Pattern hacks

A shirt can also be a light jacket. 2 CUTE Tropicana Shirts (Wardrobe by Me).

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Sewing with wovens was my first love and continues to be what I am drawn to, even though sewing woven styles might take a little longer, I am a sucker for the pretty classic styles. The Tropicana shirt from Wardrobe by Me fits the bill and has a thousand features that have always been my favorite, all in one pattern. Also, a shirt can also be a light jacket and this pattern is perfect for it.

Use the code tropicana10 for 10% OFF your Tropicana Shirt pattern through the 26th of March 2021.

The Tropicana Shirt was inspired from the Men’s Tropical Shirt, an older pattern in the Wardrobe by Me catalogue. Though they are similar, they are certainly NOT the same. Spot the differences?

Features of the Tropicana Shirt

The Tropicana shirt is designed for woven fabrics and features so many details that I have always enjoyed.

The collar and lapel have the option of being rounded or squared, and the bust pocket has the same option too. The construction method is the classic type that snips into a small section of the upper collar for a clean finish inside. The front facings have 5 buttons down the center.

Along the side seams you will find slits finished neatly inside. The back has a center seam sewn using French seams (I love that).

These raglan sleeves have two pieces, a front and a back, and this seam incorporates a “shoulder dart” (that you can’t see) that is always necessary on woven raglan sleeve designs. The length can be to the elbow or 3/4″ and along this center seam, you have a deep hem with small slits that have the coolest sewing technique.

Of course we have a bust dart for shaping and I am always a fan of this fitting feature.

My choice this time:

I sewed the collar, lapel and bust pocket with “corners” and not the curves edges. I made two versions, and I made both sleeve lengths: elbow & 3/4. My top stitching was selective and only in some areas of the shirts.

Best fabrics for the Tropicana Shirt

You probably already have the right type of woven fabric in your collection for the Tropicana Shirt. Honestly, most will work very well, even (dare I say it) a pleasant quality soft quilting cotton will work! See all the suggestions above. Both flowy and structured fabrics will give a distinct look, but they will all work.

I chose a light 100% rayon with texture and swiss dot details for my elbow length version and a medium weight linen/rayon blend for my 3/4 length version.

Things to consider in your choice

You will find the instructions that both the under collar pieces and the upper collar are interfaced. I did this with my red rayon version, but only interfaced the upper collar on my linen version. Maybe consider this depending on how light for fabric is.

There is plenty of top stitching shown in the line art and instructions. Depending on the fabric, you could only do some of it. Light fabric sometimes does not cope too well with a lot of top stitching. My red version only has the raglan sleeves and center back seam top stitched.

Sizing discussion

The Tropicana Shirt is semifitted and there is no excessive positive ease in the drafting. When worn as a shirt over the skin, the ease is appropriate. See above in the chart. I made my red rayon version in the size that matches my body measurements, size 16.

I wanted my linen version to be a little jacket, to be worn over a dress or top. This was my intent from the get go, so I sized one full size up, to a size 18, to have a little more positive ease to fit the layers I am planning to wear under this “jacket version”.

If you prefer your woven garments a little looser, you may want to consider sewing one size above your body measurements. Ease is always a personal preference. I prefer semifitted for a shirt, but you might not and that’s the beauty of sewing, we can sew the way we prefer.

Blending sizes

You can select several sizes when you use the layers function. You will need to start with the bust size to choose the base size. The style is semifitted at the bust and it needs to fit well there. Then you need to draw smooth curved from the bust to a larger or smaller size at the waist and hips.

The waist area has about 7.5″of positive ease, so if your waist falls into 1 size larger than the bust and hips, you might not need to blend to another size at the waist.

Personal Fitting adjustments

I have a certain preference for a finished length that reaches my full hip but does not cover my bottom. I know how long a shirt needs to be to have the length I prefer and comparing that to the finished measurements, I added 1.5″ to the front and back pieces at the shorten and lengthen line.

Lowering the bust dart is a given and I will need to do this with 99% of patterns and all the brands. The amount I need to lower the dart varies, and in this case, it’s 1″.

Sewing considerations

  • The seam allowance for all the seams is 3/8″ EXCEPT for the center back seam.
  • The center back seam uses a 1/2″ seam allowance to make French Seams easier. Both steps are sewn with 1/4″ seam allowance. This center back seam is top stitched.
  • For my linen version, I serged the edges of the two center backs separately, sewed the seam normally with 1/2″ seam allowance and pressed it open. This fabric is too heavy for French seams, in my opinion.
  • You will see lots of marks on the sleeve piece. These are references for the two folds of the hem and the slits on the hem. Mark them all carefully. They will help you later! I LOVE THESE SLITS!
  • Fold away the extra length if you are sewing the elbow length sleeve, no need to cut it and you might want to sew the longer sleeve later too.
  • The collar and lapel use the traditional method of cutting a snip in the upper collar. The front facing reaches the shoulder seam on the inside. The Wardrobe by Me YouTube channel has a helpful video with the full step by step for sewing the convertible collar. I have sewn my red version in this way.
  • There is a non-traditional method to sew the collar that involves an extra facing on the back and that makes the process fast and easy…. no snipping required.
  • I suggest pinning a reference point at your bust height to have a button there. This will prevent gaping. From that reference point, you can calculate the distance to the button above and below this point. The buttonhole marks on the pattern might not match your bust height.
  • Place the bust pocket on your body first to make sure you are happy with the placement. Again, the mark on the pattern might not match your preference. These marks are only suggestions.

The videos on YouTube

I was commissioned to produce a video for the Wardrobe by Me YouTube channel about the Tropicana Shirt (this is paid work for me as a content creator). On this video you’ll see:

  • Overview of the pattern pieces
  • Optional block fusing
  • Stay Stitching the neckline
  • Assembling the two-piece raglan sleeves
  • Sewing the sleeve slit neatly and in full detail
  • Setting in the raglan sleeves “on the round” and top-stitching them

I made another video for my channel (I made this one independently) and you will see my own twist to the project here:

  • A full pattern review discussing features, fabric choices, and sizing
  • Sewing footage that includes an overview of the pattern pieces, AND
  • My secrets to a fast and easy convertible collar: an extra back facing. See how to draft it and how to sew the collar and facings for a neat finish.
  • 2 modeled look books to see the garments on in motion

Let’s see my two Tropicana Shirts

RED: light rayon version with elbow length sleeves

Red is my favorite color and I’m happy to have this gorgeous Tropicana Shirt in my wardrobe. I have paired it to self-drafted black skirt made from my skirt block (to my measurements) and this red/black combo is a classic favorite of mine.

Rayon is a great choice. Very fresh and soft on the skin, though a little harder to work with than other more structured fabrics. This rayon has texture, and that’s what I look for in a solid color fabric.

I took these photos in the rain, but never mind! It’s still very hot and the rain won’t dampen my happiness in my beautiful red shirt 🙂

BLACK & WHITE: Medium weight Linen/Rayon blend with 3/4 length sleeves. A shirt can also be a light jacket

I had planned a Tropicana Shirt “jacket” for quite some time and I chose a classic Black linen with some small white print for a classic versatile look. The 3/4 length is perfect and a light jacket like this will be trans-seasonal for me. My winter never gets too cold.

Black and white means that this will work with all the other solid color items in my wardrobe. I have the same black skirt and a fitted cami top underneath here. I could easily swap the skirt out for trousers and jeans. I’m so happy that I can also have a jacket with the Tropicana shirt pattern.

With this one, I went the extra mile and hand hemmed it and didn’t top stitch anything. All in the goal of giving this one an extra clean, more formal look.

Final Thoughts

Would I make the Tropicana Shirt again? Yes!

Yes! I have it in my mind to make a couple in actual tropical print. I have a few options of gorgeous tropical print rayon in my fabric collection that would be perfection. Having made the Tropicana shirt a few times, already, means that for the next ones, I can relax…. the fitting is done and I know exactly how to sew every detail. I’m excited to make more! I also would love to make a shirt dress based on the Tropicana shirt. I have other shirt dresses, but none with raglan sleeves and the details that this lovely pattern offers.

Remember to use the code tropicana10 for 10% OFF your Tropicana Shirt pattern through the 26th of March 2021. I hope to have motivated you to pull out your favorite wovens to make yourself a classic shirt soon!

Disclaimer: I purchased all my fabric. I produce sewing content independently from pattern brands and share my unique way of sewing with you. I don’t necessarily follow instructions rigidly. My opinions are honest, especially around fit and sewing techniques.

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