Friday, July 5, 2024

A retired lawyer's dress ensemble

As a retired person, I'm still trying to figure out what my new "look" is. For years, it was tailored. Suits, separates, dresses and coordinating jackets. Now it's ... what? Comfy clothes? Well yes, but I don't want this to be obvious. For years, at least since the pandemic, I've been trending to "secret pajamas". More stretch, more function, less structure. But I still like a well-constructed outfit. 

Enter my new dress and "jacket" ensemble, my latest foray into non-tailored separates.

This is the new Jenna shirt from Closet Core, coupled with the Rova dress from Jalie. 

As you know, if you are a regular reader, I've made a few big shirts recently. I think these function really well as jackets in warmer weather. Something to ward off the chill in an air conditioned interior, or on a patio on a cooler evening. 

However, I hadn't loved the patterns I had tried. The Phen shirt is deeply unsatisfactory on a number of levels even though I still love some of its details. The Olya shirt is no better, from a pattern drafting perspective. Don't get me wrong. I wear the garments I made from these patterns. They work (the Olya more so than the Phen, which is just awkward) for the wearable jacket stand-in ward-off-the-chill purpose. But I didn't love sewing them.

Enter Jenna. This is just a breath of fresh air after the mannered or even contorted drafts of the other patterns. It is a standard shirt. But it is a "big" shirt. It is wider and longer than a standard tailored shirt. It has a lovely collar with stand (2 piece) that fits really well. The pattern has a separate under collar piece, and the seam allowances for these small pieces is reduced to 1 cm. The method for constructing the collar is really good! I appreciate the attention to detail that has gone into these decisions.

The shirt has deep shirt tails with a little triangle of reinforcement. It has a placket that looks really professional. It's all provided for in this pattern. I actually shortened the shirt by 5cm and think I could have reduced the length even more without losing the "big shirt" vibe.
I made this shirt from linen - actually a remnant from another sewer that I acquired for a measly $10 (CAD) at the Fabric Flea Market in May. It has an interesting and very irregular stripe with build in texture. I was delighted when I discovered a coordinating remnant in my own stash of yellow linen - from a dress I probably made in about 2005. There was enough of this plainer weave to make the Rova dress (with pockets) and to use for the details in my shirt (including the under collar, collar stands, plackets and yoke lining).

And enough left over for the Rova too, even though I almost screwed it up!

Rova has a pocketed and non-pocketed view, as well as a tunic length. The pieces required for the pocketed skirt are the front skirt (with pocket cut-out), the back skirt and the tunic length FRONT pieces (with and without the cut out). Well, after a glass of wine, I cut out the tunic length of the back, which is narrower than the front. 

Further (also after the aforementioned glass of wine) I realized I needed to cut a back seam due to lack of fabric and that I could put the seam along the selvedge, but failed to notice that the selvedge was MUCH wider than the seam allowance I was adding. 

Oops! I did not have extra fabric to re-cut for either mistake. 

I was able to finesse the pocket issue by splitting my too-narrow pocket piece in the middle and sewing two vertical seams that split the kangaroo pocket (as designed) into two still very large pockets. Honestly, this is probably an improvement, from a functional perspective.

Betcha can't see it...
I fixed the too-narrow back by cutting a strip that sits between the front and back skirt pieces at the side seam. I can now (a couple of weeks later) barely remember this fix, which is really quite invisible. As you can (or may not be able to) see at right.

The Rova, like most Jalie patterns, is carefully drafted with great details and finishes supplied in the instructions. In the case of this dress, you finish the neck and armhole edges with self fabric bias strips. The pattern includes a piece for cutting the bias and tells you precisely how long each piece should be. No guessing; it turns out perfect!

Finally, in keeping with the fact that everything else in this outfit is a remnant, I knitted a length of i-cord using left-over yarn from this knitting project instead of using purchased cord or sewing a fabric belt. A deep stash is truly a wondrous thing! I only had to buy the pattern and some buttons for the shirt. 


  1. I don't even know what I clicked on to bring me here, Kay, but I'm glad for it, whatever it was - ha! I can so relate to how retirement changes a person's wardrobe needs. I used to make LOTS of tailored jackets, because I love them, but I find I just don't have a need for them anymore. I love your idea of the big shirts, and your rendition of the Jenna is fabulous! (And that pattern didn't even call my name upon first glance.) I've been kind of casually looking for a big shirt pattern that could be tied at the waist, and this may be it. With your Rova dress, it's a hard combination to beat. :o) Annette P.S. I JUST got some real pretty yellow linen from Great minds and all that.

  2. As a recently semi-retired person, this post about finding your clothing identity after retirement chimes with me too. I think you've nailed the look perfectly with its smart casual vibe. And such a good save with the dress, you're right I can't see the join unless I look really hard for it.

  3. Vancouver BarbaraJuly 6, 2024 at 9:52 AM

    That is a very smart-looking ensemble. Polished yet casual.The shirt fabric is stunning. You look wonderful in it. Well done for the saves! Brava

  4. Nice shirt and dress. I'm trying to figure out the retirement wardrobe too, though, I'm shifting out of business casual look. After a few months, it's obvious that fewer clothes are needed, though I still want and love to sew ... clothes.

  5. It took me a long time to figure out my new "retirement" wardrobe. I'd say you did great with your choices. This ensemble is perfect for "life" and looks awesome on you. I still miss getting a bit more formally dressed but not sure many do that any more, even at work. I've gone the route of statement tops and simple pants, at least for now. Comfort is critical.