2-in-1 Sewalong: the Shirt Dress Collar

For you shirt dressers, I know you’ve been waiting some time for this tutorial, so hopefully you give it a try and like it. If you’ve ever stitched a notched collar according to pattern instructions before, you’ll find this method so much easier – at least I do! I learned this method from reading a Threads article, which is located here. Definitely read that article and bookmark it, and here I’ll be showing you how to do it with Simplicity 1880.

Before we just jump into sewing this thing, let’s go over the anatomy of a notched collar. This helps me visualize what pieces go together and how they work with each other to achieve a beautifully stitched collar. First of all there’s the notch. What exactly is the notch? This is something I never really knew until a few years ago. The notch is that V shape that looks like its been cut out of the collar and the dress bodice. It’s also the hardest part to stitch when using pattern directions and the method I’m going to show you makes it so easy! Yay! Next let’s have a look at the collar. The collar has an under collar and an upper collar. The under collar is the section of the collar that lays against the garment and the upper collar is the part you actually see because it’s facing upward. Within the collar there’s built in shaping that happens as you attach the collar to the garment. There’s the stand – this is the part that actually stands up and is against the neckline. Then there’s the fall and this is the part of the collar that falls away from the stand and the neckline. Make sense? The stand and the fall are not separate pattern pieces, they are merely the shaping elements within the collar. The under collar is attached directly to the garment’s neckline. The upper collar is applied to the back facing and the front facing (which is already attached to the front bodice).

Let’s go over what pieces are involved in attaching the collar here first. There’s the bodice front (piece #1, cut 2 of fabric), the back facing (#11, cut 1 of fabric, cut 1 of interfacing), the upper collar (#4, cut 1 of fabric) and the under collar (cut 1 of fabric, cut 1 of interfacing), which is a piece we added from this post here.

Be sure to mark the circle on the bodice front and clip the notches on all pattern pieces. Now let’s sew them up!

Step 1 ~ If you haven’t already, you need to apply your interfacing. Please note that for the bodice front piece there is a separate interfacing piece (#3). Now let’s stitch the collar first. With your interfaced under collar and your un-interfaced upper collar, you’ll stitch the collar around the longest edge and down the sides, leaving the notched edge free.

Step 2 ~ Grade the collar. To grade the collar, trim the undercollar down to 1/4″ and the upper collar down to 1/2″.

If you decided to do a rounded collar edge like I did, you’ll need to notch around the curved edge, if not, you’ll need to clip off the points of the pointed collar instead. Now, press.

I thought I would show you the benefits of having a point presser here because they making pressing and turning a collar a cinch.

With the collar placed on top of the point turner, press open the seam allowances of the collar.

Pressing the seam allowances open on the collar first, really makes a big difference when you turn it right side out and press it flat – something you’ll know if you’ve done it without a point presser. If you don’t have a point presser, you can also use a seam roll. Now turn the collar right side out and press flat.

As you press the collar flat, you might notice that the under collar (if you did indeed actually follow my tutorial) is helping the seamline of the collar roll to the under collar’s side – this is called favoring, by the way – and that’s a good thing. It makes the collar look even that much more professional. It’s also something that can be aided with understitching too. OK, let’s move on. The collar is now ready to be applied to the garment, so let’s prep the garment next.

Step 3 ~ Alright, now we’re going to apply the back facing to the front facings. With right sides together, stitch the front facings to the back facing with the notches of the back facing, facing upwards. Press seams open.

Step 4 ~ Now we can apply the collar. First we’re going to attach the under collar to the back bodice. With right sides together, pin the under collar to the back bodice, wrapping it around to the front bodice. Match the notches at the back and match the circle on the front bodice with the end of the collar. Stitch in place and end the stitching line about 1/4″ – 1/2″ from the ends of the collar.

Now, note that we’re only stitching the under collar to the bodice and not the collar as a whole. Make sense? So you’re actually stitching inside the collar.

Step 5 ~ Attach the upper collar to the back and front facing unit. With right sides together, pin the upper collar to the back/front facing unit, matching the notches at the back facing making sure that the upper collar ends right where the under collar ends at the circles (there are no circles on the facing unit in the front, but just fold that piece over from the pattern and mark where the circle would hit on the front facing). Stitch in place and end the stitching line about 1/4″ – 1/2″ from the ends of the collar.

Again, note that we’re only stitching the upper collar here, so you are still stitching inside the collar.

Step 6 ~ Now we’re going to sandwich all those layers together and stitch them all together through all layers (I know this sentence has all sorts of wrong stuff in it). Pin the attached collars wrong sides together and all the way around to the end of the bodice. Stitch in place. Grade the seam allowances. Clip the curves. Turn everything to the right side and press. Then finish the facings – a nice contrasting bias binding might look pretty nice!

Now that wasn’t so hard was it? I love this way of attaching a notched collar and find the result to be absolutely lovely – mine turns out every time! Let me know if you have problems, but hopefully this post has clarified and taken the mystery out of a notched collar application. Enjoy!



18 thoughts on “2-in-1 Sewalong: the Shirt Dress Collar

  1. Hmmm, if you reduce your seam allowances at the neckline for all pieces (collar, facing and garment) to 1/4 or 3/8 you could do away with a lot of the clipping and trimming. That’s been very helpful for me when I’ve made shirts for the spouse, especially with the collar stand. Well presented tutorial, thanks.

    1. Great point! Definitely worth a try next time. I will say that since there is quite a bit of bulk left along that seamline though, it really does help to have the seamline graded, even at 3/8 or 1/4 inches, you would still have a significant ridge.

  2. Mine came out great! When you mentioned using the back facing the other day, I figured it out. I made a coat that was put together this way but never would have thought to do the same thing on this dress on my own. Sooooo much easier.

  3. wow, i didnt really understand this, but just followed it half blind and when I tried the bodice on, I had a lovely fitting collar attached! like magic! I had less issues with this than the sleeve inserting! 😀

    1. It did turn out great! There are several ways of inserting a notched collar, and I think that was the biggest point that I wanted to get through. You can definitely follow the pattern directions and you can also try new ways of doing things like I showed here. In the end, its up to you what finished look you like best and what construction technique you felt was the most helpful.

    1. There are definitely other ways of installing a notched collar, but admittedly I find this way to be so wonderfully accurate and the end result is so lovely.

      1. I tried your tip for a shirt that I am sewing for my dad and it turned out great! Because the shirt did not have a back facing, I cut another piece of the yoke. I am very happy with the results.

        Next I am going to adopt your attaching sleeves method. Thanks Sunni for all your great tutorials!

    1. Thank you Emily! I’m really enjoying the rounded collar myself and am glad I ended up making that change, though I definitely like the look of the pointy collar too! Either one works great!

  4. I’ve never done a notched collar before, but after much anxiety (!) I got round to attaching mine today. Your tutorial was really easy to follow & I will definitely be bookmarking this one for future reference! Thanks 🙂

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