June 28, 2012

2-in-1 Sew-Along: Shirt Dress Bodice Construction

You'll need to gather the front and back bodices where they attach to the yokes. So here's a tip for that: If you're working with a fabric that won't be blemished by a needle prick, it's useful to do the two lines of gathering where one line is on the outside of the seam allowance and one gathering line is on the inside. I do a gathering stitch (just a long stitch length on the machine with long tails and no back stitch) at 3/4" and at 3/8". I've found that you get more even gathering in the seam allowance this way. Pull the top or bottom threads and gather up the bit. You know how at the ends of each side of the gather, it gets flatter. To stop that from happening, you can pull the threads you didn't pull for each corresponding side. So if you pulled the top threads, pull the bottom ones to stay the ends.

Next, we'll make the pleats at the waistline for both the front and back bodice. I mark the pleat legs with snips into the cloth and then from there I bring the pleat legs together, pin and baste in place. The pleat intake should point toward the Center Front for the bodice fronts or Center Back for the bodice back, but honestly, if you did them backwards, I don't know that anyone would ever know. Press or steam the pleats in place.

Stitch the yoke front to the yoke back. Those front yoke pieces are really easy to get backwards and upside down, so make sure that you are matching up the notches. There is one notch toward the tip of the shoulder to match with the back yoke. Finish the seams and press. If you used a plaid and took advantage of my tip on cutting the yoke as one piece instead of two, you can skip this step.

Attach the yoke fronts to the bodice fronts and the yoke back to the bodice back. Finish all these seams and press in place. The yoke to bodice seams should be pressed upward toward the yoke. If desired, you can topstitch the yokes in place (and the shoulder seam too, if desired). To topstitch, I enjoy the use of my machine feet for this task. I have a 1/4" foot that has an arm guide for the seamline and you stitch 1/4" away on the topside of the garment. You can choose from a plethora of topstitching threads (contrasting or heavier thread) or just go with what you have in the machine.

For the shirt dress version, it's time for the collar construction. I decided to go off on a bit of a tangent here. Have you ever heard the term "Hanger Appeal?" It's a term used to describe a garment that has a certain amount of attractiveness on the hanger. Sometimes that can be enhanced by certain construction techniques and I wanted to employ one for this sew-along. Plus, it cuts down on bulk. It's easy enough. I had you cut and apply your interfacing a certain way for both the shirt and wrap dresses. I also had you cut a back facing for the shirt dress, even though this is piece was only for the wrap dress (but it works for the shirt dress too).

Let's put that aside and look at the collar first. Decide which piece will be the under collar and the upper collar. The upper collar will show when you wear the dress. Take the under collar piece and trim off 1/8" all around the outer edges.

Attach the under collar to the upper collar, right sides together. Leave the neck edge open. You'll end up easing the upper collar into the under collar a touch. When you're stitching this, it's helpful to keep the under collar topside in the bed of the sewing machine so the feed dogs will feed the upper collar through faster.

To turn the collar, it's useful to have a point presser or tailor board. Please note that you don't have to have one of these, but if you ever decide to invest in one, here's a thing to use it for.  Before pressing, let's do some trimming. I trim the under collar seam allowance down to half, then I lop off the points and the points that those make after you lop off the point. You'll press the seams open on the point presser and then turn the collar right side. If you don't have a point presser, skip this step.

If you have a point turner, take the pointy end and line it up with the collar point while at the same time putting your thumb in between the fabric at the same point and firmly holding. Now keep the firm grip and carefully turn the point. You should have a nice clean point, but if you don't try again.

If you still can get a clean point, grab a threaded hand needle. Stitch through the point with the needle, bring the thread through and grab both ends of the thread and gently pull.

When everything in the collar is turned right side out, press the collar, matching the neckline and you'll notice the under collar favoring the under collar side. This looks oh so professional!

Attach the under collar to the the neckline edge of the shirt dress bodice as far as you can go, leaving about 1/4" at each collar end. Attach the upper collar to the facing edge as far as you can go, leaving 1/4" at each collar end. Clip into the seam allowances for the collar pieces only up to where the stitching stops and all around the collar (curve clipping) and now press the seams open for each unit. Make sure the collar seams are going up into the collar.

Now sandwich everything and stitch the bodice back and facing seam allowances together from end to end. Note that the collar seam allowances will be inside the collar, eliminating bulk. Lop off the ends and trim the facing side seam allowance down to half. Clip into the curve of the back neck if needed. Use a point turner to turn the notch at each end. Press.

Press the front facing into place.

I add one more thing here that is completely optional but is something that I like. I like my facings stitched down because I'm that kind of a person. So I pin everything up inside and I stitch from the inside with my edgestitching foot and a matching thread. The interfacing is nicely tucked inside the dress now with a nice clean edge from the way in which I attached the interfacing. You may not like this look and if you don't that's fine. There are other options. You can choose to stitch only your back facing into place, stopping at the shoulder seams or you can tack the facings down at the shoulder seams by stitching in the ditch.

Stitch the right side seam (as worn on the body), seam finish and press. The left side seam has the zipper opening (you can switch this if you prefer). I apply a stay tape or some 1" strips of fusible knit tricot interfacing to the zipper opening and then I like to seam finish the seam allowances, stitch the seam allowance to the top of the zipper opening and press the seam opening above the zipper opening. I'll be showing how to do an invisible zipper and a lapped zipper application in later posts.

If you are working with a plaid, make sure that you are matching the plaids as you stitch the side seams in place. I place a pin at each major plaid and then stitch right up to the pin before taking it out.

Overlap the shirt dress bodice at Center Front, matching the notches and baste in place. The shirt dress bodice is ready for sleeves and a skirt.

Side note: That Hanger Appeal effect that I was talking about earlier, is where all of this comes together. when you hang this on the hanger, look how pretty it looks with the facing (and my added handmade faux label).

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  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Even though I can't take part, I'm still following! That's interesting to see how you do the pleats, I've always made them the "lazy" way to give soft pleats, as I assumed that's what the pattern asked for. I think I might have a look at the first way with some patterns to see the difference.

  3. Since I misplaced my instruction this is very helpful! Dumb question should the folds of the pleats be on the inside or outside?

  4. Oh that's a very good question! I think if you're doing the pleats the first way, they should be in the inside of the fabric, but if you want the softer version of the pleats (the 2nd way) you could do either way!

  5. I think for several patterns, that's usually how its done too. It does depend on what you want too. Sometimes I like the softer look - which I'm going for in my shirt dress - and sometimes I like that look that really lets you know that the pleats are there, like the first method. Totally up to you though! Either way rocks my boat!

  6. Oh so glad! Can't wait to see your pleats!

  7. Great tutorial and easy to understand. I look forward to seeing both of your versions finished.

  8. While I am not taking part in your sew in I have been watching your work and your oh so clear explanations with interest. Why weren't there people like you and computers, email...... out there when I was starting to sew 50 years ago? Your instructions are so clear and comprehensive. Thanks for taking the time to do all this. I'm still learning! Keep up the good work and may you prosper.


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