1940s | Dresses

My First Maternity Dress

June 30, 2012

Yesterday I began work on my maternity dress!

The pattern is Hollywood 1366, from 1944.

As you all know, after cutting and marking your pattern, the first order of business is to take care of all darts.

I like to tie off my threads at the tip, clipping the excess threads to a little less that 1/4″.

For darts that are going to get a lot of lovin’, such as the bust darts, I stitch a line of reinforcement stitches about 1/16″ away from the dart line and tie off the same.  The reinforcement does not need to stretch the length of the dart–only the last inch or so.


This dress has side front panels that are rather triangle-shaped (they look like a vest here) and a front  panel that is straight and attached to the inner seams of the side fronts.  That sounds confusing, but it will make sense in a minute. 😀

I made darts in the bodice side fronts and back.  The bodice front didn’t need any work done to it prior to joining.

Next I had to put together the waistline belt ties!  I decided to cut these on the bias to contrast with the rest of the dress, which is cut on the grain.  I personally like the belt/tie to stick out a little. 🙂

BTW, isn’t this great fabric?  I love it!  Bought it at a thrift store the other day.  Six yards for $3!  Oh yeah.

Once I turned the ties, I topstitched 1/8″ around the outer edges to lend some solidarity, especially since they are cut on the bias and will be prone to stretch a bit.

Next I basted the ties onto the bodice front (forgot to take a picture of that one, sorry!) and then joined the bodice front to the bodice sides.  This is how the belt will be tied–it wraps around the back and then comes around to tie in the front.  Well, until you get more pregnant, that is!  As your belly grows larger, you will simply tie the belt in the back.

Here is a side view.  See how the front panel goes straight down and the sides are tucked underneath?  Snaps will hold this in place.  There will be several snaps on the bodice side panel for adjustments as your belly grows.

Here’s what it looks like all the way out!

So I did make one foolish blunder.  Well, two.  First of all, I got overzealous and forgot to plan out what sort of seam finishing I was going to do.  I joined the front to the sides and was about to stitch the back to the front at the shoulder seams when it occurred to me that I was going to have to finish the front seams first (duh!).  This fabric is loosely woven, so it definitely needed some good finishing.

 I decided to turn under my seam edges and hand stitch, like so.  I have completely forgotten what this particular finish is called (forgive me), but I love the way it looks.

Which brings me to my second blunder.  I made inverted notches when cutting out the pattern.  Not a good idea on loosely woven fabrics!  I had to do some major stitching-down at every spot where there was a notch.  Just hoping that it holds up.  Oh Bessie.

 Here is the end result!

Looks pretty nice!  Today, if I have time, I am going to finish finishing front seams and hopefully attach the bodice back to the bodice front.  I may do french seams in the skirt, just to save time.  Plus, french seams are pretty darn sturdy. 🙂

So what kinds of techniques do you like to use when making darts?  How about seam finishes?  Do you have a go-to favorite?

 Have a great weekend!


  1. Pattern sound great and material looks likewise; brilliant selection, Bessie!

    If still concerned about ‘blunder’ and it’s solidity:
    why not glue/secure it with fray-stop or the like and/or iron some iron-on material smalish elegantly over it?


  2. Thanks for the suggestion, Mynona! I never remember fray-stop, but it is exceedingly handy for things like this. I think I might have some somewhere in my sewing closet…

  3. I’ve given up cutting ‘notches’ after a similar experience with my first skirt that made it impossible to use self-finishing seams; nowadays I mark them with coloured tacks perpendicular to the seam line. Not so easy to line up (though they have the advantage over pen marks that you can at least do it by feel) but guaranteed not to damage the integrity of the garment!

    Otherwise you have to remember to cut notches protruding outwards rather than inwards – and to space your pattern pieces far enough apart to allow for this.

    Seam finishes: the finish shown above is a basic turned edge (and you could just as easily machine it). I used to use a lot of run-and-fell seams, which can only be done by hand as it involves hemming under one raw edge over the other; flat-fell is the machined equivalent which gives you a visible second line of stitching on the outside of the garment (sometimes desirable as a design feature). French seams are quicker than run-and-fell seams but don’t lie so flat – this is an advantage in semi-transparent fabric, as the doubled cloth hangs inside the garment rather than showing through the surface. The mantua-maker’s (or false French) seam is a handy ‘cheat’ if you forget you were planning a French seam and stitch your pieces together along the seam line first. Again, this is a hand-only finish – but it’s a *lot* quicker than running blanket stitch all the way along all your raw edges, which tended to be my alternative under those circumstances!

    You can bind raw edges with bias binding (for armholes, though I usually use a French seam here) or seam tape (for straight edges), but this costs extra. A self-bound seam is similar to a felled seam save that you are sewing the turned-over edge down onto the other half of the seam allowance rather than directly against the main panel of the garment.

    There are lots of seam finishes http://web.archive.org/web/20080608010154/http://vintagesewing.info/1910s/17-ad/ad-07.html
    but those are the only ones I’ve needed so far.

    One thing I haven’t needed (or got!) is a zig-zag stitch….

    1. Hello Harriet–

      Yes, cutting notches protruding outward is my usual habit when using loosely-woven fabrics, but this time I simply forgot to. I’ll blame it on pregnancy brain. 😉

      Thank you for the reminder of the name of the seam finish I used. I thought it was something simple like that. This particular fabric was extra ravel-y, so I felt better turning and stitching by hand. Besides, I prefer finishing by hand anyway. Call me crazy, but I could hand finish all day long. 😀

      Thanks for the comment and info!

  4. I wish I would have had something like this to wear when I was pregnant! Instead of notches, I just cut a short slit for each notch. It is pretty effective for me, and is easier to hide when I finish off the seams. I can’t wait to see it finished!

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