The Alder Shirt Dress: One pattern Two ways



Hi All: I think I’m the last person in the Blog world to try Grainline’s Alder shirtdress pattern! Honestly, after making it twice for this week’s challenge at the Monthly Stitch, I have no idea why it took me so long. It’s a great pattern with two fun versions. One is a traditional dress with a stand up collar. The other is a fun skirted option, with a raised gathered waist. To make things even more interesting, on the Grainline blog, they’ve provided instructions on how to add sleeves and how to adjust the collar to make a  v-neck. Lots of options means everyone’s happy, right?

Well, I don’t know about you, but I have PLENTY of shirt dresses with collars in my closet. And in the heat of summer, I can’t stand a collar rubbing against my skin. So I opted to try the v-neck version. This involves re-drafting the pattern a bit, following Jen’s instructions. Sounds hard, right? It’s not! Honestly, if I can do it you can. IMG_2914My first version of the Alder is the traditional sleeveless version, using an organic cotton print that I purchased at one of my favorite local fabric  shops, Modern Domestic. The cotton is soft and has a great drape, a must for version B of the Alder. The gathered waistline would probably look way too bunchy on a short person like me if the fabric was too stiff.

After tissue fitting the pattern to me, I decided the Alder’s skirt was a bit too full for my small frame. So, I took about an inch out of the Back Bodice before cutting the fabric. That skirt piece is placed on the fabric’s fold, so my adjustment was easily accomplished by extending that piece 1 inch over the fold.



Gathers: The pattern instructions recommend that you use three rows of long stitches to gather the skirt. When I read this, my initial reaction was that this would be ‘overkill’. Ha. There is a good reason for this. The skirt is pretty full, and to manage all of those gathers and keep them right where you want them, you really do need the three rows of stitching.

Here’s Version Two:IMG_3043

Because I live in Oregon where Summer feels too short, I decided to add sleeves to my next version. Again, Jen has that base covered on the Grainline website. I followed her instructions to take the sleeve of the Archer Shirt and adapt it to the Alder Dress. Let me just say, she makes this pretty simple. I  used a cotton chambray with embroidered accents for this version of the dress. The drape of this fabric is really soft, making it great to wear. I added a bit of contrasting bias trim to the pockets, the back yoke, and the sleeve’s hem to make those design details pop.


I love both of my Alders! Thanks to the Monthly Stitch for challenging me to make this twice. Sometimes, that’s when the best things happen, when we do something familiar another time. Since my dresses were both inspired by summer, I planned to take photos outdoors, but wouldn’t you know it? It’s forty degrees here today! Still, I trust I’ll have lots of opportunities to wear both of my Alders soon.

Not sure which one I like the best, maybe the sleeveless version, since I love that bright fabric, although I loved inserting that bias trim on the other version. But maybe this style looks better without sleeves? Opinions welcome. I think I’ll make the straight collared version of this dress soon.

Happy sewing and thanks for stopping by!

12 thoughts on “The Alder Shirt Dress: One pattern Two ways

  1. I’m not sure which I like better. They are both a nice blue. Nice to know that changing the neckline and putting on sleeves are easy options. And you aren’t the last to make an Alder. I still haven’t made one. I saw those gathers at the hips and thought … Ya sure … On me? This dress looks lovely on you!

    1. Thanks! I thought there were too many gathers too, so I took a bit of fabric out of the skirt, then arranged what was left soooo carefully 🙂

  2. These are gorgeous! I love the silhouette of this dress – it looks great on so many people! I haven’t made it either but I may buy the pattern!

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