1950s | Dresses | Vintage Sewing

Any tips and tricks for sewing from a vintage pattern

July 4, 2012

Hi We Sew Retro-ers!  I’m a long time stalker and a first time post-er.  I am about to start my very first vintage pattern project and I was hoping that the We Sew Retro community might be able to throw a couple of tips and tricks my way.  I’m trying to decide between 3 patterns – the Vintage Vogue reprint pattern 8811 and these two.

I’ve read all the pattern instructions and they all seem do-able.  I’m a self taught beginner sewer and I try and challenge myself with each new sewing project.  I will be tracing the pattern (thanks to some really big windows in my apartment), and I’ll be making a muslin version first and then figure out where I need to make adjustments on the pattern.  I’m hoping to start it this weekend, so I can wear it all summer long!

  1. I was just eying that Vogue pattern the other day! So cute! You are tracing your pattern pieces and planning on a muslin so you’re well on your way to making this a successful project!

  2. Actually, unless maybe the matterns is very old (mid-1930’s or earlier) it’s pretty much like sewing from a modern pattern.

    I’m honestly not sure why people feel they need tops when transitioning from modern to vintage patterns: As long as you follow the directions (or at least read them before you start so you know where you’re going, even if you decide not to folow them exactly), there aren’t many drastic differences. I actually find the markings on modern patterns distracting and confusing. Measure yourself beforehand so you know where to alter, cut carefully, mark dots (for pocket placing, etc.), and obey seam allowances, and things should go together just fine. Since you’re making a muslin, anyway, you can’t really go wrong.

    The only other thing I would make sure you now is that, if the images you posted here are images of the actual patterns you own, half-sizes are for petites. I didn’t know that and once made a half-size dress whose waistline was up around my ribs. If you’re not petite, you’ll need to lengthen things.

  3. Actually, HALF sizes only partly correspond to modern petites. They are short-waisted, but primarily they are for “mature” figures, or in other words the waist and hips are thicker (and for some reason the shoulders smaller) relative to other size ranges. TEEN sizes are more like a modern petite, being short but with the waist/hip proportions pretty much the same as the standard MISSES. And for the truly petite woman, the GIRL size range offers a very short waist and narrow hip to the same bust and waist dimension. WOMEN’s sizes are at the other end of the spectrum, being of regular height and proportion, but larger, past the misses’ sizing.

    There’s a good explanation here:

    All in all, just yet another reason always to make a muslin first!

  4. My first ever finished version of a vintage dress was very similar to the 9290 pattern (exact same collar but slightly more detailed pattern with in skirt welt pockets and more a-line skirt as well) and I love it!! It’s my favorite dress i’ve made and I wear it pretty much once a week. I’d go for that one!! Overall i’ve had great luck with both printed and unprinted vintage patterns so there is nothing to fear!

  5. I’m 5’9½ and regularly use vintage half-size patterns (including the Mail Order ones which are really straightforward to sew with). I’m neither short nor long waisted yet I find I barely need to lengthen at the waist (skirt hems though, I add 3 to 4 inches). Where I gain length is by ignoring the top and bottom seam allowances of the bodice and sewing closer to the edge – that’s usually enough to do the trick. The trick is to check the pattern piece against your body in advance, which gives a fair idea of whether there’s a need to lengthen, where and how much.

  6. The only suggestion I could add is that the Vintage Vogue has a bias skirt and the hem line will grow for quite a while as the fabric relaxes. The other two patterns are stablized with the seams and will also offer more in the way of “personalizing” the fit of the skirt. These are very small issues but, can make it satisfying for the seamstress, learning her craft, to have an finished garment that fits and stays put. Good Luck and enjoy they are all lovely!

  7. Thanks for all the feedback everyone! I really appreciate it. I’m a short gal – 5’2″ and let’s just say I’m working on losing some weight 🙂 On my first big experience sewing clothes, I did the Lisette Simplicity pattern 2245 tunic, so I had a bit of pattern adjusting experience with that. I’m glad I learned about doing a muslin version first before I started sewing. I don’t know what I would have done without that trick! If and when I finally get it done, I’ll be sure to post pictures!

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