So I finally made a shirtdress, and boy did I pick the right one! I think this dress has now convinced me to move out of my ‘separates’ comfort zone and start making All. The. Dresses. Immediately!!
The Saraste shirtdress pattern is one of 10 projects in the “Breaking the Pattern” book by Named Clothing. As the title suggests, the premise of the book is that they give you some great patterns but they also want you to ‘break’ or ‘hack’ the basic project patterns to make loads of variations. Many of those projects come with a few variants already drafted so you actually get 20 patterns in the book, which retails for £26 in the UK (but seems to be reduced on Amazon at the moment).
There’s quite a range of patterns, and not all of them jumped out at me personally, but because there were at least three main patterns that I did really, really, like (each with variants), I decided it was worth buying the book.
I love the frilly collar detail on the Saraste, and the partly gathered waistline. I think it’s a lovely, feminine dress that will be a great addition to my working wardrobe. It’s a little too cold to get much wear out of it now but I suspect it will be on regular rotation next spring/summer.
I don’t think I’ve made anything by Named before, as much as I do like some of their garments. This is mainly because I was not a fan of having to trace everything off and then add seam allowance. I think they have changed this in later releases, and the Breaking the Pattern patterns do include seam allowances now. However, you still have to trace them from sheets on which the pieces are overlapped and in some cases split up into sections to be stuck together again once traced. I really didn’t enjoy this part of the process – it may be just my eyesight, but I had a headache by the time I’d finished all that tracing. I generally do a fair amount of tracing, and of drafting patterns directly on paper, but something about the way the Named patterns are all stacked really just hurts my eyes. (I’ll stop whinging).
One other minor issue is that one piece – I think it was the collar band – seemed to have a printing error such that it was incomplete, and I had to freehand draw in the end of the band. Anyway, once I got past the tracing, everything else about the pattern was great.
The instructions were good, and I don’t think I had any issues with assembling the shirtdress. There was a bit of back and forth for various sections of the instructions, where they direct you to the instructions for other garments rather than repeating the relevant steps in one place for the one you’re working on. This felt a little disruptive, but I can see why they did it.
For all that this looks like a “fancy” shirtdress, it really wasn’t too complicated to construct. A bit of gathering, some princess seams, and some buttonholes, and you’ll be done! That said, the waist gathering was a bit fiddly given that the seam allowances are only 3/8” (1cm). I may have cheated and only done one row of gathering stitches, but luckily my thread held and didn’t break whilst I was gathering.
I seemed to fall within a single size (3) of Named’s size chart, and I went with that recommended size. I made a toile of the bodice only (and without the collar, just the band). I didn’t think it was necessary to toile the skirt as it’s a big gathered piece so shouldn’t present any fitting issues! To my surprise, I didn’t have to make any significant changes. I shortened the bodice slightly and I think I used a slightly wider seam allowance at the side seams (5/8” rather than 3/8”) only, for a smidge more of a fitted look.
There are a couple of small tweaks I would make for my next one (a 3/8″ narrow shoulder adjustment and raising the waistline by 1/2″ or so), but it’s a very wearable dress as is.
The only other niggle is that I forgot to re-jig the buttons so as to have one sitting right at my bust line – it’s always best to have a button there, and roughly at the waist, to help prevent gaping as you move. But I forgot, oops! It doesn’t gape much though.
I also placed the lowest button where I was comfortable with it, which might not be in line with the pattern’s placement! The length of the dress is unchanged from the pattern though, and I’m about 5’ 6”, in case that helps anyone gauge it for themselves!
I used this wine coloured crepe from Croft Mill for the dress, and it behaved very nicely during construction. However, as you might expect, it turned out to be quite sensitive to the iron and I’m quite annoyed that I managed to scorch it a bit while pressing one of the princess seams. So I have a noticeable shiny line on one side of my bust, great! I’m keeping an eye out for a nice matching lace as I’m hoping I can appliqué a little lace cutout and somehow disguise it. In the meantime, I will continue to wear it!
What I do love about the crepe is the amount of drape and movement it gives the dress, as you can hopefully see from these somewhat cheesy photos.
I also made some fabric covered buttons from the same fabric. I have a blog post on how to do this over at Pearson and Pope, here. It was a bit fiddly with this fabric, but I managed to make enough buttons for the dress!
I really do like this pattern, and I can see myself making it again. I’d like to experiment with the sleeve length, the collar, and also possibly swap out the bodice and change the opening to a zip at the back. In short, I think this is a great base for a few pattern hacks!
I have also traced out the Utu skirt and pinafore and the Solina dress and top, so watch this space for more of the Named Clothing patterns from Breaking the Pattern!
Well, since you asked..
I may be swanning around in this dress for the foreseeable future