Ruby Red Shirt Dress

The Lady in Red

There’s something especially lovely about discovering your personal style. When I first realised how much I loved the full-skirted, cinched-waist 1950s silhouette, and more importantly, how much I loved it on me, it was something of a revelation. I never wanted to wear anything except circle skirts and petticoats again! Sadly, they’re not always a practical wardrobe choice in the life of a busy modern woman, so some further style experimentation has been required – especially as I’m on hospital placements from this year on: wards aren’t really the scene for my usual uni ensembles of swooshy skirts and sweetheart tops.

That being said, I’ve hd a lot of fun planning my new work-wear wardrobe. Finding ways to express my style in ways that practical and professional as well as chic has been a challenge I have relished. I’ve been inspired by Claire McCardle’s designs and the “sportswear” fashion trends of the 1950s, but also by an era a little outside of my usual scope, the 40s. Wartime economy and practicality created less fussy and more utilitarian, though undeniably stylish, silhouettes. In other words, the perfect inspiration for my new makes! And here’s the first of them, 1940s-inspired red shirtdress πŸ™‚

Ruby Red Shirt Dress

I first got hooked on shirt dresses a few months ago, when I bought one from one of my favourite retro brands, Princess Highway, using a voucher I got for my birthday. It quickly became one of my favourites, at once both pretty and polished. It’s on the shorter size, however, and the hem curves up pretty hilariously at the front (clearly designed for someone with a little less front than me!), so I knew that if I wanted one to wear one placement, it would be up to me to produce it. Rather serendipitously, it was around that time that I saw The Little Tailoress‘ version of Simplicity 1880. This pattern is virtually identical to the one I own, so I knew it would make the perfect starting place for me. It is unfortunately out of print now, but I did manage to snap it up on eBay for a very reasonable price πŸ˜‰ Fabric-wise, I had originally wanted to make it up in rayon, as that’s what my Princess Highway dress is made of and it’s deliciously soft and drapey. However the colour selection available to me was pretty dismal, so I went with pure cotton lawn instead, which as well as being super affordable ($4 per metre, yes please!) came in this gloriously bright red. Owning virtually no other red clothing, I thought it high time I rectified that situation!

Ruby Red Shirt Dress

Starting was, of course, the hard part. As much as I like to incorporate new challenges into my projects, this one had a slightly intimidating list of them! Set-in sleeves, side zip, a row of button holes, and of course, the notched collar. Not necessarily difficult tasks in and of themselves (at least, I know that now!), but facing them all for the first time in one project did put a bit of a damper on my enthusiasm for a while. But, I dislike having cut out projects siting around for too long – by that point, you’ve already sunk time AND money into that project – so I grit my teeth and got to it. And surprisingly, it all went pretty much without Β hitch!

Ruby Red Shirt Dress

Construction sailed along pretty smoothly, with the only real challenge being trying to understand how the notched collar came together – turns out it’s one of those things which isΒ much easier to understand once you’ve actually done it πŸ˜› I used french seamsΒ and faux french seams (raw edges turned in and stitched so as to be enclosed, used when a) you forgot to do a french seam and can’t be bothered unpicking and b) under invisible zips) throughout, and skipped adding a lining – the lawn is ever so slightly sheer, but I’ve decided I’d rather wear slips under it (an excuse to sew more vintage-style lingerie, yay!). Two other new little details I added for myself were the self covered buttons and the decorative stitching around the sleeves, collar and hem. Both of these were quite easy and actually fun to do, and I think they really add to the character of the dress πŸ™‚

Ruby Red Shirt Dress

I’ve decided I really like this pattern, too. The fit was pretty much spot on out of the box -after I’d sized down because I noticed it had an insane amount of ease built in. But making a straight size 12 proved to be a perfect fit! I made View A, the shirt dress (View B is a wrap dress), with the cap sleeves – short puffed sleeves and three-quarter options are also included, as well as a tie belt. I’m already thinking about variations I want to try for my next one (which I’m envisioning in a gorgeous lush forest-green rayon…) – I think I’ll try three-quarter sleeves, a gathered skirt and maybe altering the back pleats to darts…stay tuned for that one! But I’m glad I tried the pattern as-is first – the only change I made was to add a pocket to the right side seam, because all dresses really should have pockets in my view.

Ruby Red Shirt Dress

Now is this dress perfect? Of course not! I know exactly where little folds got caught in the seams, where my zip didn’t quite line up right, THE ONE BUTTON HOLE THAT MY MACHINE HATED AND LOOKS LIKE IT WAS SEWN WITH THE PRESSER FOOT UP – but after reading this post about ablogogising on Did You Make That?, I’m banning it on this blog too. Sure, I probably put my pocket in a bit low – but does that make it less functional? Does it make the dress an eyesore?? No, of course not – this is one fabulous dress πŸ˜‰ I’ll still be sharing my battles with my sewing machine, near misses and quick fixes; but listing every tiny mistake so small I couldn’t even be bothered fixing it? Nah, none of that. We should all be pretty damn proud of the things we make: let’s stop putting them down!

Finally, because they’re so gorgeous and I can’t resist showing them off, check out myΒ amazing new stockings from What Katie Did!

Ruby Red Shirt Dress

I really love fully embracing vintage dressing some days (i.e. whenever humanly possible), and that definitely includes all the proper underpinnings. It’s the little details which really make the ensemble, I think!

On a quick final note – Madalynne is running her annual ‘Best Sewing Blogs‘ competition, and yours truly has been nominated in several categories! To anyone who put my name forward in the first round, thank you so, so much. You can now vote in the second round here – go show all your favourite sewing bloggers some love! πŸ™‚

Even though there was more I wanted to share in this post, I’ve run over 1,000 words (again!) – so I’ll leave you all there, until next time,

Miss Maddy xx

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32 comments

  1. cetakz · February 2, 2016

    So nice.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. emeralderin · February 2, 2016

    That colour is absolutely stunning on you! So gorgeous!

    Like

    • Miss Maddy · February 3, 2016

      Thanks Erin! Now I know I definitely need more red in my wardrobe πŸ˜‰

      Like

  3. ArletteTheNeedle.blospot.com · February 2, 2016

    All women need a red dress like this !

    Liked by 1 person

  4. thumblenina · February 2, 2016

    Oh my goodness, I can’t believe it – I’ve literally just made the exact same dress, in almost the exact same colour, and with self-covered buttons too! I’ve actually gone for the short sleeves, but kind of regretting it seeing your cap ones… It’s such a great pattern, isn’t it? I love its 1940s feel, and am really looking forward to making it up in lighter cottons for the summer months. Maybe on my next one I’ll cheekily copy your decorative stitching idea – it’s so pretty πŸ™‚ x

    Like

    • Miss Maddy · February 3, 2016

      Haha wow, that’s quite the coincidence! To be honest the only reason I chose the cap sleeves was because they seemed easier than the short ones – but I do like how they turned out! You’re very welcome to take inspiration on the stitching front – it’s such a lovely effect πŸ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Katie Writes Stuff · February 2, 2016

    That is one gorgeous dress!

    I know what you mean about practicalities intruding on style: while I love my dresses to have a fitted bodice and full skirt, it is not fun to wear them in the wind. And we get a looooot of wind around here, so I’ve decided my next dress will need to have a less flowy skirt.

    We always know about the flaws, don’t we? The great thing is that no-one else even notices. The time I had to make little pleats on my neckline because it gaped too much? Everyone thinks it’s a design feature. My most recent dress which, to me, is full of little mistakes, received the most compliments ever. It’s definitely time to start embracing the good things and leaving the little flaws as learning experiences.

    Enjoy wearing your dress – it’s an absolute stunner.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Miss Maddy · February 3, 2016

      Thank you so, so much for your very sweet words! Last-minute “design features” always seem to draw compliments, so I definitely agree it’s time to stop counting our mistakes and look at our wonderful creations as a whole πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Siobhan · February 2, 2016

    You know Maddy I’ve made this pattern twice and still didn’t recognise it in your iteration! I was all prepared to buy the amazing pattern you used πŸ™‚ Funny how dramatically fabric choice affects the look of a pattern. And yours looks just amazing.

    Princess Highway, don’t even get me started…love the styles but I think I outgrew them when I was about 10! They certainly don’t draft for the even slightly curvy or tall.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Miss Maddy · February 3, 2016

      Haha there you go! Thanks Siobhan πŸ™‚ I do think the lightweight lawn gives it a lovely drape.

      And that does seem to be the issue with PW! I love both of my dresses from them but neither of them have much room in the bust at all haha

      Like

  7. colormusing · February 3, 2016

    LOVE that silhouette on you, Maddy, and the vintage inspiration! What a great job of making this dress too!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Miss Maddy · February 3, 2016

      Thanks Lindy! I’m really proud of it, I can’t wait to wear it on placement πŸ™‚

      Like

  8. SofΓ­a · February 3, 2016

    SO lovely!! The style of this dress is so pretty, and it suits you very well! It’s nice and feminine, but still practical! And, of course, the stockings make it the perfect ensemble πŸ˜‰ I may or may not have an addiction to seamed stockings, by the way! I may have a full drawer for stockings, even though I only wear them once or twice a month…. But, hey, it’s a secret! πŸ˜›

    PS: I just saw your blog on the second round of the Best Sewing Blog Awards and I couldn’t be happier! Congratulations!! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Miss Maddy · February 3, 2016

      Haha I may or may not also have a bit of a seamed stocking addiction – at least once we hit Autumn here in Melbourne they’ll start seeing some decent wear πŸ˜›
      But thank you so much! Congrats on your nominations too, I feel I’m in very good company πŸ™‚ x

      Like

  9. littlesewingdreams · February 3, 2016

    Great dress and suits you so well!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Hannah · February 3, 2016

    This is fabulous, I can’t believe it’s your first time trying all those techniques!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Miss Maddy · February 4, 2016

      Thank you! I can’t believe how well it turned out πŸ™‚

      Like

  11. Nathalie · February 5, 2016

    So pretty! The decorative stitching looks amazing. It is such a little detail but it makes all the difference.

    Like

    • Miss Maddy · February 5, 2016

      Thank you! I like the stitching so much I think I’ll definitely be incorporating it on future projects!! πŸ™‚

      Like

  12. Emma @ A Hand Stitched Life · February 6, 2016

    I totally agree about the comments about being the best dressed doctor, this is stunning! I’ve also never though about not lining lawn and just wearing a slip. This has just blown my mind. I’m going to have to try it out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Miss Maddy · February 6, 2016

      Aww thanks Emma! πŸ™‚ I think it works really well, especially for this style of dress – however the only good slip I have is a vintage one, and it’s lace-covered tricot – very pretty, but might get a bit hot on sunny days! But hopefully I’ll be able to budget some tim and funds soon to make a couple more light-weight ones πŸ™‚

      Like

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  15. Nikki · February 13, 2016

    Ha, here I was thinking ‘Dang, out of print pattern’ and then I googled it and saw that it was one that I already had! I just needed to see your version to see the potential I guess πŸ™‚ For some reason I didn’t envision it as a 40’s dress, but it really works perfectly! And I love the decorative stitching

    Liked by 1 person

    • Miss Maddy · February 14, 2016

      Thank you so much! Yes, I don’t think the pattern illustrations/photos really do this one justice at all, I would never have bought it if I hadn’t seen other’s makes of it! πŸ™‚

      Like

  16. hopflower · February 13, 2016

    A very nice dress, indeed. Love the colour as I cannot wear red; but it looks great on you. The forties is my style; as yours is more the fifties; this dress really fits the forties bill! I love anything with a retro flare.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Miss Maddy · February 14, 2016

      Thank you! Yes, I too am a fan of a all things retro πŸ™‚ This really is the first piece of red clothing I’ve had in years, but now I really think I need heaps more! πŸ˜›

      Like

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