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Another art shirt. This time without a special print. Just nice white shirting fabric.

It is one of those ideas that had been sitting and brewing in my mind for a long time. Thinking about it, throwing the concept around, and never daring to give it a go. For at least three years I didn’t think I had the skills to make it. Until one day I got enough courage to try.

When I just started making shirts I looked at all the parts that make up a shirt. And pondered why they all were the way they were. And how you could change them. Different collars, different closures, different sleeves. I started looking at where the collar meets the placket. And then it struck me that a collar looks very much like a placket. Could I make a collar that turns into a placket? Or a placket that turns into a collar?

Making this possible would require a lot of experimentation on the dress form. Start with a shirt and a lot of paper, and keep tweaking until you have something that looks like what is in your mind. That was the plan.

There were multiple things I could do with the placket; have it extend from the collar in a diagonal and let it disappear somewhere in the side seam, go straight down the front, or some thing else? Down the front would not work, for you would not be able to make the collar turn into a placket smoothly. Making it go into the side seam seemed to distract from the concept I was trying to create. So I decided on making it go in a slow curve that would go down the right side of the shirt, just 4 or 5 inches right of centre.

I started with the collar pattern piece of my standard shirt, took off the seam allowance, and pinned it in place. Then added some paper to make the right side point straight down along the centre front. Traced that onto a new piece of paper and added a large piece to the left side. Pinned that in place and started sketching where the natural sweep of the collar would end up. With that established, I could start sketching where the curve down the front would end up on a larger piece of paper.

The transition from collar to the front of the shirt presented some issues. It was rather difficult to get it to follow the contours of the form. To solve this I started from both ends, the collar on one side, and bringing the placket up from the other. Then join them where they would meet, at the junction of the shirt front and the collar band. This turned into an interesting pattern piece.

With the collar drawn, I could start transferring the parts onto my regular pattern pieces. Using the centre front of the shirt and the collar band as a reference, I just positioned them on top of each other and traced onto a new piece of paper. It is a tracing paper I buy from art supply stores that I use almost exclusively for my pattern drawing and tracing. It is not flimsy, easy to see through, and available in long rolls of different widths.

What I could not figure out well was the shape the collar band should get. The collar is supposed to flow from collar to placket, but the collar band cannot flow into the front piece. The collar band would have to remain separate. I decided to just leave extra fabric on it on the left side and sculpt it while it was on the form. Even using the muslin to figure this out didn’t give me consistent results.

I had some beautiful dobby shirting in my stash that seemed perfect for this project. Making these weird pieces was an interesting experience. Only the back, the yoke, and the sleeves were normal. All the rest made me feel like I was learning how to make garments all over again. Because of the weird shapes, it also took a lot more fabric than a shirt normally would. Specially the collar and the back of the right-side placket.

The construction of the collar band went a lot easier than I expected. I just kept tweaking the end of the fabric until it sat right. Then I marked the crease and sewed along the marked line. After that I could attach the collar / placket and I could continue with the shirt construction as normal.

This design of the placket created a hidden button feature that went well with the overall look I was going for. Figuring our where the buttons should be took a little experimenting. I didn’t want to have a button every half an inch, and their position alters how well the front sections follow the contours of the body. There is still a slight ripple from my right shoulder to the collar / placket that shows sometimes. I couldn’t get rid of that without adding more buttons, or introducing other imperfections elsewhere.

This was a very fun project to do. Having thought about it for so long before I actually began its construction made a lot of the details easily fall into place. It turned out pretty much exactly as I had envisioned.

Why the question mark? Throughout the project I kept thinking that the main feature of the shirt looked like one.

Thanks for reading.

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