I had a wedding to go to last month, and a relatively last-minute amount of time in which to make something for it. I’ve always wanted to really nicely fitted tuxedo-style shirt, and this seemed the perfect opportunity.
For this shirt, I used optic white mercerized cotton shirting, which sews up gorgeously but holds onto any and all markings — unfortunately, some of my yellow chalk markings have lingered even after a vigorous wash, leaving it a bit dingy. A good reminder to always test markings first!
I picked up my Cashmerette Harrison pattern where I had left off with my last version. Having worn that version around a good few times, I had identified a few fit issues to take care of:
- Move the shoulder seam forward 1″ to take care of the collar falling backwards on my rounded upper back
- Bring the waist in by 1″ total to make tucking in easier
- Increase the built-in swayback adjustment by taking a 1/2″ wedge from the center back
- Lengthen the sleeves by 1/2″
With those taken care of, I was ready to make the style changes that would bring this more in line with a tuxedo shirt. Specifically, I:
- Added a band of 1/4″ tucks down each center front piece
- Eliminated the front button plackets and replaced with a folded-over dress-shirt style front
- Used the collar stand piece to draft a pointed tuxedo collar
- Changed the barrel cuffs to French cuffs
For the tucks, I began before cutting any of my pattern pieces. Cut a length of fabric as tall as your shirt center front (including the shoulder), then measure 3.5″ from the center edge. Leave that section bare (to become your button band), and at the 3.5″ mark create your first vertical tuck. I did 1/4″ but up to 5/8″ would look nice. Honestly, sewing tucks is a pain in the ass and mine are not at all perfectly parallel — experiment on some scrap fabric and figure out a marking and stitching technique that works for you (and if you have a foolproof one, share it here!). The total width of your tucked section can vary, too, as long as you don’t make it wider than the shirt-front piece – mine is narrow, about 2″ wide.
Do that twice, then cut your shirt front piece by lining up the edge of the center front pattern piece 1/2″ from the first tuck — remember, that extra 3.5″ will become your front placket! Add a 1″ strip of interfacing down the center front, then fold over 1″ twice until you have a center front that is 1.5″ wide before the first tuck. Baste or glue-stick in place (your buttons/buttonholes will hold it down).
For the collar, I referenced this section, which looks to be from David Coffin’s Shirtmaking Workbook (add to wishlist!), and sketched out a new collar using the collar stand piece. This is not, strictly speaking, how a traditional tuxedo collar would work, but it’s good enough for a tuxedo-inspired shirt!
Finally, the French cuffs. I had used French cuffs on my last version as well — because of these lovely Fine & Dandy cufflinks! — but wanted to finesse my method of application to avoid gaping above the wrists.
To draft a French cuff is dead simple: cut the seam allowance off the top of your cuff pattern, then double it so it’s the same width but twice as tall. You sew them on just the same (with one exception, below), then fold the cuff in half and instead of adding a button and buttonhole, add four small buttonhole all stacked up for your cufflinks.
Because the cuff ends don’t overlap, instead meeting with all stitched edges out, you can get gaping at the wrist due to the construction of the placket. This is easy to fix, though! Before cutting your sleeve, add 1/4″ to each side of the sleeve, tapering from mid forearm to the wrist, so that the end of your sleeve is 1/2″ longer. Sew your placket on and baste your pleat as normal, but when you insert the sleeve end into the cuff, fold the small placket in once.
If you look at the seam where the cuff meets the sleeve, you see that the edge of the cuff lines up with the stitched edge of the placket, with the folded edge turned under. This way, when your French cuff is assembled, your plackets will still lie nicely on top of each other — even better if you add a button!
Add your favorite snazzy pair of cufflinks and dance the night away! For more about how this lines up with gender and queerness, check out my Sew Queer post on femme dandy formalwear!