This dress tells a story: any project can be salvaged and re-imagined, any project can be resurrected, no matter how long it’s been a Work-In-Progress. These mushrooms started their journey to dresshood a full SEVEN YEARS ago, and have finally arrived!!
Soon after I closed the Whipstitch shop in Atlanta, I went on a wild tear and was ready to Make All The Things. I had this fun, whimsical mushroom print cotton and I guess I decided what I really needed was a shapeless shirt dress from it? This is the pattern I chose:
I really don’t know what to tell you. It was 2014 and it seemed like a good idea at the time.
One thing led to another and this project got folded up and pushed aside, pattern pieces pinned to the fabric and nothing constructed. Last year, I dug out the stack of Works In Progress that had been languishing in a box (which I discovered while searching for a Completely Different Thing which led to an urgent need to Get This Stuff Organized, I know you know what I’m talking about) and made the decision to work my way through the whole pile, one project at a time.
When I started organizing the pieces, though, inventorying to make sure I had all the pattern pieces and instructions, I discovered I HAD NOT cut all the pieces out the way I thought I had–I’d cut out ONE piece, the fronts, and NOTHING ELSE. I also discovered: I really didn’t want to make this dress. I liked the IDEA of the style, but looking back at the line art, wondered if it might be a little shapeless–it was also cut two sizes too big, which was going to make it EXTRA boxy if I finished cutting it out and completed the project as planned.
Despite the good intentions of poll respondents on Instagram, who said I should just finish the original project even though it was too big and felt outdated (I love all y’all, but NO), I made the decision to bring out a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT shirt dress pattern and try to squeeze a more desirable shape (in the correct size) out of the already-cut pieces and the remaining yardage. I was about 3/4 yard light on the requirements for View A, but that’s the one I wanted, and I was determined to make it work. The fabric is manufactured by Stenzo Textiles, a Dutch fabric company; I don’t remember what retailer I got it from originally, but you can find a great selection here.
It took some very serious cutting magic, I’m not going to lie. I shaved two inches off the overall length, and for the wide skirt pieces, eliminated the fold-over placket so that the front edge has a single fold rather than two, just to get the pieces to line up on the fabric. I also made a short sleeve, instead of the long sleeve I initially wanted, but used the cuff from the longer sleeve plus the epaulette for a slightly military-inspired look that felt light-hearted combined with the mushroom print.
For the bodice, I re-cut from the portions of the dress front I’d already cut out, and managed to squeeze the back yoke from the same piece. Luckily, the shaping on this bodice is achieved through waist pleats rather than bust darts, so the pieces were relatively smaller than they might have been, and juuuuuuuust fit on the older bits. Breast pockets, collar, sleeve cuffs, and belt were all skimmed from scraps after the major pattern pieces were cut out.
The skirt pieces have a center back seam, and I promise you I made ZERO attempt at pattern matching, because that was a luxury I couldn’t afford. It just worked out that the design on this mushroom print (which has the sweetest little micro-polka dot in the marine blue background) lined up for me. Score!
There wasn’t even enough fabric for the on-seam pockets, so I scrounged a little bit of crimson Bemberg rayon–my all time ALL TIME favorite lining fabric–for the pocket bags. I love how smooth and soft it is, and how little bulk it adds to a skirt like this, where the dress had a waistline seam, so the way the skirt falls really matters to the overall shape of the finished dress,
I’m especially pleased with how those sleeves turned out! The pattern has the epaulettes for rolling up the long sleeves, and doesn’t really allow for using them as a mock-buttoned feature on a short sleeve, but I ran with it after I realized I’d misunderstood the pattern options. The cuff was cut upside down on the fabric so the mushrooms would be right-side up when the cuff was turned; it’s folded double, wrong sides together, then stitched to the lower edge of the short sleeve before turning up. The epaulettes are sewn to the interior of the sleeve at the mid-point of the bicep, in line with the shoulder seam, and held in place with a button that’s attached by sewing through all the layers.
I’m SUPER pleased with the fit overall. I chose the size based on the finished garment measurements, as I generally don’t trust the degree of wear ease that the Big Four pattern companies include (although I’ve seen ASTRONOMICAL improvement in that regard over the last 20 years). This is the size 12, which gives me about 2″ of ease at bust and waist, and it’s JUST RIGHT. I love the narrow belt and slightly 70s vibe it’s giving off, and honestly, the hem length is ideal for this fabric on me. Buttons are sewn on by hand with topstitching thread because (1) I wanted the strength and (2) I couldn’t find the spool of thread in the correct color that I had put in a Safe Place so I wouldn’t lose it. Naturally.
Simplicity 8014 for the save!! I know in my gut that had I completed the original McCall’s design, I would never have worn the finished dress, and I’m committed to only expending energy and resources on garments I know I’ll really WEAR AND WEAR AND WEAR. To do otherwise has increasingly felt like poor stewardship and an unwise use of my time, you know? The longer, fuller skirt with the more defined waist of this shirt dress suits my style much more than the previous version and reminds me of one of the reasons I love sewing my own clothes: by evaluating my Pain Points, the places where I see a design and don’t love it, I can better refine and curate my own personal sense of style in a way that helps me wear my insides on my outsides.