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.
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.
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!
“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.
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?
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.
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.
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!