Stress Busting Shirtdress

Last week was very stressful.  Since retiring I haven't had a lot of 'very stressful' to contend with, so it really wiped me out!   As I have done all my life, I headed to my sewing room.  Sewing has always been my version of therapy.  A good project completely takes over my thoughts and pushes other stuff out of the way for a minute.  It's like a little vacation for my brain.  And last week I needed a really consuming project!!!!

I have been seeing shirt dresses and in particular, denim shirt dresses all over the place this spring.  They look cool (temperature and otherwise) and easy to wear and I want one!  I had hunted up a light weight very dark washed denim with a hint of stretch to make my version of a denim shirt dress.   I decided it would be the perfect 'therapy project' for last week.

I knew I wanted lots of fun topstitching on the dress.  A bunch of precise topstitching seemed like just the ticket for distracting my monkey brain for awhile!  It requires full focus and engineering the order of seaming to get the right overlaps is a thought consuming puzzle.  Excellent!

I started with my current favorite vest pattern, see it here and here.  I like the shape and it works well with more structured fabrics.  I washed the heck out of the denim to soften it up a bit and to avoid turning my fingers blue as I worked with it.

I had been clipping pages from the gazillion catalogues that show up in my mailbox, of denim and shirt dresses as inspiration.  Plenty of decisions to keep me focused!

I decided:
  • sleeveless
  • back shoulder yoke with center pleat
  • waist seam on the front
  • side pockets
  • collar with collar band 
  • shirttail hem in front, straight in back
  • and snaps

There would be more deciding along the way, but these got me started.

When I got the side pockets sewn, with 3 rows of topstitching and was ready to sew the front skirt to the front bodice...I realized that the dress needed to come down in size by about 2 inches!!  Arg!  

Normally that would be a simple fix by taking bigger side seams.  I decided that taking out the pockets was NOT an option, so the front skirt got a nice little center pleat!  

I knew there would be more decisions along the way!

As predicted, the topstitching was excellent therapy and actually got a bit out of control!

I used a scrap of a Liberty of London fabric that my husband had gotten for me on a trip to the UK, for the inside back yoke.  The light cotton lawn kept the yoke from getting too heavy and added a little surprise on the inside.

I like to use double thread to add heft to topstitching.  I had almost two full spools of thread when I started which I thought would be plenty.  This is what I had left when I finished!  Whew!

The week didn't get noticeably less stressful, but the dress did the trick!  As I worked on it I felt the familiar sense of calm that sewing can give me and the sense of losing track of time.  I know some people go for a run, or eat a package of Oreos, or hit pillows with wiffle bats...for me it's getting lost in a place where I feel confident, and creative and safe.  AND...I get a new dress!  I'm looking forward to wearing it on a lovely, stress-free summer afternoon.  Ohmmmmmmmmmm..........



  1. I have admired your technical skills but I am also loving your design skills as well. This dress is wonderful and the details are absolutely perfect. It looks like it is a very expensive dress. Jean

    1. The fabric was $9.99 a yard...but don't tell anyone! We'll just go with 'expensive' ;-)

  2. Looks perfect to me! I love it. I have been going through a stressful two weeks myself that promises to keep going for several weeks. Problem for me, is that the schedule I'm keeping on this ordeal keeps me out of the sewing room. I want to be there so badly. I hope to get a day soon to spend in "my happy place." Like you, I can get involved in the project and the stress subsides for a while.

    1. I hope you can get to your 'happy place' soon and dig into a fun spring project!

  3. Great dress. Wonderful design. Inspirational.

    1. Thanks. I always enjoy riffing on a pattern that I know works, it lets me concentrate on the details because I know it will fit.

  4. The topstitching and snaps raise this shirtwaist into a whole new level! SO stylish! I love that little half pocket in the front.

    1. Thanks! I keep hoping it will warm up enough around here to be able to wear it. I really don't want to have to put tights on!!!!