Shirtzie Top and Dress: A Pattern Review
Updated: Jan 9
Shirtzie Top and Dress pattern by Stich Upon a Time (SUAT) has several options to get you the comfy knit dress of your dreams, including sleeve length, bodice options, and skirt choices. So far, I have made two dresses using the cross-front option with the short sleeve and knee-length skirt.
Total time to complete: About 1 hr to cut out the pieces, about 3-4 hrs active sewing (depends how fast you are and whether you use a serger).
Fabric - I will discuss types of fabric below - the amount needed depends on the options you choose. For the dresses shown in the photos, I purchased 4 yds and had just enough left over to make 1-2 pairs of Scrundlewear.
Elastic for the band - 1/2" wide is recommended for DD+ sizes, I like the 3/4" elastic sewn into my second version of the dress. 1/4" is recommended for smaller cup sizes.
Clear elastic for the cross-front option - you could also use 1/4" wide regular elastic here (or even fold-over elastic). This is optional but I do recommend it after skipping it on the first and including it in the second.
Sewing machine with zig-zag or other stretch stitch OR a serger / coverstitch machine
Ball point / stretch / jersey machine needle or similar
Fabric scissors and snips (rotary cutter and cutting mat optional but useful)
Fabric marking tool (I like a fabric pen like this for marking on knits)
Sewing pins or clips
Ironing board and iron
Notes and Thoughts on the Pattern
I first decided to give the Shirtzie a try after seeing many super cute dresses in the SUAT Facebook group and I must say, I'm very glad I did!
I love that the pattern has so many options - this lets you get a custom dress that actually fits (looking at you, commercial pattern industry), is flattering, and super comfy. I've worn my Shirtzies to church, parties, and brunch - they're very versatile!
I only take issue with two small (fixable) things abut the pattern itself:
Problem 1: The pockets
I love pockets. I put pockets in everything I make as long as it has a side seam. Here's the issue with putting pockets in skirts made from stretchy knits: the pockets stretch too. This seems obvious, but, when planning out a pattern, is easy to overlook. The problem with stretchy pockets is that heavy items (e.g. phones) will weigh down the rest of the skirt, causing the fabric to stretch. Over time, this can distort the fabric. Even for short periods of time, heavy objects like phones tend to smack against your thighs when walking.
Suffice to say it's a problem. However, there is a very easy solution: make your own pocket pattern and stitch the top of the pockets into the waistband.
The Pockets Solution
I always swap out the included pocket pattern for my own because I want to know that the pockets will definitely hold my entire phone. The pattern I use with woven fabrics is shown on the left in the photo here (shaped like a half-mast butterfly net).
To adapt this pattern for use with knit fabrics, I copied it onto a piece of cardboard and extended the top of the pocket so that it is perpendicular to the pocket opening. This is the bit that will be attached at the waistband. Then I drew another perpendicular line for the long side of the pocket from the top down to a natural turning point in the curve along the bottom. This new version of my pocket pattern is shown on the right in the photo.
I did not think to make this adjustment until after having worn my first shirtzie several times. Let me tell you now - it makes a big difference.
Cut the pocket pattern out with the same 1/2" seam allowance as the rest of the pattern pieces. When you attach the pockets to the skirt, use a 3/8" or smaller seam allowance (do this regardless of the pocket pattern you use). This prevents the pocket from turning itself out while wearing.
To sew the skirt seam, you will begin the seam on the far edge of the pocket at the top and work around the pocket, then continue on to the skirt side seam (as is shown in the pattern). Also stitch down 1/2" - 1" where the pockets meet the rest of the skirt at the very top. This will allow you to turn the pocket inside the skirt. These seams are shown in red in the photo to the right.
When you turn the skirt right-side out, that little bit at the top will make the pocket opening sit correctly in the side seam. Lay the pocket along the front side of the skirt and baste in place. Continue with the pattern as written.
Additional pocket note: At the bottom of page 21 in the pattern, you are instructed to press the pockets and then stitch them to the seam allowance. Pressing is great and you should definitely do that. Stitching the pockets to the seam allowance is not necessary - feel free to skip this step. However, beginners may wish to do this anyway as it will force the fabric to behave just a bit more nicely.
Problem 2: Bust fit
This will not be an issue for everyone, but it has been an issue for me. Because of the way the cross-front is curved, I end up getting just a small gap between my breasts and the fabric. Red circle in the photo on the right to show what I'm talking about. This isn't a huge problem but it's just annoying enough that I wrote it down for fixing.
Bust fit solution:
This one is a really easy fix. When you go to cross the front pieces and baste them in place, cross them a little bit more and tug the "points" an extra 1/2" or so below the seam line. This shortens the amount of fabric being crossed, making it fit more snugly.
After basting in place, be sure to check the fit is to your liking before continuing on with the pattern!
Final Pattern Note: Serge or stitch?
This is a personal choice more than anything. I own a serger and need to get it serviced so I was not able to use it on either of these projects (because I am lazy and have not brought it to my guy yet). That said, a serger is very appropriate for this project if you have one. However, you will not be able to use it to attach the elastics nor to hem the sleeves and skirt (a coverstitch machine would be appropriate for the hems, if you have one).
With a regular sewing machine like the one I used, a stretch stitch does just fine for the entire project. I also used a 3-part zig-zag stitch to attach the elastics and a twin needle to do the hems on the lemon dress (spool of thread ran out on the bees dress so I couldn't use the twin needle there).
Regardless of what stitches you choose to use, remember to change your needle before sewing! Use a ballpoint needle made for stretch fabrics. I typically use one labeled "super stretch" or "jersey."
Let's move on to a look at materials.
Per the pattern, choose a fabric with 40% stretch or more. This means that 10 inches of fabric should be able to stretch to 14 inches or more when pulled. It is also recommended to choose a fabric with 5% or higher Lycra/spandex included. This is important for good fabric recovery.
Really, you could use any fabric you find that meets these requirements. Examples include jersey, rayon spandex, ribbed knits, and French terry, just to name a few. My personal favorite is Lyocell spandex (which I've already raved about in my last SUAT pattern review but I'm doing it again here anyway).
--> Note: oddly enough, many of the available prints do not show in the Joann's search function. However, if you click on one, you should see related fabrics at the bottom.
Lyocell is a natural fiber made from beech trees (which makes it a kind of rayon which is made from viscose (usually wood pulp)) and rates pretty well on the eco-friendly fiber list. The brand name is Tencel. Lyocell spandex typically includes 5%-7% spandex (this one is 7%).
Breathes exceptionally well and is the most moisture-wicking natural fiber I've come across
Stays in place, does not bunch
OK to machine wash cold with other clothing, line dry only
A bit pricey BUT JoAnns regularly has deals and coupons that make it affordable. Never have I ever paid full price for fabric at that store.
Lyocell spandex is my personal favorite fabric and will continue to be my fabric of choice for anything made with knit fabrics. I particularly like it for sundresses like the shirtzie because I sweat a lot in the summer (the worst season), but the lyocell keeps me cool and wicks away any moisture much quicker than other fabrics.
There are two places where this pattern includes elastic: the band and the bust line (for the cross-front option only). Let us discuss.
The elastic at the band serves the purpose of holding the band in place. That is, it will sit directly under the bust and hold the dress snug against the body, preventing it from rising up.
Importantly, the band does not provide breast support - the fabric does. The band will do very little support-wise. At best, it will move a very small amount of fat upwards into the rest of the breast.
If you want a lot of support, I suggest continuing to wear a bra underneath. You can also add cups to the dress as shown in the pattern and choose a fabric with a higher spandex/Lycra content. If you really want the dress to provide support, a layer of power mesh between the front and front lining pieces will help.
If you don't want or don't need support, you can use the 1/4" elastic for the band or leave it out entirely.
The elastic around the cross-front is completely optional and helps provide extra strength along the front lines. Many people have used the shirtzie cross-front option for nursing which puts a lot of stress on the fabric. Using the elastic helps the fabric keep its shape long-term, even when under a lot of stress.
On my second version of this dress, I used clear elastic along this seam. It definitely makes a noticeable difference when included. I used clear elastic as recommended by the pattern, but you could use any kind of elastic here. Even fold-over elastic will work if you wrap it around the trimmed seam allowance. I would recommend two things in retrospect:
Attach the elastic to the lining as you stitch. Press. Top stitch if the front is not behaving itself.
Stretch the elastic ever so slightly when attaching it. Getting the elastic to go on perfectly flat is a fool's errand with knit fabrics. A very slight stretch will help the top stay in place as you move and stretch it.
The Final Verdict
I definitely recommend this pattern! The sizing feels accurate to fit, the dress is comfortable and has pockets, and with a few small adjustments this pattern can provide exactly what you want in the way of support (hot girl summer = bra-free summer).
Thanks for reading! I hope you've found this review to be helpful and maybe you've picked up something new!
Remember to like and comment on this post to share your thoughts, especially if you think I've left something out!
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