the quintessential shirtwaist dress

07.22.09 {style inspiration | quintessential shirtwaist}

(click for larger view!) 01. Jessica of The Cat’s Pajamas, 02. late 1930s sewing pattern (ebay), 03. 1950s fashion photo (myvintagevogue), 04. Anja of Clever Nettle, 05. early 1940s shirtwaist pattern (Ebay), 06. 1950s and 1940s shirtwaist patterns (Ebay).

The classic shirtwaist dress is one of those styles that never really leaves the fashion consciousness. It may change silhouette, color, or fabrication, but the iconic dress that draws it’s style from men’s tailored shirts is not ever quite out of style–no matter what twists and turns of fancy trends take! (This website has a comprehensive article on the history of the shirtwaist dress.) Years ago, I had a few shirtwaist dresses that I loved… and wore to death. I sorely miss the practical style in my wardrobe! Lately, shirtwaists have been popping up on my radar more and more, which is probably a sign that I need to make one soon!

07.22.09 {style inspiration | quintessential shirtwaist}

(click for larger view!) 01. Pink shirtwaist by Andi B. Goode, 02. 1949 pattern illustration (personal collection), 03. late 1950s vintage sewing pattern (Ebay), 04. mid 1940s shirtwaist pattern (Ebay), 05. Aya of Strawberry Koi.

I’ve often wondered why I find the shirtwaist so appealing. Besides it’s practical lines, it tends to be a dress that suits my “classic-feminine” style quite well. I love really girly clothes, but more often I find that things with loads of embellishments, accessories, or layers just conspire to get in the way and end up making me look even more awkward and klutzy than elegant! lol. So I think the idea of something that is softly girlish with a few well-placed dressmaker details, yet is simple and devoid of too much frou-frou (a.k.a. things that Casey will surely spill on, catch on sharp objects, or tear), appeals to my need for daily wear that fits my lifestyle and sartorial point of view.

07.22.09 {style inspiration | quintessential shirtwaist}

(click for larger view!) 01. Rhiannon of Liebemarlene, 02. 1940s vintage sewing pattern (Ebay), 03. checked shirtwaist by lebonbonmulticolore.

Do you find the appeal of the classic, vintage shirtwaist irresistible? Why or why not? Got a picture of you sporting your favorite shirtwaist? Do share!

July 22, 2009 · 33 lovely thoughts
posted in Uncategorized · tags:

Quincy July 22, 2009 at 08:11

Oh I neeed to get me a shirtwaist dress! I can’t believe I don’t have one! :o )

Marmielu July 22, 2009 at 08:40

You know I love this style, but cannot wear it because of my short-waistedness. This style is so clean, and can be made really interesting with fabric choices and buttons. I think it is truly a “classic”. It can go from really casual to elegant and eveningwear. What more can you ask?

cindy July 22, 2009 at 09:08

Here is my Alice the waitress shirtdress!

I have a few vintage shirtdress patterns for the fall to make up. Thanks for sharing the history article.

Sal July 22, 2009 at 09:17

I do like this style, but definitely prefer it with a nice, full skirt.

maria July 22, 2009 at 09:38

I have many shirt waist dress and can’t live without them!! They are so comfortable and perfect for the summer.

Here are two pieces from my wardrobe:

St├ęphanie July 22, 2009 at 09:45

I love that style !

Shayla July 22, 2009 at 10:39

my favorite of all the dresses is the shirtwaist dress!!!!

lovely inspiration post

Kelley Anne July 22, 2009 at 10:52

Oh I have so many populating my closet! You’re right, they’re so easy to wear and effortlessly feminine. I also have a large collection of belts and like to mix and match. Whenever I see one in a thrift or vintage store, I just can’t help myself if it fits and the color flatters.

Lizzie July 22, 2009 at 11:12

It seems like the shirtwaist always looks stylish, and you see versions of it all through the decades of the 20th C including the twenties. For the poster who can’t wear shirtwaists, try the 1960s sister dress, the straight shirt dress, and wear it with a belt.

One thing, you need to think about the proportions of the dress, a full 1950s shirtdress cut off to above the knee looks a bit unbalanced.

Amanda July 22, 2009 at 11:22

I love shirtdresses. Those vintage ones that have the gathers at the shoulders fit better than anything I’ve ever made. I could make a dozen of them and live in them. This is a really, really bad picture of me and the dress, so don’t hold it against, but here is my favorite shirtdress, made from a vintage pattern. Gathers at the shoulders, pleats at the wasit….does it get any better?

Rosie July 22, 2009 at 12:20

No, not really. When I am grown up, I will probably get one, because it seems like a great basic, but it doesn’t fit with my general look. I usually go for an actual men’s button down.

catherine_sr. July 22, 2009 at 13:00

What an fantastic compilation of shirtwaist photos! I think I like wearing shirtwaists because they are so simple, but the buttons and collar really add a touch of something special, making me feel more dressed up.

Jessica July 22, 2009 at 13:32

Oh I love this! Shirtwaist dresses are the greatest because I think they look adorable and are perfect for any mood, with out being fussy. I feel like they work for any occasion…the sort of day to night dress! And I love how each decade has a different type of shirtwaist dress specific to the era! Aww, and thanks for includin’ me in this wonderful post! I love all of the photos you compiled…the patterns are really wonderful too!!


jen July 22, 2009 at 14:18

i like them but they are not my favorite – on me, that is. i always feel like i look like a boy in anything that resembles men’s clothing. (even if it is a dress!) but i hear you, it’s nice to have cute clothes that aren’t super girlie!

i made this dress, which you’ve seen before, from a 1940′s pattern. i modified it so it looks more like a shirtwaist dress:

Lizzy July 22, 2009 at 17:27

Shirt dresses are so adorable. I love them because they can be casual or fancy, depending on the pattern, details, etc. The trick is finding the right one, at least for me, because being on the shorter side if I find one that’s not the right lenghth, etc it can make me look dumpy ;)
I love the ones you posted, so cute, and the ones people are posting pictures of, makes me slightly jealous I must admit!

Sara July 22, 2009 at 19:26

I appreciate the simplicity and flattering lines of a shirtwaist dress, but somehow they always end up looking dowdy on me! Ah, how I need a new summerdress! Hmm…maybe I do have 2 shirtwaist dresses…sort of. I need to take the pockets out as they add terrible width…and if I took the ties off, then I could wear versatile belts with them! A blog post may be upcoming…

Aya July 22, 2009 at 19:30

Wonderful collection, Casey! ANd thank you for including one of my pictures… this whole post is beautiful! ^_^

Alexandra July 22, 2009 at 19:32

I adore shirtwaists! I’m utterly obsessed with them, and am on a constant hunt to find the perfect one. They’re so utilitarian-sexy. I love all the pictures!

Leah July 22, 2009 at 20:16

Just the other day, I was doodling dresses in my sketchbook (contemplating making a summer dress despite the weather we’ve been having in England) and this style of dress popped up a few times – how amusing!

lauren winter July 22, 2009 at 23:40

man alive, I just passed on some shirtwaist dresses today at Salvation Army and this post makes me regret that move!!

thanks a lot, Casey! :) but honestly, beautiful beautiful pictures. I love lebonbonmulticolore’s, I’ll need to check her stuff out now.

LauraKitty July 23, 2009 at 00:39

I love nothing better than a good shirtdress- I wear my vintage ones constantly and am always on the lookout for another one. I’m currently searching for a nice 50s gray one!

Jennifer July 23, 2009 at 01:04

I LOVE shirtwaists, they make outfit planning so easy because they are the whole outfit! Well minus the shoes of course! Why aren’t there more modern shirtwaists out there? Isaac Mizrahi made one while he was still at Target in pink and white stripe and I snatched it! They are so good for those of us who have hourglass figures and find shopping for pants an absolute nightmare!



Rhiannon July 23, 2009 at 02:01

I think I have to agree with your mom’s comment . . . I love shirt waist dresses, but I’m too short-waisted for them too. I just bought a ’50s one off of Etsy that I love too much not to wear, though–maybe I can disguise the funny fit with a belt?

Esz July 23, 2009 at 03:34

I have one shirtwaist dress which I found in a local chain store for a steal price of $40 (thats AUD) in bright red cotton. It fits perfectly and now I’m kicking myself that I didn’t go back and get the other colours before they ran out of stock.

I’m definitely in agreeance with you about wanting less frou frou on clothing. For me I try to avoid it because I end up looking chunky and frumpy. Structured clothes with small details suit me best as anything else is too overwhelming.

Andi B. Goode July 23, 2009 at 04:08

Thank-you so much for using a picture of me! How exciting!
And, gosh, yes, shirtwaist dresses are so lovely. They’re so simple but beautiful at the same time.
-Andi x

eyeliah July 23, 2009 at 15:14

I do like the shirt waist, when it is fitted enough on me, the blousy ones don’t suit my figure. I love to roll up the sleeves a bit too. :-)

little my July 24, 2009 at 08:06

What a wonderful selection! Unfortunately I don’t have any shirtwaist dress yet, but I think they can be very stylish yet casual. I’m very fond of comfortable clothes, but seeing all the lovely girls out there rocking fitted waist dresses in the most hellish summer heat I can only admire and congratulate them and maybe hope that I’ll eventually manage to do that more often.

Claradevi July 24, 2009 at 11:16

I really like everything about your site. I hope its okay if I linked you on my blog! Oh, and those ladies are such inspiration – I wish I have my own shirtwaist dress! Thanks for sharing this :)


Marie July 26, 2009 at 23:49

I don’t have a pic funnily enough- but the shirtwaist is my absolute fave style next to the wrap dress. I have several! Lovely post.

Hannah July 27, 2009 at 11:58

How I love shirtwaist dresses! I’ve recently purchased a slew of them, so airy in the summer heat. This is the first I ever got (and the only one I have a photo of currently..):

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