The Darling Ranges shirt dress, a Megan Nielsen sewing pattern, has three variations - a shirt dress with a gathered waist, a tunic-style dress, and a shirt. It's a fun sew that definitely could become a wardrobe staple! I chose to color-block my shirt dress for visual interest.

I finally made a shirt dress, guys!

Maybe you’re thinking, “Hey, Erin finally sewed M6696!”

Sorry to burst your bubble, but nope. M6696 STILL is a WIP. (I’m not going to blog about it again until it’s finished.)

I’m not feeling down about it, though, because instead I sewed this lovely creature — the Darling Ranges shirt dress from Megan Nielsen!

Darling Ranges was the Project #SewMyStyle challenge for August, and I’m mighty happy to have this dress in my closet. And I need more Darling Rangeses to keep this color-blocked beaut company. Big announcement, peeps: This could be a TNT pattern. Happy times!

Construction Details for My Darling Ranges Shirt Dress

My Modifications

I cuffed the sleeves of my Megan Nielsen Darling Ranges shirt dress.

Sleeves

I thought I was going to go with the elasticized three-quarter length sleeves. But after trying on my muslin and rolling the sleeves, I knew cuffs were right for me. I turned the sleeves up twice and topstitched. I’m a cuffed-sleeves gal, through and through.

Bodice Length

For the record, this dress is an XS. I added an inch to the bodice length.

Skirt Length

I took off about an inch.

Color-Blocking

One post ago, I dished up my choicest color-blocking tips and talked about my design process for adding the white color-blocking at the hem. As for the nitty-gritty pattern hack details, I marked where I wanted the color-blocking on my muslin. The white part is about 6 inches, not including the hem and seam allowance. Next I modified the skirt pattern pieces, cutting off the color-blocked bottom. I took extra care to note the seam allowances on the pattern pieces. Then I cut the fabric and sewed the skirt together (navy + white) and went ahead with the directions as written.

I used clear plastic buttons to give my Darling Ranges shirt dress a minimal vibe.

Button Placement and Buttons

The Darling Ranges shirt dress calls six buttons, three on the bodice and three on the skirt. I sewed eight buttons to improve my fit and comfort, especially in the bodice. I placed the top bodice button and waistline bodice button, and then I evenly spaced the other two bodice buttons using a buttonhole marker. I did the same thing for the skirt buttons.

I didn’t want the buttons to be a major feature, which is why they’re (mostly) invisible. The clear plastic buttons support the modern, minimal look I was going for.

Fabric

The navy is a soft and drapey linen-rayon — the same fabric I used for my Cali Faye Collection pocket skirt. The white is a linen-cotton blend and is lightweight — an ideal accent fabric. Both fabrics are from my neighborhood Jo-Ann.

What I Love About This Dress

Construction

I might start buying Megan Nielsen patterns JUST to see how she puts garments together. The placket and neckline of this dress are clean finished in an elegant yet simple way. You sew bias to finish the neckline, and the placket folds over to cover the raw ends of the bias. Brilliant!

The V-neckline of the Darling Ranges shirt dress is the perfect depth for me.

Neckline

The V-neck is perfection. And thanks to the construction technique, it doesn’t roll out.

Versatility

The Darling Ranges shirt dress is a garment that works dressed up or down. It would be cute under a boxy sweater, too (maybe my Sew House Seven Toaster Sweater #2). I’m mega tempted by the other versions — a tunic and a blouse. And I am hot to make a winter version in flannel. Oh, I’m full of ideas!

Pockets

I’m in love with in-seam pockets and I’m going to include them everywhere, all the time, always. I’d never sewn them before, and let me tell ya — easy peasy.

What Could Be Better on My Darling Ranges Shirt Dress

I added extra width to my Darling Ranges shirt dress by decreasing the sleeve seam allowance. This was a poor decision.

Width Adjustment

My muslin had me feeling like the Hulk — on the verge of splitting the dress up the back if I busted out a lat spread (as I do on occasion, LOL). My legit fear, though, was if I didn’t give myself more room in the upper chest and back, carrying my 2-year-old would be a seam-popping enterprise.

I should have added width to the front and back bodice pattern pieces in the shoulders. Instead I was lazy and made the armscye seam allowance smaller — 1/4 inch.

This “worked” in that I had more room to move. But the easing situation in the sleeve cap is U-G-L-Y.

To ease the sleeve cap, I did a row of basting stitches about 1/8 inch from the edge. Between being so close to the edge and the tiny seam allowance, the easing didn’t have a place to go. I could not get a smooth seam. Sadness.

I put a 1/4-inch tuck toward the top of each sleeve cap and did my best to distribute the symmetrically arrange the gathers on the back of the sleeves. It’s not terribly obvious, because the dark color of the dress and texture swallow the small gathers, and when I’m wearing the shirt dress, all this unpleasantness is behind me (literally).

When I make this dress again, I’m definitely adjusting the pattern pieces. You need the 5/8-inch seam allowance to properly ease the sleeve into the armscye. End of story.

This Megan Nielsen Darling Ranges shirt dress is stitched in rayon-linen (navy) and cotton-linen (white).

Buttonholes

This was the most buttonholes I’ve sewn for a single garment, and my machine and buttonhole foot did a bang-up job. I used machine embroidery thread for the top thread because it’s lightweight viscose and has a lovely luster to it. And because the Donahues of the Sewing Out Loud podcast told me to it.

The buttonholes work fine, and when the buttons are pulled through, you don’t notice any wonkiness. The next time I’m making buttonholes, I want my future self to remember two things:

1.) Put Fray Away (affiliate link) on the back AND front of the button holes.
2.) Don’t nick the buttonhole thread with the X-acto knife (affiliate link) when you’re slicing the holes.

Bust Darts

I like the bust darts that come up from the waist, but I could have executed them better. The tip is pointy, which makes it look like I’m chilled (if you get my drift). Whatever, though. The world can deal with my fake visible nipples. They’ve become less pointy the more I’ve washed the dress, so let’s hope they’ll continue losing pointyness.

Over to you, sewing friends: Did you sew a shirt dress this summer? Have you been following Project #SewMyStyle? If yes, what’s been your favorite pattern so far? I’m curious about how everyone’s September project — the Named Yona coat — is going to turn out! Please comment with your replies to these questions and your deep thoughts on easing set-in sleeves, sewing buttonholes, fake visible nipples, and anything else you need to get off your chest!

P.S. Here’s my previous post: Dead-Simple Color-Blocking Tips for Sewists.

P.P.S. ICYMI, here are my other Project #SewMyStyle makes:

January: Sew House Seven Toaster Sweater #2: The stylish sweatshirt
February: Named Saunio Cardigan: Harder than it looks
March: Becoming a (Manila) leggings person for Project #SewMyStyle
April: Bridgetown backless, the forever dress
May: Cali Faye Collection Pocket skirt + How to use basting tape like a pro
June: Mom status: Effortlessly cool in a Megan Nielsen Briar top
July: Cali Faye Valley blouse pattern hack: A mini muumuu with no regrets

There’s only four more patterns left to sew for 2017! WHOA!