Thursday, February 17, 2011

Devil In the Shirt Details

Back in October, I read about The Never Too Many White Shirts Project, started by Barbara at Sewing on the Edge. Quite a few stitchers have signed up to sew ten white shirts, the idea being that white shirts focus our attention on fit, line, and details, and sewing a bunch of them is useful because they are such versatile wardrobe components.

I think it's a cool idea, but I didn't sign up because I don't need ten new shirts. Since I was a teenager, most of the clothes I've made myself have been shirts, or else blouses styled like shirts, with collars on collar stands, shirt cuffs, front buttons, etc. In college, my incredulous roommate counted 24 shirts in my closet. They were all made from the same pattern.

When I was a grad student in Washington D.C., I discovered that the Georgetown Junior League's Thrift shop had gorgeously-detailed, seldom-worn men's dress shirts for under five dollars. The colors and patterns were sometimes eccentric, but I was a regular shopper there.

A few years ago I bought Shirtmaking by David Page Coffin. It's the most interesting sewing book I've ever read, and I've incorporated his design details into my shirt-making for several years now.

While Barbara works on sewing slowly and attending to professional shirtmaker's details, I've been looking for ways to sew quick and easy projects with my new serger. Of course I've tried it on shirt patterns.

I used my favorite men's shirt pattern, Kwik-Sew 2777 to make myself this nightshirt and flannel shirt. This time, I altered the pattern with a full bust adjustment, rotating the side dart to pleats at the shoulder seams. I was pleased to find that the shirts fit me much better this way.

For the nightshirt, I used a pattern size larger than I normally wear, and I made it night-gown length. I used the collar stand but no collar for a nineteenth century look, and I made the front one piece with a placket, for the same reason. I tried some cuff and cuff placket shortcuts using the serger, but they didn't turn out particularly well, so I made menswear cuff plackets using the pattern in Coffin's "Shirtmaking" on the flannel shirt.

The serger gave very nice seam finishes and shirt tail hems, but I couldn't bring myself to dispense with the menswear shirt details in these garments. I guess I'm just too shirt-obsessed--a "shirty dame."

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