McCalls 7575 – Button-Down

I’ve always liked button-down shirts, but ones off the rack don’t fit me. Well, they used to fit me, then I put on weight.

While snoop shopping, I’ve admired a few shirts. Carolina Herrera makes white button-downs that are so elegant and timeless. Shirts are also appealing to me because you can make them work with wild prints and novelty fabrics.

However, shirts have never agreed with me. The buttons gape (easily remedied with some double-sided garment tape), but more than that, they pull back so the collar chokes me and neck creeps down my back.

The Inspiration

Last year I had fun making a shirt dress and tunic in different types of cotton and mixing prints. So when I saw these Brooks Brothers shirts, I knew that it was time to work on mastering the button down shirt.

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Brooks Brothers Stretch Poplin Shirt

The Pattern

McCalls 7575 is a classic button-down shirt. It’s a Palmer Pletsch pattern, so there are all kinds of instructions on how to fit a shirt. Just what I need!

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“Semi-fitted shirts have back yoke, collar, sleeve, hem and length variations.”  For fitting, there are bust, front and back darts, plus there is a lined yoke, and collar with stand. For me, the collar stand is essential.

I selected version C, which has side slits for added ease around the hip. For my wearable toile I made a stand collar, and for the Liberty version, I included a full collar.

Wearable Toile

So you’re supposed to spend a great deal of time tissue fitting this pattern. Have I said I’m impatient?

Since I knew the tissue fitting thing would be an issue for me, I picked up some fun fabric with the intention of making a wearable toile. The fabric used is quilting cotton in the Wonderland line from Cotton + Steele plus Rifle Paper (from my favourite Atlanta fabric source, Topstitch Studio). I originally selected the main fabric, then added a coordinating polka dot for the placket, collar, cuffs and interior yoke. My goal was to have this finished for Valentine’s Day. Queen of Hearts – get it?

 

Adjustments

The pattern is designed to teach you how to fit. You cut the tissue, tape in a few places to protect curves, then pin the tissue together and try it on. Oh, my gosh – this was so tedious! I suppose I could have traced off the full pattern and fit that … Yes, the tissue paper fitting was helpful for ensuring that the bust and waist were the right dimensions, and the shoulders were generally in the right place. Ultimately I cut my usual 18 and did a pivot on the bust. That was it.

Once the toile was completed I saw that the shoulders and neck are both too big. Shoulders are easy to remedy, but neck diameter is not. As it’s more comfortable to have a loose neckband than one that is too tight, and considering I never button up to the top, this isn’t a big deal to me.

Before we move to the ‘good’ version, here are a few photos of my fun Valentine’s shirt. I’ve worn it at least 3 times already! The quilting cotton is a bit heavy but is perfect for cooler weather.

Liberty Version

Fabric

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Almost two years ago I bought my first piece of Liberty fabric from that venerable institution in London. This fabric is precious, not just because it’s expensive, but it also is a souvenir of a wonderful holiday. After contemplating a number of different patterns, I knew that this Tana Lawn was perfect for a button-down.

Sewing Details and Adjustments

The fabric was prewashed and hung to dry. I see why this fabric is more expensive. It washed and dried so well. Even with a drip dry on the rack, there was minimal wrinkling.

In terms of fitting, I made two adjustments from the toile: I narrowed the shoulders by a 3/4″, and I narrowed the upper bodice from armscye to waist by about 1/2″.

The adjustment on the shoulders worked really well. I didn’t need to change the sleeve at all, just eased it right on in. But this second version is tighter in the back. You’d think that the lighter weight fabric would mean the garment is a bit looser, so I don’t know what I did. Frustrating.

 

 

For this version, the fabric needs to be the star. However, every star needs a wee bit of sparkle, and in this case that came in the form of an embellishment on the back yoke. I subscribe to a monthly embroidery design package (John Deer Ultimate Stash) so have thousands of designs to choose from. There was a really cute crown, but that just seemed a bit too cliche. Then I found a small bird that I thought worked well with the fabric design. Thanks to Sarah Gunn of Goodbye Valentino for the inspiration to add just a bit of embroidery to our garments!

In addition to the embroidery, I topstitched both sides of the placket, plus the yoke, cuffs and collar.

 

Sewing notes

This is a beautifully shaped shirt. Unlike button-down shirts I’ve purchased in the past, this has considerable shaping in the bust and waist. Amazing what a few well placed darts can do.

I’m really pleased with both shirts, and think the Liberty will be a favourite all spring and summer. It’s surprising how different the two versions look. My Liberty shirt will fit better when I’m just a bit smaller in size (impetus to keep going to the gym, I suppose), but it’s wearable now.

Would I make it again? Yes, I think this is one of those garments that you keep working on until the fit is perfect. Then you make one for every day of the week. The local ASG chapter has a fitting focused sew-in at the end of March so I plan to make up a version in muslin, with all of the lines drawn, and bribe my fellow sewists to help with the fitting.

As much as I love wearing knits, a shirt seems like a smart solution for workwear, especially in a luxurious fabric. Hey, now I have an excuse to go back to Liberty 😉

The Liberty version of this shirt is part of my entry for the Pattern Review Wardrobe contest for 2018. If I run out of time, the wearable toile could also be an entry.

Dear blog readers, to me it looks like the front fits really well, but the back needs work. It does not feel tight anywhere. Should I change the shape or the length of the back darts? Any suggestions or guidance is welcome!

 

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23 thoughts on “McCalls 7575 – Button-Down

  1. What a great blog post! I always have trouble with button front shirts. You’ve inspired me to re-think this style. Your post is very helpful in the fitting and I think you aced the fit. Great job & you look lovely!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. These are great shirts! I have not gotten my courage up enough to make a button down shirt yet. I am not a fitting expert, but it seems that the upper back is too long or too wide for your torso, right beneath the yoke. I’m sure it is not noticeable when you are wearing it, just when you are standing still. Who does much of that?! I love this Liberty shirt, especially. I think it looks fabulous.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Becky. I started with a non-fitted shirt-dress and learned to make a placket and collars there. You just need time and quiet for concentration … which is hard to come by for most of us.

      I think you’re right about the fitting. There is probably too much fabric above my waist. It really is very noticeable when I move. I’m wondering if I have a broad upper back, too.

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  3. Janine, that is a beautiful shirt. You did a great job on it. I love the fabric. I agree with Becky about the back. I don’t know what it needs but it needs something. Maybe a length adjustment between the yoke and the waist? Bring it to the sit n sew and see what everyone thinks.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Both shirts are so gorgeous! Lovely work. I’ve made two shirts for my sons, but none for myself. The little touch of embroidery is just perfect. Look at the pattern envelope, the shirt doesn’t fit the model. It gapes at the bust and the shoulders are too narrow. I agree about the back of your Liberty, it does need something, maybe your friends will be able to help you.

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  5. Hi Janine! I’m one of the RTW Fasters and saw your post. I love your choice of pattern and fabric. Palmer Pletsch anything is always a winner in my book. As to the fit, I was thinking about it and (although it’s hard to tell not being in person) is there a high upper back alteration line on the pattern? It looks like the yoke could be the culprit. But don’t get me wrong, it looks absolutely fine as is. Sewers are more critical then the general public when it comes to fit. The front is spot on so the back may need just a tiny tweek. I’ve got this pattern and really need to get going on one myself. I’ll give you an update after I see how it fits.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Marguerite! I’ll look at the pattern. There is probably an upper back adjustment. I wondered if I have developed a broad upper back and perhaps that’s causing some of the problem. Aging isn’t fun!

      Yes, I agree that we who sew are hypercritical. There’s such a fine line between wanting to do well and setting unrealistic expectations.

      I look forward to seeing your version!

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  6. Hi Janine
    I saw your post in the RTW Fasters. I love the fabric and your shirt. You have done a really great job. My 2 cents worth about fitting. Have you tried pinching out the excess on the back sleeves? THe back armsyce as the seam is down on the arm. You definitely should go back to Liberty and buy some more fabric. I have no qualms about enabling stash building. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Kay! There is definitely excess fabric in various places in the back. I’ll add the sleeves as a place for some pinning when I work on the next version. And there will definitely be more Liberty! 😁

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  7. Your blouse is beautiful! It has been many years since I did my first (and only) button down; my sophomore year in hs! Your fabric choices are lovely, too. I’m inspired!

    Liked by 1 person

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