Saturday, March 29, 2014

Gertie's Shirtwaist Dress

The Boy and his girlfriend were in town for a visit last weekend. I had a great time playing tourist with them. We went to the aquarium in Monterey on Friday and drove up to the Wine Country for the day on Saturday. Gorgeous weather both days.

Awww. Aren't they adorable?
I figured I'd ask The Boy to help take a few pictures while we were in such scenic locations. I actually finished this dress in the pre-blog days. I made it at a sewing retreat at Asilomar that was hosted by Heather Ross. If you ever have a chance to attend one of her retreats, do it! I had a fabulous time sewing for two days with a really fun and creative group of women. And one of the co-teachers was Gertie herself! What a kick to have the designer advise me on fitting one of her creations! I actually got to try on the shirtwaist dress that's photographed in her book, which saved me from having to make a muslin. My version is a little more Angela Lansbury that Paris in Spring, but I like it.

On the patio at Stirling Vinyards, with the Napa Valley behind me
I'm trying to train myself to wear dresses more often. I tend to think of dresses as appropriate for fancy functions, to be worn with stockings and high heels. Must be the influence of my jeans-and-workshirt youth. Really, dresses can be very comfortable to wear, and can look just fine with bare legs and flats. Heck, look at those farm women who fed the chickens and plowed the back 40 while wearing a dress. Plus, dresses are fun to sew and they make a change from my usual trousers and tee shirt. 

View from the side
This dress has a nice full skirt so it's easy to walk in. I kind of like it with a belt, but the waist is defined with some pleats at the side front and with shirring in the back so it feels wearable either with or without.

Pleats on the side in front to give me a waist
This was my first (and so far only) experience with shirring. It was pretty fun and easy to do, but my Babylock did not enjoy the elastic thread in the bobbin. My fellow workshop ladies recommended keeping an eye out for an older, mechanical machine that wouldn't be so picky about bobbin tension. They highly recommended I find myself a Featherweight, and, wouldn't you know, The Man hunted one down for me within the month.

Shirring in the back
I used a cotton fabric I got from one of my very favorite fabric stores that, sadly, is no more. It was called Findings and it was just off the main drag in Carmel. The woman who ran it (also named Nancy) was sweet as pie. She had a small but very nice collection of fabrics and a great selection of buttons, ribbons and lace. I have a couple of other lengths of fabric in stash that I got at her going out of business sale. I'll make them up with a bit of a tear in my eye.

Baby grapes, destined to be an expensive Cabernet some day.
My review is here on


  1. Beautiful dress in beautiful scenery. How amazing to have Gertie give you advise

    1. Thank you! I had a great time at that sewing retreat. It was fab to see so many people sewing Gertie's designs in one room. Each one was a winner.

  2. Your dress is beautiful! Excellent work!

    1. Thank you very much! I had some great resources to call on :-)

  3. Such a nice dress. I love the pretty fabric!

    1. Thank you! The mustard background was out of my comfort zone but I figured the blue roses would let me get away with it.