Sunday, July 28, 2013

Unlocking That Dress

Next time I pledge to blog seven posts in seven days, I need to remember that a sewing blog is different than a slice-of-life blog in that you have to actually sew something to have something to talk about.  Well, you could talk about what other people are sewing, but that will wear thin pretty quickly.  So addition to taking the time to blog, you have add in the time it takes to sew, and that adds up to a lot of time.  Eventually (after 6 days, to be precise), your husband is probably going to need some attention.  : )

So the new shirtdress did not get cut out Friday night.  We are having unusually cool weather for July in Richmond, VA, and The Carpenter and I spend the evening on our back deck listening to the bird calls.

I awoke fresh on Saturday morning to begin my vintage shirtdress from the afore-mentioned "Lock and Key" fabric from Michael Miller.  This was the 1962 pattern I had my eye on:

I was drawn to the pattern for two reasons:  1) it was a shirtdress (obviously), and 2) it was a half-size pattern. You can see it is a size 14 1/2 whose bust size is 35. 

 Erin is big on half size patterns, which seem to be patterns whose bust measurement is "halfway" between two sizes, and whose waist size is slightly larger in proportion than misses sizes.  So, while a size 14 has a 34 bust, and a size 16 has a 36 bust, this 14 1/2 pattern is a 35 bust.  Given that I am a middle aged woman, a little extra in the bust and waist would be welcome without having to make alterations to the pattern.  I'm not entirely sure were I purchased this pattern, but I may have gotten it at Bygones in Carytown.  (Sadly, Bygones underwent a renovation several years ago and the last time I was there they no longer carried vintage patterns.)

After spending the last few weeks pouring over the instructions, I decided to make the slim skirted version to test this pattern - less time, less fabric.  But on Saturday morning, I pulled out the tissue pattern - still in factory folds - and found that the only pattern pieces inside the envelope were the four pattern pieces used to make the full skirt, and the pattern piece for the waist stay.  No bodice pieces, no sleeves, no collar; basically, no pattern pieces that I needed.  So, back to drawing board.

I went through my fairly extensive vintage pattern collection to try to find a shirtdress pattern that only needed three yards of fabric, and I chose this one, Simplicity 6584, from 1966:

I don't know where I got it, but it may have also been Bygones.  The pattern was published in London, and you may notice that it is "suitable for uniforms":

For some, this designation might be a deterrent, but because I am such an enormous sewing geek, I was all over it.  I can see nurses and waitress making this pattern in Britain for work in the 1960s.  I decided to make View 2, which is the short sleeve version with the A-line skirt.  Understandably, I was concerned about whether the pattern pieces were actually contained therein.  Not all of them were; the pockets were missing and so was the sleeve cuff, the waist stay, and the belt.  But thankfully all of the major pieces were there.

The pattern had been used before; the former owner had made the straight skirt version.  In cutting out, I did a little creative layout so I could align all the pattern pieces in the same direction - it's my belief that all fabrics have a nap, and I avoid cutting out pieces "upside down".  There's a little selvage in some of the seam allowances of my dress pieces, but I managed to get the entire dress cut out with the "with nap" layout.

I also decided to add the breast pocket, which I thought was really cute.  The front pattern piece shows the full pocket layout, so all I had to do was trace it to replace the missing pocket pattern piece:

I didn't add seam allowances so my breast pocket is 1/2 inch smaller overall than what the pattern calls for, but I like it a little smaller anyway.  After trying on the bodice, I added 1 inch to the waist by altering the side seams to 3/8 of an inch in the waist area. 

So here it is with no buttons, no edgestitching, no sleeves and no hem:

I really like the breast pocket!

I like this pocket so much, I might have to add one of the skirt pockets to this dress from the scraps, to complete the retro vibe.  

I tried this dress on, pinning the front closed, and it is surprising flattering, given that it is a "uniform".  I'll probably add gray buttons.  I am going to shorten the sleeves and eliminate the large cuff; I think I'll use the faux "cuff" a la The Hawthorn.  Hopefully, I'll finish this one soon.     

I always wonder about the prior owners of my vintage patterns - whether she was a nurse, or whether she used this pattern over and over, how old she was, etc.  I wonder if she was peering over my shoulder as I cut this one out!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Here's A Dress I Never Blogged About

I made my own wedding dress during my pretty short three-and-half month engagement.  I was hoping to blog about the process, but I was trying to throw together a wedding and make my dress at the same time.  Because my ability to put pressure on myself knows no bounds, I decided to make a dress for my bridal shower as well.   I never had time to blog about that dress either, but here it is:

In the top photo, I'm wearing a sweater because it was late January 2012, but in the bottom photo, you can see it is a sleeveless dress, made of shantung silk.  As you can imagine, I didn't have a lot of time to make this dress, so I planned a simple dress from tried-and-true patterns and techniques.  The bodice is the v-neck bodice from Simplicity 9559, now out of print:

I have a soft spot for this pattern because it is the very first dress pattern I ever made, back in 2002.  The bodice is made from the very small amount of white silk I had left after finishing my wedding dress; I liked the fact that I could incorporate a part of my wedding dress into this one.  The skirt is self-drafted half circle skirt in a dusty pink shantung I got on sale for $ 10/yard at Fabric Mart up in Massachusetts back in 2003 or 2004, before it went out of business.  Which is complete proof that not only should you have a stash, but you should have completely "useless" fabrics in it because you just never know.  : )

Influenced heavily by Mary Adams', The Party Dress, I added a liberal amount of ruffles.  I think I even bought a ruffler foot for my Bernina for this exact purpose.  (Which was the most expensive part of making this dress.)  Mary Adams makes her ruffles with bias strips, not bothering to hem them, so I gave it go and it was a lot of fun.  I made the white ruffles around the neckline and waist with Kaufman's silk/cotton blend fabric that I had auditioned for my wedding dress but ultimately decided not to use.  For the skirt, I used the rose shantung; my original plan envisioned at least two or three rows of ruffles but I ran out of fabric and had to make do with only one.  

I hemmed the dress with a bias strip folded in half a la Kay Whitt of Sew Serendipity, a technique I have used on a lot of my formal dresses - it's easy and creates a smooth, pucker-free hem.

This was an over-the-top frilly, girly dress. And just to gild the lily, I wore it with a full crinoline underneath!  But if you can't wear a ruffled silk dress at your bridal shower, where can you wear it???  I ended up wearing it for the rehearsal dinner as well.  Like my wedding dress, I felt comfortable, I felt the dress was "me", and I felt "cute".  Which is the trifecta of dress making!

Looking at these photos reminds me of what a great shower I had - the classic southern women's bridal shower, complete with pimento cheese sandwiches, deviled eggs, and petite fours.  So many of my wonderful friends made it a memorable day and I will be forever grateful . . .

Thursday, July 25, 2013

What We Wear . . . and Why

Have you seen Sewaholic's newest pattern, the Saltspring dress?  It is absolutely adorable.  And for about five minutes, I looked for the perfect rayon challis to make the maxi dress version and then I remembered I'm forty-nine years old and the dress design, while adorable, is too young for me.  Not wanting to give up, I actually considered making it for Aimee's fifteen year old daughter, who would look so crazy cute in it, but I realized the Selfish Seamstress would feel a great disturbance in The Force if I actually volunteered to sew for someone else.  I reminded myself of the dozen and dozens of patterns I already own that I will never be able to wear because time is flying by and I'll grow so old my arthritic fingers will wither, and I finally regained my senses.

And that got me thinking about what we wear, and what I wear, and what is in fashion. It was a classic sartorial existential crisis, dear readers.  Because, basically, I believe anything goes these days, despite what fashion magazines portray and Target sells. The incredibly popularity of vintage patterns and reissues of vintage patterns are a testament that sewers, at least, pay little attention to Vanity Fair.

And I truly believe that other people do not care one whit what I wear, as long as what I wear is clean and not too revealing.  I would venture to say that my co-workers aren't the least bit surprised by anything I wear because I've been there 20 years and not only have I worn a dress with blue crabs on it, but if I really like something, I literally wear it for years.  I could show up wearing a tiara (and I have) and they barely shoot me a glance.

So how could a cute dress pattern be "too young" and therefore unacceptable?  I don't know, but instinctively I knew it was.  I was deeply struck by Trina's post from some years back about her philosophy of dressing - that her goal was to feel cute every day, and any clothes that didn't produce such feeling were ditched.  Gone were the practical "work clothes" - she wears what makes her happy and makes her feel cute and I think she's right on the money.   Particularly since I believe, as stated above, people do not truly care what others wear.

Any dress that makes me uncomfortable, either physically or emotionally, isn't going to make me feel great about the day.  If I am wearing something "too young" I am going to feel self-conscious, which is the antithesis of "cute".  "Too young" is any dress that makes me feel ridiculous, and that is saying something for someone whose favorite dress has blue crabs on it.  But that dress makes me feel fab (sorry Vicki) and I remember dancing around it the day I finished it.  It's like we were meant for each other.

So I'm passing on the Saltspring maxi dress, even though I know that maxi skirt would feel amazing fluttering in a summer evening breeze, and I'm going with a vintage shirtdress pattern I've been wanting to try for several years because 2013 is the Year of the Shirtdress.  And after seeing Erin's dress, I am making it in Michael Miller's "Lock and Key":

So yeah, the Saltriver dress is too young for me, but I'm going to be wearing a 1962 shirtdress that has keys on it.  Which just demonstrates that "appropriateness" is all relative, dear readers.  We live in a era where we each get to decide what is right for us, whether it is the latest from Michael Kors or whether it is a 1950s wiggle dress we sewed ourselves, and no one cares.

In a perfect world, I'll cut this baby out tomorrow night so I can just start sewing Saturday morning after my cup of tea and chocolate for breakfast while I watch "This Old House".  Because that is how I roll, people.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Cautionary Fail

If you noticed that I am blogging more than usual lately, you are right.  I've joined Jen's 7 Days of Epic Blogging, where the goal is to write a post every day for seven days.  A bunch of folks signed up for this, including me, and I have no idea why, but what is life but one grand experiment?  

My last post on my 1970's skirt reminded me of a project I never posted about probably because I am still traumatized.  Any reader will know that I prefer the "Big Four" pattern based upon 1) price; 2) consistent sizing; 3) and printed finished garment measurement printed on the pattern.  My forays into independent patterns have been mostly successful, although not cheap, but the story I am about to tell is about a colossal fail.  

While I was in Cotton Creek, AL over Christmas, I spied at the LQS this seemingly innocent (and cute) pattern from Favorite Things.  It's their Wrap Dress pattern:

 Look at those girls on the cover!  They looks so cute, so happy, so seemingly at peace with their outfits.  But it's all a huge lie, dear readers; this wrap dress pattern is evil and unworkable.  Here is my version:
I can't remember who designed the fabric, but I thought it was perfect for the dress.  Unfortunately the dress, such that it is, does not function very well as a dress.  I mean, if you actually expect a dress to cover your body and protect you from the elements and prying eyes.  I wore it as a tunic sort of thing over jeans and a long sleeved tee, mainly because it was winter, but also because if you moved at all, the dress gaped to the waist.
Don't let my smile fool you, deal readers, this was a most ill-fitting garment.  See the back neck area standing upright from my neck/back?  What the hell is that???  I can't tell if this means the dress is too small or too large.  

I don't know how the women on the front cover of the pattern managed to stay covered; they must have sprayed themselves with glue and then wrapped the dress around their bodies.  I'm not linking to the pattern because I don't want to encourage anyone here.  Please, I beg you, do not buy this pattern.

It's a shame, because I loved the fabric which I used for the facings for my 1970's skirt (a much better use of the fabric, by the way). 

Just so I don't end this post on a completely negative note, I will confess that I liked the ruffle on the dress and hemming it was easier than I thought.  The instructions had you turn up a 1/4 inch hem, and stitch about 1/16th of inch close to the fold.  Then you pressed up the stitching line, so it didn't show, and then stitched again on top of it.  Then you cut away the excess raw edge.  I didn't have much confidence in these instructions, but it worked like a charm.

I used my eleven year old cheap sewing machine I keep stashed at Cotton Creek which I got at Sears when I first started sewing in 2002, and it was a challenge.  Going from my Bernina to the Sears model was like going from a Mercedes Benz to a horse and buggy, if the horse was ancient and had a tendency to bite people.  For what I paid for it in 2002, I could find a pretty nice used machine today.  I may have to look into to getting a new/used machine for my visits to my parents', and donate the Sears machine.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

New Look Skirt 0119

 When I was in Cotton Creek, Alabama this Christmas, Mother and I went through her old linens to see if there was anything I was interested in.  I said yes to this old striped tablecloth that screamed 1970s to me:

Mother has confirmed that she got this in the early 80s.  I don't remember it, so it has been a long, long time since she used it.  It was in pretty good shape, though, and on Saturday I got the inspiration to make a 1970's skirt - which had to be A-line (of course!).  I got New Look 0119, and selected version D, which is the black and white skirt in the upper right hand corner:
The pattern was perfect for my vision - here it is:
The skirt is above the knee, A-line, with no waistband, just a facing.  From the time I opened the pattern until I finished the hem was about three hours.  It's been so long since I made a quick project like this, I had forgotten how fun it is to start and finish a project in one day!

While cutting out, I thought I was very careful to arrange the pattern pieces around any stains or holes, but I overlooked a small stain.  I solved this mistake and made it into a design feature by adding a very 1970's patch pocket:
 I used a patch pattern piece from an apron pattern I made several years ago.  I cut the outer garment fabric on the bias, just for visual interest, and made the inside of pocket with leftover Liberty lawn I literally had lying on the sewing room floor. Then I just edgestitched around it.  I love it, and it reminds me of when I was a little girl and I insisted that all my dresses have pockets on them.  My grandmother obliged, of course!  I've thought about what I found so fascinating about pockets when I young, and I think it was just the possibility that pockets represent: is there anything in the pocket and what could it be????

I used some quilting fabric for the facings as this tablecloth was quite thick.  

I used the quilting fabric because the tablecloth was quite substantial fabric - I didn't want multiple layers of it.  It isn't denim or twill, it is more like canvas that has been washed hundreds of times.  Very comfortable.

I made size 12, but I used 1/2 inch seams to make sure it was big enough.  The pattern had the finished hip measurements on it, but not the waist.  In the end, I should have used 5/8 inch seams (or larger) because the skirt was plenty big.  But I really enjoyed wearing it and it was a quick make.  A winner!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Liberty Hawthorn!

I've been wanting to make a shirtdress from Liberty's Tana Lawn since I saw Gertie's version in her new book.  But Liberty's lawn fabrics run about $ 36 to $ 46 dollars a yard, depending on whether you buy online or at a brick-and-mortar, so I didn't want to spend that kind of money on a sub-standard pattern.  Enter the Holy Grail of shirtdress patterns, the Hawthorn shirtdress pattern that I blogged about here.  (Oh my love for you is true, Hawthorn!)

Having found the perfect pattern, I had to move on to the perfect Liberty fabric.  Many Liberty fabrics are small scale, which are perfect for blouses, but seem to be a little busy for dresses.  I finally settled for Liberty's "Mabelle" I ordered from B&J Fabrics:  

 With my linen version being essentially a test version, I was looking forward to this Liberty lawn version to confirm that size 6 was the proper size.  It was.  Here's the back:
 Pay no attention to those wrinkles on my back - it's just how I am standing.  Here's a close up of the collar and the fabric:
With this busy pattern, the collar doesn't quite stand out like my white linen test version.  I still love it.

As with the linen version, I cut both skirt pieces on the fold and used a 12 inch zipper on the left side to allow myself to get in and out of the dress, reducing the number of buttons from 13 to 5.  Essentially, you only need buttons for the bodice.

Unlike my last post, where I was so besotted by my love for this pattern, I couldn't form a coherent pattern review analysis, I've managed to calm down enough today to make a few considered observations:

1.  If you cut your skirt pieces on the fold like I did (my previous post shows your how, here), you can make the complete bodice before attaching the skirt, including making the buttonholes, attaching the buttons, and sewing in the sleeves.  As a matter of fact, the last thing you would do is attach the skirt, put in the zipper, and hem it.  All the work is in the bodice.

2.  I would recommend that you edgestitch your collar before you attach it to bodice - it will help you maintain the roll of your collar so the undercollar won't show.  I didn't do this for the white linen dress, and the process of attaching it allowed my collar pieces to shift.

3.  If you cut your skirt pieces on the fold, you can finish the unfinished facing edge before you attach it to the bodice.  Like the collar, this is much easier if you do it before than after.

4.  I put the sleeves in flat from notch to notch before I sewed the bodice side seams.  Rather than put in gathering stitches from notch to notch, I just used a lot of pins, and then sewed from notch to notch.  Then I sewed the side seams of the bodice.  Then I sewed the sleeve side seams.  THEN I finished putting the sleeves in the round.  It sounds complicated, but I like it better.

5.  The "cuffs" of the sleeves are just bias strips initially sewn to the wrong side of the sleeve, then flipped to the right side and edgestitched to the right side of the sleeve.  Do yourself a favor, and press the top edge 1/4 inch before you attach it, rather than after.  It's easier to press while flat than in the round.

6.  Ready made wide bias hem tape is a lifesaver on this semi-circle skirt - I recommend it for your sanity.  

7.  The instructions tell you to staystitch your bodice pieces first thing after cutting out, which I never do.  You really need to do this for this pattern - the front bodice collar edges are on the bias.  Do as I say, not as I do and staystich them!

What else?  I'm sure I have way more thoughts, but they will have to wait for my next version.  If you make a Hawthorn, let me know; I would love to see it!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Oh Hawthorn, I Love Thee . . .

I am seriously in love.  As soon as I saw Collette Patterns' new shirtdress, the Hawthorn, I ordered it immediately.  I have never made a dress from Collette although I have admired them from afar.  But you know that nothing gets between me and the search for the perfect shirtdress pattern.

It's the collar, the darling collar on this dress that knocks me out.  As soon as I saw it, I knew I wanted to make it in white linen.  I've been wanting to make something this summer in white linen ever since I saw Peter's white linen trousers.  So while waiting for the pattern to arrive, I bought some white linen at Hancock's.  The fact that I have never sewn with linen was no impediment; I was obsessed with this project from the get-go.  I made a size 6 based on the finished garment measurements and never looked back - no muslin, no tracing - throwing all caution to the winds!  Here it is:

I don't normally wear my hair up, but I wanted to make sure you got a good view of the collar, the major reason I made this dress:

As you can see, linen tends to wrinkle:
The linen I chose is not an even-weave; it has stripes running through it, with little dots between the stripes:
Let me tell you that this type of weave does not lend itself to precise cutting, sewing, or pressing.  It probably would have been smarter to begin with an even-weave linen for my first linen project, but no, I had to have this.  Given the loose weave, the fabric had a tendency to stretch - which was great while putting in the sleeves, not so good for everything else.

One thing you may have noticed is that my Hawthorn does not have buttons from collar to hem; the buttons only go to the waist.  I cut both the front and back skirt pieces on the fold of the fabric so as to create a smooth front and back.  I put a 12 inch zipper on the left side to help get in and out of the dress, which is how Simplicity 1880 worked:
I again went with a centered slot zipper rather than the invisible.  I have tried to love invisible zippers, but I just can't cotton to 'em.

To hem the dress, the instructions direct you to turn up the hem 2 inches and slipstitch in place, and I thought, "Nope, not going to do that."  The skirt on this dress is a half circle skirt - turning it 2 inches requires major easing to get the hem to lay flat.  Plus, I liked those two inches.  And this uneven weave doesn't exactly press so accurately. So I picked up some extra wide single fold bias hem tape at Joanns to hem this baby, and all I can say, is "wow, why haven't I ever used this stuff before?"
It worked like a dream and was much faster.  I love it.  The hem tape is part cotton, part polyester, and gives the hem a little more body, which for this drapey fabric, is a plus.

My decision not to make the dress with buttons all the way to the hem stemmed from several factors, not the least of which was laziness.  By limiting the buttons to the bodice portion of the dress it reduced the number of buttons (and buttonholes from 13 to 5!) Plus, it eliminated any possibility of gaposis at the waist, which I hate, or any possible wardrobe malfunction.  Here's how to draft the skirt pieces if you want to do this:

For the back skirt, all you need to do is eliminate the 5/8 inch back center seam allowance and cut on the fold.  Here you can see I positioned the pattern 5/8 inch from the fold:
For the front skirt, you just need to determine where the center of the skirt pattern is and place that on the fold.  For this pattern, the skirt center front is where the buttons are to be located, which Collette so thoughtfully indicated on the pattern.  Just align the fold of your fabric where the buttons are supposed to go:
I hope you can see this.  Just one word of advice though:  cutting on the fold for the skirt pieces is only going to work if your fabric is a wider width of 52 inches or greater.  If you are working with 45 inch wide fabric, you are going to have to cut the skirt pieces separately, adding seam allowances, and then sew the back and front center seams to create your back and front skirt pieces, like Simplicity 1880.

When I first saw these photos, I thought maybe size 6 was a little large, but I realized that this drapey linen was not a fair test of fit.  I love this pattern so much, I have deemed it Liberty fabric worthy, and have made a Liberty lawn version which confirmed that size 6 was the correct size, and any looseness in the linen dress is due to the fabric, not the pattern size.  (Photos of the Liberty version are mysteriously locked in my camera - I can't get them to download, but will keep working on it.)

Collette is having a dress sew-along for the Hawthorn, and check out these wonderful versions from sewing bloggers who have already made this dress:

1.  Erica's cute blue sleeveless dress.

2.  Sanne's adorable polka dot blouse.

3.  The Lazy Seamstress' yummy rose dress.

4.  Katrina's unique heart version.

5.  Elizabeth's cool floral blouse.

6.  Z's test version - wow, is she tall and thin!

7.  Amazingtaracat's longer dress version - with swimmers on it.

8.  Melanie's blue bird seersucker dress.

9.  Kristin's pirate head dress.

10.  The Queen City Stitcher's red seersucker dress.

11. Daniela's dress with contrast collar and sleeves.

I can't overstate this:  I want this dress in every color and fabric imaginable.  I have another linen dress planned (sleeveless this time) and at least two blouse versions dancing in my head.  It might be the perfect shirtdress pattern, but I am taking a break to try out another vintage pattern soon.

Update:  I've posted on my Liberty version here!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

A Fourth of July Finish - Simplicity 1880

Can you believe there is a shirtdress pattern out there that was unknown and un-possessed by me?  I don't know how I missed Simplicity 1880, but I spotted it while reading another blog (that's the problem with the internet - you see something someone has made and you suddenly have to make it too) and knew I had to have it:

 Simplicity patterns went on sale for $ 1.99 at Joanns on June 26th, so I high-tailed it down there to pick up my copy - I think the "Project Runway" designation caused me to pass this one by previously.  I cut it out last weekend (Friday night) and worked on it all day Saturday.  During the week, I put in the zipper and hemmed it.  All I had to do this Independence Day weekend was put in the sleeves.  Ta da!
I made view "A" but it was difficult to discern which version was "A" and which was "B" - the pattern envelope didn't identify one from the other.  I had to figure it out by studying the illustrations in the instructions.  I made a size 12 with no alterations.

 There's a lot going on in this shirtdress.  There are gathers, pleats, and tucks (oh, my!), attached to the yoke, waist, and sleeves, respectively.  There are buttons and a zipper on the left side:
 I had hoped to use fabric from the stash, but no luck.  All my fabric seemed to be three yards or less, and this dress took all of four.  This pattern requires a very light cotton or a rayon, something drapey.  I ended up buying a very lightweight, inexpensive lawn from Joanns (their "Lissette" collection), and it was the right weight for this dress, given the gathers, pleats and tucks.  Unfortunately, it wrinkles pretty easily, but that is the price you pay for lightweight.  And cheap.
There's just something about polka dots and shirtdresses that go together! The dots on this dress are white, with a mint green center. It occurred to me as I was finishing that if I had used red buttons, I would have a patriotic dress, but I wanted minty green buttons to match the dots.  

Of course, as per usual, I did way more edgestitching on this dress than the instructions called for.  Also, as usual, the pattern only had you cut one back yoke and two front yokes; I doubled the number so the inside was as nice as the front:

I was seriously tempted to leave the sleeves off, but I'm glad I didn't.  The blousiness of the bodice wouldn't have looked right without the sleeves, so I'm glad I put the sleeves in even though they were a huge PITA.  First up, the tucks in the sleeves:

Which required a hemming technique I had never heard of before:  using a ribbon to hem the sleeves:
(This photo is of the second sleeve I did - my first one had all kinds of wonky stitching due to the satiny finish of the ribbon.)  I used a yellow ribbon because I like yellow, but I look like death in it, so I incorporate yellow whenever it doesn't show next to my face.  In the end, it wasn't a bad finishing technique but I don't think I'll use it on a regular basis.

The pattern called for an invisible zipper, but I had a bad feeling about trying to wrangle an invisible zipper in this very lightweight cotton that had a tendency to run like rayon.  So I put in a slot (centered) zipper instead.  Easy-peasy:
This shirtdress pattern has a lot to recommend it - I like the fact that the skirt is closed and not buttoned down the front - much less chance of a wardrobe malfunction, not to mention a lot less buttonholes and buttons to sew.  Also, the waist on this dress is actually about 5/8 of inch below where the bodice and the skirt meet - making a more flattering fit, I think.  The smooth skirt, without gathers or pleats, also makes this a flattering dress.

My take:  a winner, in terms of flattering the figure, less buttonholes and buttons to make, and fairly easy.  The only drawback: those sleeves.  They took a long time to make and attach.  If I make this again, I'll probably steal some easier sleeves from another pattern.