My Reeta Dress

Please can I have  sort of 1940s day dress with a 1980s safari vibe? Yes, yes I can.

named reeta shirt dress sogosew

I want a grown-up dress that I can pop on and feel put-together and chic in with absolutely zero effort on my part.

named reeta shirt dress sogosew

Well, lots of effort in the making part, zero effort in the getting-dressed part.

Named patterns Reeta dress

I had a nice time embroidering the collar and pockets.  I was going for “blossom falling in the Spring”.  Its more “rice fell out of the packet”, but I love it 🙂


I am quite curvy, and I have a small-ish frame, so the most flattering silhouette for me is one that fits quite close to my body, sits neatly on my shoulders, with definition at the waist.

Named patterns Reeta dress sogosew

lovely reeta

Historical influences part one – the 1940s day dress

The day or tea dress of the 1940s is a good example of a shape that flatters me.

From the blog: “Vintage Dancer”:

In this popular style the shoulders would have been squared off with shoulder pads so that the sleeve could fall vertically down to a cuff just above the elbow.

Screenshot 2019-03-23 at 10.57.02

Dresses of the 40’s often had collars like smaller versions of those on men’s dress shirts. This is a trademark design of 1940’s dresses.

The bodice of the dress were very snug. The most common day dresses were shirtwaist style. They were buttoned straight down the front of the bodice and often down the skirt too.

Historical influences part two – the 1970s /80s safari style

I will forever love the style of the 1980s.  I was there and fashion was so much fun then (reversible mickey mouse jumper dresses!), and still is now.  One look that encapsulates the 80s for me is the safari dress.

While the practical safari look originated in a need for strong utilitarian clothes for actual exploration, it was popularised in the 1960s and 70s by French designers Ted Lapidus and Yves Saint Laurent.

Screenshot 2019-03-23 at 11.16.00
Yves Saint Laurent advertising, 1980s

Here’s my re-make, hee hee.

re-make of yves saint laurent safari dress

I think the dress above echoes much of the styling of the 1940s tea dress, but with much more relaxed tailoring, and allowing for more freedom of movement.

My mum made khaki safari dresses and jumpsuits that would look fashionable now.

leighton sisters 1980s

And here is eight-year old me rocking the safari look circa 1981.



Current trends

This year, the shirt dress has gone maxi.  Last year was all about the midi-length, and it would seem that those among us who’s leg hair grows at a visible rate can celebrate.  Because shirt dresses are skimming the ankles.

I perused the website net-a-porter for inspiration.  I emerged hours later, blinking into the sunlight.


There are dresses with traditional men’s shirting details, but feminised with big swooshing maxi skirts that are cinched in at the waist.

I would like a dress like those above, with some added safari/utility style features.  I have found the perfect pattern!  Named Clothing’s Reeta shirt dress ticks all the boxes, hallelujah!



Construction notes AKA the geeky bit (feel free to skip)

I made a size 40 (my measurements are: chest 37″, waist 30″, hips 39″ and I’m 5 foot 5).  I shortened it by about 5 inches, raised the waistline about an inch and a half, and took in the sides of the skirt a tad.  If I make it again I will raise the shoulder seams a little.

As I am making this garment as part of the City & Guilds Dressmaking Certificate, I have to do it properly, with a toile and everything.

I bought a really old bedsheet from the charity shop to make my toile.  Actually its pretty, will I waft down the street in my floral bedsheet?

I hope my cotton toile is behaving similarly to my final fabric, a linen.  I am being as precise as I can.  Here on the collar I’m measuring the distance from the edge of the collar piece to the notched lapel so I can get them even.


The buttonholes and buttons work well positioned 1cm from the fold, which is conveniently also the width of the buttonhole foot, hurrah.

My Bernina is wonderful but she doesn’t always sew buttonholes consistently well.  My test buttonholes on my toile came out inconsistent, sometimes the stitches were a tad loose.  I’ll keep practising…

Fit adjustments

Here is my toile, I added a belt to check the fit.


I am making the final version in a linen that has body rather than drape, so it will look stiffer and wider than the sample on the packet, which was made from a drapey viscose.  I will take out a bit of the fullness so I don’t resemble a sail.

Design changes

I made the following changes :

  • added hand-embroidery,
  • made the silhouette a little less A-line,
  • added big slouchy pockets on the skirt.

Pattern alterations

I took in the side seams by 1.5cm, tapering in from just beneath the bust dart.


I removed the split to make the skirt straighter:

reeta shirt dress alterations

I raised the waistline by 3cm to sit on my high waist, and to remove blousing which won’t work well with my linen fabric:

reeta shirt dress alterations


My inspiration for big slouchy pockets came from this skirt in the window of Urban Outfitters:


Future iterations

This pattern strikes me as one that can be used as a foundation for many stylish items, hurrah!  One idea is a lightweight jacket, by shortening the length and lengthening the sleeves.  Something like this Adventure Jacket by wonderful sustainable label Alice Alexander:

Screenshot 2019-04-11 at 08.21.54
Alice Alexander Adventure Jacket

WhatsApp Image 2019-06-05 at 12.22.27 (3)


2 thoughts on “My Reeta Dress

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s