Considering that my first project for the network was due to be published during my dream holiday to America's deep south, I decided to make something ultra summery with a vintage vibe to wear to the legendary Sun Studios in Memphis. For me, there was no better place to photograph this dress... well, there’s Graceland but that’s another story for another time.
In recent weeks I have become quite a fan of McCall’s sewing patterns, so I immediately jumped at the chance to make the pretty shirt dress (6696), which is available on the Minerva Craft website.
Rocking a Priscilla Presley hive outside the birthplace of rock 'n' roll!
Inspired by the many dresses Betty Draper wears to smoke and drink wine in her kitchen, I opted for version A: the sleeveless shirt dress with pleated skirt.
Choosing the fabric was not easy. There is so much variety on Minerva, and so many combinations that would work for this outfit that I wanted it all. However, inspiration struck again when I saw this dainty polyester. It’s so beautiful, you will "ooh and ahh" out loud when it arrives on your doormat. Don Robot also loves it when he comes home from grocery shopping and finds me looking miserable and dissatisfied sitting at the kitchen table, two glasses of wine down. I still take his hat for him though.
Is that Johnny Cash coming down the road?
I loved making this dress. At first I thought the fabric would pose some problems as it’s a ‘slinkier’ polyester, yet it was a dream to sew with. A dream I tell you! It did everything I wanted it to and didn’t shift one bit during sewing. This included the more complicated parts such as the collar and belt bands. It also traveled really well – I hardly needed to iron it and when washed, it dried in an instant. Oh, and some red wine was spilled on it, but with a rinse under the tap it washed right out. Could you get a better best friend in fabric form?
Elvis likes his women in gold belts too
Before starting this dress, I really recommend measuring the flat pattern. This is an exercise that I don’t usually do, but I applied it to this project and was surprised that I needed to cut a size 10 as opposed to my usual size 14 measurements. Of course it depends on your preferred style/fit, but this is definitely something I will continue to do with future patterns. It’s really simple to do: just measure the key areas and be sure to multiply twice (e.g. for front you need to multiply twice to get the full measurement) and subtract the relevant seam allowances. You’ll then get an approximate measurement and from that you can ascertain how much ease has been given to your size.
After measuring, I made a muslin of only the bodice (to be on the safe side), and it fit like a glove. Bazinga! The construction of this dress was really straight forward: I love yokes and find them fun in a geeky way. There is also some gathering on the back of the dress which adds a really nice detail, oh and be prepared for a big pleating session. The skirt is pleated all the way round the waist, however, this is really easy to do as long as you follow all the markings on the pattern.
Back of the dress: gathers are placed at the yoke and waist
The dress features a faced waistband with belt loops. This is easier than it sounds and gives the dress a neat and tidy finish inside. The belt loops are simple to make and are basted before the waist band is added to the bodice and skirt.
I completed the arm holes with white bias binding, which I finished with hand stitching (slip stitch). I serged the seams inside to save time but I handstitched the finish of the button placket, yoke, collar and the dress hem to avoid any machine stitching showing on the outside. I used simple white buttons and didn’t need to shorten or lengthen the dress at all.
Perfect for some rock 'n' roll twirling
Or for just hanging out at Sun Studios...
I love this dress and it will definitely be one of my go-to sewing patterns in the future. I can’t wait to try some of the other versions as well as the slip. If you like my version, don’t forget you can buy the whole Dixie Lou kit for this dress on the Minerva website.
The Dixie Lou shirt dress kit
And what did my boyfriend Elvis think of my dress? Well, he decided to play a little song for me with the help of his pals while he gazed lovingly into my eyes...