Shirtdress Sew-Along: Getting the Fit Right

In this week’s segment of our #shirtdresssewalong, we’re discussing fit—the key to getting your shirtdress to look good on you. You can stitch the most technically proficient dress, but that’s all for nothing if your dress ends up being too baggy or too tight in places.

The shirtdresses we’re making fall into two camps: loose-fitting to semi-fitted bodice, and fitted bodice.

1) Loose-fitting to semi-fitted shirtdresses. Below are examples of our shirtdress patterns that fit this category.

McCall Pattern Company Shirtdress Sew-Along

Getting the fit right on this type of shirtdress is easier. Step #1, go to your closet and find a loosely fitting or semi-fitted shirt you bought or made that fits this category. Choose a shirt that you think fits well—not too big or too small. Lay it flat on a table and measure it from side seam to side seam across the widest part of the bust.

McCall Pattern Company blog: using your own clothes to determine pattern size.

Double that number to get your shirt’s circumference, front and back. Now compare this number with the finished garment measurements found on your pattern tissue near the bust point. Choose the size that’s closest to your number. Note: Err on the side of adding more ease, not less. It’s way easier to subtract ease than it is to add it after you’ve cut your fabric out.


If you find the shirtdress you’re sewing is too loose-fitting on you, then just take in the side seams. You’ll also need to reduce the sleeve seam by the same amount so it fits properly when you insert it into the bodice. Increase at the side seams and sleeve seam (where the sleeve is inserted into the bodice) if you need to add width.

For wide or narrow shoulders, also measure your favorite shirt: Button it up all the way, lay flat, and then measure from top of the left armscye seam to the right armscye seam. Compare your flat pattern pieces and adjust as necessary by adding or subtracting here.

2) Fitted shirtdresses. Below are examples of our shirtdress patterns that are considered fitted.

fitted shirtdress bodices

Here achieving fit get a little more complex, but you can do it! Our best advice is to first make a muslin (or toile) of the bodice. You don’t need to make the skirt at this stage. This is to get a general idea of what the fit is like and where you might need to make changes.

I made a muslin of Butterick B6333 to fit on my niece. Based on her bust size and the finished garment measurements, I cut out a size 8. (Tip—Mark each muslin pattern piece with this info: pattern number, piece number, name of piece [e.g., side bodice front], pattern size, and grainline.)

McCall Pattern Company Shirtdress Sew-Along

McCall Pattern Company Shirtdress Sew-Along

So glad I made a muslin first! You can see from the above photos that the bodice is pulling and bunching in places. And my niece said the overall fit was too snug. Feeling fairly confident a size 10 would fit fine, I cut into the fashion fabric.  Again I stitched only the bodice, and had another try-on session with my niece. This time she said it felt perfect.

McCall Pattern Company Shirtdress Sew-AlongMcCall Pattern Company Shirtdress Sew-AlongMcCall Pattern Company Shirtdress Sew-Along

If you need to adjust the waist, you can add or subtract to side seams and/or waist darts and princess seams. For full skirts, you can then eliminate some of the fullness at the waist gathers or pleats if you need to add width. To decrease skirt waist width, do the exact opposite and increase the amount of gathers or pleat depth. For slim skirts, add or decrease to the side seams and/or waist darts.

To recap so far, for fitted shirtdresses, first make a muslin. This will help you isolate where you need to make adjustments. In my case going up one size solved all problems. Plan on having another fit session with the bodice in your fashion fabric—you may want to hand-baste your seams if seam-ripping and plucking threads might mar your fabric.

Sometimes we do run into specific trouble areas. Several of you have asked for bust adjustment help. FBA article on the McCall Pattern Company blogWe’ve got a great article from Vogue Patterns Magazine that addresses making bust adjustments to patterns with darts or princess seams. Download it here:

Your Email (required)

Click on the link that says Bust Adjustment Article and it will begin downloading. (In exchange for providing us your email we may add you to our newsletter mailing list, which you are free to opt out of at any time.)

Here are some additional helpful resources:

For patterns with multiple cup sizes, choose the pattern size based on your high bust measurement, then choose the cup size based on the difference between your bust measurement and your high bust measurement.

Let us know if there are other specific problem fit areas you think we should address and we will update this blog post if necessary.

Next week on the Shirtdress Sew-Along: pressing and edgestitching or topstitching. Both are key to your finished shirtdress looking sharp and professional.

Our Shirtdress Sew-Along Facebook Group has over 300 members! It’s not too late to join us. Don’t worry if you aren’t on Facebook or would prefer not to join—all the pertinent information will always be posted here on this blog first. And remember to share your makes and work-in-progress using the hashtag #shirtdresssewalong.

How to make a full bust adjustment (FBA) to sewing patterns. From McCall Pattern Company


Finished: Butterick Lisette Moto Jacket. Plus, Wrap Dress Sewalong

Butterick B6169 Lisette Moto Jacket pattern as sewn by Meg Carter of the McCall Pattern Company

My Butterick B6169 Lisette jacket is finished and I’m really, really happy with it. In fact, this jacket gets full credit for restoring my sewing mojo. You see, I’d made several garments in a row that were total wadders, and I was beginning to despair. I’d lost my touch! But this one turned out to be a happy marriage of pattern, fabric and fit, so all’s right in sewing land once again.

Did you know that Liesl Gibson, designer of Lisette patterns for Butterick, is currently hosting a sewalong of this pattern? She just started it on Monday, so grab your fabric and pattern and join in. I have to hand it to Liesl—she designed a great pattern. It’s very well drafted and I think it can be easily tweaked to fit most body types.

Here are more photos of my jacket:

Butterick B6169 Lisette Moto Jacket pattern as sewn by Meg Carter of the McCall Pattern Company
Front view, half zipped. You will note that this dress form (a sample size 10) is way smaller than I am, so the jacket looks a little baggier here than it is on me. It has a semi-fitted, slightly boxy shape.
Butterick B6169 Lisette Moto Jacket pattern as sewn by Meg Carter of the McCall Pattern Company. Back view
Back view. Love the seaming here, and I especially love the two-piece sleeve. I like this pattern’s sleeve shape so much I may borrow it for future jackets.
Butterick B6169 Lisette Moto Jacket pattern as sewn by Meg Carter of the McCall Pattern Company. Lining view.
The lining. Pink makes a nice contrast, right? Our instructions tell you to insert the lining the couture way, which I followed and am pleased with the results. But in Liesl’s sewalong she’ll show you how to move a little faster by bagging-out the lining. Check it out.

Because I know you’re going to ask, the fabric is a mid-weight cotton (and silk?) from Trumart Fabrics near FIT in NYC. Supposedly it’s by Alexander Wang. I bought this a few months ago, so I doubt there’s any left but you can give them a call.


Wrap Dress Sewalong: How are you coming with your wrap dresses? If you working on the bodice, my co-host Lucinda’s post about making a small-bust adjustment for your wrap dress is available here. If you’re looking for info on how to make a full-bust adjustment, that’s available from Gorgeous Fabrics here.

Small bust adjustment, the McCall Pattern Company Wrap Dress Sewalong
Lucinda shows you how to make a small bust adjustment that prevents gaping in her blog post.

My own wrap dress is coming along pretty well. I’ve been in production-mode sewing the last couple of nights, which means I’m not really following the order of the instructions but doing all the seam work first. Rather than fuss with the bodice facing details before moving on to the next section, I put that temporarily aside to sew all the seams of the bodice, skirt and sleeves. Straight seams make for fast and easy sewing, right? I caught up on the episodes of Empire I missed while I did this sewing. And can I just say: Cookie!!!

Feel free to leave a comment here reporting on your wrap dress progress. Everything going ok? Any stumbling blocks? Don’t forget to use the hashtag #wrapdresssewalong and to post your pix on our Flickr board.


B6169 blog FB Tw