Make Your Own Basics: The button-down shirt

Handmade Wardrobe Basics: The button-down shirt

For a very long time, I’ve been trying to do a blog post — an overwhelmingly large blog post — that’s basically a roundup of patterns for knitting the array of basics that every high-functioning wardrobe depends on. I’ve finally come to the realization that it can’t (and shouldn’t) be done in a single post, and also that if the goal is to encompass the building blocks, well, that takes both knitted and sewn pieces. Many of us are striving to make as much of our wardrobes as possible with our own two hands (whether “as possible” means 5% or 50% or 100%), so my goal here, ultimately, is to compile a nice tidy set of patterns to work from. Here you’ll find nothing fancy or on-trend — just the basics, sure the stand the test of time.

I imagine most of these posts will include a small number of patterns that would fit the particular bill in various ways, but I’m kicking it off with maybe the greatest wardrobe workhorse of all — the button-down shirt — and in this case I’m featuring just one pattern: the Archer Button Up Shirt by Jen Beeman of Grainline Studio. Now, as you may know, Jen and I have collaborated on a pattern and become pals in the process. But long before I knew Jen, I knew how highly regarded this pattern was/is. And if you’re making a garment this necessary and detailed and fitted, you want it to be drafted by an honest-to-goodness professional pattern drafter. So one of these days, when I’m ready to brave sewing my own button-down, it’s Archer I’ll turn to.

23 thoughts on “Make Your Own Basics: The button-down shirt

  1. Agreed about Archer! I love the way Jen writes her patterns – lots of information for those of us new to the process, but not so much that you get overwhelmed (or to clutter up the pattern for more experienced sewists).

    The Archer Popover is on the top of my sewing queue – in a pretty Robert Kaufman Chambray for spring/summer. Thanks to Jen for making such a wardrobe staple, workable pattern!

  2. Very nice shirt. I have been making button down shirts for husband, son, daughter, myself for many years. I have used Burda patterns that have a great fit. I have used Vogue shirts that have a perfect fit.I don’t see a need for a new pattern. Sorry, but that’s me.

  3. The Archer has been on my radar (as has the Negroni pattern from Colette); however, I’m a little scarred by the fact that I took a dress shirt class years ago and never finished the shirt. I also chose crazy colours (what was I thinking?!). But if my local shop offers a class, I might just take another stab at it. I happen to love button-down shirts.

  4. Elliot Gantmacher (Gant shirts) just died and I was interested to see that the button-down shirt was a style borrowed from British polo players. The Gant brothers popularized the style in the 40s and it became de rigor for Ivy League and Madison Avenue men!

  5. great choice. i haven’t made this one yet either but have been drooling over everyone else’s versions for a long time. Definitely a must on my to do list. now i just need to find the time to sew again.

  6. Double thumbs up! I just finished my first Archer shirt, and I see many more in my future. I pretty much own all of Jen’s patterns and just love them. My obsession with her Alder Shirtdress last summer (I made three versions in quick succession) is what catapulted me down the sewing rabbit hole.

  7. I made an Archer some time ago out of pink cotton lawn. This weekend, I took it out of storage for a wash and iron for the summer and was admiring some of the details; the two-piece undercollar cut on the bias and the unique shape of the cuff. It’s the one shirt I’ve made that required no fitting mods, except to grade out one size larger at the hips. The trip down memory lane led me to search through my pattern collection for the Archer for some more summer blouses.

  8. I always find your sewing posts to be so inspiring. They make me want to do the thing you’ve posted about. While I fearlessly take on knitting projects, I find sewing MUCH more challenging.

    Of all wardrobe items, I’d love to sew a shirt, but I’m so terrified that it won’t fit me. I have some expensive shirts that I absolutely love because they have more shaping for my bust and more buttons in that area (my main problem with button down shirts are that they just don’t fit my H cups).

    • My size is a bit larger than the largest size Grainline offers so I contacted them asking for ways to upsize their patterns. They were very helpful, sending detailed suggestions, so I’d recommend sending out an email for some feedback on how to deal with your particular needs.

  9. I’ve made two Archers, one with the modification of a band collar. I love the fit, the classic shape and the pattern. It’s a classic to be made over and over. In fact, I have fabric for the new popover version….just gotta get to it. One of these days …

  10. Agree 100%, a wonderful idea for a series I’m looking forward to read. And I hope you will a round-up post with all links at the end, a sort of reference checklist for the Handmade Wardrobe Basics.

  11. I am making my first Archer shirt now in a “white clay” colored double gauze. I’m so excited because it’s a white(ish) button down..but it’s not sheer so I don’t have to layer.

  12. having my eye for a while on the Archer shirt :)… it seems to be the classic shirt that one needs to have in the wardrobe and with the popover variation, it’s really versatile…. looking forward to your handmade basic wardrobe series!

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