McCalls Shirtwaist Dress

August 5, 2012 · 14 comments

vintage style shirtwaist dress

I have been wanting to add a shirt dress to my wardrobe for a while now, i actually can’t believe it’s taken me this long to get around to making one.  To me they are the ultimate 1950s dress and I love how iconicly vintage they are, conjuring up images of the poster girl fifties housewife.

I chose this particular pattern because I loved the shape of the bodice with the dropped shoulders rather than set in sleeves and the I really liked the pleated skirt. I chose to make it up in a gingham as I wanted it in something classic and I had found this lovely quality fine poplin on a recent trip to Fabrics Galore on Lavender Hill.

The McCalls Shirt Dress Pattern

I began, as I always do, by making up a toile of the dress in calico. I was expecting to have to make a lot of modifications to this pattern as I had images of it drowning me and being a little on the dowdy side but I was keen to use a vintage pattern rather than draft my own out of historical interest. As it turned out, however, the pattern was pretty much a perfect fit. I had to raise the hemline a little as I am quite petite and I removed 2cm from the drop shoulders / sleeves as they stuck out a little further than I wanted but that was all.

Working with the gingham presented the usual challenges of lining up the print and making sure the repeat flowed correctly even across seam lines. Gingham is one of my favourite fabrics so I never begrudge the extra time involved with working with it, but if you are a beginner to sewing or are making a garment with restricted time then I would recommend avoiding it. It took a little figuring out to get the centre front of the bodice (which has the button stand) and the centre front of the skirt (which has the pleats) to align but it came off okay in the end. One thing that I always like with vintage patterns are the details and the added complexity that dressmakers were obviously used to. This one involved bound buttonholes which you can see more about here and which I personally far prefer to machine buttonholes, a self covered belt which I chose to make in a bright contrasting pink and both a lapped zip and snaps/ poppers. Of course the belt was optional and you could always just do machine buttonholes if you prefer.

vintage shirt dress front

1950s shirt dress detail

Overall I am really thrilled with this dress and I would definitely make up this pattern again- I have already worn it a few times and found it really comfortable and fun to wear. I think next time I would go with a liberty print, maybe in pinks. I would also like to try some different shape shirt dresses, Betty Draper wears several in the earlier seasons of madmen that I would love to recreate.

Would love to hear your thoughts. Have you ever made a vintage shirt dress? What were your experiences?

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Sophie December 27, 2012 at 10:30 pm

Thank you Ami for this lovely blog, I’m just starting out sewing vintage patterns. Your blog has been really inspiring. Sophie x


amelialowden February 13, 2013 at 11:54 pm

Aw thanks Sophie, so glad you like the blog! Hope the vintage pattern sewing is going well? x
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Erin February 13, 2013 at 9:15 pm

This looks absolutely adorable on you and you are so pretty!! The colour, the fabric, the pattern all Perfect! so cute I love it!


amelialowden February 13, 2013 at 11:56 pm

Aw thanks so much!! That’s so sweet! I had been wanting to make a shirt dress forever – I think I have watched too much Mad Men! Hehe!! x
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Tugba February 18, 2013 at 3:45 pm

Love this! Works great with the fabric x
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Ami February 25, 2013 at 10:09 pm

Aw thanks! I love your blog! Xx
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Siobhan May 4, 2013 at 8:36 pm

I started looking for patterns because I’ve been watching the early series of Mad Men and love Betty’s wardrobe!
I’m definitely going to try to make one, it looks really good in this fabric.


Lyric June 23, 2013 at 9:50 pm

Bravo! I love this dress. Keep up the good work and thank you for sharing.
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Kate January 2, 2014 at 8:51 pm

Great job! Dress is awesome! looks absolutely amazing on you.


Charlotte Potts July 26, 2014 at 8:41 pm

I love this! What is the code for the pattern? I’d love to try and get one!


Rachel June 21, 2015 at 12:53 pm

Stumbled across this by accident and have to comment! you done a beautiful job, i was hoping it was for sale!! xx


Els van Alfen-Koome September 3, 2015 at 8:44 pm

Gorgeous dress! And the matching shoes and bag.
I love the vintage patterns.


Regan September 20, 2015 at 4:34 am

I absolutely love this dress! I really want to make it but I cannot find this pattern. Do you know where I could get it?
Thank you so much


Julie September 23, 2015 at 9:39 pm

Can you share the pattern code?


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