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Refashion of a Different Sort

May 25, 2011

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Kerri called me asking for help with a sewing conundrum. Kerri’s getting ordained as a Deacon in the Anglican church on Thursday (which is SOON, YAY KERRI!). That means a lot of things, but for the moment lets focus on one thing it very definitely means – clergy shirts.

A clergy shirt is basically one of those shirts you see most commonly on Catholic priests – a shirt that will take the white collar (there’s usually a white square showing in the front of the dark shirt, more or less). But Anglicans wear them too, and as a deacon (and eventually a priest), Kerri needs to wear them.

The *problem* is that clergy shirts can be kind of….unattractive. They usually aren’t fitted very nicely; they are frequently made from cheaper material – just not what you want really when you are a thirty-something year old with a decent grasp of fashion.

To solve this problem, Kerri went out and bought some shirts and dresses that are very much fitted and funky and lovely – they just happen to not take a clerical collar.

Enter Christy. Well, technically, first enter some other tailors that didn’t have time to do it. THEN enter Christy. A very terrified Christy because OH MY GOODNESS girlfriend wants to get ORDAINED in this lovely black shirtdress and in order for that to happen I HAVE TO TAKE THE COLLAR OFF OF IT and then PUT IT BACK ON and it has to LOOK RIGHT. And also, KERRI WEREN’T YOU PAYING ATTENTION?! I sew Tinkerbell jammies for my kid for crying out loud – not REAL stuff. Ahem.

After Kerri promised me faithfully that even if the dress and the collar ended up in two totally separate pieces and never made it back together again that she would forgive me, I calmed the heck down and agreed to give it a go.

So here is a picture of a (really old and fairly beat up) clergy shirt next to the dress.

And this is what the clergy shirt looks like with the collar in it.

GOAL: Make the dress collar look like the clergy shirt collar – only a little less beat up. Awesome.

Before I did anything I took a TON of pictures of everything – but particularly the dress collar, since I figured I might need a reference point later.

I checked out the angle of the collar on the clergy shirt (oh yes I DID use a protractor). I also checked out the angle of the collar on the dress, and was really kind of surprised to learn that the angle is the same – 80 degrees. WHO KNEW? The main reason, as it turns out, that the dress collar looks so different has to do with the width of the collar – it’s about 1/4″ wider at the points than in the middle of the back, which makes it look like it dropped more. The clergy shirt stays more or less square all the way around. Now you know.

I made some notes; roughed out a game plan, and then got out the seam ripper. Eeeshk.

Here’s what I ended up doing:

1. Removed the collar from the shirt. (Easy! All good!).

2. Brought the ends of the collar in about 5/8″ on each side.

Basically I just turned the collar inside out and used the guide on my sewing machine to “shorten” the total length of the collar – I followed that 80 degree angle line easily
enough just using the guide. The point of this was to create more of a space between the points for the white collar to show through.

It was trickier than I thought it would be – every time I did it I’d flip it back right side out and pin it on the dress, and then sit the collar under it to see how it looked. I was being
fairly picky here, but it did take me a few iterations to get it right.

3. Reduced the width of the collar to about 1 3/4″ along the whole length – previously it was wider at the points.

4. Put the collar back on the dress.

This involved a few things – it took me about forty zillion tries to get the collar positioned perfectly, so that the points of the collar were even over the placket. I have NO idea why
this in particular was so hard but for whatever reason it was giving me trouble. So. Once I got that in there properly, I sewed it in place, re-topstitched the whole thing, and then
put a couple of bartacks in along the collar (they hold the collar in place for the clerical collar to slide into). You can see them in the picture of the clergy shirt above.

5. Added a snap.

We needed to do this because the original dress didn’t have a top button – so I put a small snap at the top of the placket to hold it closed under the collar.

And good gravy, if it didn’t work.

And Kerri is happy, so I am WAY happy. I think she looks awesome.

I’m actually insanely proud of how well this worked out – it definitely pushed me to try something I wasn’t entirely comfortable with, so I’m pretty excited that it worked out so well.

I’m also SO proud of Kerri, and the work she’s done to get to this point!! Yay Kerri!

One Comment leave one →
  1. Hubby permalink
    May 26, 2011 2:04 am

    I think this is a great niche which is under developed… 😉

    The little black dress? Just kidding.

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