May 15, 2020

Crisp Lines to Keep You Cool This Summer: Say Hello to Shirt Dresses

Ah, the shirt dress. A classic style that has lasted through the decades, it's probably something that you've thought about sewing but maybe never quite tackled. It can seem like a lot. There are collars, sleeves, buttons, fit concerns. It can feel a little overwhelming at the onset. 

But there's also something glorious about shirt-making (and shirt dress-making, by extension). The crisp fabrics are a delight to sew; the steps are clear and easy to follow, and there's something soothing in the technical aspects because when you get that collar point just right or that button placket perfectly topstitched, there's such a sense of accomplishment. Yes, I made it!

The shirt dress is also a fave summer garment. The lightweight fabrics, usually natural fibers, are cool and breathable. And the style looks great either on its own or layered with a cardigan or jacket when hot days turn in to cooler summer nights. If you don't already have a shirt dress in your wardrobe, we hope these boxes will change that for you.

So, let's take a look at the different styles and patterns you can choose from!

Sew Fearless Box: Kalle Shirt Dress from Closet Case Patterns

If you're looking to dip your toe into shirt-making, this is the pattern for you. The loose shape of the dress makes it easy to fit and the dolman sleeves mean you don't have to worry about tackling set in sleeves.
And we love the style of the Kalle Shirt Dress! The rounded hem adds a really unique element, and with options ranging from cropped shirt to full dress, you have a pattern you'll want to use again and again.
So now, to the fabric!
  • Cobalt Check Cotton Seersucker - What looks like a gingham is actually a delightful seersucker, with all the texture and lightness that fabric has to offer. Crisp, yet soft to the touch, the fabric screams summer. With the fullest drape of the three options, this will transform the Kalle pattern into a airy and light dress that perfect for when it's so hot out you don't want anything touching you. And you'll look amazing to boot!
  • Salmon Pink Cotton Chambray - Chambray is a no brainer for this pattern - it's even used in the style photos! But we decided to go for an unexpected color in this soft salmon pink. The chambray weave gives it a heathered look, and the soft cotton makes it light and breathable. All of this combines to be a brilliant choice for a summer dress.
  • Blue and Green Spring Flowers Rayon Challis -  Of all the patterns this month, the Kalle pattern has the most versatility in terms of fabric options. You can choose anything from crisp shirting to slinky silk, so we thought we'd play with the drape of the dress with this lovely rayon challis. Covered with clusters of small sage green and white flowers, this deep blue fabric has just the right amount of pattern to really show off your handmade work on this dress!

Sew Confident Box: Bleuet Dress from Deer and Doe Patterns

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know that we love Deer and Doe for its feminine and modern styling. So when we were looking for different takes on the classic shirt dress, it was no surprise that we found one of our faves with the gals over in France.
This dress has so many subtle elements to make it a really flattering shirt dress. Without a waist seam, the princess seams run the length of the dress and elongate the body; the cap sleeves are just the right shape to avoid looking bulky; and little bow in the back defines the waist without cinching. All of this combines into a gorgeous shirt dress we can't wait to make.
Now, fabric time!
  • Blue Variable Stripe Cotton Shirting - Soft and lightweight, this 100% cotton shirting looks like classic men's shirting that we've turned on its head for this feminine and modern pattern. The stripes run parallel to the selvedge, so they'll be vertical on the finished dress, thus emphasizing the princess line. Plus, with just enough crispness, this fabric feels amazing against your skin, especially when the hot weather hits.
  • Deep Teal Satin Cotton Shirting - It's hard to describe just exactly how luxurious this fabric feels. With the tailored drape of shirting, the softness of high-thread count cotton, and the smoothness of a satin-weave, this lightweight, richly hued fabric has it all. The crispness will hold the shape of the collar beautifully, and the color! A deep, rich teal is cool, verdant and stunning.
  • Blue Raspberry Floral Stretch Cotton Poplin - We love this stretch poplin and have used it before in a different print (our oxblood feather print, to be exact). It has everything we love about shirting, a crisp drape, a smooth hand, and a hint of stretch for comfort. With a navy face, swirled with white and raspberry flowers, you have a gorgeous print that will make this shirt dress your go-to summer outfit. If you want a tea-dress of your dreams, look no further!

Sew Curvy Box: Lenox Shirt Dress from Cashmerette 

If you have a large bust, finding the right button dress can be an exercise in futility. But luckily, Cashmerette has designed a pattern to flatter your curves without the buttons pulling or gaping at the bust-line. 
The wonder of the pattern lies in the details: everything is so well thought out to fit and flatter. From the princess seams that define the shape to the bodice to the v-neck of the collar that lays flat agains the chest to the subtle waist band that matches the hem bands on the sleeves for a nice continuity of style. Choose from a pleated skirt or a gathered skirt, depending on the formality you're going for, and you can create a shirt dress of your dreams!
Now, let's look at some dreamy fabrics:
  • Painted Roses Rayon-Cotton Lawn -  This rayon lawn is one of our favorite substrates of all time. A soft, lightly crisp fabric, it's silky and cool to the touch, and while it is wonderfully thin, it's also opaque, making it ideal for shirt-making. From Cotton + Steel, the pattern is inspired by Alice in Wonderland and the "painting the roses red". It's bright and floral and perfect for summer!
  • Turquoise Belize Linen-Cotton Blend - Cool as an ocean breeze; that's what this serene color makes us think, and that's what we hope you feel when you make a shirtdress out of this linen blend. Linen for lightness, cotton for softness, the fabric is yarn-dyed giving it subtle texture and depth. It's like making a dress out of your favorite chambray, but better!
  • Silver Dot Linen Jacquard - How could you see this fabric and now want to sew with it? Honestly, we couldn't pass it up. The jacquard weave creates geometric dots all across the silver gray fabric's face, and we think it's just the right amount of pattern and texture for this dress. Plus, in linen, it'll keep you cool and chic in the summer heat

Sew Indulgent Box: Penny Dress from Colette Patterns

Before Colette discontinued their paper patterns, I snapped up as many copies of patterns I wanted to use in the future as I could. And top of that list was the Penny Dress, their wonderful shirt dress. 
There are so many things to love about this pattern. It feels right out of the mid-century, something you could easily see Midge Maisel wearing (and rocking, naturally). The classic fitted bodice offsets the full skirt (with inseam pockets!), and the button placket is hidden on the skirt, giving the dress a refined elegance. With a sleeveless option, as well as an overlapping belt, you can customize the dress to your ideal design.
Now, for our luxe fabrics!
  • Neon Wildflower Rayon Cotton Lawn - This rayon lawn is like looking into a field of wildflowers. A collage of color and pattern, the fabric is bright and fresh and wonderfully unique. The wildness of the pattern will complement the traditional elements of the pattern, and the softness of the fabric will keep you cool and comfortable all summer long!
  • Persimmon Washed Linen - If you want a linen dress for the summer, why not go bold with this brightly saturated pink orange hue. Like fresh papaya or tangy persimmon, this color brighten up your day and your wardrobe. Lightweight and airy, this linen has an antique washed finish, adding softness and texture. A stunning choice for a fabulous shirt dress
  • Blue Fern Printed Linen - We used this same substrate in our jumpsuit boxes, and we couldn't resist using it again (in a different pattern) for this dress. The linen is silky soft and light, and the blue and green fern leaves are playful and tropical. A dress made with this print will be a knockout piece in your wardrobe and one that you'll cherish for years to come.


We hope you love these dresses as much as we do. We know that maybe it doesn't fit in to your wardrobe right now, but sewing has always been an aspirational creation for us, and sometimes, it's nice to make something that you'll want to wear, no matter the current circumstances. Plus, a shirtdress is timeless, as popular now as it was decades ago.

If these dresses aren't what you're looking for, we're reviving our Midi Skirt Boxes in our Classic series. These wonderful skirt boxes are perfect for all seasons and as stylish as they come. You can check out our blog post about them here

I hope all of you are staying safe and well. Until next time.

Happy sewing, 



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