Shirt to Shirtdress: An Easy Pattern Hack for Summer

Two view of a shirtdress

Nothing says summer like a breezy shirtdress! Transform a favorite button-up blouse pattern into a trendy shirtdress with pockets. Grab the free pocket pattern and get started.


This article originally appeared in the Summer 2021 issue of Sew News.


Supplies

Note: Select a semi-fitted blouse pattern with princess seams, darts or dartless that’s loose enough to pull on and off over your head. In addition, make sure the blouse fits you at and above the bust.

Alter

Trace a copy of the front and back bodice patterns. If the pattern has front facings, trace a copy onto new pattern paper.

Try on a muslin-fitting sample or the pinned pattern tissue of the bodice. Tie a piece of elastic around your waistline at the desired waistband location, making sure the elastic is parallel to the ground. Mark the elastic location on the front and back bodice.

Measure from the elastic along the outer leg to the desired skirt length plus 1 1/4”; record as the skirt length measurement.

Bodice

Remove the bodice. Transfer the elastic placement markings to the front and back bodice patterns, making sure the line is even and symmetrical between the left and right bodice halves. In addition, make sure the line matches at the bodice side seams. Designate as the new bodice lower edge (left illustration below).

Left: Designating new bodice edge | Center: Stitching pockets to side seams | Right: Stitching side seams and pocket perimeter

Add seam allowances to the new front and back bodice lower edge, making sure the seam allowance amount is the same as the existing pattern. Cut along the seam allowance lines.

If the pattern has front facings, repeat to shorten the facings.

Waistband

To determine the front-waistband length measurement, measure the front-bodice lower edge from the side seam to the center front including any seam allowances, and then double; record. Make sure to measure to the center front and not the pattern edge, as button-up blouses overlap at the center front.

To determine the back-waistband length measurement, measure the back-bodice lower edge from the side seam to the center back including any seam allowances, and then double; record.

If either the front or back bodice have waistline darts after the alteration, they are not stitched during construction, therefore do not exclude them in the waistband measurement. Unstitched darts allow for extra wearing ease. If the patterns have princess seams or are sewn from multiple pieces, don’t include the seam allowances between the pieces in the waistband length measurement.

To determine the waistband width measurement, determine the desired width, and then add two seam allowances. For example, the featured dress has a 2”-wide finished waistband, so the pattern width is 2”+5/8”+5/8”=3 1/4”.

Draft a front and back waistband according to the recorded length and width measurements.

Skirt

The skirt front and back width is approximately 1 1/2 times the waistband length measurement. However, the skirt width can be adjusted to the desired amount as long as the finished skirt front and back circumference is several inches larger than your hip circumference.

Draft a front and back skirt according to the recorded length and width measurements.

Cut

Download the pocket pattern; print, and then cut out.

From the fabric, cut two front bodices, one back bodice, two sleeves, two collars, two front waistbands, two back waistbands, one skirt front, one skirt back and four pockets. In addition, cut any front facings according to the pattern instructions using the new facing patterns. Designate one front and back waistband as the waistband facings.

Construct

Use the seam allowances according to the pattern instructions.

Construct the bodice according to the pattern instructions, stopping before hemming the lower edge. Button the blouse and hand tack it closed along the center-front lower edge. Position one front and back waistband with right sides together; pin. Stitch each short edge; press open. Designate one long edge as the upper edge.

Repeat to stitch the waistband facings.

Position the skirt front right side up on a flat work surface. Pin one pocket over one skirt side seam with right sides together, aligning the straight edges and the pocket upper edge approximately 4” below the skirt upper edge; stitch.

Repeat to stitch a pocket to the opposite skirt side seam and each skirt-back side seam (middle illustration above). Press each pocket away from the skirt with the seam allowances toward the pocket.

Position the skirt front and back with right sides together; pin. Stitch each skirt side seam, beginning at the waistline until the pocket upper edge, around the pocket perimeter, and then to the skirt lower edge (right illustration above). Finish the seam allowances as desired. Baste two rows of stitching along the skirt waistline within the seam allowance and leaving long thread tails. Pull the bobbin threads to gather the skirt waistline.

Adjust the skirt waistline gathers to match the waistband lower-edge circumference. Pin the skirt waistline and waistband lower edge with right sides together, aligning the seamlines; stitch. Remove any visible basting stitches.

Pin the bodice lower edge and waistband upper edge with right sides together, aligning the seamlines; stitch.


Want more shirtdress inspo? Check out our shirtdress pattern roundup of favorite designs. There’s also lots more fun summer inspiration in Sew News Summer 2021!


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