Apparel · Dresses & Skirts · Sewing

SoCal Summer & the Autumn Transition (Also, a Classic Shirtwaist Dress Review)

Happy Fall, Y’all!

Just kidding, it’s still Summer here! (Blehh!)

I’ll be honest. I really don’t like Summer. Do you? I’m more of a cold weather kind of gal. Fall and Winter are the best seasons IMO. However, down here in SoCal, our seasons can pretty much be summed up as follows:

  • Not Quite Summer (Winter)
  • Almost Like Summer (Spring)
  • Full Blast Summer (Summer)
  • Still Feels Like Summer (Fall)

I love my city, but seriously, I feel like I can never catch a cold weather break! So far, the weather has been going back and forth between super hot & muggy to cool and comfortable, which is not unusual for us this time of the year. However, I am sooo ready for Fall transition to cool weather (and hopefully lots of RAIN! I love rain…)

Fingers crossed!

Anywhoo, my post today is about a *new* pattern that I’ve finally got around to trying out. It is the Now and Then patterns Hepburn Shirtwaister dress by Til The Sun Goes Down.

Til The Sun Goes Down is a charming little online shop in the UK that sells gorgeous fabric, vintage and vintage-inspired sewing patterns, and even a few vintage treasures. I did have to spend a small fortune getting this to my doorstep due to overseas shipping, but nonetheless, I’m still glad I have such a beautiful pattern added into my collection.

The Sewing Pattern

I’ve been wanting to sew a collar dress for a while now, and this one has that kind of 40’s-50s shirtdress vibe going on. It has a button front and a circle skirt with a few pleats on the front and back. The bodice front and back have darts. There is a choice of two collar styles and I picked the pointy version. You have an option to make a sash, or choose to go without one. There is a 3/4 cuffed sleeve option or a cap sleeve. I would have loved to do the 3/4, but I wanted a short sleeved dress this time around.

The pattern itself is straightforward. There weren’t too many pattern pieces to cut out, which I always appreciate. Cutting could be confusing without tracking your size with some kind of highlighter or colored marker. One thing I didn’t like so much was that the patterns for the collars are on the same piece, so you have to either choose one to cut out or else make a copy of the pattern so you have both collars available. The sewing directions are printed very simply on sheets of folded paper and are accompanied by illustrations. Numbers and measurements are in metric, so I did have to do a little bit of converting to US imperial.

Overall, I think the directions and illustrations were somewhat easy to follow. I felt I was constantly reading and re-reading steps so I could understand. Constructing the collar was a little difficult for me, even with the illustrations. But I know this is also because I don’t have much skill in sewing collars to begin with. I think I was able to sew everything without too much difficulty because I have some experience with dressmaking already. I would say this pattern could work for Confident Beginner, but more realistically I would lean toward Intermediate level for difficulty.


I have this really beautiful mauve gingham cotton from Cottoneer Fabrics. I think this shade could pass as a “Fall hue.” I can imagine wearing a dress this color and going apple picking, haha! What do you think?

In certain light the hue comes off as a dusty, muted pink, and in other light it almost looks tan! I took this photo in front of my window.

Sewing & Construction

  • The directions for sewing start off with prepping all the pattern pieces: darts on the bodice pieces and sleeves (if you are doing 3/4 sleeves), interfacing for buttons and buttonholes, pleats on skirt pieces, and ease stitching on the sleeve caps.
  • As I mentioned earlier, the collar was the hardest to construct. I really had to rely on the illustrations to make sure I was sewing right. Honestly, I don’t think I would have been able to even make the collar without them! The instructions direct you to sew the collar pieces on from the right sides of the fabric, but I was a rebel and turned it over and sewed them from the wrong sides. It just made more sense to do it that way because I could see where to join the seams together on the back pattern piece. Miraculously, it worked out pretty well!
  • The dress it not lined, so you do see edge seams from the inside of the garment. The back neck seam on the collar gets a nice finish with some bias binding that you can make yourself, or buy pre-made and attach. I made my own with matching fabric.
  • I chose the cap sleeves (added an extra bit of length for fun), and each sleeve gets a facing sewn on them for a nice finish. At least this would have been a nice finish, but my sleeves didn’t get one because I lost my facing pattern piece during cutting! It just disappeared on me and I looked everywhere for it but it was gone. I ended up just doing a regular hem and they look great. Then when I was cleaning up my sew space after finishing the dress, the facing pattern piece decided to show up on the floor, just like that. The little rascal….

Once you get past the anxiety of sewing the collar, everything else is pretty much standard sewing, and I finished the dress with very little issue. I say “very little” because I did have a major drama moment when I got a little too excited and accidently sliced through a buttonhole with my seam ripper!

I was trying to cut through a buttonhole that sits on the waistline where there are many layers of fabric behind it. It was a little tough going through the layers, and I was really straining my seam ripper. I ended up really pushing it and it ripped right through the buttonhole and into 1/4″ of my fabric. My seam ripper literally bent the needle that I placed near the top of the buttonhole for “safety!”

Ignore the off-centered button markings. I ended up moving each one slightly.

I almost cried. Actually, I did throw a little tantrum and cursed my dress and also threw my seam ripper across the table. The Hubs and my youngest son witnessed the entire breakdown and wisely walked far, far away. After a while I remembered my age and sat back down and brainstormed how to solve this cockadoodie dilemma. Long story short, I was able to fix it the best I could. The buttonhole is ok, but it’s obvious there is a “repaired” rip near that buttonhole. Sigh. It is what it is, I guess.

The Finished Garment

My finished Hepburn Shirtwaister

I gotta say, I’m pretty proud of my construction on the collar. The way the back folds is a pretty detail, and I’m glad I was able to get the front collar nice and sharp at the corners.

I made my usual size, and the finished measurements were right in my size range, but there still seems to be quite a bit of ease in the bodice. I dunno. Maybe shirtwaist dresses are supposed to be a little loose in the bust area?? It didn’t look like it in the pattern cover picture. Anyway, I’m glad I ended up making a sash for the waist because it helped shape the bodice and made it look more fitted. Also, the sash helps greatly in covering the unsightly boo-boo I made with my seam ripper earlier. (Thanks, sash!)

I have to confess something. I accidently sewed the inseam pockets backward. Again. AGAIN!!! I’ve done this one other time with another dress I’ve sewn, and I can’t believe I made the same bonehead move twice. You can kinda tell in the photo above with my right pocket where the opening looks kind of weird. Well, it is definitely weird because the pocket is facing backwards when it should be facing forward, toward the skirt fronts. The thing is, I really thought I did pin them facing frontward before I sewed the skirt to the bodice. I didn’t. Face palm!

Hands in my pockets, pretending they aren’t backwards and trying to feel natural, even though my hands feel so unnatural right now…

Moving forward. I was looking for some shoes to wear with this dress and totally forgot I have these heels from B.A.I.T. Footwear. I bought these without thinking of what they would match with in my closet. They were just too cute (and on clearance!) that I couldn’t pass them up, so here they are. If I could, I would have wore mauve shoes, but I can just imagine the headache I would get trying to find the right shade to match my dress. Forget it!

So, this dress has tall heights in mind because I took off lots of fabric to make it knee length. I hate doing this with circle skirts because I can never get the bottom hem sewn right. In fact, I think my attempts at shortening the skirt gave the dress a little bit of a “hankerchief hem” finish. Should I fix this or leave it be? I don’t think it looks bad, but maybe I’m just being too lazy to remedy it.

What do you think of my buttons? Aren’t they pretty? I lucked out finding the right color to match my fabric. These were found on Etsy (but of course). I love the color and faceted design, but TBH, they are a little cumbersome when buttoning/unbuttoning the dress due to their shape. I almost went with contrasting wood buttons from my button stash because I didn’t have enough mauve buttons. However, I really like the mauve ones, so I just ordered a few more. They haven’t arrived yet so there is still one button missing from the bottom of the skirt.

Final Thoughts

I really like the 40s/50s style aspect of this dress. Paired with the mauve gingham print, I think I have a perfect “SoCal Autumn” dress to take me through this Summer/Fall weather transition. I’m glad I chose the short sleeves version because as the weather gets cooler I can throw a cardigan over it and it will still be wearable throughout the season.

Would I make this dress again? Mmmmm…Yah, sure! If I did, I think I would do a bit of editing though. I would grade the bodice in to make it more fitted, and maybe change the skirt to a gathered one, or one with more pleating. I suppose the simple straight skirt is more 40s in style, and I’m realizing now that I like the 50’s full skirt silhouette better.

Overall, I would recommend this pattern if you are an intermediate level sewer. Or at the very least, an advanced beginner who is ready for their next challenge.

Now onto some Fall Fun in my beautiful new Hepburn Shirtwaister!


2 thoughts on “SoCal Summer & the Autumn Transition (Also, a Classic Shirtwaist Dress Review)

  1. Love the dress, and the fabric. You always look so nice in your creations! Sorry about not being a more frequent poster, but life has been “getting in the way a lot since the move.” Not bad things, just lots of things! Maybe someday things will settle down? Let’s keep our fingers crossed! Hugs, from Mandy

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Mandy! I totally get it. Life has been happening for me too, and doesn’t leave much free time to post, unfortunately. One good thing though, I just merged all my blog content from the other sewing page back here to WordPress. It’s so much easier, as all my posts are back in one place, and under one host. No more having to maintain two separate blogs! I have been back in the sewing game, so I should have some new content soon! Where did you move to, if I may ask? Moving is so stressful! Just the thought of packing and unpacking gives me a headache!


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