Feeling Shirty

I am a lawyer.  It is an occupational hazard that I must wearing boring button-up shirts.  I have them in all shades of boring, including blue and black and boring stripes (but no white because – have you met me? I cannot wear white.  It will, before not too long, be that Pantone shade of coffee with a dash of oil, grass, bike chain grease and tomato seeds.  I expect that shade will be Pantone’s colour of the year in 2032.  I’m just well ahead of the trend).  I have a few less boring ones, too, including teal paisley (yeah!), yellow flowers and red polka-dots.  These are all purchased shirts and none of them fit me properly.  They are invariably too tight across the back, sometimes too loose through the waist and hips, and always gape at either the apex of my boobs or just underneath or, perplexingly and aggravatingly, both.  Always, Also, I find it difficult to raise my arms fully while wearing them.  And yes, of course I need to raise my arms high above my head ALL THE TIME at work.  Don’t you?

A long, long time ago, when I was a brand new lawyer and working in a courtroom, I wore an awesomely boring beige with red and black stripes shirt and probably some kinda black trouser and maybe some kinda black jacket but maybe not – I don’t really remember that part.  One morning, I sat opposite a number of male lawyers in dark, dark suits and pale coloured shirts and stripey ties.  I don’t really remember what they wore, but I do remember that there were no other women, except for the most important person in the room (not me, except for in this story).  There was a young-ish lawyer, maybe he was a brand new lawyer too, I did not know.  He sat there and kept looking at my chest.  His eyes held mine, and then he would slowly drag his eyes down to my chest and make his eyes round and big and raise his eyebrows.  You can imagine how impressed I was by this behaviour.  In the break, he came up to me, and I thought, ‘Here we go -‘ and he said, “Miss.  Sorry, Ms?” and then he blushed.  He said, “Um, your shirt. Um.” So I looked down at my shirt and both the button at the apex and the one directly below it had come undone.  I said, “Ugh. Sorry,” and quickly did them up.  He took his blushing self away and I never wore that shirt ever again.

It’s no longer the case that I have to be suited up everyday but I still find myself compelled to wear shirts, especially if I’m appearing at some formal thing.  A shirt simultaneously sets the tone and puts me into character.  As I’m now in a more relaxed work environment, I can also wear shirts with jeans and feel dressy enough for work.  Also, I like shirts.  I like their crispness and how finished they seem.  My partner looks smashing in his.  I always feel a bit more put together when I wear mine (although perhaps not when they gape and display my body parts to the world when I do not want them to).

Conquering shirts feel like a final frontier in sewing for me.  Except, when I think about it, everything that I haven’t done yet feels like a final frontier.  I spent some time trying to work out what item, if successfully made by me, would make me sit back and go, ‘That’s it, there’s no turning back. I’m a die-in-the-ditch survival woman making all her own clothes.’  A bra? A coat? Technical hiking gear? Except that, actually, there has been no turning back for a long time.  There’s probably no point even pondering it, but I like to pontificate, so I’ll just keep at it, if you don’t mind.

So, yes. The Shirt.  I will conquer it.  I have a bajillion patterns – Kwik Sew , a vintage one that I snaffled from a Pattern Parcel, Sew Loft’s Caroline shirt (now called something else and they make me mad, so I don’t want to talk about it) and Deer and Doe’s Bruyere.  I’m plunging into the Bruyere first.  

This might be my weekend project. Or I might get distracted, because there are some items I need more.


  1. Cheering you on from here. Sewaholic have done lots of shirtmaking posts lately which might help. Grainline have the Alder & Archer sewalongs which have lots of good tips and techniques. Have fun (or have fun being distracted!)


    1. Sewalong archives are the best! I’ve been reading along, so will definitely make good use of all that expertise. Distractions aplenty for me…


    1. Kat, I think the Bruyere could really suit you. I’ve made a men’s short before, and the construction is totally fine, especially as you get to work with lovely easy cottons. The only dilemma is really the fitting (not that big a deal with men’s shirts!)


  2. OMG I was there with you in spirit during that story – I can’t remember the last time I wore a button up shirt because of those kinds of wardrobe malfunctions and the inevitable pulling and puckering that goes with being bustier than RTW. I’m planning on tackling the button up shirt eventually too but I think I’m gonna do a shirtdress first – one tip I’ve heard is to ensure you put a button right at the bust point to alleviate those embarrassing moments ^__^ You can totally do it!!! 🙂


    1. I don’t know if bust point actually does help, because some of my bought shirts the button is on the bust point and still gape (just now it’s under the bust!). My problem is my broader than average back, strong shoulders and penchant for expressive arm movements… I think the solution is more buttons (but my theory is untested.)


      1. I think it only helps if it’s not RTW LOL. I swear there’s no one that fits those slopers – and button front shirts are the most telling of all. Even if our sewing isn’t perfect, at least we have the power to do the proper alterations to the pattern to accommodate our own personal assets – otherwise, whether back or bust, them buttons are gonna gape! LOL

  3. Good luck with the whirt making, once you tackle the techniques, you can run them up in your sleep! Looking forward to wild and wacky shirts soon 🙂


    1. That’s the joy of sewing, isn’t it, Anne? I can make non boring shirts! Provided the fabric stores keep me in wild and wacky fabric, I’m all good.


    1. I’m in the camp of its much worse not to tell, so I’m glad my young legal friend had the balls to come tell me, blushing and all as he did so. I’ve done the same for men on trams … Usually with a judicious clearing of the throat, catching their eye and then pointing.


  4. When you conquer this buttondown beastie, I may have to reconsider my aversion to how they fit me and embrace the cuff and collar combo!


    1. I love the Bruyere’s design, making it much more interesting than other button downs! (Or button ups!)

      Go on, you know you want to.


  5. Hah oh dear! Thanks for my most entertaining read so far today. That poor guy, trying to figure out how to subtly signal the problem to you!

    Good luck with the shirt making journey. You can do it! There’s so many lovely patterns out there now too 😄


    1. Looking back on it, I think he did a superb job, kudos to him!

      I did kinda shake my fist at the sky when Sewaholic released Granville … It looks great, but I already have too many shirt patterns. Maybe once I’ve seen up at least another, I will allow myself to buy it!


  6. Ugh. I hear you on the perils of an ill-fitting shirt. Your work-in-progress looks like it is definitely not standard boring work-shirt fare 😉


  7. Good luck with your shirt adventures! I’m hoping to embark upon some myself because I love wearing shirts but, as you demonstrated so amply with your story, they are mostly incompatible with boobs. Presently, I wear my shirts with vests.

    I’m looking forward to seeing how you go with this.


    1. Vests as in singlets, or vests as in waistcoats? The UK really warped me … I love wearing shirts with waistcoats/vests but cannot stand wearing them with singlets (UK vests). I don’t know why because it’s kinda the same …


  8. I was laughing at your exposure story! Don’t be frightened of shirts, they are REALLY straight forward once you get the fitting nailed. Always comes back to the fitting………


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