Style Arc Italia Shirtdress

My Italia is done! (And it is finally warm enough here to wear a skirt and sandals and forego the tights/hose.)

Style Arc Italia shirtdress
Style Arc Italia shirtdress

Belted (which is my preference, and how I wore it today):

Style Arc Italia shirtdress
Style Arc Italia shirtdress
Style Arc Italia shirtdress
Style Arc Italia shirtdress

Check out that hem gusset! One of my favorite features about this dress.

Style Arc Italia shirtdress
Style Arc Italia shirtdress

Here it is unbelted:

Style Arc Italia shirtdress
Style Arc Italia shirtdress
Style Arc Italia shirtdress
Style Arc Italia shirtdress
Style Arc Italia shirtdress
Style Arc Italia shirtdress

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The Italia shirtdress is a slightly fitted and A-line, with bust darts, front and back vertical darts, and a back yoke that extends slightly forward to the front and is slightly rounded upward in the back. The front button placket is simply folded back in place. The special design details include a hem gusset, two bust pockets, roll-up sleeves with a tab, and a front placket tab overlay.

When my mom saw this dress she said “I had one just like that back in the late 70s or early 80s!” Guess I’m turning into my mom! (That’s ok, she’s awesome.)

This is my first “real” project in a while. The past few months have been challenging for me (some of it good, some of it not so good) so I was taking a break from sewing for a bit. I had this cut out at least two weeks ago but it just sat there until I started working on fusing some of the pieces last weekend. Some of my topstitching is less than perfect, but at least I got it done and enjoyed myself in the process. I completely agree with the Sometimes Sewist that perfection is always desired but not necessary.

I used this non-stretch denim from Gorgeous Fabrics.

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The fabric is still a little stiff after pre washing. I’ve used this fabric before for another project, so I know from previous experience that it will take another couple of washings for the sizing to completely rinse out.

The buttons are the natural shell buttons from Fashion Sewing Supply. (I LOVE these buttons. They are nice and thick, reasonably priced, and go with almost everything.)

I used the lightweight Pro-Woven crisp interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply for the collar, collar stand, and cuffs. I also interfaced the front facings, front tab, and sleeve plackets using Pro-Sheer Elegance. Interfacing that front placket tab wasn’t recommended in the instructions, but it helped me get a crisper result.

I didn’t have great results with the sleeve placket pieces included with the pattern, so I ripped them out and replaced them with the placket pattern from David Coffin’s Shirtmaking. This is my TNT placket pattern. If you’ve never sewn a shirt placket like this before I highly recommend the Sewaholic Granville tower placket tutorial. (I used to use Sandra Betzina’s instructions in Power Sewing, but I think Tasia’s instructions have better photos and are much easier to understand.) I used the full men’s length instead of the shorter women’s length. It looks good when fully buttoned, but when I turn up the cuffs it looks kind of odd since the tab goes between the placket split, so the whole roll isn’t captured:

Style Arc Italia shirtdress
Style Arc Italia shirtdress

So next time I will cut down the length. It is fine as-is for this dress because the weight and color are more suited for spring and fall rather than hot summer days.

For the collar stand I used method described in Grainline Studio’s collar tutorial. I love this method; it is the only one I’ve tried where I get good results all the time, plus it eliminates that bulk at the intersection of the shirt and bottom collar stand that makes it difficult to topstitch/edgestitch around that corner. The only thing I do differently is before attaching the inner collar I sew along the seam allowance. The stitching helps stabilize the slightly curve and gives an accurate pressing guide. If you stitch just inside the seam allowance – like barely 1/16″ – it is pretty much hidden once the seam allowance is folded back and collar is completely sewn in place.

Construction FYI: do not be tempted to flat-fell the side seams, or serge them together, unless you omit the hem gusset. In order to sew in the gusset cleanly you need to have the side seams pressed apart. Also, the gusset is folded in half with wrong sides together, then it is stitched to the dress.

Fitting adjustments:

  • Moved the vertical front darts inward 1/2″
  • I did not lengthen the sleeves. Next time I will lengthen them an additional 1/2″. I think the sleeves run long on this dress – I normally lengthen Style Arc sleeves 1-1.5″.
  • 3/8″ rounded back alteration
  • 3/8″ forward shoulder alteration
  • Added 5″ to hips
  • Added 3/4″ width to sleeves (mostly at the elbow)
  • Took in the back darts an additional 3/8″ at the waist; I think I should probably take them in a little bit more at the lower section.
  • Lowered the side bust dart 1/2″
  • Lengthened it 3.5″ between the waist and hem.
  • The upper back feels a little tight, particularly when reaching forward. I will add a little bit more width at the center of the back armhole for next time.

52 thoughts on “Style Arc Italia Shirtdress

  1. I’ve been looking at this pattern with interest every since it was released — perhaps because, like your Mom, I recall having (and loving) a similar dress in the late 70’s — after seeing yours Anne, I’m definitely buying this dress pattern. Love the style, the color of your denim and you look absolutely terrific wearing it!

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    1. My dad joked to me “did you steal your mother’s dress?” He couldn’t do it with a straight face though 🙂

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    1. Sporty yet feminine…you just described perfectly why I like it so much! The color is unusual enough that even though we are not supposed to wear denim at work, I can still get away with it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Love it. I snapped this one up as soon as it hit etsy, but now I’m stymied. Suggest a fabric that a 30-yr-old Banana Republic-type shopper would like – preferably something easy to care for. The twist: it can’t be denim, since that’s absolutely forbidden at her workplace. I’ve never met a pattern that I didn’t want to make in denim, (and your dress explains why) so I’m having a tough time. Think a drapey RPL blend would work?

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    1. It depends on the RPL…if it is tropical-weight it may work. It should also have hardly any stretch since this has plenty of ease without it. A tightly woven and lightweight cotton twill (without lycra) would work really well. Or you could use a heavier cotton shirting or broadcloth, or linen if she’s ok with the wrinkling. You want to think “shirt” and not just “dress.” My preference for this style is something with a little body to hold the shape of the skirt. If you want to use something with a lot of drape I think the Mara would be a better choice.

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      1. The RPL idea isn’t really doing it for me; I’m afraid it will look dowdy. But you said the magic word: shirt. Eureka. Thank you. Somewhere around here I have a no-iron shirting – white stripes on a cornflower blue background. I bought from FabricMart, then lost interest in because it had more body than I wanted for a shirt. But for this dress…I think it will work. Now, can you tell me where I hid it? 😉

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      2. Agreed…I think RPL is best as a suiting. The only advantage would be not having to iron. I also forgot to mention that an oxford style or pique shirting would also work very well. This is a style inspired by menswear, so don’t go with anything that is lighter (or heavier, for that matter) than what you would use for a man’s shirt.

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  3. You look amazing in this dress. Very styley. The sunglasses and belt set it off beautifully. I love the hem, too. Sorry to hear about the challenges. I hope things are getting better for you.

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    1. The sunglasses were a necessity! It was SO bright outside when I was trying to take these photos.

      Sometimes life can be very disappointing, and frustrating. Things are starting to look up though – something very exciting is starting to materialize!

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  4. Anne, you look fantastic in this dress! Everything about it suits you so well. Italia has officially moved up in my sewing queue after seeing your dress. I’m sorry about the not so good challenges, and hope that things improve. Good sign that you’re sewing? And, we all turn into our moms eventually. It’s a good thing that most moms are awesome!

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    1. Thanks. Sometimes it helps me to disconnect from the world for a while, and just be a slug. But there were some good distractions lately 🙂

      Half the time when people call and I pick up the phone, they have to ask if it is me or my mom!

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    1. Thanks! I’ve learned to meter off of green grass whenever possible, and always shoot in RAW so I have more wiggle room in post-processing. And I almost always shoot manual now too :). I consider my sewing photoshoots a good excuse to experiment with lighting and portraiture.

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  5. You have really sold me on this pattern. By the way these are great photos of you. I am sure you must live the last photo

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    1. Thanks, I took them myself (which is why you can see an iPhone in most of the photos.) In the last one I was trying to think of an artful way of showing that sleeve roll-up and tab, and that’s what I came up with! I’ve been trying to make my photos more fashion-y and styled, without going to the extremes that Burda does…

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  6. This is gorgeous!! I’m very tempted by this pattern, I just adore all the details it includes. The color looks beautiful on you too. Yay spring!!

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    1. The details are what sold me on this pattern. Just enough to be interesting without being as fussy as some of the Marfy patterns.

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  7. I’m so happy you reviewed this pattern! It’s lovely and your fit is wonderful, as always 🙂
    I bought it on Etsy recently and really want to make it but I’m a bit nervous because I’ve only made simple StyleArc patterns where the instructions (or lack thereof) didn’t matter so much. I suppose the only scary bits are the sleeve plackets and hem gusset. Just gonna have to take my time with each element (HA…we’ll see how that goes!)

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    1. You’ll be fine with the placket, as long as you follow the Sewaholic tutorial and use the piece in the Shirtmaking book. (I am sure there’s also instructions out there for drafting your own piece too.) For the sake of simplicity I prefer a one-piece placket. I also interface it with a lightweight fusible, which helps get a crisp edge and stabilizes the buttonhole.

      The gusset isn’t bad either – just make sure to press the side seams apart, press the gusset in half (wrong sides together) and finish the edges, then sew it between the notches of the dress hem one side at a time.

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    1. It is all about the props, man! Must be the influence of working at a New England boarding school for over seven years. 😉

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  8. Anne, this dress is gorgeous! I am in love with the color, and all your details came out really well. If they’re not perfect, I certainly can’t tell from these photos, and probably no one else will either. 🙂 I’m so glad you reviewed this pattern because I’ve been mulling over the idea of making a shirtdress, and I like the details of this pattern better than some of the more popular patterns out there. Wear this with pride! It’s fabulous.

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    1. I seem to need to let my stuff “marinate” in the magic closet for a while – otherwise I see all the little flaws!

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  9. Wow, that looks fantastic! I’m usually not one for shirtdresses, but I may have to reconsider and make one myself! I have some lavender and white chambray that I’ve been sitting on, which would be perfect.

    Also, I agree with all the other commenters who said that your photos look fantastic, and I’m a serious photography nut. What did you use to light yourself in those photos?

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    1. I had forgotten how much I like shirtdresses. They’re polished but not as uptight as a regular crisp blouse and skirt.

      Lighting was natural sunlight after 5pm, with a giant silver reflector (which kept getting knocked over by the wind!) to help fill in the shadows of the other side. I did my best to have the sun at a 45 degree angle to my right side and the reflector directly to my left side.

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    1. I’m still learning how to use them. It can be tricky to get a reflector positioned just so (especially if you are working alone and it is a little windy) but I think it is a little bit more natural than a strobe for filling in shadows on bright days. The white ones give a soft, diffused look and the silver ones give a more punchy look. (I prefer the punchy look.) The white ones should be positioned as closely as possible and the silver ones should be further away since the surface is so reflective.

      I think if you try one you’ll really like the results. There’s a reason why you see so many people running around with them on outdoor shoots! I got the 5-in-1 folding style because of space issues (I wanted a huge one for full-length photos), but you can make your own white one with a piece of foam core. There’s also a tutorial out there for making a silver one out of a poster frame and one of those emergency blankets.

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    1. Thanks! I’m glad it is finally warm enough (and the days are long enough) for doing outdoor photo shoots without feeling rushed.

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  10. Beautiful dress! Love the detail work. I was wondering how you pick your size. I finally realized that I have always been trying to fit my wide shoulders and ending up with too much bust fabric. I thought I might use my upper bust mmt and add 3 inches to choose a size, but that puts me exactly between two sizes for Style Arc patterns. Can I ask what you would do?

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    1. I think it may be one of those things you will need to experiment with. I would buy one of their multi-size patterns from Amazon, make up a couple of muslins in different sizes, and go from there. I have a bust that’s pretty much in proportion to my shoulders/upper chest, so I just go by my full bust measurement. It depends on your proportions what your specific fit issue is – broad shoulders vs small bust. Either way you’ll need to alter.

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