The ‘Why did I do that?’ Shirtdress, McCalls 6696

Ever make something, finish and think… now why did I do that???

This is one of those makes… alas…

McCalls 6696 - no amount of naval gazing will save this one with me.

McCalls 6696 – no amount of naval gazing will save this one with me.

This is the infamous McCalls 6696 shirtdress.

McCalls 6696 - the pattern

McCalls 6696 – the pattern

I finished this early September. Life has been overwhelming and I’m struggling to keep up with the laundry – not to mention blog posts. I’ve got another two things to blog… actually three…

I absolutely loved making this. Loved it. Yes, being a shirtdress it’s quite a detailed make. Yoke, collar, button band, waist band, belt keepers, pockets and more. The cutting seemed to take forever. I imagine trying to sew it up in a few sessions would be exhausting.

I sewed this in a gorgeous fabric – a Lisette lawn, silky soft and such a pretty print. Not too colourful and flowery for me.

I sewed it up over a week or so. Cutting, pinning, basting, sewing, overlocking, ironing, hand stitching when I had an opportunity. I purchased this pattern as soon as it was released, and traced it. Then put it on the back burner and watched everyone else sew it up. I just had not felt I had enough time to make it up.

McCalls 6696 - the only side shot we took!

McCalls 6696 – the only side shot we took, I was rather distracted that day as it was the puppy’s first day at the beach.

I made most of this while my husband was away for a few weeks and I was doing the typical ‘working mother’ juggle of work-school-meals-activities-appointments etc. When the girls were in bed, I would do the quiet tasks… cutting, pinning and hand sewing. I would sew some seams when I woke up and so on. It always surprises me how much I enjoy making garments in this manner. I find I make less mistakes, my sewing is more considered.


I attached the yoke using the burrito method ala Grainline Archer shirt. It’s genius.


After my silk Grainline Archer collar battle, I decided to try Four Square Walls method of attaching the collar. I personally found this SO much easier.


This was my massive blooper of the make. It’s not that I hate contrasts and quirkiness. I just hate it on me. I think if I had sewn it up plain with no contrast, I would be much happier. Oh well, you live and learn!

McCalls 6696 - inside front view

McCalls 6696 – inside front view

McCalls 6696 - inside back view

McCalls 6696 – inside back view. I am not a huge fan of the gathers in the back. They felt puffy so I ironed them flat before I wore the dress.

McCalls 6696 - close up of the contrast horror on me...

McCalls 6696 – close up of the contrast horror on me…

I cut the inner waistband, inner collar stand and inner button plackets a from small pink gingham. I made bias strips of the blue fabric to finish the armholes. I know! Attention to detail plus!


I’m not sure if it is of any interest to anyone whatsoever and it’s certainly not ‘new’, however I used some of the quick-piecing techniques I used when I used to make quilts, it’s not rock science but it does speed up your sewing – quilting or dressmaking. I’ve found that being skilled in a wide variety of crafts has been enormously helpful with my dressmaking. I won’t bore you with all the details here as it’s not relevant but I did use one of those techniques to quickly create my contrast buttonbands – if it is of no interest or you have seen this before, skip over the next section.

I don’t blog every detail of my makes, there is a lot of knowledge out there, I’m including this as it’s a variation on the pattern and thought it might be useful to someone.

You could easily add seam allowances, cut four bands and sew them together. Or you could do this…

I added seam allowance to the button band and cut one button band from the blue fabric and one from the pink. I interfaced the pink strip. I then placed the two button bands right sides together (pink and blue) and sewed down the outer two lines.

You will need add seam allowances to the pattern buttonbands. The centre line is what you will cut down to create two bands. The outer lines are your stitching lines.

You will need add seam allowances to the pattern buttonbands. The centre line is what you will cut down to create two bands. The outer lines are your stitching lines.

McCalls 6696 - Once you have sewn along the two outer lines, cut down the centre line - or use your rotary cutter to create two buttonbands.

McCalls 6696 – Once you have sewn along the two outer lines, cut down the centre line – or use your rotary cutter to create two button bands.

McCalls 6696 - ta da. We now have two buttonbands

McCalls 6696 – ta da. We now have two button bands

Then iron the seam allowances (trim if required) towards the pink contrast side.

McCalls 6696 - understitching the buttonband

McCalls 6696 – understitching the button band

Iron the bands wrong sides together and…

McCalls 6696 - the finished buttonband

McCalls 6696 – the finished button band

I’m not one of those super-organised bloggers with a fancy camera on a tripod. I make no apology for that – I use the family point-and-shoot camera. I often think half way through a make “oh that might be interesting to someone” and absent-mindedly use my iPhone to document my work.

I did contact Heather of Handmade By Heather B via twitter before I attached the button bands as the instructions said to turn the unnotched band edge over 3/8in and then sew the band to the dress (this will make sense if you make the dress). It just struck me as odd when the band is folded in half and then the band is sewn to the dress with a 5/8in seam allowance it didn’t feel logical that the 3/8in turned under edge out meet/cover the stitching line. Heather confirmed that she probably hadn’t even read the instructions as she constructed her shirtdress. I often don’t but shirts with collars make me nervous. Heather said she had probably sewn her bands on with a 5/8in seam allowance and turned the raw edge under 5/8in as well. So I did too.


I hand sewed the inner waistband, collar stand and hem. I overlocked the raw edges.

I’m not pleased with the top stitching around the collar & buttonbands, I should unpick this stitching and re-do it closer to the edge. It looks heavy-handed to me as it is.

I took a lot of care with this make… and I love every minute of it. It just goes to prove, there can be as much joy in the making as the wearing. I sew because I love the process. That’s here I find my magic.

McCalls 6696 - note to self - standing wonky never does wonders for the butt view.

McCalls 6696 – note to self – standing wonky never does wonders for the butt view.


I might not like my interpretation on me, however I loved making it and think it is a great pattern. A real classic.


I’d definitely have no contrast fabrics. I’d add some length to the bodice and taper out the skirt more over my hips. Or maybe I’m just not a shirtdress kinda gal.

PATTERN: McCalls 6696, view C.
FABRIC: Lisette lawn from Spotlight.

ALSO SEE: Handmade by Heather B | Idle Fancy | Sewmanju | Sew Dixie Lou | Sew Amy Sew

McCalls 6696 - view C.

McCalls 6696 – view C. It is pretty, I don’t know why I can’t make myself fall in love… alas.

67 thoughts on “The ‘Why did I do that?’ Shirtdress, McCalls 6696

  1. If it makes it any better I like the dress on you. Its different to your usual style but in a good way! I totally understand how you feel though and I hate that feeling. I’ve had it one too many times I must say.

    • Thanks Kat. I do feel like I’m pouting about it – but I’m proud of the finish & how the shape looks on me… it’s just those contrasts… I feel ‘weird’. Maybe I’ll get used to them!

  2. I’m calling this a technique and construction win! Lots of great fiddly bits happening here 😀
    This harkens back more to your style of early 2013 – you’ve definitely evolved stylistically so maybe that’s why it looks good but doesn’t feel right? It is a tops frock, Liz 😀

    • I think you are bang on the money there Amanda. I’ve definitely changed a great deal… or perhaps started sewing & blogging a style that is more ‘me’. It’s easy to influenced into sewing certain patterns & fabrics. Now I just ‘sew me’. That said, I’m tempted to make this up as a denim style shirtdress… that would be more me!

  3. Well I love it. Really love it. So much that I must make myself remember this patten next time McCalls have some kind of promotion. Such pretty fabric and I agree with you that shirts and therefore shirt dresses are so satisfying to make. And whilst I understand your view about the contrast, I hope it doesn’t stop you wearing it, such gorgeous fabric and in such a classic style.

    • Thanks Winnie. I do love it, perhaps I just need to get used to it. I’m considering making it in a denim shirting, I think that’s more my style. I dont know why I don’t make more shirts, I love to wear them!

  4. It is a really nice dress and I like the contrast on the collar but I would make the bodice longer so that when you wear a belt, the two both sit at your waistline.

    • It is a nice dress. My husband liked it too but did say it wasn’t really my typical style.
      I’ve always had a very long waist. I often joke a journey between my bust & hip requires a packed lunch.

  5. Oh, it’s a shame you don’t like it, it really is gorgeous. I can see what you mean about the contrast, the pink gingham is a little cutesy. But the shape and the outside fabric are so pretty! I must try the straight skirt version sometime…

  6. Understand why you feel the way you do about the contrast, but the shell fabric looks lovely. This pattern is on my to do list; I overbought bridesmaid dress fabric by a good few metres, and decided a shirt dress is the way to go

  7. It looks lovely on! I love the button band trick you used. I agree with Amanda, you’ve evolved and in another fabric with no contrast or a less ‘sweet’ contrast may help you feel more like you!

  8. It is a lovely dress and clearly beautifully made but if you don’t love it, it’s no good our telling you that. I suppose it’s no good reminding you that it will be ideal in summer? It’s lightweight and flattering. Although I think a darker contrast might have provided more pop or perhaps a plain rather than a checked fabric, the contrast picks up on toning in the main fabric (doesn’t it? I do have problems with colour vision, so what I’m seeing might not be what everyone else is seeing, LOL) so it’s not that it doesn’t work. Perhaps a necklace might help? We know you have a few of those!

  9. Oh man, what a bummer that you’ve gone to such effort and taken such time over this garment only to not love it. I think it looks GREAT on you…a great summer dress.

    • Thank you 🙂 I’m not too bummed as I realised how much i like making shirtdresses… so not all is lost! I’m thinking about the plainer version of the Alder now… I think it’s simplicity might be more me… I hope!

  10. I can understand your feelings. I think it is lovely and a lot of hard effort went into it…to perfection. I have a shirt dress pattern, a couple I think, but never seem to make them up. I love the look on other people, but I just don’t feel all that great in them. I don’t know what it is though.

    • I think your style is smart casual or just casual – so perhaps all the buttons & details (which are such fun to sew!) is the issue. I think i need something much simpler. I’m happy with the process even if I’m not in love with the look on me!

  11. I bet you’ll find yourself wearing this on sticky days- it looks very cool and easy to wear! But the contrasting color is a little paler than I’m used to seeing you in. Maybe that’s why you’re not loving it? I’m glad it was fun to sew, at least, so it doesn’t feel like a complete waste of time.

  12. It looks gorgeous Lizzy, but I understand you may not be “feeling” it. It’s such a bummer when you realise something isn’t quite “you”. I still think it looks beautiful on you. And yep, as long as the making was pleasant there is somewhat of a save!

    • Thanks Jillian! I think my husband’s comment was along the lines of ‘it’s really nice but it’s as if it is for a different version of you – like on the school cake stall’. Which funnily enough I do plenty of including help run the school fete second hand clothes stall every year (it’s the biggest stall & takes about 2 weeks of work at night!) and helping out at Ironman. However I always do those things dressed as ‘me’ not a notion of how a mother-who-helps – I’m just me. I might have worn it a few years ago but my style is slightly offbeat & more casual these days.

  13. I know you aren’t feeling it, and it comes across in your writing, but you do look gorgeous in this. I get though that it isn’t your style. I’m not seeing you as the pink gingham type (that’s more my thing!) – definitely the denim though. Move onwards and upwards! It is beautifully constructed, and at least you enjoyed the experience of making it.

    • I couldn’t agree more. From a learning, construction point of view I could not be happier. I learn quite a bit, improved my collars & had a play. Now onto the next project!
      Plus… I’ve been eyeing off some denim shirting on Rechts…

  14. I’m so tempted by this pattern, it looks fantastic on you as it seems to on everyone! I actually really like your choice of contrast fabric, although I completely understand where you are coming from as it’s often these ‘extras’ that I feel unsure about when I finish up a garment. I’ve never really tried to sew in little bits here and there but I might give it a go!

    • You would look fantastic in this. I think is just one of the stories of sewing: experimenting, stretching skills and trying out ideas – not everything is 100% perfect or a huge success – I’m ok with that. While my fabric combo didn’t work for me, it is a lovely dress, a great pattern and an enjoyable sew.

  15. Hi Lizzy, great to see you again the other night. I like the dress and although I haven’t read all the comments, I don’t see the bodice needs any lengthening but maybe it feels like it does. I do think that if you cut it a bit shorter, it would look better. I have a shirt dress I made and I added a nice deep band along the bottom and I love the look and on the hanger the proportions are right, but on my short body, it’s wrong and needs to be cut off. Pin it up and see if it helps.

  16. This is one of my favourite patterns, I’ve made it twice and have plans for many more. I agree with you on the excess fullness in the back, I’m going to take some out of my future versions. And the contrast makes it less ‘fashion forward’ than your usual faultless style, but I still think it looks great on you. The contrast issue could be fixed by chucking it in the wash with some new indigo jeans on hot wash or a similar laundry incident 😉

  17. You look exquisitely Betty Draper Modern in this dress. And, I LOVE it. I don’t know why I haven’t gotten this pattern. It looks wonderful in every version I’ve seen. And, I bet it’s a great layering dress.

  18. I’m sorry honey. I just don’t share your disdain of this project on/for you. You see, in my mind you are cute as a button. And your silhouette . . . puleaze you’d make a rock look good IN MY BOOK. Sorry.

    • Oh, and the contrast. INGENIOUS!!!! I love it. I am learning so much from you and Lucky Lucille when it comes to contrasts. I would never have thought of that. Budding love affair with gingham happening over here anyway.

  19. I’m so glad you blogged this! I have this pattern & am planning to make it next spring (yes I plan my sewing that far in advance LOL) so it’s super helpful to hear about your construction methods, and now I know to realistically leave myself a decent amount of time to work on it 🙂 Also, I think your construction is beautiful, and I bet you’d be happier with the contrast if you’d used a dark navy solid or something like that 🙂 At least it’s not a total flop – when I have those moments (frequently) of “why did i do that?” it’s usually REALLY bad LOL.

    • Sew it now! Spring will be here in no time and you can pull it out of the wardrobe and wear it on the first day of spring. I always leave my seasonal makes too late and don’t have enough time to wear them 🙂

      • Oh i hear you, my friend – one of these days, I’ll get my crap together enough to start sewing a season ahead (I think I might have to decide what season to sacrifice/skip to make that happen though haha) As it stands, I’m (pleasantly) mired in winter/holiday makes right now, so it will have to stay in the queue for the time being ^__^

    • Thanks! Yes the contrast freaks me out a bit I’m rather a simple dresser – or perhaps more accurately I like strong simple lines and bold colours. Perhaps this is just a ‘different me’.

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