FO: Self-drafted shirtwaist dress

front 1

This is a dress I made at the end of last year from a pattern drafted by moi. I did a fantastic beginner’s pattern cutting course at the Fashion and Textile Museum and came away with my very own pattern. The course was taught by a pattern cutter who works for Zandra Rhodes and it was an eye-opener learning how it’s done in industry. For example, patterns are cut out in full for accuracy and never on fold and drafted net of seam allowance.

Pretty rose print cotton

Pretty rose print cotton

We worked from blocks closest to our RTW dress size to create a pattern that should, in theory, fit. My favourite part of the course was dart manipulation. Who knew that throwing a dart had an alternative meaning?

Although we were all making the same thing – a dress with a bodice and skirt, we were allowed to customise the design. We drafted our front and back necklines and decided where to place our darts. I went mad and added darts to my back shoulder.


We learnt how to alter our skirt block for a gathered or flared style. I chose a full gathered style to create a 50s shirtwaist dress. I had to compromise on the fullness of the skirt as I had bought a remnant and didn’t have enough fabric. To match my pattern to the width of my fabric, I made a pleat in it and cut round this.


So how does my dress pattern measure up? I made a toile to check for fit. In fact I went through two bodice toiles as there were a lot of alterations. Our patterns weren’t going to fit exactly as the course was about pattern cutting and not fit so we were advised to make toiles beforehand.

This is as far as my arm goes

This is as far as my arm goes

Over fitted bodice.

Over-fitted bodice.

The dress looks ok on but it’s the most uncomfortable garment I’ve ever made. I’ve somehow over-fitted the bodice and it’s way too tight around the upper back. The sleeves have no ease in them so I have limited movement in my arms. I wore it once to a Christmas party and it was so restrictive I swore never to wear it again.

However a lot of work went into it and I want to save it. My plan is to remove the sleeves as the fit was fine when I tried on the bodice without them, though I confess I’m not one for revisiting stuff I’ve finished. So watch this space.

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1 Response to FO: Self-drafted shirtwaist dress

  1. ooobop! says:

    Such a pretty dress all the same! It’s so hard to revisit garments that didn’t measure up. I’ve got that issue with the first Flora I made. And I’m sure I’ll have some more in the future. I’ve just completed my third session of pattern cutting class to and I’m so inspired to design my own dresses.

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