Tuesday, September 21, 2021

80s Inspired Shirtdress in Floral Explosion

I finally finished my floral dress, the last of the summer projects. I was nearly done it a couple of weeks ago, I was just waiting on the buttons -- I found some in the stash but wasn't really 100% sold on them, and then I finally found the little red buttons of my imagination at the fabric store, so was able to complete this project! 

It's based on a pattern (late 80s/early 90s?)I picked up a couple of years ago and have wanted to make since, New Look 6537.

I thought I'd test it out in some quilting cotton in my stash, since I'd have to make alterations to remove the large raglan shoulder pad allowances and wasn't sure if I'd get it right the first time. But it worked, and I absolutely love this dress! 

I made quite a few fitting alterations -- the bodice was long, and since the defining feature of the dress is the waist ties, I wanted to be sure to get them in the right place. I ended up cutting the shoulder line at 14 (with a gradual slope down to 12 at the outer edge to remove that shoulder pad excess. Then the rest of the bodice was cut at 16, grading out to 18 at the waist, and the skirt was cut at 18 as well. I thought that since there are darts in the back and double pleats in the front, I had fabric to play with if I needed some more room. But as it turns out I didn't. 

The pattern is interesting, with the neckline being formed by the front pieces. Sewing the front facing on was a bit of a fussy step, due to the neckline extension but slowly and surely did it. The pockets are a nice feature -- they are slant pockets but have a bit more fabric on the outer bits and are intended to be rounded and full, not sit completely flush. Wasn't sure I'd like this on my hip but I actually love them. 

And those waist ties are cute! They aren't exactly ties, though. The sash pieces are attached into the back darts and then brought around to the front, where they are tucked through a tab that's attached to the right side of the front closure. The size of the tab and the sashes are just right to keep them in place when tucked through and pulled tight (not too tightly -- you don't want the back too distorted or the darts to give way!) It gives a really nice bow effect without the awkward positioning needed in a regular tie sash. This detail is one of my favourite things about this dress. 

I also really like the colours and print in this dress. It feels cheerful, and the red buttons set it off perfectly. I don't have any other dresses in this style. It feels like a robe/wrap but it's completely secure with a line of buttons down the front. I could see making this again in fancy fabric for a totally different effect. This was a fun challenge and I'm very happy with the final result. 

I enjoyed taking photos at The Bridge to Nowhere, one of my favourite places in town. It's been given a colourful makeover this year by the Art Gallery & now it's even more photogenic 🙂


  1. Love the dress. Love the Bridge to Nowhere. (I never saw this bridge when visiting several times a "few" years ago?) Super color on you!

    1. The Bridge is in Confederation Park next to the Art Gallery. It was just a regular concrete bridge but this summer was painted as a public art project by the Gallery. Now it is even more IG friendly ;)

  2. This might be one of my favorites of your sewing projects! It looks great on you. Also it reminds me of my 2 favorite dresses (from the early 80s LOL) with very similar style. One was a nubby turquoise knit with very little stretch and the other a red, moire-effect polyester. Both had those stiffened self-belts, but then I actually had a nice waist back then. Thanks for sharing this!


    1. Thank you! I love 80s styles. And the colours in this dress are just so cheery!

      Your 2 dresses sound lovely. I can picture the fabrics clearly from those years :)


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