Shirtdress Sew-Along: Choosing Your Fabric and Interfacing

McCall Pattern Company Shirtdress Sew-Along: Choosing Fabric.

This week in the Shirtdress Sew-Along we’re talking about fabrics for your shirtdress and suitable interfacings. If you take a look at our Shirtdress Patterns Pinterest board, you’ll see that about 90 percent of the ready-to-wear inspiration dresses are made of lightweight cotton. Which is a good thing because lightweight cottons by the yard are easy to find and reasonably priced. Look for:

    • Cotton shirting: 100% cotton and typically found in stripes, solids and checks. Excellent choice for its tight weave and smooth hand. Also in petite prints, à la Liberty of London.
    • Cotton sateen: Usually 100% cotton or a cotton-Lycra blend. Easier to find in solids but sometimes you can nab a pretty print (just watch the weight with cotton sateen prints—often they’re more on the bottom-weight side).
    • Cotton seersucker and plissé: A classic spring and summer fabric. Generally found in stripes and prints. 100% cotton, sometimes blended with other fabrics.
    • Cotton denim and chambray: 100% cotton, or blended with rayon or Tencel. I’ve sewn with Robert Kaufman’s 6.5 oz line and find that’s the perfect weight for tops and dresses.
    • Embroidered or eyelet cottons: Perfect. You may want to add a lining for peekaboo eyelet fabrics.
    • Cotton lawn, voile and batiste: Very lightweight and often somewhat transparent. Add a lining, or use your shirtdress as a tunic or layering piece.
Fabrics for the McCall Pattern Company Shirtdress Sew-Along
Fabric options: Striped cotton shirting (Mood Fabrics); scooter chambray print (Mood); cotton paisley print (Jo-Ann Fabrics). Vogue Patterns shirtdress V8927. (photo from the latest issue of Vogue Patterns Magazine)
Fabrics for the McCall Pattern Company Shirtdress Sew-Along
More fabric options: Embroidered cotton (Mood), checked seersucker (Robert Kaufman), cotton-Lycra print (Emma One Sock). Vogue Patterns V8970. (photo from the latest issue of Vogue Patterns Magazine)

Other shirtdress fabric options include:

  • Silk and crepe: These fabrics work best for less-structured shirtdress silhouettes, like those without a separate bodice and skirt. McCall’s M6885 would look great in silk.
  • Linen and linen blends: Yes, definitely, but only if you test the wrinkle factor first to determine how much creasing you can live with. Linen is by nature a wrinkly fabric. (How to test wrinkle-bility: Tightly scrunch a ball of the fabric in your hand, squeeze, then release. Do the creases relax, or do they stay imbedded in the fabric?)
  • Shantung, dupioni and taffeta: Great for waisted shirtdresses if you want something dressier.

As you’re looking at fabrics with prints, don’t forget to consider any “challenges” that may come with larger prints or stripes or checks. Will you need to match the print where the bodice buttons in the front? Do stripes or checks need to align? If so, make sure you buy extra fabric to play around with, and cut out your patterns pieces carefully.

Nearly all cotton fabrics can be safely pre-washed before cutting into them, though some darker colors may fade slightly.

For interfacing options, the following work well:

  • lightweight fusible interfacing
  • lightweight sew-in interfacing
  • lightweight fabrics you have in your stash, such as silk organza or cotton batiste (pre-shrink the latter).

Always test your interfacing’s compatibility with your fabric first. Too-heavy interfacing will make your garment feel cheap; too light and your fabric will go limp in the collar and placket.

Next week on the #ShirtdressSew-Along: Making a test garment and getting the fit right. I need links to good full bust adjustment (FBA) and small bust adjustment (SBA) tutorials; please share any in the comments section. Thanks!

And it’s not too late to join our Shirtdress Sew-Along Facebook Group. Most people are still choosing patterns and fabrics. It’s a great environment to make new sewing friends and chat about sewing. Until next week!




We’ve been sewing since 1863.

  1. I know this is a sewalong, but I couldn’t wait and mine is almost done! I’ll probably make another one; they are my favorite summer office wear!

  2. I just found an amazing cotton sateen print – a lightweight one – with many colours. Thinking of using a variety of coloured buttons for it too! We will see if I can keep up with the sewalong… 😉

  3. must. not. buy. new. fabric. I’m determined for my shirt dress to be a stash buster. But I’m telling ya…every single one of these fabrics has my name on it, LOL.

    Could Flickr be an option for those not on Facebook?

  4. I just found this Sew a long. Sorry I’m late to the party. I bought McCalls M6885 and fabric a patterned cotton chambray. Looking forward to making my muslin! This is my first foray into shirt dress but I am a quilter so will be able to transfer some skills. Best wishes everyone

  5. I’ll probably make a few, but for the first one, I chose one with a collar on a stand on a v neck, McCalls 7084. I absolute love this style neckline! Not sure of the fabric, yet, but I am leaning towards a coral paisley printed cotton.


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