I am kicking off my first post of 2023 with a review of my final make of 2022, which features a gifted fabric from Lady McElroy! I have made many garments from Lady McElroy fabrics over the last three years — safe to say, I am a big fan of the quality and prints, and I was over the moon when they asked me to be a brand ambassador 😊

When the team reached out to me to select a fabric, I quickly chose one I have had my eye on for ages; this cotton lawn is called Deep in Thought and it is in the dreamiest shades of pastel — sky blue, peach, lavender and lemon yellow. I honestly cannot wait for spring to wear this dress, I think this palette will be perfect. The one-way design of this fabric has an abstract print of sketched faces is really unique; it takes a couple of glances before the shapes begin to become distinct. As I have previously written, I really love the Lady McElroy cotton lawns, since they are lightweight, soft to the touch, easy to work with and suit garments that have a little more fullness to them — and I usually gravitate towards a big, swingy skirt! I knew that I would want a pattern that showcases both the print and the properties of this fabric and went with a tried-and-tested favourite of mine: a button-up dress.

I decided to go for a classic shirtdress pattern, but decided to try a new pattern; I have my “ultimate shirtdress” pattern (McCalls 6696), but didn’t want to disrupt the print of the fabric with all that pleating 😅 Instead, I chose McCalls 7351, which has all the hallmarks of a good shirtdress: separate button bands, a lined yoke, and a proper collar with a collar stand. There are three sleeve options (sleeveless, short sleeves, or elbow-length rolled sleeves with a tab) and three skirt options (circle skirt, handkerchief hem, or shirt-tail), plus the bodice has multiple cup sizes included. The suggested fabrics are cotton blends, poplin, denim, and sateen. I went for View D, which has simple short sleeves and the prim-and-proper circle skirt, which honestly gets full marks for the Twirly Factor (yes, that is a metric I use to judge sewing patterns)!

Top marks for twirling

I did make several modifications to this dress; firstly, there is a lot of ease factored into this pattern, so I sized down two sizes to a size 10 and used the D-cup pattern piece. This meant the fit on my shoulders, waist and back was good, but I did have to do a minor FBA to get more breathing room at the bust. This added a new waist dart to the pattern, which is much more preferable on refining fit with than a single huge bust dart! I also adjusted the vanishing point of the bust darts, as my original muslin had the darts ending at an awkward position.

I breezed through the construction of this dress, and used French seams throughout to keep things super pretty on the inside. I used this tutorial as a guide for inserting side seam pockets with French seams, and found it really clear and easy to follow. I also used my standard resource for sewing a two-part collar, and honestly think this may be the best one I have made yet! I skipped most of the recommended slip-stitching, and instead used my 1/4″ seam foot to topstitch the collar and button bands; I much prefer to topstitch a shirtdress, as it gives a really neat finish. I also let my dress hang on my mannequin for several days, in order to let the bias drop and then I levelled the hem to the length I wanted. I am really happy with my button placement in particular; I purchased an expanding buttonhole gauge in November from Sewing Gem and now would not use anything else to get neatly spaced buttons! My buttons are made from corozo, a natural and sustainable alternative to traditional horn or plastic buttons. 

I am thrilled with my finished shirtdress, and I can’t wait until the weather gets warmer, as I am sure I will get plenty of wear out of it — taking pictures in the snow in a lightweight cotton dress was far from ideal! I will certainly be making another version of M7351, as I am imagining the shirt-tail view could look great in some indigo chambray.

Thanks again so much to Lady McElroy for providing me with this beautiful fabric!

McCalls 7351
Size 6 – 22
Full Bust: 30½″-44″
Waist: 23″-37″
Hips: 32½″-46″

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