My Archer is complete… and it actually looks pretty good! : ) This project was quite a beast (and I’ll get to all my modifications below), but I’m pretty satisfied with the final result. I’m glad I took on the challenge of sewing a fitted (or boxy??) button-down shirt, and I learned a lot about construction and my body in the process. Read on for the full review.
Fabric: Chambray Oxford shirting for the body, and a Liberty quilting-weight floral print for the pocket, both from Gather Here. The shirting has such a crisp texture while still maintaining a lovely drape.
Modifications: Lots and lots, see below.
Level of crafty satisfaction: Much better than I was expecting! I’m not a fan of boxy garments, but I think I managed to make it a little more fitted without driving myself crazy. It’s a little too loose to wear tucked into skirts, but it’s great for wearing open with jeans.
This shirt took me two muslins and several iterative rounds of pattern alterations to get to this stage, not to mention some cursing and frequent coffee breaks. It’s not perfect, but it’s hands-down the best fitting button-down shirt that I’ve ever had in my life, and that’s saying a lot. RTW button-downs *never* fit me well because my shoulders are about 5 sizes bigger than my waist (no joke) and my torso and arms are long. Now, I can finally wear a button-down comfortably. : ) Amazon women, rejoice!
So what the heck did I do with all those adjustments? Here you go:
Modifications for fit:
Shoulders/upper back: I added 1/2 inch in length just below the neckline on the front and back yoke pieces. The main purpose was to lower the armhole, preventing the all too common “armhole digging into my armpit” syndrome. Since the armhole circumference was now 1 inch wider overall, I had to make the sleeve cap bigger so it would fit. I cut a size 8 sleeve at the armpit and a size 10 at the sleeve cap between the notches, which worked out perfectly.
Shoulders/upper back: I added 1 inch to the center back, to be incorporated into the box pleat. My biggest fitting issue was getting enough room in the upper back so that I could move my arms forward comfortably, and my wide shoulders weren’t helping. The extra inch seemed to do the trick.
The upper back does look a little baggy with the extra inch of width, but…
… I can move my arms forward without the shirt cutting off my circulation! I only waited 33 years for this to happen, ha. : ) You can see there are a lot of strain lines when I do this, but this was the best compromise I could come up with.
Waist: I redrew the waist shaping to lower the waistline (such as it is in this boxy top) by 2 inches, to accommodate my long torso. To do this, I simply added 2 inches in length at the waist and then took off 2 inches at the hem, preserving the hem shaping.
Waist: I also graded the side seams pretty aggressively to enhance the waist shaping and reduce some of the boxiness: size 8 at the shoulders, less than 0 at the waist, and 4 at the hips.
Waist: To further define my waist, I added darts to the lower back. This also helped to get rid of the extra inch of width I had added in the upper back. The darts have a maximum thickness of about 1/2 inch and are about 12 inches long, ending right above the hem.
(The photo above also shows the French seams at the sides, which I also used for the sleeve seams.)
Sleeves: I had cut a size 8 sleeve at the armpit to accommodate my shoulders, but the rest of the size 8 sleeve was too wide for my arms. Therefore, I graded the sleeve seams down to about a 0 at the elbow and a 4 at the cuff. I probably could have gone down to a size 0 cuff, but I just adjusted the button placement instead. I’ll use a smaller cuff next time.
Sleeves: I lengthened the sleeves by a full 2 inches, and WOW what a huge difference that made in the comfort of this shirt. I’ve been dealing with too-short sleeves my entire life, and a nice loooooong handmade sleeve makes me so, so happy. Look, the sleeve still hits my wrist even when my arm is stretched forward!! Squeal!!!! : )
Hem: Surprisingly, I didn’t lengthen the hem at all. Does this shirt run long? This is the first time I didn’t have to add length here. Not complaining though. : )
Comparison to RTW: As a final note on fit, look at my Archer in comparison to a RTW button-down that I wore (quite uncomfortably) to my old job for many years. The Archer hem is indeed about 3 inches longer, as are the sleeves. The Archer is a bit wider at the upper bust, but since the RTW fabric has a bit of stretch, I’m guessing it all evens out during wear. Goodbye, old shirt! I won’t miss you!
Modifications for aesthetics:
Buttons: I marked my own button placement, simply to accommodate my wearing preferences. I tried on the shirt, decided where I wanted the first button, and spaced them every 2.5 inches from there (the pattern specifies 3.5 inches). Also, I didn’t bother putting a button and buttonhole in the collar stand because I never use that button, ever. BTW, the pretty blue buttons came from Gather Here.
Buttons: I put 2 buttons on each sleeve cuff instead of 1, mostly because I had a few extra buttons. : )
Collar: I followed Andrea’s tutorial for inserting the collar, which was quite similar to the instructions for my Dad’s shirt. The collar actually came out pretty well – woo hoo! I was careful not to use interfacing that was too stiff and heavy, and I think I achieved a good balance of structure and smooshability.
You can see in the photos below that there’s still a little wonkiness right at the curved ends of the collar stand, but I think/hope I’ll get better at that with practice.
Think anyone will notice those little bits of fraying seam allowance sticking out??
Setting in the sleeves: I noticed that the shoulder notches didn’t line up – they were about 3/4 inch off. Perhaps this was due to my armhole alterations?
Sleeve plackets: These were a bit fiddly, and mine didn’t come out perfectly. I’d be curious to try the Negroni-style plackets that seem to give a bit more security at the opening.
I made a button-down shirt that actually fits my body!!! HELL YEAH!!!! I’m totally high-fiving myself for this one. Jen, if you’re reading, I’m high-fiving you too. : )