Tag Archives: M7351

The Hanoi Blues Dress

Another day, another shirtdress, am I right? But there is something about this form that gets me every time, and that is why I have made so many incarnations of the shirtdress, from vintage to modern, and I think I have finally figured out what exactly that thing is that I love so much.

It’s pretty simple, really. Shirtdresses make me feel put together.

See, the thing about that phrase is, and I really believe that, it is something that women with curly hair rather hear in regards to themselves. Growing up, when talking to or about other women, I heard this phrase for some of them over and over again. My friend Presca, in college, who had and still has great style. My friend Betsy, who I studied abroad with, ditto. My friend Becca, also great style. But I have lots of friends with style! I mean, I don’t want to brag or anything, but, um, my friends are great. And they certainly know how to “put themselves together”. I mean, I hardly ever see one of them losing a tooth or a finger or something, ya know, falling apart at the seams. So what separates “put together” with not put together? I would admit that when I was younger, especially before I started sewing, I didn’t have a defined idea of my style. So I get that, up to a point. But in the years since I’ve been sewing, I have certainly found an aesthetic that I think works for me, and given that I, well, put it all together, it surely has some sense of cohesion, of being “together”, doesn’t it?

And yet, I have never heard that phrase directed at me. And I have to say, I think it’s the hair. I think there is an association with straight hair as smooth, cared for, styled, that there is a thought process behind it and therefore it is put together. It makes women look like they have tried. Well, first of all, women have tried in eight million directions outside of hair, people, so that’s something right there, and why do women have to try, at all, god knows it rarely seems like some men do, and then there are the cultural and racial implications of who has “straight” hair and who doesn’t and what that is supposed to mean about us, containing our curls across cultures. And then of course, there is the act of having curly hair at all, which, I can assure you, also takes maintenance, moisture, and money, so the idea that curls springing from one’s head means someone didn’t put the time in is just…all kinds of idiotic.

But whatever the world thinks about my hair, and, screw everyone who DOES feel some kind of way about my hair, by the way, whoever you are, a shirtdress does make me feel put together, no matter that no one has every told me that my thought process is reflected in their own. The coherency of the design, the crisp collar, the extension of the shirt into a skirt, it all works for me, it makes me feel purposeful, assembled, in line with myself. Which is, I believe, all put together should really mean. Regardless of this straight hair conspiracy.

I like to take my shirtdresses with me on the road, and this one accompanied me to Vietnam where I traveled with my friends Ben, Jill, and Travis, who indulged me in a photo shoot at this Buddhist temple.

The fabric is the star here, because it’s this lovely blue that actually shifts in tone, an ombre, hombre. When I saw it I knew I loved it, and I knew I wanted to make a dress that when from lighter blue around my shoulders to deeper blue around the hem. That meant I had to cut it on the crossgrain, and I’m okay with that.

I used McCalls 7351, once again, as the bodice, and added my usual two waist darts at 1.5 inches each on size 16 to get more waist definition. For the skirt, I simple draped it myself AKA it is just some big box pleats. Everything that can be french seamed is french seamed, and I have made this dress many a time, so to quote Bigmouth, NO NOTES!

I enjoyed this temple. First of all, it was pretty, and a fun place to take photos because it gave my friends places to photo bomb me from:

Where is Jill? It’s so mysterious, I have to look off in the distance.

Second of all, it included helpful advice for how to live your life well now to avoid unpleasant karmic consequences in reincarnation:

The use of the lower back tattoo as “too much cleavage” is magnificent.

Apparently becoming a mental illness means playing in a rock band in a mental institution which actually feels like a great movie idea, but what do I know.

It really was quite pretty, though:

And we found some great spots for me to poise against, which is of course the only reason to see anything, right?

So there you go. Don’t I look put together?

 

Well, frankly, it doesn’t really matter what anyone else thinks, right? It matters what I feel.  And in this, or any shirtdress, I feel put together as hell. 

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The Give Me The Gingham Dress

First of all, I just want to let all of you know that hey, my novel, America for Beginners, is 100% out there in the world! You can buy it in the US! You can buy it in the United Kingdom! You can buy it in India! You can buy it all over the place! Please do! And then tell me what you think!

This dress that I am going to show you actually looks excellent with my novel, which is great because this is what I wore to my book launch party at Powerhouse Arena, which is a wonderful bookstore and a fantastic space, a place that frequently hosts authors in conversation. New York friends or people in the area, check it out!

Now, to the sewing. Those of you who read my blog regularly, aka my mom, will know that I am not a person who wears a ton of green. It’s not that I don’t like green, I do! I really do. I just don’t gravitate towards it the way I do some other colors. But every once in a while, you see something that just breaks you patterns, you know? I bought this fabric in Kolkata, which is great because one of the characters in my novel, Pival, is from Kolkata, so that all worked out rather nicely, didn’t it? I saw it in New Market, a market I never go to, and I wanted it immediately, despite the fact that it’s a color I never wear, yet despite all that, something about this reached out and grabbed me, and I’m thinking, well, I think it might have been the fact that it is gingham. People, I love a gingham. Love it.

Lots of people love it! I mean, Brigette Bardot wore it as her wedding dress!

There is a rumor that this actually created such demand for the fabric that it caused a fabric shortage in France! But that could totally be a myth. Still, it’s pretty fun to think about french girls rioting over gingham.

At any rate, I love a gingham like a french girl in the 1960’s. And so, despite all the things around this fabric, it had to be mine. When it comes down to it, I’m pretty much always going to be like, GIVE ME THE GINGHAM!

And so! Another iteration of McCalls 7351, which I have adjusted with two 1.5 inch bust darts, slimming the waist and giving the bodice a little more shaping. In a large-scale green gingham that I absolutely adore.

In celebration of my super green dress, I made my friend Victoria take these photos in a super green place! So while visiting her up at the Berkshires we snagged this lovely spot in picturesque Stockbridge, and went nuts. I think I blend right in…

It’s a super cute place. This adorable building has become…a Yankee Candle. SIGH.

Still, everything was brilliantly in bloom, which was magnificent!

And I went to a store that had knitted dinners!

Instead of using one of the skirts from the pattern, I wanted to capitalize on the gingham and figured box pleats would do the trick.

I cut the yoke on the bias, which I always love with a checked or plaid print. It’s just fun!

And I suppose that’s about it. I’ve made a lot of shirt dresses at this point and I could make something else, but…I love a shirtdress! So I’m probably going to keep on keeping on in that direction. Although I do want to try some new patterns in the coming months. Ah, conflicting desires!

A little close up of the bodice for you. Why did I use white buttons? Because that is what I had in my stash! Sometimes you just do what you need to do. I don’t think it’s clear in any of the photos, but the sleeve cuffs are also cut on the bias. Just a little detail only I know about, I guess!

I also put in pockets. Obviously. As one does.

Well, there it is. An unusual choice for me, but still, very much on brand. The point is, gingham is great, try colors you don’t usually wear sometimes, and buy America for Beginners!  Then you, too, can match my dress.

 

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The Pair of Parrots Dress

I’m sorry for the radio silence around here recently. My very beloved cat, the love of my life, Brother Cadfael, has passed away after a series of tough weeks immediately after I returned to India from the United States. Whats his face was a great caretaker and upon my return we worked hard to make his final days comfortable, and this past Saturday we had to say goodbye and put him out of his pain. He leaves behind two loving cat-carers who miss him dearly, and a host of admirers who will feel his absence in their hearts. A fan of supporting my sewing by sitting on any available project until the end, here he is just days before his passing, cozy and comfortable on a work-in-progress:

Restare en pacem, my love, my friend. It’s been really hard without him, and despite the fact that I’ve still been sewing (because, doing things is therapy. As is actual therapy. I’m a big advocate of both), it just has felt weird to be blogging, putting up photos of myself and focusing on “look at this seam” and “hey this pattern” when all I can think about and have been thinking about is my amazing cat, and how much I love him, and how much I will miss him, and how much I need him, the way he is the thing I brought with me from America when I started spending long periods of my year in India, and how he was my comfort, my piece of home, my piece of my life not just in New York but before, he is and was a piece of me. So yeah, posts about sewing have just been hard to come by around my parts these days.

But here is a dress I made. I find it a little weird to look at these photos because I took them when I thought Cadfael would be fine and now he’s gone, but there is nothing I can do about that.

This is another incarnation of M7351, which I made from a fabric my friend Rakhee gave me, a large-scale Rajasthani block print. I wanted it to be looser, which I like, but it doesn’t have the waist definition I find most flattering, ah, well. It’s super wearable!

The slip under it is a Seamwork patterns Savannah lengthened. That’s all I have to say about that.

 

I wore this tasting wine in Portland with my mom, which was fantastic. Also all I have to say about that.

I tried to cut carefully, but I could only get three meters of this (Rakhee asked me what I wanted before she bought it for me because she’s a true friend and the print is big, so I just had to do my best with placement. As long as I didn’t get full-on nipple-flowers, I figured this was a win.

It’s a win! Stems work! I’ll take it!

The cotton is lovely and cool, and I’ve worn it in many places with success all around. Do I drip stuff on it as soon as I don it? I SURE DO! But hey, man. I gotta be me.

And there it is. A dress I made. I could say that Cadfael loved it, but he was a cat, and he didn’t care about it, or anything I made or wore. But I like to think that he liked having so much fabric around, and that was a good thing. So anyway. Another shirtdress, another day.

Hope you guys are all doing okay. I’m participating on House of Pinheiro’s #sewphotohop  as a distraction from my sadness, so catch me on the gram, if you’re into that sort of thing.

 

 

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The Summer of the Shirtdress Dress

My name is Leah, and I believe I might be a shirtdress addict.

I know. I know. This is really difficult to admit, and I really appreciate your support and your encouragement at this time.

Of course, knowing the sewing community as I do, I know you are more likely to praise this addiction than try and help me heal it. And that’s okay, because frankly, I don’t want a shirtdress-centric rehab with shift dresses appreciation courses, anti-button conversations and healing collar deprivation based work outs. As addictions go, while this one might take up more room than my serious coffee problem, I think all things considered it’s pretty manageable.

Now, you probably having picked up on this addition because I only have three shirt dresses featured on this blog.But in the past month I have made THREE count em THREE additional shirt dresses, and in a recent trip to Kolkata I picked up a stunning khadi fabric to make another one, so I’m sort of on a roll here with this. The dress I’m featuring today is actually my second version of McCalls 7351, although by no means my last, and I’ve got a full shirted version which was make #1, and a modified Grainline Archer which I’ve lengthened into a dress, all of which I still need to photograph and post about. But instead I…just keep making shirt-dresses.

I don’t know what it is about them that makes them so addictive. It can’t be the construction, which is frankly a little onerous, with the collar and collar stand and all the many button holes and buttons. It can’t be the scant yardage, because these things can be fabric monsters, especially if you make the full-skirted variety. So it’s gotta be the look, because a shirtdress is dope. It just is. They look clean and pulled together but also fun and summery and classic, probably because they ARE classic, they evolved as a wartime staple, a woman’s riff on utility dresses during the Depression and the Second World War, and then they were elevated by Dior’s new look to the cinched waist full-skirted notched collar beauties of the 1950’s. Now you see them in all versions, slim fit, shift style, maxi, it’s an epidemic. Sooner or later a film called “Shirtdress Madness”  will no doubt be releasing to scare the youth of America into walking the straight and narrow line of a pair of jeans, but for me? I’ll stay an addict, at least this summer. I’ll tell YOU when I’ve had enough…

My friend Liz, who accompanied me on our fabric tour of the North, and I don’t always have the same taste in fabric. But standing in a Rajasthani state emporium in Delhi, we had that rare moment of simultaneous want for a pretty block printed cotton. This could have ended our friendship right there, but luckily there was enough that we could both score two and a half meters. Crisis AVERTED. And we both ended up making shirtdresses, which, just goes to show we are friends for a reason. Of course, Liz’s is much cooler than mine, but still, I will make do. So without further explanation, the evidence of my continued shirtdress problem:

SSD1

Okay! So this is the slimer-skirted version of this pattern, although I would love love love to try the circle skirt (maybe it’s a half or a 3/4, not sure) option from the pattern, I have yet to have quite enough fabric to do so.

I do like this skirt option, which I lengthened a little because that’s always a little better for India, I feel. But I have to say, I think the pockets make the hips look bulky and weird. Thoughts?

SSD5

I’m wearing a self-drafted slip under this because the fabric is a little translucent, by the by. See, you can see the pockets sort of popping at the hips. Hmmm.

I tried something different with the sleeves which didn’t really work, honestly. I wanted a visible cuff, but the sleeves, despite an attempted alteration, are still too tight. I blame kickboxing which while getting me in great shape has sort of bulked up my arms. Any thoughts on how to make these sleeves bigger?

SSD6

The hem is still curved, which I like, although it probably looks better at the original hem length. Ah, well. Still a nice detail.

I cut a straight size 16 with a cup size D, but I found in my last round that the pattern was a bit large in the waist. So for this version I took about 4 inches out of the waist in front darts, and I’m pretty happy with that. Otherwise I think the fit works, except, as mentioned, the arms.

 

SSD7

See, you can see some pulling across the upper back which all roots to the tightness of the sleeves, I believe.

SSD2

Still, sleeve woes aside, its super cute, which is, of course, why the shirtdress is so addictive. They just look good. They look pulled together, something I never ever feel, and they scream “daytime elegance”, which I love.

SSD8

I think you can see the print a little bit better in this photo. It’s a blue on white, and it’s awfully lovely, I must say. You should see Liz’s version, it’s tops!

The big difference between this one and the ever popular M6696 is the waistband, the shirt options (which, real talk, you could self draft) and the fit of the back. But I’m glad I have both now in my collection! I scored this on a pattern sale and what’s-his-face brought it back from the US after his last visit. I think my next pattern int his addiction might be a vintage style. Let’s see how it goes. I’m not getting off this train any time soon. And frankly, I say SUMMER of the shirtdress but it’s basically summer all the time here, so….

SSD3

What are you addicted to, clothing/sewing-wise? Do you see your construction as destructive or productive?

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