Billabong shirt ripped

This is my very favourite shirt of all time. It doesn’t fit all that well, in fact it’s always been a bit constricting across the chesticles, but it’s as close as I’ve ever come to a store bought piece of perfection and its been worn threadbare over the past 15years! Time to copy the best shirt ever because judging by the underarm stains, she’s not long for this world! And lets add a few fitting tweaks while I’m at it, but no darts, I’m currently anti dart. In fact I’ve come to realise that the purpose of a dart is to shape and at this stage of my life I don’t want the generous mound of my chesticles to be front and centre, why sculpt around something you don’t want to accentuate. Radical idea heh?

most favourite shirt eva

Funny thing, clever Linda once commented, you notice things when you take a closer look at RTW and open it up. In the entire 15 years I had never noticed the bias bound sleeve cuff continued into a bias bound sleeve placket, hmmm, clever idea.

bias bound sleeve placket continues around cuffAnd dear shareholders, (that’s no.1 son actually, the best learning curve eva when Billabong shares plummeted from $15 to 70c), this garment was more than likely designed here in the good old land of Oz because all the finished measurements are curiously metric – yay, no cubits or furlongs. No dart, curvaceous side shaping and a floppy loose collared neckline. The back yoke continues forward of the shoulder and gives the shirt a wee essence of cowboy, but can get a bit of bias stretch over the shoulder’s lumps and bumps.

Method –  stabbed pins through the smoothed shirt seams onto paper, then drew the outline, corrected, walked the seamlines and cut out my first toile, makes it sound almost instant – which it wasn’t. #1 toile, not bad. The collar here has the seam allowances removed to get a better idea of the shape. I used my usual Mike Maldonado (MM) collar stand give or take a cm to fit the neck edge. MM says you should check the shirt without a collar first – oops, definitely should have done that. Looks to me like the neck edge is a bit low or maybe a bit close at the side neck or something?

#1 shirt, too tight


Lets’ fix something I can definitively diagnose… after removing the collar. Hmmm, the neckline doesn’t look too bad now, but about 1.5cm needs to be added to each centre front. I’m keen to do this without a dart though, no FBA zone.

add fabric to centre front shirt

Yes, #2 toile with wider front, much better fit and markedly less pull from the shoulder point to chesticle apex. Not unhappy about some pull, this aint spray on clothing. Widened the neckline edge by expanding the neck by about 2mm all round, it seems to have worked, though I’m still getting some dipping of the collar at CF indicating excess fabric there. At this point I was really wary of messing with something that was almost perfect AND STILL NO DARTS!

shirt toile #2 with broader front

split the sleeve head at the deltoid

Now for the sleeve, crikey, at least 1cm needed across the deltoid, so I expanded the sleeve head. The slim fit sleeve is one of the things I really like about the original shirt – so modern! And look, the collar is floating free at the CB, must close a dart in the outer collar edge too.

Fairly perfect sleeve now

Just look at that luvverley sleeve head, just the one sleeve mind you, I’m not completely bonkers!

After pinning and copying the sleeve shape I noticed the underarm seam was quite extended. The original shirt is rayon, so the stretch may have happened over 15 years of wearing, but the concept of a cut on sleeve gusset is a thang! Susan Elias is a brilliant professional couturier, her Youtube videos are very instructive, they’re listed on her website. She mentions the underarm sleeve gusset as an extension of the sleeve and of course you really need that underarm extension to enable you to reach for the spices on the top shelf. David Page Coffin also mentions it on pp 54/55 of his book Shirtmaking. Not an added gusset piece but an intentional skewing of the underarm seam to assist movement and I daresay – add fabric to the chestline. I’m going to play with this concept more as this pattern develops.

shirtmaking by David Page Coffin

He goes on to say “In modern shirts, that gusset has been built into the sleeve pattern, and it allows the sleeve to be put in at a nice sleek angle and still have some reaching room. It’s become that little bit of extra fabric you could not lay flat when you spread your shirts out to check the sleeve angle.”

Princess tried on one of these shirts and there was some gaping at the underarm junction, indicating to me that she doesn’t need the extra space afforded by the extended underarm ‘gusset’ – interesting don’t you think?

Now I’m all systems go for the first wearable iteration and because this is a first go, how about some retro looking stretch cotton poplin from deep in the archives bought from way back when Tessuti had a shop in Bondi – now that’s ancient history.





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  1. Lesley, This is fascinating on so many fronts! Thank you a million. I have an “almost perfect” TNT shirt pattern that I’ve been goofing around with, but it does have a dart and I don’t like the dart. I’m going to remove the dart (a horizontal bust dart). Cool! I am going to try this at home.

    Incidentally, I have been wearing floral shirts like crazy lately. Something is in the air. I also saw a girl wearing a floral dress today with a dark and moody background and I took a photo to put that on my must make list.

    • You know something Steph, it would make my year if I got your engine revving for sewing!! I’ve made some beauties, but the white one (another post) has caused me to rifle the Princess’ overnight bag before she leaves with it! I reach for it constantly but I can’t wash it – a story for another day 😉

      • Thank you! I do love sewing so much but you are right that I have trouble getting started. I’m currently designing a very small capsule for this fall (in lieu of doing a SWAP) and I am going to follow through. I need a plan and discipline and I should really make making that plaid shirt one of my first objectives. Thank you so much!!

      • OH and yes – you can never go wrong with a beautiful white shirt. Totally classy!

      • Quick question though. Back darts? All of my shirts without a bust dart have back darts.

      • Vertical darts either side of centre back? If so, I did an experiment and found that no matter how small that dart it seemed to stop the back from poufing out. I thought it was an interesting engineering observation! So my back vertical darts are only 1cm but they still do the job! I think re: the bust darts, you can just reverse engineer an FBA on any pattern and get a similar outcome. You may need to add at to the front. Heck if you like your darts use ’em! Works best w something floaty of course x

    • Yes, vertical darts in back. I checked and all but my most casual Aspesi brown plaid shirt has back darts if not front darts. I am going to try narrow ones in back. Thanks! PS No I hate the bust darts. It’s exactly as you say and they draw too much attention to the bust (and move around). I am going to get rid of them and then perhaps add a little bit more at centre front. All very helpful. I was thinking of adding a back pleat but maybe slimming things down with back darts is the way to go. I look forward to seeing the white shirt (and hope you have laundry again soon!?)

  2. Fabulous post, love the inside look at your process. I have some favorites in my closet that I need to copy…I’ll be referencing your post!

  3. The way you can think and de/construct is amazing!

  4. Okay, now I want to undo all the FBAs I’ve done this year, LOL. But seriously, I’ve just learned how to do a FBA and I’ve been able to eliminate gaping at the center front of my shirt dresses which is all good. That being said, I sort of feel like I’m accentuating the girls when I’d just as rather not. Yep…you’ve got me thinking about custom tailoring a shirt without darts! Ta.

  5. Good analysis, there’s lots for me to think about here, when I see fitting problems I often don’t know how to address them. I really like that floppy collar on the original and I’ve had favourite garments that I’d have liked to copy but haven’t had a go. No darts, now that’s radical, I’m not there yet.

  6. Seeing everyone’s favourite RTW garments is fascinating. Your shirt reminds me of my silk jersey Boden one which makes me feel so comfy and slinky!
    Good luck with the next step; look forward to seeing the fabric.

    • Ooh slinky would be nice! I heard a comment sbout different people tending toward different finishes. This lady said when she put in something shiny she looked like a hooker but when her friend put on the same shiny garment she looked gorgeous. I do wonder if i’d have to turn silk satin backwards so the luxury is on the inside?! Good to hear from you Marijana x

  7. You know Lesley, I’ve never seen that cuff before either and I really like it. What a lovely detail. I must rip it off!!
    The sleeve development from gusset seems so logical, but I hadn’t thought about it before so that’s great you shared. I avoid darts where possible too, but my enjoyment of vintage means I’ve been using them more recently. It’s all learning! One great shirt pattern can lead to so many variations. Looking forward to seeing them. X

  8. I am going to be following these posts with interest, Lesley. I was in denial for ages regarding doing FBAs, but now find I will have to do them on most patterns, but loathe them. It does puzzle me though that most pattern companies still design for a B cup size bra. This size is no longer the average, so I wonder if pattern companies need to catch up. I feel sure that RTW have already done this as I have no problem getting shop bought clothes to fit.

    • Gosh, I’ve been tardy in replying Sheree – sorry. Yes, it’s alwasy been my intention to make clothes that fit like shop bought because they do fit me. When I do an FBA, the garment starts looking more ‘home madey’. I think RTW hedge their bets in order to fit a larger diversity in body shape.They do this by adding fabric to the breadth of a piece, encouraging loose fit (they sell better and have wider appeal to boot) and using stretch in the garments. I find a combination of these things are my preference. Joi Mahon extols the virtues of fitting the bust using multiple areas for expansion, I only wish I could make head/tail of what she says – the woman talks in circles IMO!! And yes, the sleeve is quite cute, though I never did pull it off in retrospect!

  9. Meant to say what a lovely cuff detail.

  10. I don’t have the DPC book but clearly need to invest. I agree that darts often accentuate ‘ the girls’ – and I also agree that often that isn’t necessarily a good thing.
    The shirt looks to be coming along well. I see lots more in your future.(You can cross my Palm with silver later). Fabric with lycra is a curvy girls salvation. I love lycra.

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