt dress too, the Hot Patterns iconic Shirtdress (a knit), an early shirtdress in swimmers’ fabric, my happy denim shirtdress, my swoon gingham vintage shirtdress, Edith too and I am sure i have more patterns not yet made up.

shirtdress 6

So you see I feel great love towards the shirtdress- no zip, nipped in, shaped  waist, open collar – perfect for summer especially without sleeves, potential button showcase.  So why Sew Over It’s Vintage Shirtdress?  Surely I have enough to choose from?  Well, it’s all in the details isn’t it.  I have sewn a few Sew Over It patterns now & they fit me brilliantly and the patterns come together really well, with instructions to match.  But the styling folks!  Its named “Vintage” not without cause- it screams retro loveliness with its rounded collar & gathered yoke.  The skirt is a a generous A line & the bodice & skirt darts are the open kind that are actually better described as pleats- no darts with pointy ends but flattering pleats at the waist.  So lovely to sew.  And if you have a fabric with a design that you’d rather not break up with dart lines ….well this is the bodice for you, as there are pleats, in case you didn’t catch that, and no bust darts.

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Speaking of sewing then, this is unsurprisingly a great project.  What’s the hardest part of sewing a shirtdress?  The collar I think, you might say differently (eg if you hate buttonholes!  But then there are only 8….).  Yes, the collar & attaching the collar to the neck edge can often be fiddly with differences in ease around the neck edge & the length of collar & facing to make fit into that curved area.  Sometimes I have made shirts/ shirtdresses & the fit requires so much easing that you are supposed to clip curves to enable the collar & facings to fit with a lot of stretching.  Less fun than the Vintage Shirtdress I can tell you.  Unless you like the Bruce Willis danger factor & the unknown of whether clipping will actually fit without any puckers along the way.

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The Vintage Shirtdress collar & facing fits very nicely thank you without any undue manipulation, clipping or stretching.  Phew.  A breeze.  And the rounded edges even make turning the collar right side out a joy.  Curved collars are ‘my thing’ as I was told once when I had my colours done & had a style consultation too, that due to my rounded face & chubby cheeks (she put it more diplomatically than that!) that I should look for clothes & accessories that are soft & have rounded corners.  Crisp lines apparently flatter people with angular features.  I mix it up sometimes just . because.  😉  But it’s a good rule of thumb for me- curves & scrunchy bags.

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I made no adjustments to this pattern for fit.  Looking at how it fits me with the belt you can see that the dress waist is higher than my natural waist.  if you look really closely that is. the ellies kind of disguise it.

The fabric’s crispness & how I pressed the collar made me think that I may have had a little bit of extra room in the bodice front, but luckily I was able to ask Lisa, the designer herself (:-) ) for her view when i first wore it & she thought it looked fine & that not to worry as it is designed to have room in the bodice due to the gathered yoke.  I was also able to ask about a pattern drafting question I had.  The sleeveless bodice has a different cutting line than the sleeved version & I understood why that would work for the armsyce but why the shoulder line needed to be different flummoxed me.  I can enlighten you if you have the same question!  It’s to reduce the shoulder pad effect that the sleeveless bodice would have without the sleeves – ie the shoulder stuck up too much.  It was so much better knowing.

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The sleeves do not have a facing but are finished with bias binding.  I used some floral binding & hand stitched it.  I finished it with red flower buttons as I know i shall be wearing it with red shoes and a red belt sometimes.

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The dress is loose fitting so makes a perfect summer dress.  I wore it to the office last week & a chap was the first to say, “Love the elephant dress”! before the hordes crowded me with compliments & begged me for my autograph.  No?  You think I am exaggerating?  OK, guilty.

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Out of all of the shirtdresses I have made, this has to be my favorite.  It is not too heavy on fabric, I  sewed the 8 & maybe used 2.5m but don’t quote me on it, I had a 3m length to cut from and haven’t measured what’s left.  But the style!  It’s so feminine!  It’s so cute.  I am certain that I will make more (I KNOW it’s something I often say with a pattern I love but then take ages, if ever to follow through on, but this is different.)  The dress is one of those dresses that is at much at home on holiday as in the office.  I’d wear it to a BBQ & to the V&A (oh actually the latter is already achieved 😉  ).

So what fabric next?  Lisa has made a version that is a trompe l’oeil (if that is possible in sewing)- the bodice is made out of broderie anglais (white) & the skirt is made out of a navy, so that it looks like separates.  YUM! I will be investigating my Liberty lawn to see if I bought enough & whether I can eeeek it out, but I think the odds are against me there, only having bought 2m & I wouldn’t want that to be a trompe l’oeil dress, not my Liberty.

And if you fancy making yourself one of these beauties, do so before the 8th July & send an pic to Sew Over It and you could win an overlocker!!!  Woo hoo!!!

28 thoughts on “Elephants +Vintage Shirtdress = delight of the highest level

  1. Amy

    Looking fab Winne! I’ve bought this and it’s currently on my sewing table, hoping to hit the July 8th deadline! I love love love the skirt. Isn’t it great? And I have to agree you look lovely in a rounded collar heehee

    1. scruffybadgertime Post author

      Amy you are sweet, thank you 🙂 The skirt is a lovely flattering & not too fabric-hungry – it is adorable. And I love the pleats at bodice and waist – perfection 🙂 Good luck for July 8th!!Happy shirtdress sewing

  2. Hagar Reynolds

    Gorgeous print for this dress! I’ve just cut this one out and can’t wait to sew it up having seen it on you.

    1. scruffybadgertime Post author

      Thank you Kim, it is great to be wearing it, as it does mean we are in summer, doesn’t it?! Two reasons to be happy that are irrevocably linked – sunny summer & pretty summer dress 🙂

  3. Laura

    Hi, I get to know your blog only today and needed to comment on this pearl! The fit of this dress is perfect and the fabric… just awesome! 🙂

  4. Berte


    Not sure if this link works, but I’ve been wanting to point you in nthis direction for a while. Retro ellies, first printed in 1930. Ridiculously expensive, why they keep their prives at this level I’ll never understand (unless the point is exclusivity). I love this elephant fabric, and we’ve two small trays with it – that’s as far as my splurge has gone at Svenskt Tenn.
    What kind of profiling was it that you had? I did “dressing your truth” a while ago, and it was amazingly accurate. It’s all based on your energy. I’m a four, and I would guess you’re a one.
    Anyway – love your ellie dress! I need to make myself a shirtdress, it’s such an easy wear. I do understand why you have several. And I’m slightly envious of your sewing time. I need to get better at not doing other stuff…

    1. scruffybadgertime Post author

      Hi Berte- those Elephants are too cute with their curled trunks! But not so different from the modern day print that i used which i guess is priced a lot more cheaply.
      The colour profiling I had was I think ‘First Impressions’ but you are relying on my dodgy memory here! I didn’t get an energy reading but am a “deep muted” in terms of my colours.

    1. scruffybadgertime Post author

      Oh you are too kind! Thanking you lady Ooobop. I don’t nomrally wear black & white in the summer but this turns out smart – reminds me of your recent black & white & red too. 🙂

  5. Shelley

    Love your frock. I have just made a Belcarra top with this. I was pleased with my handiwork but the fabric is all wrong. It is far too crispy, it will morph into something else at some point along with the off cuts, provably for a small person. Wish I’d bought enough for a frock.

  6. Karen

    Hi Winnie, it’s lovely. A really cute pattern & print & of course I love the red accessories. (You still have to tell me who makes your shoes.) However, I’m a bit worried about the elephant print. You’re not a Republican are you? I’m having nightmares that you might vote for the Donald!

    1. scruffybadgertime Post author

      Hi karen, sorry! These shoes are by Lotta of Stockholm …
      Thankfully I am far enough away not to associate elephants with politics in any way so i can safely say I haven’t a clue & therefore how can I be?!

  7. Kylie Wroe

    Wonderful dress! I have been eyeing up this pattern since it’s release and this may have swung it for me!! I love the contrast of the buttons with the elephant fabric.

    1. scruffybadgertime Post author

      I am always on the look for ellies & saw some of this fabric in beige in my local fabric shop. Now I am not a beige person so fortunately I could contain my spending urges! But I wonder how many other colours it comes in?

  8. Jo

    I have this fabric too, also a 3m length, waiting for the right pattern! I bought Colette’s Hawthorn pattern at the beginning of the year, thinking I might use it with that but I really love your shirtdress. The notched collar is lovely.

    We may become elephant shirtdress twins one day….. 😀

    1. scruffybadgertime Post author

      Hi Jo! Well I think I could see it as a Hawthorn too- the quality of the fabric would suit it. I’d like to think of there being elephant shirtdress quintuplets! What do you think? 😉

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