Liberty Shirt Dress | Simplicity 1880

I love shirt dresses! I think the first one I fell in love with was Sandy’s peach one in Grease when I was a little girl! The 8 year old me couldn’t comprehend her makeover- why on earth would she trade the pretty pastel dresses for the shiny black lycra and poodle hair?! Hehe!

Being a lover of sewing with vintage patterns I already own a couple of vintage shirt dress patterns. One of which I have made up in a blue gingham and one I am yet to try but am very excited about! So I realllllly didn’t need Simplicity 1880 but there were so many cute variations with the pattern and I managed to convince myself into the purchase based on these and the slightly more 40s charm it had going on! I really can talk myself into pretty much anything when it comes to the acquisition of sewing or knitting supplies!

I decided to make up a toile of the version with little puffy sleeves first. I followed my measurements from the back of the envelope and the pattern came up as a pretty good fit so I would definitely say go with your measurements on this one.

Libert Shirt Dress

In terms of adjustments I did have to raise the armscyes a couple of cm but that’s a totally standard alteration for me. The armscyes of commercial patterns and ready to wear dresses are often cut too low for me, this results in massively restricted arm movement which I can’t stand!

I loved the flippy , flutey skirt from the pattern but I decided I wanted a gathered skirt for this version so I just did a straightforward gathered rectangle 2.5 times the waist measurement of the dress.

Instead of the pleats on the bodice I actually stitched the pleats for 5 cm up from the waist to make them release pleats instead as this created less of a poofy silhouette. I have often done the same with vintage patterns .

Having recently made Deer and Doe’s Reglisse dress and loving its super comfy elasticated waist I decided to experiment with a bit of elastication on the back waist. I didn’t put the pleats in the back bodice and instead once I had attached the skirt I stitched 18cm of elastic onto the back waist seam allowance using a 3 step zigzag. This drew in the back waist nicely and I’m pretty pleased at how it turned out.

Simplicity 1880 shirt dress

The fabric is a discontinued Liberty print that I just love love love love love!  I lined the skirt with a white cotton lawn as tana lawn is very fine and as a result a little see through without a lining.

Construction wise I used all my regular finishes. I used french seams, lined my yoke, bound my armscyes and did little hand worked buttonholes. As this dress has a front facing bound buttonholes would have worked equally well here. I used Gutermann silk buttonhole twist for the buttonholes which is pretty hard to come by these days but I buy mine online from Bernstein and Banleys .


I would definitely recommend this pattern if you want a vintage style shirt dress! I have already adapted the pattern to be a sleeveless style as I have always wanted to make a sleeveless shirt dress a la Betty Draper. 

Simplicity 1880 Liberty Shirt Dress

front of liberty shirt dress

I am also looking forward to making one up with the longer sleeves for the cooler seasons.

Have you tried Simplicity 1880 or made up a different shirt dress recently?

Thanks for reading!

P.S. if anyone’s getting deja vu looking at this I had this dress on in my recent video!

62 responses to “Liberty Shirt Dress | Simplicity 1880”

  1. I love the fabric and your aesthetic in general. Very pretty. 🙂

    Did adding the elastic mean you didn’t need to use a zipper? Or is it just a tiny bit for extra ease?

    • Aw thank you!
      I still used a zipper as I didn’t actually add any extra size to the dress I just used the elastic instead of the back waist darts so its still too fitted to escape the zip! 🙁
      Makes it very comfy to wear tho! 🙂

    • Awww I LOVE the Hawthorn pattern! I have reserved it from SewBox as it’s not in stock yet, it’s just so pretty and graceful isn’t it! Look forward to seeing yours Katy! 🙂

  2. Adorable. Love the fabric. I especially like how you finished the back waist. I made this in a floral also and it’s one of my most worn dresses in summer. I think there is a grain line error on the skirt pieces though as it drapes very oddly around the centre front seam – I ended up tapering that part off to make it sit better. I love the pattern though and really love your take on it.

    • Ah thank you! Yep I noticed a few people saying that the original skirt pattern drapes oddly. I think if I make this up with the original non- gathered style skirt I will just draft my own semi- circular skirt.Thanks for the heads up!
      I think I’ll be wearing this a lot too! 🙂

  3. You are so lucky to have Liberty Prints so available to you. This is such a pretty pattern, I am surprised they would discontinue it. Your dress is darling and so summery. You did a beautiful job.

    • Thanks France! Yes I am very lucky in that respect, I love Liberty lawn for summer projects!
      And yep it always surprises me when they discontinue one of their really pretty classics.

    • Yep I have a fantastic vintage dressmaking book from something like 1947 and the instructions for hand-worked buttonholes in it are fantastic. I will have to do a post/ tutorial on them. They give such a lovely finish! 🙂

  4. Thank you so much for sharing all your skills. Can I be cheeky and pick your brains about the lining? Do you attach it at the bottom, or let it hang as two separate skirts, I wasnt sure if the picture was showing it sewn together? Maybe you could do a tutorial on how to line at some future point (no pressure!!)

    • Hi Angela! That’s not cheeky at all- of course you can pick my brains! I’m sorry this part was a bit unclear- the picture you can see is actually the bodice front facing. I didn’t use iron-on interfacing I just used white cotton and so I stitched it onto the grown on facing of the dress and turned it under (I will have to show this is another post as it’s tricky to describe!)
      As for the lining it is just attached at the waist and hangs freely inside the dress. I attached it to the bodice at the same time as the main skirt and so the bodice is sandwiched between the skirt and the skirt lining if that makes sense? Next time I do this I will think ahead and take pictures during construction to include in a post with more details but I hope that brief description clarified things a little bit! 🙂

  5. That’s sooo cute. I am trying to decide which shirt dress to make. I’ve been collecting pins and being very indecisive. I was thinking of a button front Reglisse but now with Colette’s Hawthorn I’m just not sure…. maybe I just need two!!

  6. Oh wow I LOVE this – I’m a big liberty fan and a big fan of short dresses so this is a big hit with me!

    Love the elastic idea – a little bit of room to manoeuvre is always a good thing, it allows more leeway for cake eating!

    Some details on how you did that (how did you decide on 28 cm of elastic – did you just eyeball it?) would be smashing.

    Hope we get some sunshine so you actually get some wear out of this!


    • Hi Tara! Ah thanks! Yep I’m with you on both- can’t go too far wrong with Liberty print or a shirt dress!
      With the elastic I just eyeballed the kind of amount I thought I would need and safety pinned that to the seam where it would ultimately be attached. Then I tried it on to check it was drawing things in the right amount before un-pinning it and stitching it down. I overestimated how much I would need so it was definitely worth pinning and trying first!
      It was actually 18cm rather than 28 tho! 🙂
      Hope that helps!

  7. I was admiring this on you on the video tutorial you posted. It’s beautiful.

    Perhaps you could do a tutorial on armscye adjustments as I have the same problem with patterns, but am not sure how to go about making alterations to the pattern.

    • Thanks Jane!
      I would be more than happy to do a tutorial on that as it’s such a valuable adjustment to do if you need it- makes life so much more comfortable if one can move one’s arms around freely! Hehe!
      I have added it to my upcoming tutorials list 🙂

  8. This is adorable! The fabric is a perfect match for the shape of the dress.

    I’m really curious about two things you did with the armscye, and wonder if you would share further? I’m intrigued by the bit about raising the armscye, as I often have constricted upper arms and have been trying to solve that problem (unsuccessfully) by doing a broad back adjustment. It never would have occurred to me to raise the armscye, and I haven’t ever heard of this anywhere else!

    And binding the armscye? Sounds like a lovely, clean finish. Could we get a picture of that?

    Hope you don’t mind me asking for clarification – it’s just that you are able to explain things in a way that really makes sense to me! I’ve learned a lot just in the short time I’ve been reading your blog!

    • Hi Gail!
      Of course! Yep if you are finding your arms are restricted in garments then raising the armscye could definitely be worth trying. If the armscye is too low then the sleeve sort of pins your arm down to your side slightly. It’s an incredibly simple alteration, you just need to continue the side seam up beyond the current UAP (underarm point) I usually need to raise the height by around 1.5 to 2cm. The you need to measure the new armscye, calculate how much smaller it is than the original and remove this amount from the sleeve. I am going to add a tutorial on this very soon as a couple of other readers have also shown an interest in this adjustment 🙂
      I can absolutely add some pics of the bound sleeve seams- I will take some and do an edit to the post 🙂
      I will also be covering how too add bias binding in general in my next video tutorial.
      Hope that helps!

  9. Hi, I’m new to sewing and have just discovered your blog, I love it and I’ve learnt so much from it already. I love this dress and it is definitely on my list for when I become more confident and competent (hopefully not too long now!). One general question (probably a silly one) I have about material is I read about people just buying up material as and when they see it without having a pattern in mind, how much would you buy, a meter, 2? I see lots of material on my wanderings but I never know how much I should go for – I did say it was a silly one! Thanks

    • Hi Jo! Thanks for your lovely comment, I am so pleased to hear that you are finding the blog helpful!
      That’s not a silly question at all! 2 metres is generally enough to make a knee length dress of most styles so if I’m really not sure what I would make I always tend to get 2 to keep my options relatively open. However, if the fabric looks like it will lend itself to a dress with a circle skirt or if you like a full length dresses then you will want to get 3 to accommodate those styles.
      A metre would be enough for a sleeveless blouse or a straight or A-line skirt of roughly knee length.
      For a long sleeve blouse or a blouse with any sleeves really I’d go for at least 1.5m.
      If the fabric isn’t too expensive and you really like it then maybe consider buying a bit more than you think you will need to avoid disappointment. There’s always something you can do with scraps!:)
      Hope that helps a bit! Happy sewing 🙂

      • Thanks so much Ami, this is so helpful, exactly what I wanted to know, can’t wait to go shopping now!!

  10. I absolutely love this. I have found I have a growing desire to make a shirt dress recently, since I saw Zooey Deschanel in one on New Girl, and your version is pretty close. Love the elastic detail at the back. Nice touch.

  11. This looks so pretty on you. Shirtdresses don’t really suit me, but I love them on other people and this one is perfect.

    Your attention to detail and finishing is beautiful.

  12. This looks lovely. Your post has really made me think about stopping before I start a project to think about how I really want it to look, usually I only alter one element (aside from the fit) Great ideas. X

  13. Why are you so so so so so adorable?! It hurts my teeth, seeing you be so sweet!

    I love the dress, it looks like you were born to wear it!

  14. Super excited to see this. I’m currently trying to find fabric to make a version of this pattern. Yours looks lovely! Slightly concerned I might need to do a full lining if i find the fabric I’m after but oh well, its all an adventure!

  15. 1. I can’t get enough of your floaty, feminine, floral dresses. They’re incredible. 2. The elastic in the back is such a fantastic touch! I really want to try that! 3. HAND WORKED BUTTONHOLES? You never cease to amaze me!

  16. The dress is gorgeous and so is your arm chair! Is it from ikea? If so what cover is it because I have Never seen that one before.



  17. Hi Amy,
    Sorry but I know I’m rather late to this party!
    Congratulations on your baby news, this post might be something you will be thinking ahead to too.
    I’m looking to make this lovely shirt dress, but for my daughter who has just given birth to her first baby, and as she is breastfeeding it’s really difficult to find flattering clothes that allow this. I love your idea with the elasticated waist, but on your pic I think you have added a waistband. As my daughter still has a bit Of mummy tummy, could I ask what you did please. It might just be the answer for her.

  18. I know that I am considerably late to the party, but I continuously return to this post (and many others) on your blog. It inspires me greatly. I can’t wait to start my first skirt dress; the first of many.

    A. W.

  19. Love the shirt dress pattern with small pink floral fabric. Is this a pattern that is available for purchase now or a vintage pattern. I would love to have this and others like it. Thanks so much for any information you can give me.

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