Accessorising with Dickey Collars by Designer Stitch

Hello friends!

Having finished McCall’s 8035, I was once again filled with the itch to stitch. However, as the next pattern I was interested in making was a vintage skirt pattern, it required lengths of fabric that I simply didn’t have to hand. And since I am trying not to over extend my budget, I instead looked at what sort of fabric I did have – which was a lot of leftovers from other makes, and thought hard about what I could whip up that would be practical and useful. I scoured Instagram for inspiration, and came across several posts for a rather vintage looking dickey collar as based on the Designer Stitch pattern. This pattern give quite a lot of bang for your buck, offering several different collar variations, and since I know for a fact that I’m not all that good at collars, buttonholes or button placement I thought this could be an opportunity to improve those skills.

I also found it was quite fun to dig into the research aspect of this project, and I found myself in a bit of a rabbit hole looking at the history of detachable collars and shirt bosoms. I was fascinated to discover that detachable collars have existed from as early as 1570, when there are records of neck ruffs being made as separate pieces to the main garment, and that collars were often a way of denoting profession and social status. Which, given the cost of fabric and the labour intensive nature of laundering, would make a lot of sense. I also found several references to shirt bosoms, or dickeys which were a collar and shirt front combination which could be used on more formal occasions, or for uniform dress. What I couldn’t find references to is when dickey collars became their current iteration consisting of a collar, attached to both a front and a back bib. Although I did find examples of this in sewing patterns from 1940-50.

Putting these dickey collars together was quite a challenge for me. I was able to work out sizing without too much trouble, opting for a size 2 after the size 4 muslin was obviously too big. But when it came to the construction I was a little stumped. Curious as to why the collar seams had been decreased to 1/4″, I did more research on actual shirt construction – including how to create thread loops, because I was interested in the two collar plus collar stand variations and the peter pan collar specifically. What came up quite a bit is that it’s better to trim a 5/8″ seam allowance down to 1/4″ because it makes it much easier to ease the often conflicting curves together. Which, I have to say, I found to be quite an accurate assessment. There were also a lot of tips about making sure to clip curves extremely close to the stitching, so that when the collar or stand is turned right sides out that curve is as smooth as possible and doesn’t have those little straight sections that can sometimes appear on your otherwise curved edges.

But the best tips for me were about starting in the middle. When seaming the collar stand to the collar, the advice was to start at the centre and work out towards the edges. I found this stopped the issue I had with the first dickey collar, where my ends became mismatched despite my best pinning efforts if I started from one end and worked to the other. The same also applied to seaming the collar stand to the neckline of the garment itself. As I didn’t use this technique on the first dickey collar, one of my collar stand corners ended up being too small for the buttonhole to go on the right front, which is the side for buttonholes I’m accustomed to. Instead I had to add my buttonholes to the left side. I made sure, however, based on the buttonhole placement videos I watched, to align my buttons on the centre front, and following the dickey collar instructions to start the buttonhole on the stand one full button-width in from the edge. This allowed the top button to sit at centre front. I also made use of the Professor Pincushion method for sewing my thread loop for my button on the back of the Peter Pan collar. I also widened the shoulders of these collars, as I found them a bit too narrow for some tops.

I do have to admit that there are a lot of flaws in all of these collars. However, I think it’s also important to remember that no one but the person who sews a garment tends to notice these things, and that if we don’t attempt new things then we’re never going to learn or expand our skillset. I was so pleased as well with all the things I learned from each, and how prior experience helped me to get some great finishes. For example on the peter pan collar version, while I wasn’t thrilled with how the neckline binding turned out, I was happy that I thought to do a double fold on the back neck split so all the raw edges were contained the whole length of the back piece. Likewise I was able to increase the width of the bibs at the shoulders through comparing it to similar collared shirts I had on hand before I cut into the fabric. My overlocker did try to eat each of these in turn, cue much re-threading of the lower looper, but my decision to overlock rather than fold on the raw edges did a lot to reduce bulk and make the edges of each piece less obvious when worn under thin clothing.

Having already worn these dickey collars several times since their creation, I think it’s safe to say that this is a very flexible and fun pattern. The fabrics, which are all cottons or cotton-blends, are comfortable to wear when its hot, and don’t bother me despite being pressed up against bare skin. However, I wouldn’t recommend this pattern for beginner sewists despite it being quite small and not having a lot of pieces to put together. The techniques and skills needed for this pattern are more likely to be in an intermediate sewist’s arsenal, even more so for someone who’s had some experience with collar construction before. But if you do have that experience, I recommend this pattern for it’s versatility and quickness to assemble.

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