1940s | Dresses | Vintage Sewing

1940s Red Dress Showdown (Du Barry Edition): Sweetheart vs. Peplum

January 26, 2012

1940s Du Barry Dress Showdown Enevelope Illustration with my croquis

I totally went back in time to 1942 and posed for some Du Barry pattern envelope illustrations!

Vintage lovers, I have the most exciting news for you! I HAVE BENT THE FABRIC OF THE SPACE-TIME CONTINUUM… all in the name of sewing, of course.

The idea came to me when I showed my husband the below two vintage pattern envelopes and asked him which dress would be more sexy and adorable for our upcoming Valentine’s Day date.

“Sorry babe,” he said, “It’s really hard to tell—those illustration models are way too bony!” (Apologies to the more slender among you–this is his husbandly way of saying “honey, you look great the way you are”, and I won’t pretend I don’t love it.)

So I tinkered around with some presser feet, rick rack and stretch lace for a bit, cobbled together a workable time-travel device, and paid a visit to the Du Barry pattern studios. I was like “Guys, all your super-stylized illustrations make it hard for the not-totally-waspwaisted among us way-in-the-future seamsters/seamstresses to picture how a dress will look on our actual bodies” and they were like “Wow, that’s an excellent point.”

Sadly I lost the device on my journey home, but c’est la vie! Anyway, the dress pros and cons:

Du Barry 5525 (early 1940s?):

  • Pros: Sweetheart neckline, reverse sweetheart fitted hip yoke, beautiful drapey skirt.
  • Cons:Will require grading up a size, something I’ve never attempted. And the sweetheart isn’t as low-cut as I’d like. Also, I’m totally nervous about attempting 40s shoulder pads for the first time–I have really narrow shoulders!

Du Barry 5505 (1942):

  • Pros: Love the princess seams, love the skirt gores, LOVE THE PEPLUM. Also, no grading–just a little tweaking of fit and my usual major FBA.
  • Cons: Neckline super high, not very sexy. I tried to mitigate this in my croquis sketch by colorblocking and making the sleeves into cap sleeves, but not sure if it worked.

I did play with some other color options, but red clearly won the day:

1940s Du 1940s Du Barry Dress ShBarry Dress Showdown Alternative Color Options

For fabric, I went a-swatching at my favorite Garment District store, Paron’s:

Fabric swatches for vintage 40s dress

They were having a store-wide 30-60% off sale, so I didn’t limit myself to the half-off annex this time. My options were (clockwise starting with the purple):

  1. Purple rayon crepe. (Not red, but it was the only rayon crepe in the annex).
  2. Christian Dior red rayon/silk blend. Really nice but a bit orange-y in real life (and this is the rare case where I didn’t want orange.
  3. Deep red silk crepe with a hint of stretch.
  4. Lovely soft thin 100% wool crepe.
  5. Lovely soft thick wool/nylon/stretch blend crepe.

The wool/nylon/stretch was my initial favorite—I just love working with wool, whether sewing or knitting—and would have been perfect for the bodice… but it was too thick and didn’t have enough drape for the skirt. I went back the next day to get the red silk crepe stretch mainly because it looked so awesome when I stood in front of a mirror trying to pretend the bolt was a real dress.

And there you have it. So: who wins the showdown? Which dress would YOU make? I’ve already chosen, but I’m not telling—yet.

P.S. This is a case where a croquis really comes in handy, as I demonstrated recently in my little “How to Dress Your Digital Dress Form” demo/tutorial video (see related blog post for references, tips and details):

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LfvgPBQWWic&w=420&h=315]

Cross-posted to my blog.

  1. I was too busy being delighted by the envelopes and video to pick a winner 😉 I’ve linked to this post from the Vintage Sewing Academy section in the site menu. Nice work.

  2. The neckline is my one quibble with vintage patternage. Most of them have higher, more closed in necklines than modern designs. The solution is simple–trim off the seam allowance around the neckline. Anyway, I vote for 5525–it looks good on you!

  3. While I love the sweetheart neckline on 5525, my vote is 5505, and notch up the sex appeal by lowering the neckline (as in your illustration) and doing it in a sheer. Va-va-voom!!!

  4. I don’t think the gathering at the neckline of the left would be flattering in person. I want to mix and match. I like the top from the left, but with the sleeves you rendered for the right. I also think I like the skirt from the right better. I think it really comes down to that neckline difference. The sweetheart neckline is a sure winner in my book. Good luck, and let us know what you choose!

  5. OOhhh!!!I LOVED your post!! it was great to see you in those patterns envelops!! Well, I don’t know if you already decided which one, but I think you will look great with the 5505 BUT use the neckline of the 5525

  6. 5525! Hands down I would pick this one for going out on a date, Valentine’s or otherwise. It just has that dressy, elegant, sexy vibe. The other dress does not say evening wear as much to me, though it is super cute and stylish.

  7. Oh my goodness! While the dress without the peplum is slightly ahead in my affections, it’s your digital croquis that has stolen my heart. I’m very impressed (I can barely draw simple shapes in MS paint) by your digital self-representation!

    I also love that red silk crepe (there’s something so romantic about silk, especially on Valentine’s Day).


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