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Faux Suede Shirt-dress: A Fashion Classic thanks to Halston

Updated: May 18, 2023

Halston first saw ultra suede in Paris,1971. It was a fabric that would change the trajectory of his future and fashion forever.

Halston's first foray into ultra suede was to design a trench coat, based on his assumption that it would be water repellent. It was a beautifully designed coat that readily absorbed water; a happy accident that ultimately lead to the design of the "shirt waist dress", better known today as the shirt-dress.

Halston's shirt-dress was one of his most famous designs. Based on the subtle adaptation of a man's shirt but with sexier styling, it became a fashion staple of the 1970's. Halston perfected a luxe design by using a machine washable fabric. The shirt-dress became the go-to designer daytime look for a modern 70's woman.

Halston's shirt dress was officially known as Model Number 704. Introduced in 1972, its design elements made it more than just a copy of men's dress shirt. Halston created an oversized collar, tighter sleeves, smaller armholes and a more A-line silhouette. He placed the buttons to begin at the breastbone, not the neckline for a more modern sensual take on a classic shirt design. He also included a separate matching belt that was long enough to tie in a variety of ways. This signature garment was a menswear informed classic piece that reflected a quintessential, subtle unisex style.

It was these design elements that inspired me to recreate his famous shirt-dress. For my iconic shirt-dress I chose the Porter Dress pattern from Seamwork. Released in October 2022, the Porter Dress has the timeless styling I was looking for. This pattern perfectly recreated the famous Halston shirtdress for the #DesignDecember sewing challenge. A challenge that pushes you to recreate a garment based on a designer original. Using the Porter Dress pattern coupled with an incredibly soft luxurious faux suede fabric I had all the elements I needed for this year's recreation.

Porter's design needed very little tweaking in order to recreate my look. I omitted the original curved hem with facing and cut the hemline straight across at the knee. I had already adapted the sleeve, creating a longer sleeve option so I used this pattern mashing technique again. You can read all about those details here in my original Porter Dress post. The pattern came with a belt, so I lengthened it in order to create an extra long version that could be wrapped twice around the waist or tied long with a bow. I didn't adjust the original button closure as I like a full collar closure, but I did use some left over leopard print rayon to recreate the neck scarf seen on the Halston model in my inspiration photo. I chose not to wear the belt for these photos as a tunic style dress is better suited to my body shape.

Halston loved a "loose-fitting, yet clingy" style dress that flowedand was unencumbering. My Porter Dress version is just that! Halston's dress eptimized what women wanted to wear in a "soft seventies" way; a look that is still popular and on-trend today.

Halston's Model Number 704 is everything that the 70's was- chic, fun and stylish. It is a great dress designed by one of America's greatest designers. An original design that stands up to the scrutiny of fashion critics today and inspires shirt-dress patterns like my Porter Dress. Well done Seamwork team, you have created your own take on a classic dress, allowing an iconic design to live on in our sewing creations for years to come.


Happy Shirt- Dress sewing,

Lou Sheffer




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