Well this is a rare treat! It’s no secret that I spend most of my sewing time making things for myself, but on occasion I do sew for other members of my family. I find it more difficult to sew for others in my household since I’m not actually in their heads and don’t know their every thought about what I’m making.
But this summer I set out to finally make Albert the button down shirt I’d been promising him for ages. His birthday falls mid-summer, just a couple of weeks after Father’s Day, so I made this shirt as a combo birthday/Father’s Day present.
The pattern is McCalls 6044, a basic button down shirt. I don’t often sew with Big 4 patterns. Not because I have anything against Big 4, but rather because I like to support indie pattern designers, and I’ve never bothered to fiddle with Big 4 patterns to determine my size whereas most indie patterns don’t have the excessive ease that are built into Big 4 patterns.
But I couldn’t find a good indie pattern for a classic men’s button down shirt with all the traditional details. (But Thread Theory has a shirt pattern in the early stages of development, destined for late fall release, so hopefully that void will soon be filled!)
Yes, there is the Colette Negroni, which is a nice pattern, but Albert is vehemently anti-camp collar, and will not wear a shirt that doesn’t have a proper collar and collar stand. Rather than fiddling around trying to re-draft the Negroni for a collar stand, it was far easier just to pick up this McCall’s pattern at one of Joann’s many $0.99 sales.
I didn’t make too many changes to this pattern. The pattern is drafted without a back yoke and pleat, which I knew would be a no-go. But altering a pattern to include a back yoke and pleat is easy-peasy — much more so than altering it to include a collar stand where none exists! I simply figured out how long a traditional yoke is by measuring one of his RTW shirts, cut the pattern piece at that measurement and then added seam allowances. For the back pleat, I just moved the pattern piece over about an inch and then marked the extra as a pleat.
Beyond that alteration, the only thing I did was remove width from the sleeves and the middle. Albert likes his shirts to have an athletic fit, as he is a very trim guy. This shirt is drafted considerably wider in the chest and waist than the one I made. I think I ended up taking approximately 2 inches out of each sleeve, 4 inches out of the chest, 7-8 inches out of the waist, and 4-5 out of the hip.
The pattern fit him perfectly across the shoulders with no alterations, which was a huge win! A big benefit of a handmade shirt for someone with Albert’s build and style preferences is that I can make him a shirt that fits across the shoulders but is still slim through the waist. Most of his RTW shirts that fit how he likes them through the waist are too narrow in the shoulders and vice versa. It’s actually really hard to find RTW clothes that fit an athletic body like his just right.
The fabric is a very nice double gauze shirting from Michael Levine. It’s actually gingham on the insides, which makes for very nice innards. To keep the insides really nice, I flat-felled the arm and side seams. No exposed or serged seams in the whole shirt!
Double gauze is kind of a pain to work with because it tends to fray more than usual and will stretch out if not handled carefully. But it’s a dream to wear, so it was definitely appropriate for this shirt!
I consulted with Albert and we opted to forego buttons in favor of pearl snaps. One of his favorite RTW shirts uses snaps in place of buttons and mixes them up in fun ways, so I tried to imitate that style. You’ll see different color snaps randomly placed on the button band, which I think works really well!
I may not sew for Albert very often, but when I do, I try to make sure it’s all top notch!
Pattern: McCall’s 6044
Cost: Hard to say. I paid about $0.99 USD at a Joann’s sale, but the price can vary greatly depending on where you are.
Fabric: Double gauze shirting from Michael Levine
Difficulty: Intermediate. It’s particularly hard to fudge anything on a traditional menswear item like a button down shirt. Something like this requires some fairly precise topstitching, quality finishes and likely some fitting. I’d recommend having a fair number of garments under your belt before attempting a men’s button down.
Techniques required: Basic fitting, setting in a sleeve, sewing a button band, sewing buttons and buttonholes, inserting a collar and stand, flatfelling seams (optional)
Similar patterns: There are a couple of Big 4 patterns like this, but honestly the Big 4 men’s offerings are pretty laughable. Burda has a couple as well. Currently there aren’t really any indie patterns I know of that I would consider to be comparable except for the Aime Comme Monsieur by Aime Comme Marie, and I just didn’t feel like trying to translate the French (it’s been a looooong time since my college French classes. If the collar stand issue isn’t a big deal for you, the Colette Negroni is an option. Edit: I also discovered the Marco Shirt by Sis Boom patterns. The pattern listing doesn’t show any photos of the back or close ups of the sleeve plackets, so I can’t vouch for the details.
Modifications: Split the back piece to add a yoke and center back pleat. Took a substantial amount of width out of the chest, waist, hips and sleeve.
Fit: Awesome. This is the best fitting shirt he has, if I do say so myself!
Pattern format: Big 4 tissue paper. I like paper patterns, so this didn’t bother me a bit. I traced pieces so that I could make the modifications I knew I wanted to make.
- Can’t be the price when these are on sale at a big box store.
- Lots of views and options for all styles.
- All the traditional details of a button-down including collar stand, separate button stands, and tower placket on the long sleeve. The only thing missing was a yoke and back pleat, which was easy to add.
- Lack of a yoke and back pleat. This is a must-have for a traditional button down.
Overall Grade: A-. I mark this pattern down a touch only because it’s drafted without a back yoke, which I think is a major oversight for a traditional men’s button down. Otherwise, I was pleasantly surprised at how well this pattern worked.