Style Arc Mara front view

Style Arc Mara shirt dress

This dress seemed to take forever to make. I started it during the heatwave and with hindsight a cotton shirt dress with lots of fiddly details wasn’t the ideal project for weather that’s too hot to have the iron on. I got there in the end though. I’m hoping this will be a useful transitional dress that will work for autumn as well the summer.

Style Arc Mara front view

The pattern is a very classic shirt dress style: breast pockets, two piece sleeves with proper cuffs, and a hidden button placket. The pattern drawing on the Style Arc site is wrong, by the way. It shows a tab for rolling up the sleeve and there isn’t one; also the pattern has two buttons on the cuff and the drawing shows only one.

I’m slightly surprised there’s no back yoke in the design. The back of the dress is extremely plain; the only detail is the centre back seam.

Style Arc Mara back view

The fabric is a wide (150cm) turquoise stretch cotton poplin from Tissu Fabrics. The pattern says it takes just under two metres which is pretty good for a long sleeved dress. I didn’t really believe the length estimate on the pattern and was quite prepared to buy more fabric if the pieces didn’t fit on the 2m I had, but to my amazement it was fine, even with my usual length additions. I had just enough left to cut a second pair of the breast pockets when my first pair went wrong but the rest of the scraps were so small they went straight into the bin.

Those breast pockets are a tricky sew. The pocket pieces have rounded corners which you are supposed to press under, and it’s hard to do smoothly. I had most success when I made a cardboard template of the curves to press the fabric around but even so they’re a bit jagged. Another time I might line the pockets as making the curves would be a great deal easier and there would be less chance of burning my fingers. As well as the breast pockets there are inseam pockets on the side seams.

Style Arc Mara front view

The instructions are pretty minimal. They suggest making a plan in advance for which seams to topstitch but don’t actually tell you which ones to do. I definitely topstitched the wrong sleeve seam. You can only do the one you sew first, and I think it’s best to top stitch the one that runs into the cuff opening because by sewing that seam first you can do a much better job on finishing the cuff opening. Mine isn’t great because I sewed that seam last and I won’t be rolling the sleeves up on this dress as a consequence. Which is a pity, because I suspect they were designed to be worn with the cuffs turned back given how long the sleeves come out.

Another thing I’d do differently next time would be to add some interfacing to the placket. It’s a bit wobbly in this fabric. It would probably be fine in something heavier.

Will there be a next time? Possibly. It’s a pattern with very good bones but this particular version has a few execution problems that bother me; a more experienced sewist probably wouldn’t have had the same issues. The weather’s cooling down here so I probably won’t make another this year but I might revisit it in spring. Maybe in a bold print?

Special thanks to my husband who managed to take the photos while simultaneously toddler-wrangling.

Style Arc Mara front view

19 thoughts on “Style Arc Mara shirt dress

  1. Very nice- I love Tia Knight’s stretch poplins, I’ve used them often for shirts for Dawn. I’m still always shocked when I see you in colour- this is a nice splash and suits you well. I was just about to suggest lining the pockets when you mentioned it, but also I’d sticth the curves first then hand baste them rather than incinerate fingers with the iron lol
    Another win for StyleArc? I’m surprised the pictures don’t match the pattern, they’re usually pretty good with that

    1. Yes despite the picture being wrong I think this is a really good pattern. I’d like to have another go and do a better job of the sewing. I’ve got a lovely bit of wax print cotton that I am hoping will work for it but the print is enormous so it’s going to need some careful placement.

  2. Nice dress! I would love to try a shirt dress but I am intimidated by all the fiddly bits as you say. This looks lovely!

    1. Thanks! I think the worst thing about this one is the pockets. The shirt dress I made from McCalls 7727 seemed a lot easier. Still not super quick, admittedly. Maybe I should make some t shirts 🙂

  3. My method for getting two matching pockets is to baste the two pockets together on the turning line, turn, press well and then take the basting out. Easy way to get the pockets to match.

  4. Looks great on you! those rounded corners (or square corners) on pocket pieces. I run a line of stitching right on the seam line, which helps me turn the edge. Press, and then baste! By the time I sew it on the garment, it’s usually behaving nicely 🙂

  5. I LOVE that color on you! It’s a great look as well. Awesome job. And are you guys toddler wrangling already? Seems like just yesterday…

  6. Lovely dress, it suits you.

    Re pockets, Pam a professional shirt maker who wrote the blog Off the Cuff – and who if I’m not mistaken is the interfacing supplier that many US sewers buy from – has some excellent tutes, she makes pockets as Carol describes and you get both identically shaped, genius really. Thanks for the link to Tissu fabrics I’ll have a little browse there.

  7. great make – …..the pockets are a nice detail and I think worth the hassle you went though as they give a great finish to it – and the colour is so fresh – well wear

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