So here is my second M6696, which I DID finish in time for my self imposed deadline and wore when I was in Sydney for the Thrilling Adventure Hour shows. Which were, by the way, amazing.

First let me apologise for the blown out photos. I have really limited photo taking opportunities since it’s so dark all the time, and not much shade in the backyard, so I had to take what I could get. Which is annoying because you can’t really see the details, so I tried to take some detail shots in the shade. And also it explains the sunnies – my choices are wearing sunglasses, or having squinting death glare. I chose facial expressions. You’re welcome.

Squinty death glare

It was a bit of a push to make the deadline. I was intending to work on this the weekend before we left, and I would have had plenty of time. The dress actually comes together pretty quickly. I cut it out right after I finished my black one and sewed up the bodice during the week. Unfortunately, I ran into some issues which lead to me needing to take apart and resew the bodice, which was quite time consuming. And then the weekend before was busy and I didn’t get much sleep on the Saturday due to sleeping in a caravan on a friend’s property in 80kmph winds (not restful. 2/10. Do not recommend) and being totally zombified on Sunday. I didn’t want to attempt fixing the bodice in that state. So I sewed this whole dress during the week. I meant to time myself but forgot, but I spent maybe three hours on it on Monday and Tuesday night, another couple on Wednesday and then Thursday it was done enough that I could actually pack the rest of my clothes! I think that’s not too bad, really, for a dress with this many bits.

So, the bodice issues. As I noted with my black voile version, there was pulling at the armpit. I was a bit worried it would become an issue in the heavier fabric, and it did!


Yes. My room is 100% trashed.

I spent some time tugging and pinching it and seeing what would help. I had just enough fabric to recut either the bodice or the sleeves – I bought 5 whole metres but since it is a narrow fabric with a directional print, and the skirt pieces are wide, there was not much left from the initial cutting, at least not big enough to do anything with. I thought maybe I needed an FBA after all. I even adjusted the pattern piece but I just wasn’t sure that was the problem. In the end, I think the issue is armscye shape, which is a thing I have had problems with many a time.

During problem solving, I laid the sleeve pattern over a pattern I know works for me, the sleeve from my Ottobre tops and my ottobre dress.

There is a substantial difference. The slope of the ottobre sleeves is gentler, and less peaked. A while ago I tried muslining the Colette Jasmine blouse and had exactly this issue. I had to make so many changes to that, and armscyes are tricky things to change, that the muslin is still sulking in the bottom of a box, all wadded up in fury. So I was worried about changing things but I also knew from that experience that small changes can make a big difference. So I mashed up the sleeve, basically tracing the ottobre dress sleeve (because it was closer to the shape than the tshirt sleeve) but copying the hemline from M6696. I recut the sleeves and basted them in and it WAS better. But not fixed. I tried pinching out a wee dart from the armscye and that made a BIG difference.

Pinched out dart on the left. Unchanged on the right.

So I figured that as close as I was going to get quickly, without recutting.

I think, from this and also from the fold lines my black one gets when worn, that I actually need to grade in a couple of sized from the armhole up. I do usually have to do a narrow shoulder adjustment, even when I’ve chosen my high bust size and done an FBA. I have sloping shoulders, I think is the issue. So next time (oh yes there will be many next times) that is what I will do. I won’t bother with an FBA unless the next one seems like it needs it after the armscye adjustment, but I think I will move the horizontal dart up just 1cm and maybe make it a bit shallower. It seems like I need the room there, a bit. I know I have wide-set boobs – I can’t wear underwired bras because no matter the cup size the underwires come in where my boobs still are, and it HURTS. So I guess I just need more room there? There’s plenty of room under my boobs, which is good.

The sleeve does rouche up a bit, and twist, on this, but not enough to really notice (except that of course I am minutely scrutinising any flaw) and I think lifting the seam towards my torso by grading it in will help.

Still some pulling. Luckily my sunglasses make me real cool.

Apart from that, the sewing was pretty straightforward! I did end up with two major flaws and a minor one. The minor one is that the pleats at the back somehow ended up being as intended one side, and box pleats the other

D’oh! Box pleats on right, as intended on left

But I figure if you’re looking that close we have other issues. I think this happened because, when I went to sew the skirt to the bodice, it was somehow massively too small. I guess I pinned and basted the pleats too generously? So I had to kind of wing it because I was pushed for time at that point, and I guess one side got caught up weird.

Also the gathering at the top is not entirely even, as you can see here it’s bunched up to one side.

The major ones are 1) the button placement and 2) the front waist placement, both of which exacerbate each other.

I sewed the buttons last (obviously), and late at night (and there’s one missing because I needed another card of buttons and Spotlight is out and clearly doesn’t restock often). I sewed by placing the waistband button first, because I wanted that to line up, and then working up and down from there. Looking at the late night photo I took of it, I can see it’s every so slightly off, but not very much

It’s not very clear, but this was the photo I took at almost midnight, when I was done bar buttons. With a mostly-meeting waistband.

But look at it now

That’s not just waving in the breeze.

Washing must have loosened something up, I guess. So now the waistband is off kilter and, as a consequence, the bottom of the button bands don’t meet! I only noticed this when I went to put it on for its first outing, in Sydney. Luckily I had brought needle and thread and I quickly sewed up the longer hem to match

I don't know if you can really see it, but the left side is tacked up.
I don’t know if you can really see it, but the left side is tacked up, so they meet in the middle.

Obviously this is not a great fix, and it makes the front noticeably shorter than the back!

Also exacerbated by the way I’m standing, but not actually that much, it looks pretty much like that angle when I’m standing normally. I was trying to show the wonky waistband, but it got blown out.

But it’s relatively easily fixed by cutting off and replacing the buttons in better positions.

However, it’s also exacerbated by the fact that the front waist is too high. When I was sewing them together I noticed that the front was shorter than the back by about 1cm. I figured this was due to wonky cutting of the back bodice, which I had adjusted, and I simply cut the back to match. Which was a good move in the sense that now the back is absolutely perfect. But bad in the sense that I think actually what happened was I somehow cut the front bodices too short.

The adjusted back piece. I think I need to straighten it out so the side is the same length as the centre back, which is how I ended up trimming it anyway.
The adjusted back piece. I think I need to straighten it out so the side is the same length as the centre back, which is how I ended up trimming it anyway.

I have no idea how I did that but that must be it. It is much shorter than the bodice of my black dress. I have been going back and forth between fixing and not fixing but it’s annoying me a lot, both to wear – it means the waist is actually on my ribs, and it constricts me when I’m sitting down – and to look at. And the pockets sit too high to be useful. So I’ll have to fix it. SIGH. Once I unpick the button band and the waist seam (and all my lovely topstitching, boo hoo!) I’ll just sew the front seams at a smaller seam allowance, it only needs a little bit extra at each seam. No biggie. And then re-place the buttons. And then hopefully the front will sit right!

Sloping hemline and visibly higher waistline at the front.

It’s also annoying because it makes it almost empire line, which is not at all the silhouette I’m going for. Even worse when wearing the petticoat I bought, because it is a bit longer than I need it so I have to wear it high up on my waist, which mean lots of poofiness at my belly where I really don’t need the help. That said, I am still plotting ways to wear a petticoat in my every day life without people thinking I’m mad. They are SO fun to wear!

Yeeeaaahhhh! As worn to the Friday night show. I should have bought a petticoat a good 3″ shorter. But I kind of dig the maximum puff + peep out the bottom. The neck tie is just a piece of silk satin I bought at the Fabric Store in Sydney. It has abstract flowers on it and it also came in teal. Don’t think I wasn’t tempted to buy more of it.

Construction wise, I French seamed the armscyes, serged and then sewed the skirt pieces, and sandwiched and French seamed the waistband as I did last time.

French seamed bodice
Sandwiched waistband… except where it’s not.

I topstitched the button band – it was much easier in a stiffer fabric, although you can see bits where it flipped out and I kept sewing – that was in the home stretch and my deadline was LOOMING. I did slipstitch the collar, it was just quicker. Unfortunately the top buttonhole is in an area where there are too many seams meeting – I didn’t clip carefully enough I guess – and it’s in fact impossible to get the button through. That might soften up with washing, maybe?

I also am tempted to fuss with the collar. The collar itself is great, but it feels like it’s 1/2” too high up on my neck. Is that a thing? Maybe because I have a dowager’s hump/my head is forward on my neck? I am tempted to try to move it down next time, because I feel like it makes the collar sit funny, because it’s all perched up high with nothing to support it where it should be supported. I also wonder if there’s too much room in the centre front and maybe I should rotate some out, but I’m going to adjust the shoulders first and see what that does to that problem.

Part of it is that because of the button issue, the right side is actually sitting a bit too high. But… does the collar look like it’s in the right place to everyone else? I’d really like some opinions on this one.
You can also see the pooling above my bust, still. Just not sure about the right fitting fixes for this. Help?

In summary!

Changes made:

Took 1” out of the back both horizontally and vertically. Pleated back instead of gathering. Swapped sleeve for one with a wider and shallow sleeve cap. Pinched out a small (probably 1cm) dart in each armscye, where I felt it needed it.

Fixes needed:

Need to fix the too-short bodice/waistband. Need to re-locate the buttons.

Changes to make next time:

grade the shoulders/armscye down two sizes, front and back. Move horizontal dart and make it a bit shallower (not sure about this one). Maybe adjust where the collar sits? Or perhaps leave that until I see what the other changes do. Make sure to cut the bodice long enough!

Even with its flaws, I’ve worn it out a couple of times since Sydney, to great acclaim. I do still love it, but I know the flaws will bother me.

I am planning to make another cotton one to test these changes. I have some cotton with spots that I bought planning to replicate a dress I had as a child. I thought I had this blue spotty one and a multi-coloured spotty one but I can’t find photographic evidence of the latter.

I'll probably give the socks and sandals look a miss, though.
Pretty sure this was handmade, either by my mother or my paternal grandmother.

No matter. I’ll probable wear it with knee socks, too (although not socks AND sandals), which I probably should be concerned about. Actually I realised when we were in Sydney, I was wearing the anchor dress with knee socks, the nurse-like shoes I am wearing in these photos, and a thin knitted jumper the same colour of the socks… I had recreated my school uniform. Thankfully in a MUCH nicer colour scheme. I feel like I should feel some kind of way about that but… I don’t. Shirtdresses are forever, so there.

Anyway the point is, spotty shirtdress. I’m thinking about swapping the skirt out for a circle skirt with no pleats. And then I have three metres of flannel that I bought for pjs but might be destined to be one of these, but I think I only have enough for a straight skirt, especially if I want long sleeves. AND I have some of the teal flannellette from my shirt, probably enough for a dress. Oh, AND, I bought some sparkly, glittery snowflake fabric to make a solstice dress from. So, that’s less than a month away.

This stuff! It’s much less see through when it’s not wet, although it will still require a slip.

So it seems I’m destined for a wardrobe full of this one pattern. Partly because I want to nail the fit of this, but also because, I just love shirtdresses, I love this pattern in particular, and I feel totally fine with having multiple copies of it and being that woman who wears all the shirtdresses. There’s many a worse fate.

11 thoughts on “Anchors away!

  1. I think I am on my sixth M6696 (in the watercolor gingham, no less)? I just cut out another, and have three more on deck. (I’m out of lining fabric, and this one blissfully doesn’t need it. So I’m pretending that’s it.) Let’s just wear all of the shirtdresses and the knee socks together, shall we? I wear mine with saddle shoes, like a proper schoolgirl.

    My waistbands always have trouble catching, and I find that glue basting with fabric glue sticks is the ticket. Though, this time I ran low on glue and tried to wing it, and my fabric ended up not catching for a good stretch of the waistband. D’oh!

    1. Oh man that gingham! I hope you will post about it because I am excited! Knee socks and saddle shoes sounds excellent. Gotta get me some coordinating blazers… and straw boaters… (my actual school uniform did in fact involve straw hats. Everyone including the teachers thought it was ridiculous but I would probably wear that now if I thought it was socially acceptable – not in brown, though, which was my school colour).

      I was wondering why I keep thinking of this dress as easier than some of the more basic dresses I’ve made and I think it’s the lining. There are lots of bits to this one but you only ever have to do one at once.

      Glue basting! That sounds like a miracle. I must get my hands on one because catching those bands is a skill I just don’t see myself picking up any time soon.

  2. Fitting is such a journey isn’t it?

    I like your dress despite all the flaws you’ve shone a spotlight on, specially with that awesome petticoat. Perhaps that’s what I need for a shirt dress to work for me? They are one of those classic garments that I love on other people but always seems to make me feel frumpy.

    That snowflake fabric is divine.

    1. It sure is! I’m getting there but every time you get one thing right it opens up a whole new set of things! That said, although I’ve got a list of things that could be better, I’m very happy with how this is fitting. The perfect is the enemy of the good, and all that!

      I’m so pleased by how non-frumpy I feel in this style. I often feel just awkward and inelegant in retro or classic clothes that technically looks good on my body but is just Not. Me. So I’m glad to have found one that works! I don’t know if a petticoat would help them for you but it can’t hurt to try, right? 🙂

  3. I am also in the land of 6696 and pondering some fit issues right now. I can see the issues when you point them out, but I thought your dress looked great before you told me about all of them, so it’s definitely a winner.

    Your collar actually looks fine to me, but I can relate to the feeling that there’s too much collar going on. My head is also forward on my neck, plus I have a short neck. I didn’t care for the size of the collar on my wearable muslin, so I cut it down a bit using the collar from the Grainline Alder because I feel like it suits me better. I think this amounted to taking off 1/4″ all the way around the collar piece and taking 1/4″ off the bottom of the collar stand. I *still* feel like there’s something funky going on with the collar, though, and I’m wondering if it’s what you say – that there’s too much room at the center front, which is a common problem for me. I haven’t dealt with it on this dress, but that’s only because I never wear it buttoned all the way up!

    1. I wore it to work yesterday with all but the top button done up and it was fine, actually. But with the top button done, or the top two undone, it sits funny. I don’t really know, maybe that’s just how collars sit? I can’t wear boughten shirts because they are too broad on my shoulders and too narrow on my back so I wouldn’t know! I still think it could be improved but I’m not sure how. I’m getting better at knowing what fitting adjustments my body needs, but I haven’t made many high-necked things so I’m not entirely sure how to deal with that part. I guess it would make sense to need less room there, with curves and busts and the like.

      Also I realised when wearing it yesterday that despite spending ages thinking about how the anchors on the collar would go, I then sewed the collar upside down so they go the wrong way. OH WELL. My pattern matching on the rest of the dress is adequate but not great anyway, so.

      I do think there are fit issues that can be improved, but it’s also already possibly the best fitting dress I’ve ever owned, and very very comfortable. Except for the waist sitting on my ribcage when I’m sitting, but that’s a comparatively easy fix – and even easier the next time I make it, if I just cut the pattern out properly!

Whadya reckon?

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