SIMPLICITY 1880 – a Pastel Princess

Simplicity 1880 shirt dress - windswept and finished!

Simplicity 1880 shirt dress – windswept and finished! Material: printed linen from Lincraft.

I’ve been a bit absent from my Sew Busy Lizzy blog. It’s been frustrating but sometimes you just can’t do everything. In the last week I was lucky enough to be featured on Tilly & the Buttons for my teapot picnic blanket skirt and also for my Sewaholic Thurlow WIP on didyoumakethat’s great new post about WIP and people trying to guess what they are. So visits and comments have been ticking over while I have been otherwise occupied taking children to Sydney, museums, dance shows, libraries and more!

I’ve nearly finished my first Sewaholic Renfrew but will show you later this week 🙂

This week’s sewing news is I’ve finally reached the end of the road for A Fashionable Stitch’s Simplicity 1880 Sewalong.

SIMPLICITY 1880 SEWALONG WITH SUNNIShirtdress Sewalong with Sunni

As you know I committed to sewing along with the 2-in-1 Shirt Dress Sewalong with Sunni @ A Fashionable Stitch. I’ve really enjoyed the experience. While I love to pick my own patterns and ‘do my own thing’ being part of this sewalong has shown me new ways to do things and taken me outside my comfort zone. That’s a good thing.

I’ve also enjoyed the community feeling of this project, posting in the Flickr group, posting questions at A Fashionable Stitch and being part of something bigger than me and my Bernina. That’s really why I started blogging after all – to have conversations!


I was going to make this fabric out of a rose print rayon cotton. Unexpectedly I was in Sydney CBD for work and popped into Lincraft on my way to the airport. I discovered this printed linen at 30% off. I picked out some matching trim and buttons and trotted off to the counter. They measured out my trim, counted out my buttons and then unrolled the linen. Disaster – there was barely 2 metres. Distracted by numerous beeping text messages from work on my phone, I told the sale assistant not to worry. I purchased the buttons/trim and left. While standing on the pavement outside and replying to all my work text messages, I looked down and realised I was clutching trim and buttons for a fabric which I had not purchased! Ridiculous. I have no plans to make the Emperor’s New Clothes so I marched back in and said ‘I’ll risk it’. She looked somewhat bemused as she had just finished rolling the fabric back onto the roll. Oops.

I did manage to squeeze the dress out of barely two metres. I could not make the full tie belt. I just cut the longest piece available from the bits and pieces leftover once I got the dress itself cut out.


  1. How to attach a collar.
    Simplicity 1880 shirt dress: inner collar seam bound

    Simplicity 1880 shirt dress: inner collar seam bound

    I had never done this so was rather chuffed when it all came together so beautifully – thank you Sunni for some great step-by-step collar instructions. I’m quite sure I would have been knocking on my mother’s door without them. I did wish I had stay-stitched the upper collar as it was all kinds of huge compared to the under collar piece which I had interfaced. I panicked but then used the under collar as my stitching guide and that ploys seems to have worked. I also used bias binding to neaten the collar seam. Hopefully I will get neater with this method!

  2. Insert a sleeve in a different way.
    Simplicity 1880 shirt dress: inner sleeve seam bound with bias binding

    Simplicity 1880 shirt dress: inner sleeve seam bound with bias binding

    Usually I would have sewn the bodice side seam and the sleeve seam and then inserted the sleeve – which always involves lots of jiggling and wiggling and twisting to get it through the machine. Instead Sunni provided a great set of sleeve instructions and links to insert most of the sleeve flat and then sew up the bodice side seam and the sleeve seam. So much easier and I got two perfect sleeves with no puckering or unpicking!

  3. Sew the skirt first and leave it to hang/stretch while you make the bodice – rather than doing it last as per the instructions.
  4. Go slow (sometimes!). I enjoyed doing this project as the posts went up. It halted my usual sewing frenzy and provided some structure.
  5. Try something different. I probably would not have bought this pattern however I’m glad it’s in the stash. I would like to make the wrap dress now!
  6. Gold never tarnishes. I took the finished dress to show my mother. She immediately said ‘a shirt maker dress! Does it have a zip in the side seam as well? That’s exactly what I made when I was learning dressmaking! I love it!’.


  1. Press my gathers before stitching.I often get a little cross at gathers as they don’t always feed through nicely, the gathers can shift and become uneven. So once I was happy with my bodice gathers… I pressed them flat and then sewed the yoke on. I found this worked beautifully. The gathers are very even as they were pressed into their ‘proper place’ and stitching was easy-peasy.

    Gathers, trim and beads!

    Gathers, trim and beads!

  2. Beading to add interest.I stitched beads to the centre of the flowers. The print is quite big and random so they are quite scattered. I’m not very good at wearing fussy details so I like that you only see the beads if you are ‘looking’. I also choose to randomly bead only the bodice (not the skirt) as I’ve seen this done on designer dresses.

    Simplicity 1880 shirt dress: collar, trim and beads

    Collar, trim and beads

  3. Trim to define a design. I stitched a trim onto the collar and the bodice. I’m really glad I did this, it provides definition to the design and saves the dress from descending into bland pastellness – I’m sure that’s a word… I do love to hand stitch and enjoyed every minute of the trimming.


Forgive me bloggers, as I lost my way a little… I really started to panic sewing this dress. Usually I fall more in love with a project as I sew. This project was the opposite. The more I stitched, the more disenchanted I became. I enjoyed every minute of the sewing process but as the dress emerged from the pile of fabric, I wasnt’ sure I ‘liked it’.

The dress just did not feel like ‘me’. The combination of pretty pastels and a very ladylike floral was not my usual territory. I felt it looked matronly and a bit Queen Mum. We all want to look as fabulous asthe ever-stylish Kate Middleton and I felt like I was veering off into old lady territory – at least the late Queen Mum liked quality champers and I can relate to that – I thought I needed some to drown my sorrows.

However looking at the pictures we took at the lookout this afternoon I’m starting to think it’s a pretty dress after all. Not as old and fuddy-duddy as I thought. I think it’s growing on me. Not like fungus, more like petunias. Perhaps I am a pastel princess after all…

I would like to make this dress again. In a black swiss dot with white piping and buttons – and lengthen the bodice about an inch. I think that would look scrumptious!

Here are some more images of the Pastel Princess… the tie belt is a bit puny – do you think I should ditch it?

Finished Simplicity 1880 shirt dress with belt

Finished Simplicity 1880 shirt dress with belt

Finished Simplicity 1880 shirt dress without belt

Finished Simplicity 1880 shirt dress without belt

Simplicity 1880 shirt dress front

Simplicity 1880 shirt dress front. Just had to share this one I told my husband to just take a picture of the dress front not thinking my head was going to be in it. Check out my weirdly huge head and a red AND an orange eye. WTF??

Simplicity 1880 shirt dress finished

Simplicity 1880 shirt dress. At Tacking Point Lighthouse – all those people on the hill are looking the other way at migrating whales!!

Thanks Sunni! 🙂

Could just be me – but this flared skirt business is rather a ‘hip’ highlighter??

46 thoughts on “SIMPLICITY 1880 – a Pastel Princess

  1. This is really lovely and I’m digging the trim on the collar- it makes everything pop! Nice thoughts on the gathers- they can be such pesky beasts sometimes 😀

  2. Your dress is impeccable! Quite often I lose enthusiasm for my sewing projects midway through because I’m afraid it’s going to be ugly or not what I envisioned. Almost always, things magically come together, often at the very end….. as in the hem.
    Thanks for sharing your tips and challenges during this process. What a success!

    • Thank you so much 🙂 comments like that makes the journey worth it!
      And isn’t hemming the worst bit of all. I dread it! I’ve taken to turning them up with bias binding and then hand stitching them at night. At least it’s relaxing!

    • I think it needs the belt too. I might create some thread belt loops for it. I tried it with belts from my wardrobe but it didn’t work.
      Thank you, it is quite elegant and timeless – my mother wore these dresses to work! I don’t think I’ll be gallivanting on the beach in it but perhaps a luncheon will be ‘just the ticket’.

  3. Oh, I could copy your review for mine- we both had the same journey with this. I love the gimpy trim- it gives it a tiny pop without overwhelming the soft colors. I notice as I sew more, I but less clothes, but Lord, do I buy belts!!!

    • Aww thanks. The pastels probably look better now I’ve dyed my hair darker, they used to wash me out.
      Back to my Thurlows and I have to stop putting off making a dress for my daughter!! Bad mum!!

      • oh you are making a dress for your daughter!? thats amazing! Is it very different making a dress for someone else than yourself?

        • I think it’s harder to make something for someone else, you worry about their expectations! I went to cut it out yesterday and realised there wasn’t enough for the circle skirt. Think I’ll alter the pattern and do a huge gathered skirt like my Cambie View B!

          • yeah makes sense. I would worry too much about other people’s expectations!
            I am sure she will appreciate it though and love the dress. 🙂
            The cambie gathered skirts are lovely! Only 5 more days and I can buy my cambie pattern! yay!

          • Wow you have done well to hold out this long! Get an invisible zipper foot too – they are worth every penny.
            I’m thinking about trying to miniaturise the Cambie for her – might have run out of time tho for experimentation…

  4. I think the dress is lovely. Everyone needs a traditional, elegant, understated dress in their wardrobe. I understand if you think it is not as lively as what you usually sew, but it looks lovely on you. For the belt, I would make it wider, more like a cumberbun if you have enough material. I might even do a little trapunto stitching on it. You have such a lovely small waistline!

    • Yes the dress is growing on me, taking the photos gave me a different perspective.
      Unfortunately the belt was the best I could manage. I managed to get the dress out of far less than the pattern specified and I only had a thin strip leftover. Alas! No more fabric on the shop, I got the last bit of fabric on the bolt. 😦

    • Thanks, I think the trimming inspired me to keep going and I’m happy now with the dress – pastels and all. I’m not sure if there is done unwritten sewing law why one should not press gathers before stitching – but it worked for me!

  5. The trim looks fantastic! It really ‘makes’ the dress. To be honest as you were making it the print didn’t appeal to me, but it looks great as a finished dress! I think it’s maybe one of those prints you need on a full sized project like a dress to make the detail fade and the colours become the feature. Love it!

    • I agree, I fell in and out of love with it through the whole process! In the end I think it works.
      I can’t wait to make this in black with white trim. I think it would look gorgeous!

  6. I like the dress and the trim. I do think the belt gets lost in the softness of the print. What about a solid belt in the shade of blue of the trim? Too much contrast? I think it would mark your waist nicely. Ever since this sew along started, I’m been wanting this pattern so badly, it’s ugly, LOL!

  7. I really like the dress – I’ll have it if you don’t want it. lol. I would try a belt but not too wide. There are some really nice belt colours out there, purple, blue and yellow etc.
    It will be lovely with sandals in summer when it ever gets here. 🙂

  8. The dress turned out lovely, but I totally hear you about the pastels … I always feel reminded at the kind of pj’s my mom wanted me to wear if I wear them (not that this applies in any way to your dress!!).
    The trim was a fab idea to add more definition and reign the print in a bit, if that makes sense …

  9. Your dress is absolutely beautiful, and I am sure you will be glad you put all the effort into those stunningly pretty little extra details. They really do add a special something to this lovely dress 🙂

  10. The trim is AMAZING!!!!!!!! 🙂 I think it looks lovely on you but I totally get the “not me” feeling. It’ll look gorgeous in black and white. FWIW I think it’d be worth trying with a different belt (instead of a sash).

    • Thank you. I agree about the belt, I’m still searching – if I had not run out of trim I might have trimmed the belt and that could have saved it. Unfortunately that shop is five hours drive away LOL

  11. Great dress. I was thinking maybe a bright yellow patent leather belt or something like that would be a fun accessory. I definitely think it needs a belt and some wow-wow shoes… accessories that are bold and a little unexpected to take it to the next level.
    And, don’t you worry one second about hips… the nice thing about a flared skirt is that it makes a waist look totally tiny!

    • Thank you Sunni! I learnt lots of new skills and now I don’t ‘freak out’ when I see a collar and run away screaming. Now I think ‘I can make that’. I’m keen to make the wrap dress but in something nice and bright this time!

  12. Beautifully made dress. I looked at your face and thought, “No, this is a more edgy, current woman; but, I could easily see you in a timelee wrap dress.

    • Yes! I love the dress but I don’t feel like ‘me’ in it. Which is a shame as its well finished and has lots of lovely details. If I make the wrap dress its going to be a modern strong print that’s for sure! Thanks!

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