Quick and Dirty Shirtwaist Dress

by Joni on November 5, 2011 · 15 comments

in 1960s,Dresses

I went into JoAnn’s for ONE THING, I swear. It wasn’t my fault that they had this awesome Alexander Henry “land of autumn” print on clearance for $3 A YARD, so I did the only sensible thing, which was buy the bolt end. There was a bit more than 4 yards, which is the bare minimum I need for a full-skirted dress. And I always need another full-skirted dress.

I wanted to see how quickly I could put a dress together, since autumn is almost over and I am running out of opportunities to wear this sort of thing. I tried something I’ve wanted to do for a while, which is drafting my own shirtwaist dress. (Or is it shirtdress? I always use the terms interchangeably but maybe they aren’t. Anyway, this is a dress which buttons all the way down, eliminating the need for a side zip.) I started with a 1970s blouse pattern I’ve used before. I de-biggened the collar so it wouldn’t be so Seventies, lopped several inches off the bottom, and tapered in the side seams (not enough as it turns out – it really could use some darts at the waist). Then I sliced up the remaining yardage into three equal pieces, turned back facings at the front, and gathered the whole mess to the bodice. I found some vintage gray buttons in my stash which are a PERFECT match for my new gray shoes.

I took every shortcut you can imagine, I even cheated and did a machine hem instead of blindhemming. Not my best work, but it definitely works as what Erin of Dress A Day calls a “stunt dress.” And it WAS quick – twelve hours after purchasing the fabric, I sewed on the last button. Here I am all decked out for church, with crinoline, vintage slip, and fabulous new shoes.

It’s a very fun dress and I can’t wait to wear it on Thanksgiving! Despite being faked together from a 1977 pattern I think it has kind of an early-Sixties vibe, what do you think?

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Debi November 5, 2011 at 8:29 am

LOVE it! That fabric is perfect AND for $3/yard! Brilliant! I am so in love with shirtwaist dresses lately :)


Catholic Bibliophagist November 5, 2011 at 8:47 am

I never thought of converting a blouse pattern into a dress — what a good idea! And I have a tried & true blouse pattern that might work for this.



Nadia Lewis November 5, 2011 at 9:55 am

So cute!


Cindy B November 5, 2011 at 10:24 am

Beautiful dress, I bet all the nieces and nephews will love it too!!!!


christine November 5, 2011 at 10:44 am

love it! i have a hard time resisting all things alexander henry. its hard. i even made a dress from that beefcake cowboy print he has! this is fabulous, well done and perfect for fall!


Lauren November 5, 2011 at 11:20 am

Adorable! And I love that fabric!


MoxieTonic November 5, 2011 at 1:30 pm

It turned out beautifully, and the fabric is perfect – I don’t know if it’s the color or pattern, but it looks so very vintage.
A shirtwaist was originally what a woman’s button-down blouse would have been called. They were styled after men’s shirts, and introduced into women’s clothing around the 1900′s. Hence ‘shirtwaist’ dress. I suppose if we want to get technical, a shirtwaist would describe vintage or vintage styled dress, whereas a shirtdress would be the contemporary version :)


Foster November 5, 2011 at 2:32 pm

Love the fabric. You’ve inspired me to go hit the sewing machine!


Helvetica November 5, 2011 at 4:35 pm

Wow, simply awesome! I think I saw that fabric the other day at my J-A, thought it was adorable but didn’t know what to do with it, so I love what you made! Are you wearing a crinoline?


Inkdork November 5, 2011 at 7:56 pm

This a is so pretty! Perfect fabric choice and what a steal! Love it!


Joni November 5, 2011 at 9:38 pm

Of COURSE a crinoline – I don’t wear a full-skirted dress without one!


Katherine November 5, 2011 at 10:38 pm

You need to follow the Joann tactical protocol – clasp your 40% off coupon in one hand and stride purposefully toward the section of the store that houses your ‘one item’, never lifting your gaze from the floor until you’re through the checkout. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES PICK UP A BASKET. This is bitter experience speaking ;)


Sølvi November 9, 2011 at 6:36 am

Gorgeous! The print of the fabric is just perfect for this type of dress. Well done! :-)


Heidi November 12, 2011 at 10:37 am

This is so cute! I’d wear shirtwaist dresses, but I no longer have a waist! I have one question, though…. If it was 12 hrs from the fabric store to wearing the dress, WHAT DID YOU DO WITH YOUR KIDS ALL THAT TIME, and HOW IS YOUR HOUSE SO CLEAN??????!!!! I’m in awe.


Marta March 25, 2012 at 4:26 pm

I LOVE this dress. Just beautiful. It makes me long to be able to wear this style, but alas, my figure these day is sadly Humpty Dumpty.

On the subject of shirtwaist vs. shirt dress, they are indeed two entirely separate styles. A shirtwaist carries the theme of the shirt only to the waist, whereas a shirt dress carries the shirt theme (button placket) all the way to the hem, and normally employs a belt to define the waist. What I mean is, the bodice and skirt on the shirt dress are one long piece (unless different fabric is being used).


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