by Joni on July 21, 2012 · 15 comments

in 1960s,Dresses,Vintage Sewing

As promised, here is my second new dress in as many weeks! I started with McCalls 5808, dated 1961, and a gloriously retro-looking Amy Butler print. I love peonies – and they are the state flower here in Indiana!

The construction of the dress, while simple, was pretty interesting – the bodice is faced, the yoke is constructed separately then topstitched in, and finally the raw edges of yoke & facing are finished together. I used a serger instead of overcasting as they would have done in 1961 but otherwise it was the same. I did make a few changes: mainly, I moved the zipper from the back to the side, because I knew the yoke seams would never match up at the back if I didn’t! I added a hidden pocket in the non-zipper side of the skirt. And I chopped FOUR INCHES off the bottom of the skirt before hemming, because for a knee-length skirt, it almost came down to my ankles and I am not short! Have I mentioned that these patterns were drafted for giants?!

I really wanted to make a belt to wear with this dress, but ran into a snag… All the vintage belt kits I have been carefully hoarding are unusable. The belt backing is permanently creased from being folded into a package for 50+ years and resists any and all attempts to flatten. :( JoAnn’s has ONE width of belt backing and a few ‘fashion’ buckles… ugh… I’m going to have to find a way to make matching belts for future dresses. But I was wearing this one on a hot date with DH last night, so I went ahead and whipped up a sash with the same Kona I used for the yoke. Mine came out shorter than the one on the envelope, but I like how it makes a little bow at the front of the dress.

I can’t believe how well the bodice fits – although the fact that I am finally wearing the right size bras probably helps with that. I know I say this every time, but I think this is my new favorite! When we went out last night, a gaggle of teenage girls stopped me and asked if they could take a picture with me! “Do you dress like this all the time?” one of them asked. If only I could!

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Nessa July 21, 2012 at 8:23 am

Your dress is absolutely beautiful and you look amazing in it – no wonder the girls mustered up the courage to ask you about it! Fabric choice matches the pattern perfectly! Hope you make the pattern again – it suits you.


Aimko July 21, 2012 at 8:31 am

fits like a glove! You look lovely. if you find a good source for belt making, let me know. i used to have a company in NYC that would do one-offs for me, but they don’t seem to be around anymore! i’ve been searching for a replacement vendor since!

Love the print!! Hope you and Dh enjoyed date-night!!


Julia Morley July 21, 2012 at 8:43 am

Absolutely lovely! Beautiful work :-)


Susan July 21, 2012 at 10:06 am

You can still buy belt backing. Dritz has rolls of it.


Joni July 21, 2012 at 11:22 am

Yeah, that’s what I saw at JoAnn’s. But they only had one roll and it wasn’t the width I wanted.


Susan July 21, 2012 at 12:44 pm

Try online, they have more sizes.


EmSewCrazy July 21, 2012 at 12:08 pm

Beautiful fabric, beautiful fit, beautiful you!
So neat that girls asked to take a pic with you! You know you did something right!


Jessamyn July 21, 2012 at 3:17 pm


We had a comment thread about skirt lengths not that long ago, and maybe you are taking this into account, but it bears repeating: Period skirts were meant to be given very deep hems, like as much as four inches turned up. Did you check the hemming line on the skirt pattern pieces, and/or the skirt length given on the back of the pattern envelope? It’s possible it was really the right length after all.


Joni July 21, 2012 at 3:49 pm

Nah, it’s marked for 2″ hems. It’s a circular skirt, so a six inch hem isn’t really feasible! I still did a 2″ hem but not until after I’d hacked off a good amount of that lovely fabric. I’ve run into this problem on a lot of other patterns that have similar skirts. I just wish I would have remembered to check the pattern pieces before cutting it out!


Starspangledheart July 21, 2012 at 5:31 pm

Lovely! If you need belt making supplies, check out this shop: She sells all of the supplies separately but also sells kits. I’ve used her kits before and they are very nice.


Joni July 21, 2012 at 5:51 pm

This is exactly what I’ve been looking for! Thank you so much.


Ripple Dandelion July 22, 2012 at 6:33 am

You are a picture in your new dress! You must be packing a crinoline under the skirt for such a lovely silhouette. Another idea on the belt front: use heavy weight interfacing, like Timtex, cut to the width and length you want. Or buy a thrift store belt of the appropriate width and cover it with fabric. I just bought some buckles from A Fashionable Stitch and they are great.


D'ellis July 22, 2012 at 10:45 am

Just too adorable for words, and proved by those discerning teens! How satisfying for you, and how pleased your chap must have been.


Katrina - Edelweiss Patterns July 22, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Oh!!!! Pretty!! I love that floral print dress. You did a great job, Joni!

Happy sewing,



Sarah July 27, 2012 at 9:59 am

Wonderful dress! The fabric and the pattern are just beautiful!


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