Vintage pattern pledge: My grandmother’s Style 3685 shirt dress pattern

Style 3685

Firstly, a big thank you to everyone who commented in response to my recent vintage pledge plea! After receiving lots of brilliant and very helpful advice, I agree that the best way forward with this dress is to take a bit of a break from it before trying again from a different angle.

In the meantime, I thought it would be good to work on a totally different vintage pledge project – one that I had been looking forward to for a while. This 1972 shirt dress pattern, Style 3685, is one of several beauties I found in my grandmother’s collection. She passed away while I was a child and although I can vividly remember her having a big, heavy sewing machine, I don’t remember her sewing. It was a lovely surprise when my father found a box filled with her old sewing patterns from the 50s through to 80s last summer. I put a few aside to make when I had built up better sewing skills.

Shirtdress Style

I picked up this lovely floral rayon at a Jo-Ann’s branch while visiting family in America over Christmas. (I really wish there was somewhere like it in Ireland – they had just about any sewing or knitting implement you could think of!) I don’t have many florals in my wardrobe and as this was at the ridiculously low price of less than $5 a yard, I thought I’d try something new.

It’s a very light fabric for spring, but I think it will be fine with tights layered under and a thick cardigan on top. (I’m also optimistically hoping that I will get a lot of wear out of it over the summer, sans woolens…)

I’ve left off the topmost button – the one that should close the collar. The space on the collar opening for putting in a button and buttonhole is pretty tight so I could really only put in a small, shirt button. However, I’m holding off to see how I like wearing it without a collar button before risking inserting a buttonhole there – I had some problems machine-stitching the buttonholes in along the dress front and finished half of them by hand.

Shirtdress sag

As you can see, the dress is a bit too big (I’d say almost a full size too big), but I wanted the option of a loose-fitting dress for hot weather AND something that I could layer vests and tights under in the colder months, so I’m pleased with the finished piece.

Skills learned: Generally making a shirt dress! I don’t know if it’s typical of shirt dresses or not, but the way the front facings were incorporated into the front panels and folded back in around the collar base makes the front section really smooth and helps it all sit tidily.

Recommend pattern?: Yes! Although some parts were a bit tricky, the instructions were very straightforward and I don’t think this is a difficult make. I’ve been shoring up shirt dress patterns for over a year now but had yet to take the plunge and found this a great introduction to them. I’d like to give it another go, in a heavier fabric, but I’d probably take in the side seams and shoulders for a tighter fit if there was less drape than with this rayon.

Are you taking part in A Stitching Odyssey’s vintage pattern pledge? Or have you worked with family-owned patterns?

Pattern Pledge Style


22 thoughts on “Vintage pattern pledge: My grandmother’s Style 3685 shirt dress pattern

  1. Oh, lovely! The fabric is such a nice shade, and I don’t think it looks too big when you wear it with a belt. I hope you get a lot of wear out of it!

  2. I don’t think it’s too big either, it does look rather good with a belt. The fabric is beautiful as well. I am loving vintage patterns as well mainly inspired by my grandmother’s patterns too. I feel really connected to her (even though she has now gone) when I’m sewing up something she made first.
    Well done you.

  3. This is beautiful – well done, you! I love shirtdresses but am daunted by the idea of having to perfectly line up a whole set of buttons and buttonholes. Yours look flawless!

    • That’s been a concern for me too; it looks like there are so many fiddly elements involved. This was a lot easier to make than I was expecting, so I say go for it with your shirtdress dreams! (Also: I think this floral print helps hide any misalignments! 🙂 )

  4. It looks great on you and definitely doesn’t look too big when it’s belted. I love the fabric choice and it’s so lovely that you got to make one of your gran’s patterns!

  5. I love the old fashion designs, i remember creating these with my nan and they always seemed to compliment everyone. Even though some people say the designs are too old honestly i find you can create them modern if you needed do and they still are very much in fashion and with the right accessories it can look amazing!

    like you proved!

    hehe i have a old chunky sewing machine still works like magic and is so much more attractive than modern ones.

    • You’re absolutely right. It’s just like wearing ready-made vintage clothing – the way you style a garment can totally change how it looks or feels. Plus, the fabric choice when making up old patterns can really update them.
      Your machine sounds great! The older models can be really beautiful.
      Thanks for your comment! 🙂

  6. Love the fabric, really suits you!! I always think there is something so satisfying about sewing with vintage patterns, like your making a little piece of history 🙂

  7. Your shirt dress looks great, not too big at all if you wear it with a belt. I think I’ve got a box of old patterns in my attic I shall have to go up and find them – see if there’s anything I’d want to make.

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