Thursday, March 17, 2016

Shirt Making. Shoulder Fitting. Blergh.

 That's how I feel about it. I'm even having a hard time writing about all of this.  Maybe I ventured in to shirt making for too long.  Although it's not the actual sewing that I'm so meh about.  It's the fit.  I did all sorts of alterations and adjustments and you can't tell.  Or I can't tell.   Or I don't know if I can tell.  Ugh.  Anyway, I didn't solve my shoulder fit issue like I thought I would. So yeah, blergh.  Time for a break from making shirts.


I started with a Simplicity pattern that I knew deep down wasn't going to be great.  But it had design features that I was digging.  It had a seam through the middle of the shirt and different options for the back so you could use two contrasting fabrics.  I'd love to tell you the pattern number but the Simplicity website is such a mess, I can't find it.  And the pattern I actually have has some weird display number on it.   The top left photo in the collage above is of two of the versions I made of this particular Simplicity pattern.  I actually made a third version that I took apart to reuse the bottom half on a subsequent version.   The bottom half of the shirt is an awesome batik that I have hoarded for a long time, which makes me sad.   The very first version I sewed up had a shoulder fit issue that I have experienced multiple times since I started sewing (and has made me abandon projects often).  So I made a proclamation that I was going to solve my fit issue for once and for all.  I took a few cell phone pics so I'll show you one horribly unflattering photo to give you an idea of what I'm talking about.


I know you can't see much in this photo, but I was trying to get a photo of how the back neckline bunches up.  The shoulders don't sit right and they don't feel right.  I get wrinkles on the front in between the armsyce and neckline.  And the back neckline rides up the back of my neck.  That really is my main issue.  The back neckline is uncomfortable.  It rides up and bunches up at the base of the back of my neck.  I also get horizontal wrinkles at the back of my neck, which you can see in the photo above.  According to Fit For Real People, that means a square shoulder adjustment, right?   I find I do much better with wider necklines and also patterns with back neckline darts.  I have read up about all the things it could be but have never come to any sort of definite conclusion.  Maybe forward shoulder? I did end up doing a forward shoulder adjustment later on- see below.  High round back?  I don't have any gaping at the back of the neck or the back armscye.   I actually tend to have pulling across the back in between my shoulders and the back neckline feels snug.  So are my shoulders broad?  I don't know.  Maybe it's a combination of several things.   I really, truly don't know at this point.  I think all this fitting has made me even more confused.  I've also suspected I had some broad back issues in the past.   I have had some success with making a quick and dirty square shoulder adjustment where I just straighten out the shoulder seam.  Which is what I did on the second two versions of the Simplicity pattern I tried (among other things).   But back necklines (and sometimes front, too) never seem to sit right.


I read up on shoulder adjustments in the books Fit For Real People (Pati Palmer and Marla Alto) and another called The Perfect Fit (author listed as Creative Publishing Int'l).  I used the square shoulder adjustment seen in the collage above.  Later when I tried a forward shoulder adjustment, I used the method described in The Perfect Fit.   There was one main discrepancy between the two books regarding a forward shoulder- one said to rotate the shoulder point on the sleeve and one said not to.  So I was confused about that.  I did end up rotating the shoulder point forward.  Is there any reason I shouldn't have?

Eventually, I realized there were too many other fit issues with the Simplicity pattern (sleeve issues, no shaping, one piece collar and cuffs not even remotely the right size) to make a salvageable shirt.  So I abandoned that pattern and looked for another.  I flipped through the pattern books and ended up buying McCalls 6436.  This was a much better shirt pattern than the Simplicity one.  But I'm still not thrilled with my end result.  


My first version was the chambray colored linen version on the top right of the collage above.  I decided to sew a size up to begin with thinking I could take care of my supposed broad shoulder/broad back issues.  And I did a square shoulder adjustment but I can't remember how much.  It turned out way, way too big.   I'd say this shirt pattern has an large amount of ease (it's supposed to be relaxed, I think).   I also discovered that the sleeves were more than two inches too long.  I took the cuff off of one sleeve and attempted to shorten it before abandoning this shirt.  I could possibly work on the sleeve issues and make this a wearable shirt in the future.  It would be wearable in a big, boyfriend shirt kind of way.  I'm saving it for now but we'll see.

Next I made the white and black linen version.  I used my normal size, a 14 grading to a 16 at the hip, but also made some shoulder alterations.  I took notes on my last two versions so I could document what I did.  I did a 3/8" square shoulder adjustment on the back shoulder seam only to also account for a forward shoulder (which I have suspected I needed).  I also reduced the height of the collar and collar stand by a teeny bit and shortened the sleeves 1.5 inches.  I didn't mess with the darts or side seams at all, although I think I could have.  I do feel like the shoulder fit is better than I've ever had before, but something still feels off.    The armscye feels too low, which is crazy considering my shoulder issues.  But I will say that the forward shoulder is a move in the right direction, I believe.



The last version I sewed was the blue batik shirt.  This was supposed to be the culmination of all my fitting work where I ended up with a fantastically fitting shirt (that's how it works, right?).  I did a 3/8" forward shoulder adjustment but did it on the front and back shoulder seam.   So I essentially did a forward shoulder but skipped the square shoulder.  I also raised the armscye 3/8" and reduced the collar height a tiny bit more.  The collar is teeny tiny!  I made it too small.  And I shortened the sleeves another 1/2"- so 2" total from the original pattern (and I have long arms!).  And meh.  The fit is just meh.  I actually feel like I have that creeping back neckline more on this version than the white version.  So maybe I do really need the square shoulder adjustment followed by the forward shoulder adjustment.   The blue batik fabric I used is beautiful, but not ideal for apparel.  I think its meant for quilting.  It wrinkles like crazy.  I ironed it right before pictures and it wrinkled just from trying to tuck it in to something.  I am really pleased with the placement.  I ran the stripe vertical instead of horizontal after soliciting advice on instagram.  I tried to balance the dark and light parts of the fabric and I'm happy with how it turned out.




If you've made it this far in this blog post, congratulations!  You are a champion.  It has been hard to write so I know it's been hard to read.  Just for shits and giggles, here is a photo of me in a rtw shirt that I love and wear all the time.  I don't experience any issues with the back neckline riding up or the shoulder/armscye being uncomfortable.  Looking at the photo, though, I don't see that the shirt fits fabulously or anything. In fact, it doesn't appear to fit that well at all.  But it definitely feels better.  It does have a back yoke with a pleat, so maybe that is the difference?  The fabric also has more drape but it's nothing special.  Just some hard wearing polyester.


I've written this post over a few days and now that I've read back through it this last time, I realized I've gone down a fitting rabbit hole.  I'm probably overanalyzing.  If I end up venturing in to shirt making again, I think I'll just go for a totally new pattern.   But now it's time to sew something really fun.  On a positive note, I will say that I had the opportunity to work on my precision sewing skills with all this shirt making.  I beefed up my top stitching and collar sewing skills for sure.  And I'm sure I'll wear the white linen shirt quite a bit but I'm on the fence about the blue batik shirt.  Anyone else have shoulder fit issues? 


38 comments:

  1. GIRL! I am staring at you in your shirts and I cannot think anything except "They look great!" Like, yeah, I see a tiny bit of pulling across the shoulder, but it's so minimal! Does it really bug you when you wear them? Or in time, will you learn to love them?

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    1. Well, thanks! The white one is definitely growing on me. The neckline does not bother me on that one, but the blue one a little. I'm sure I will wear them both!

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  2. I also think they look fabulous, but I hear you. I too have made many garments that would look perfectly acceptable to someone else but that bum me out when I look at them, because *I* know the ways they fall short, usually custom adjustments that I'm sure are going to make the fit fabulous, but at best do nothing and at worst make it not as good as it would have been if I'd just made the pattern as is.

    If you figure out which Simplicity it is, let us know, please. I'm about to make my first foray into button-down shirts--I have a larger bust, so have avoided them for years before finally learning how to do a FBA, and I have a Simplicity pattern sitting there for my first go. Now I'm a little scared to cut into it! :)

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    1. Yes, I think some of the disappointment is from the fact that it's not *perfect* if you know what I mean. But the last two are good enough. I will definitely try and look up that pattern number again! Or maybe snap a photo of the envelope.

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  3. Hi (frequent visitor finally leaves a comment)

    Firstly, and most importantly, both shirts shown on you look great! A week or so in the naughty corner may assist with your view of them.

    Secondly I don't sew much with big 4 patterns at all, apart from Vintage. And even when I do, my grandmothers words "never sew with Simplicity or Style patterns" ring in my ears. So I may not be qualified to comment here. But I gather from other blogs that a. people do find they run large and b. arm/shoulder/neck fitting issues are the worst problem with them.

    From your photos it looks to me that you are suffering from having good posture in a world full of people who stand like turtles. Your neck seems to be much more upright. In which case, congratulations!, and also you may find that the pattern needs a de-forward-neck-posture adjustment. I'm not sure how but maybe a dart out of the yoke pattern piece like that used in a sway back adjustment?

    You might also try reducing the yoke width a bit. It's sitting past your shoulder joint and that may mean that the body of the garment gets involved in the movement when you move your arms, leading to pressure at the neck. I found that this helped with some of my neck pulling issues in Burda. And I always thought I had broad shoulders too.

    But overall, lovely shirts that really suit you (visually at least :) ).
    cheers


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    1. My grandmother always recommended vogue patterns! Maybe I should follow suit! No, I have made some really great big 4 patterns. But I do get that neck/shoulder quirkiness fairly often. Interesting about my posture! I slump my shoulders forward for sure, but Ive always wondered if it had something to do with how my neck sits. I definitely get the best fit when there are darts in the neckline which you really only find in vintage patterns. And thank you for the tip about the width of the yoke! That is something I will pay attention to.

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  4. First I was going to suggest that you try a shirt pattern with shoulder princess seams because the seams would allow you to address alot of your shoulder and fit issues. However after getting to the end my thought was you should rub-off/trace the shirt you like, make a pattern from the tracings and sew it up. That way you can see if you duplicate the "feeling" you like from that shirt.

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    1. I've always turned my nose up at doing rub offs in the past, but maybe I need to try it here. Even if I just did a rub off of that back yoke, I could compare necklines. Hmmm... You've got me thinking! And I was really interested in that shirt pattern you sewed fairly recently with princess seams.

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  5. Fit is the big issue for me in sewing. I've been sewing since I was about 5 (dolls clothes etc), and for a while, fit wasn't an issue (partly because my Mum always used very simple patterns, and hey, who cares about fit until you're about 13?). Then I began to try more challenging patterns on my own, and realized that what you see on the envelope isn't want you're going to get when you finish sewing! Here started my habit of trying on the pieces of pattern (or the fabric cut from the pattern) to see how the fit was going to work. Something that used to make my Mum laugh.

    I've put on weight now, and completely lost confidence in my ability to fit. Since I haven't managed to lose weight (haven't really tried, except in my head!) I've ground to a standstill with sewing.

    All this to say, I relate to your frustration - but at least you are doing something about it!

    I've read stuff about taking photos of yourself to analyse fit issues. Things you perhaps can't see in the mirror but someone else might be able to identify for you. There may be a square shoulder issue, but I don't see a forward shoulder. Your shoulders look pretty balanced, side-on. If anything, that top one with you in the mirror looks like the shoulder of the shirt needs to sit further back. I think you're getting the bunching because the shoulder seam is sitting too far forward.

    The other thing to bear in mind is, as you started off with, sometimes patterns are just stuffed, or just not right for us.

    I think your shirts look great, by the way. You make good garments that suit you.

    Thank you for sharing your frustration. I may just try again with the sewing. But something shapeless and baggy that doesn't need fitting. Ha!

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  6. Ok, I agree with everyone else---they're all fine! That being said, those back neck wrinkles are EXACTLY what I get when I don't do a square shoulder adjustment, and the white shirt where you did the square shoulder seems to be the best. :) I usually do them by dropping the midline, as opposed to raising the lateral portion of the shoulder. That way the armscye doesn't get any longer/lower. You could also trim back the upper back neckline a bit if necessary (may need to adjust the collar though.) but it definitely sounds like it's time for a break! :)

    I do find I HAVE to make a square shoulder adjustment on Simplicity and Burda, but I can sometimes skip it on McCalls and Butterick. But I also like wide necklines so I don't run into it as often as I might...

    Good luck! 😁

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    1. Interesting that you say you drop the midline! That's what I call my "quick and dirty" square shoulder adjustment and I feel like I have had more success with it. Good to know you do that, too!

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  7. I am in awe of the fact you made such excellently sewn shirts. I could feel your frustration seeping through in every word though! I have the opposite fit issue (narrow shoulders, large bust), so am not qualified to comment through experience. I hope some of the comments above are of use to you - there seems to be some good ideas.

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  8. These do look great despite the issue you mention. I wonder if scooping out some of the back neck for a larger collar size would help to ease the back neck issue. Your RTW one looks as though it slips back a bit on the back neck which is possibly why it doesn't do the same?

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    1. Yes, the rtw one is wider! I thought the same thing when I looked at the photos. I never thought about using a larger collar size.

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  9. It sounds like you need a sewing buddy.

    If you can find a friend to help, I would skip the paper pattern alterations. I would cut the front and back out. Sew up the side seams and pin the front shut. Baste one shoulder, so the shirt will stay on your body whilst you work on the other shoulder. Then I would smooth the front and back up towards the shoulder and see where they meet naturally...or if they overlap...or if there is a gap. Mark where you want the new seam line to be. You may need to insert fabric. The front and back probably won't meet nicely at the neck edge. Do the same for the other shoulder. Then mark in your neckline (cutting out fabric from that creeping back neckline if you need to).

    Also, I am wondering if the shirt shoulders are too big. They seem to be falling off your shoulders (although, I can't see the shoulder / armscye seamline on your RTW top for comparison). I am wondering if the batik shirt would look better if you shortened the shoulder and reset the sleeve? Though, could totally understand if you did not want to do all that work.

    Your sewing does look very precise and neat. I wish I could sew collars as well as you.

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    1. I am definitely not resetting those sleeves! Ha! But I do agree about the shoulders being too wide. And others have commented the same thing. I am definitely going to pay attention to shoulder width in the future.

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  10. The benefits of taking pictures. Fitting rabbit hole...sigh. They all look fabulous to me. A drapey fabric might be the difference. Maybe you don't like feel and fit of linen. I took a fitting class where they mentioned the order of shoulder adjustments were important. But I am sure you already went down that rabbit hole. ;)

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  12. I don't sew that much, but when I do I get frustrated because shoulders never fit right on me. Even if it *looks* ok I can feel it pulling and can't raise my arms very high. Crab & Bee wrote a bunch about fitting, especially fitting broad shoulders... google crab and bee shoulder fit and maybe you'll find something useful in there?

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  13. Fascinating! I love a good mystery. I've done some thinking and googling and I think you have broad/high shoulders & erect posture. I don't think you have forward shoulders. For these fit issues I'd look to men's tailoring guides. My research makes me think you need to "lower the collar" by pushing the excess fabric at the upper back up into the collar seam. The recommended limit of such might be 3/8" but I am not sure of that, so research. Comparing the RTW shirt to your selfmade shirts is hard because the fabric difference, but at the very least I would compare the length of the shoulder seam, from armhole to collar. Maybe you could go down a size? The shoulder seams might be falling off your shoulders a bit too much? Don't they say to fit the shoulders/upper body and then alter pattern from there? In general when I look at the photos I feel like the backs look too big for your body, which would imply to inexperience me that you need to size down and FBA the front and add length if your torso is long.

    I made Simplicity 1538 without any alterations but it wasn't the fit I was looking for, it being a fitted shirt. I want a looser fit, to mimic a favorite RTW shirt. Obviously if I had done my homework and measured the pattern pieces etc, I would have known that from the beginning. I am on the search for such a pattern and that McCall's pattern is in the running.

    Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Ooh, thanks for this info! I am definitely going to look into some men's tailoring info now. I think taking a larger seam allowance at the back collar would definitley help. And I agree about the back being too big, too.

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  14. I'm sorry you got frustrated! For what it's worth, I think the white and blue batik shirts look incredible! I would steal that white shirt. If you ever feel like making another shirt again (sorry, I had to go there!), I vote for your square shoulder adjustment combined with the raised arm scye of the blue.

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  15. well, i think both shirts look pretty damn fine (might fly over and steal the white one).. dunno much about shoulder ajustments, but i did notice that i get way better fit from shirts that do have back yoke piece and back pleat, so when you recover from that shirt sewing marathon, maybe you can try one of those too :)

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  16. That's not fair, after all your hardwork the last one should have been perfect. Though having said that they look good in the pictures perhaps you'll learn to forget how much they annoyed you and start wearing them anyway!

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  17. Shoulder fitting is so hard! I think you're getting really close, the white and black shirt looks great from here. The batik one is so cool, too bad the neck bunching is uncomfortable! Don't give up, it sounds like you've come a long way in perfecting the fit, even if it was a frustrating endeavor!

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  18. I'm wondering if you need to lower the neckline on the back neck - rather than reducing the collar. Not sure that helps with the shoulder issues you are experiencing, but might help with the neck. The shirts look lovely and I'm sorry the mixed print Simplicitys didn't work. g

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  19. Your shirts look great on you! I have both of those fitting books and now always do a forward shoulder adjustment and sometimes a sloping adjustment too, depending on the pattern piece. It's amazing how such a tiny adjustment gets so much better of a fit. Keep at it and don't give up. Just take a break and sew up something easy and then you will feel refreshed to start again. That's what I do. LOL After doing fit adjustments, it makes me wonder how any RTW garment fits anyone. The shirts you made fit you much better than the one you bought, but it is still a nice looking blouse on you.

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  20. I admire your shoulder-fitting fortitude! I have many of the same issues that I'm still trying to figure out - and it's so hard without a sewing buddy! I do a square shoulder adjustment and raise the armscye the same amount, and I've played with a forward shoulder adjustment, but not sure if that helps. I think I have erect posture and maybe broad back?? And a short neck, ha ha? I took a break from sewing myself shirts this past year to sew some for my husband and sons, which seemed so much easier!
    I'm going to plunge back into my shoulder fitting woes again soon. I would love to figure this out! I think you're really close! The white shirt is beautiful. Take a break with some fun sewing and circle back again. Even just wearing the white and blue shirts over and over might give you some ideas.

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  21. Your shirts look good from here, especially the white one but going by the side on photo it looks like you need both a forward shoulder adjustment, a straight shoulder adjustment and to scoop out a bit from the CB at the neck, tapering to the sides. Then adjust the collar accordingly. Doing a muslin in calico and snipping, pinning and drawing on the muslin itself can help a lot.

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  22. I don't have any fitting suggestions just wanted to say that I think your shirts look great. I love the blue sort of stripey one. The fabric is lovely. Xx

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  23. I really think you are being way too picky. I love your shirts! Especially the white with black contrast. Great job!

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  24. Can we get together and do some fitting?? If only we lived closer! I love all your shirts and I think they all look like they fit really well, but I totally get the uncomfortable-ness. Based on your first phone photo, I think you need to move the shoulder seam back, so the opposite of a forward shoulder adjustment. I would start by adding 1/2" to the front pattern piece and then taking 1/2" off the the back pattern piece. Find the point on your shoulder where your arm hinges, and I think that is where the seam should sit although it does depend on style (I've read about an inch behind your ear lobe). It's sooooo hard to see on your own body, but if you can snap some pictures or get someone else to snap some pictures you might be able too see. I was hoping to see a side view of your favourite RTW shirt, so that we could compare where the shoulder seam sits on it in relation to where it sits on your handmade one. I think if you move that seam back it's going to give you less bunching at the back of the neck/collar and make it feel a bit more comfortable. But I'm not expert, it's really just a lot of muslining and trial and error. Also, this might sound counter intuitive, but you might need a narrow shoulder adjustment with your square shoulder adjustment, to get rid of those wrinkles in the front. Basically narrowing the shoulder width slightly. Also when I just did my forward shoulder adjustment, I did move the notch on the top of the sleeve to match my adjustment. I think you need to, to get the sleeve to sit properly in the armscye. These are all just ideas, I am no expert, and it is definitely very easy to get lost down the rabbit hole of fitting. It happens to me all the time!
    All that being said, I love all of the shirts you made. They look amazing, and that batik one is gorgeous!! I hope you still wear them all. Good luck with it all!

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    1. I would definitley get together for some fitting with you! Ha! Several comments have advised that I may not need the forward shoulder. And I will pay attention to the width of the shoulder in the future as well. That makes sense, that where the armscye sits on my shoulder would affect the shoulder fit. I'm thankful for all of this input, for sure!

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  25. The last two look good in pictures, but it really sucks when you can just feel something isn't right. Maybe you should try a back pleat?

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  26. I think they look great, especially the white one. I've spent so MUCH time screwing around with patterns and getting frustrated with "belly" fit I've kind of given up. Quilting these days! nice and flat! haha.

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  27. First, I want to say that your blouses (shirts) look fabulous. In looking at the Simplicity muslin that you took the side picture of, it looks to me like the neckline is the incorrect shape for you. It needs to be re-drawn lower. I can't tell by the picture how much but you may be able to find the location yourself by putting a pin at the location where the bottom of the collar should fall. This will increase the length of the collar pieces. Use a design curve with numbers on it to determine how much needs to be added to the collar pieces. Once you figure out the correct shaping, you will be able to move that information to any top with a collar.

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    1. I've always wondered if it could just simply be the shape of the back neckline that is the issue. But I've avoided changing the shape of the back neckline in the past because I didn't want to deal with creating a new collar piece. So thanks, I will consider trying this next time I encounter those back neckline wrinkles!! I want to make a traditional shirt dress soon, so that might be sooner than later!

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