Failed chic shift – passable uniform!

Many moons ago I spotted a lady in a café wearing the loveliest chic shift of navy and white. I sat staring for as long as would go unnoticed, you know, just before she might call the police! She had a youngen in a pram so I suspect she may have been between 6-12 months postnatal. This chic shift looked cool and easy going for a coffee morning with the girls.

For years I have dreamed of just such a chic shift. White plastron (bib) on navy shirt like dress. Little grandpa collar in white and the crowning glory of the outfit a concealed button placket. Darling Anita over at Studio Faro helped me draft a ‘dress shirt’ from a Burda 7136 pattern I had toiled (over and over), eliminating the bust darts by moving them into the sides of the plastron for a neat, no dart effect – very clever that Anita.

The first attempt at this design was made in a lovely fine checked baby blue linen. The plastron was embellished with rows of machine embroidery and I used loop buttonholes to eliminate the need for a button placket which seemed too heavy for this style. I absolutely love this top and it has become my go to top for summer. My only reservation is that I feel the embroidery makes it look a lot like PJs, which is probably why I like it so much – ‘cos PJs! When I have to run errands I feel like I should pack a teddybear in my handbag and shuffle into my Ugg boots! The centre front inverted pleat is a little excessive and causes the top to sit away from my body, but I like the swing line a lot.


IMG_0750 Gratuitous borrowed dog photo!


Essentially I have spent the best part of two weeks drafting my ideal chic shift and this is what I got – blah! I hate it because it reminds me of at least 423 nurse’s uniforms I have worn over the years – only somewhat dental!


  • Firstly its too short, because I decided all the dresses I have made thus far have been too long. The ideal length may change without notice though – I’m fickle like that!
  • I preferred my original ‘grandpa’ collar, this latest draft is too wavy even though I stabilised both sides of this cotton elastane woven monstrosity. Back to the drafting books for me (self flagellation ensues).
  • I do like the concealed placket – so that was a win, but the fit below the waist is really awful. Just goes to show you can’t just lengthen a top and get a dress! Well you probably can with a swing line, but not with anything remotely fitted.

I really preferred the beast in this before shot. A photo I texted to my hubby early in the process with the prematurely cheery caption “I think I nailed it”.



The after version… “now Mr Smith, just a little prick…”!


What went wrong? I completely lost the essence of what I was trying to recreate. I kept shaving off the sides and tucking at the waist until I made it blah.

What to do? “Step away from the scissors and put down the sharp object” I hear you say.

Do I cut off below the waist and add a skirt that isn’t straight? That would necessitate removing that collar for the 3rd time. Further collars may not improve because the elastane in the fabric just seems to increase the upper collar circumference no matter what I do, even when its stabilised with a non stretch fusible. All and any ideas welcome!


Add yours →

  1. Ive just started to learn to sew! So nothing you said made any sense to me (yet), but i loved your writing. Great blog post!

  2. This is quite a funny post, because sometimes I love a garment that I have seen on someone else, or in a magazine, but either I can’t execute it right, or it doesn’t suit me, or perhaps I fell for the woman or her style rather than the specific garment. I like your persistence and can relate to it (six pairs of trousers later, still not satisfied).

    So many variables with making a “simple” shift. Offer it up on Mrs. Mole’s Saturday critiques and see what the sewing world says. Personally I love the collar and placket, but feel the plastron is a bit deep. Maybe make it no longer than a third of the overall front length. It might look more balanced with a slightly longer skirt. On the light blue one the size looks fine as the embroidered part blends very well with the plain section, but here the contrast is more extreme. Also I think the navy maybe a bit, dark, stiff and, well, serious. Maybe a French navy instead?

  3. Really enjoyed your blog post and don’t entirely agree about the failure. Linen top looks great and I think your dress has promise. It is the loose fit of the top that seems to be missing. So what about a loose and airy summer number in linen without the button front? Love all your sewing adventures. 🙂

    • Oooh yes, I have some luvverley linens that would be really nice in a summer top. That top has been worn every week of our hot weather, sometimes more than once. Thank God the paparazzi don’t hang around my door!

  4. Firstly, I adore the pale blue top and immediately want one! As for the navy and white – I really like it, but the only thing I would change is to reduce the height of the stand up collar. I think the length is perfect, and the hidden button detail is wonderful. It doesn’t make me think medical practices at all, I am more reminded of the ’60s, or was that ’70s? The decades are turning into a blur for me!

    • Oh you are a sweetie. The navy one was made tight fitting because I caved to pressure from bystanders; that seems to happen a lot! In a looser style it may have worked but then I got distracted and moved onto the next shiny thing!!

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