Smarter in a shirtdress?

It’s summertime and super hard to pay attention at work when the days are warm and perfect.  Will this smart looking shirt dress help me focus?  Does clothing impact performance?  I read studies that show wearing formal clothes increases abstract thinking, improves test scores, and improves negotiation outcomes.  I also read a super interesting study that found people made half as many mistakes on a complicated task when wearing a white lab coat. Well, I don’t have a lab coat, maybe next project…?

Even if this dress doesn’t improve my work product, it’s a smart option for summer work and other outings.  The pattern is the tried and true Simplicity 8014 with a modified skirt.  The fabric is a stretch cotton woven from Mood from my deep stash. 


Neckline Strategy:  I came up with a simple solution for a “just-right” neckline plunge on this dress. I knew that I would never wear this dress buttoned up to the top- the fabric is a stretch twill and too heavy for that.  So, I tried the dress on and marked an ideal closure point for a not too low- not too high neckline and started my buttons from that point down.  Easy and perfect positioning- also no need to think about how many buttons to leave undone- and you save on unnecessary button and buttonholes.   Genius!!!


This is a straightforward shirt dress.  I lined the back yoke with a Liberty of London scrap- which makes it cute and cool. The fabric was great to work with- very little fraying- see sharp looking collar grading below.


The only other decision point was the belt option.  I tried this dress with a few belts on hand.  But did the leopard print cancel any possible performance advantage?


I decided I wanted a clean, monochromatic look, so I made a self-fabric D-Ring self belt.  Simply cut a rectangle 2 1/2 inches by desired belt length.  Interface to your stiffness preference and sew a tube. Turn and topstitch attaching the D-rings on one end.


Sweatshirt in Liberty of London fabric

I am a huge fan of Liberty of London fabric.  Choosing a print can be tricky- but choosing a pattern from Liberty of London is easy.  Every Liberty print is fabulous- you can’t make a mistake.  So when I saw that there was a Liberty print available in a cozy fleece from the absolutely charming Guthrie Ghani Fabric Shop- I couldn’t resist.  What could be better than an everyday sweatshirt in an extraordinary print? I ordered the Liberty Ruby Templar A Linford Fleece Backed Cotton Sweatshirt Fabric and I am glad I did because it wasn’t around for long! You can find Liberty of London sweatshirt material here.


Ordering from this lovely fabric shop was a snap- the yardage arrived surprisingly swiftly- and included a friendly note from staff. 

The fabric was even better in real life. The print and colors are amazing and the material is super soft and cozy!! You can glimpse the softness on the back face of the fabric and some hand sewing on rolled neck in progress.


The most difficult decision for this project was choosing a sweatshirt pattern.  I absolutely couldn’t decide, so oops- I made two (I promise to pass one of these off). When a project is simple- it is difficult to stop at one.

Here’s the version that I made from the trusty Grainline Linden.  This particular Liberty fleece fabric has practically no stretch- minor inconvenience. Happily, the Linden is roomy, so no worries. Because of the lack of stretch and the posh patterning, i decided to eliminate the sleeve cuffs and banded hem. My model is very similar to Lauren’s - adorable owner of Guthrie and Ghani.


For the second, I used this Simplicity pattern which is a bit more refined (boring?).  The lack of stretch in this model was more challenging- wish I had a smaller head. 


Now that they are both finished I still can’t decide which model I prefer.

 But I know I love the print!


Shift Shape

This dress is a real workhorse. It couldn’t be more useful or easy.  It is a one and done outfit and it will work for all seasons. 

Let’s talk about the style first- I am a longtime fan of the shift dress.  It is well documented that a shift dress is pretty much timeless, ageless and universally flattering. But don’t be fooled by the simplicity of this style. A good shift takes thought and effort. The best shifts have shape and fit well.

For this shift dress I started with my well-worn Simplicity 2584 Cynthia Rowley pattern-regrettably now discontinued. There are so many shift dress patterns out there- but don’t be sidetracked by the sleeves or necklines. Find the cut that works best for your body and then you can swap out necklines and sleeves easily. This particular pattern is drafted with a narrow and subtly fitted back and slight A-line. The narrowed and curvy back gives the dress a nice shape.

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As much as I love this pattern, the dart placement is not optimal for me- so I have to fiddle with that. My short-cut, simple pattern hacking fix is to use a bodice front pattern piece from another pattern with a better fitting dart placement. I simply line up the waist line and shoulders and draw in a new dart. You will also note that I fiddled with the neckline - omitted the slit and opted for a plain jewel neck- and I modified the sleeves a bit.

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A useful dress for taking care of business!

Now let’s talk about the fabric: I used a nearly perfect cotton that I purchased from Mood Fabrics with a little bit of elastane for stretch.  I absolutely love this type of cotton stretch fabric because it has great body, it isn’t clingy, it doesn’t wrinkle and it moves with you!

This particular fabric is unavailable- but there are so many stretch cotton woven fabrics to choose from here.

Extra bonus- these black and white checks will work in every season- just add (or subtract) tights.