Polka Dot Overload: An Introduction

March 11, 2010

Greetings, Sew Retro readers! Mikhaela here. I’m a cartoonist and graphic designer with delusions of making as many of my own clothes as possible and an irrational attraction to bright colors, bold prints, stripes, polka dots, spirals, peplums, sweetheart necklines and sewing projects far out of my skill set.

I’ve recently gotten back into sewing with a vengeance after a five-year-hiatus, and as a girl with a pronounced hourglass figure (hello, extreme FBAs), I’ve always loved the curve-hugging styles of the 40s and 50s. I have a modest vintage pattern collection from those eras, but had always been too nervous in the past to actually take them out of their delicate yellowed envelopes and, well, SEW them.

I recently lost my nervousness about damaging my patterns (thanks to a nice big roll of translucent pattern tracing cloth) and was all set to dive into my first vintage sewing project–but there was just one little hitch. I’m extremely pregnant–27 weeks to be exact. So my first vintage sewing project sadly could NOT be this wasp-waisted, scallop-necked beauty:

Vintage Simplicity 3045 Slenderette Dress

So I scoured Ebay and Etsy for vintage maternity patterns that did not resemble tents or muu-muus (NOT easy) and ended up with these three lovelies…

A 1940s jumper/blouse combo with adorable sweetheart-esque neckline and peter pan collar:

Vintage McCalls 8652 Maternity

It may not LOOK maternity, but what appear to be pleats are created by snaps that can be unsnapped to accommodate an expanding figure (see scan of the pattern instructions here). Except my figure is already so expanded that it’s probably too late for this one. Next!

A 1950s Lucy-like polkadot faux shirtwaist dress with collar and self-fabric belt (and a not-so-exciting tent coat option):

Vintage Simplicity 3465 Maternity

It uses a similar snap scheme for waist expansion, but the odd thing is that the waist is a natural, and not empire waist–so I tried to picture how it would look on me now that my waist is long gone:

Vintage Simplicity 3465 Sketch

I even went as far as buying the pictured fabric, but I remained skeptical of the waist problem. Which led me to a surprising (for me) era…

The 1978 tie-waist empire dress (with unappealing shapeless muu-muu option):

Vintage McCalls 5921 Maternity Wardrobe

The sketch was much more promising:

Vintage McCalls 5921 Sketch

I’ve been working on it on and off for weeks–considering how relatively shapeless and loose-fitting the pattern was, it required two muslins to get a perfect fit:


I had hoped to have it ready for my baby shower last weekend, but that didn’t work out, so it’ll be debuting at my cousin’s bar mitzvah Saturday. Full pattern alteration details and finished object photos to come!

So that’s me. Also: I’ve been blogging about cartooning since 2002, but just started my own sewing, style and body image blog, Polka Dot Overload. Thus far I have chronicled my sewing origins, reminisced about some of my best dresses, shared cartoons about your yucky body and shared some sketches and some striped love. Come pay me a visit!

  1. Wow, what an amazing introduction! Thanks for walking us through that process – and with such great illustrations! Your dress is going to be gorgeous, can't wait to see the FO.

  2. Your illustrations should be on every pattern ! One of the reasons I don't sew retro is that I have a very hard time imagining what the end result will be.

  3. Aw, I loved this post. Vintage maternity wear can be…interesting, shall we say. My favorites are the skirts with the tummy cut out underneath the waistband from the 40s/50s. I still don't understand how they work!

  4. I made that actual dress for my sisters wedding. I was six months pregnant. My baby is now 31. I made it with a light blue knit. It was one of my favorite dresses.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.