A Labour of Love

by Jeanne on November 17, 2012 · 24 comments

in 1940s,Applique,Dresses,Embroidery

I saw this vintage dress on FabGabs.com and fell in love. I had to have something similar so set about recreating it.


My pattern is a hodgepodge from other projects- sleeves from a 40′s style evening dress I made for a client, bodice slashed and spread from a slim fitting shirt block and bias skirt developed from a 30′s style pj top pattern I made myself earlier this year. I have to admit I am pretty darned pleased with the results.The main fabric is a heavy satin backed silk crepe and the velvet is a silk & rayon mix. How to re-create the embroidery posed a small problem as hand embroidering it wasn’t something I wanted to spend weeks on and not something I’m very good at anyway. So I came up with a cunning plan… and re-purposed a lovely embroidered upholstery sample I had. To do this first I cut out the areas of embroidery I wanted to use leaving a good margin around the stitching edges and ironed BondaWeb on the back to stabilise it. Then I trimmed very close to the embroidery, lightly ironed it in place on the velvet yoke and pockets and lastly blanket stitched all the edges in place with silk buttonhole thread. I did try a sample first without the BondaWeb but the  embroidery started to fall apart as I was edge sewing it so some kind of stabilising was definitely needed. This is my version:








Making it didn’t go entirely smoothly. I had to reset the left sleeve three times before I got it to hang the way I wanted. Then a certain amount of messing about with making different size shoulder pads and what best to round out the sleeve cap with (felt in the end, rather like in some jackets) was needed. The hem has been done twice. After the first time it was an inch too long to wear with a particular coat so knowing it would really bother me I did it again. Doing the multiple rows of shirring was a bit tedious too. Even so I’m intending to use the pattern again soon with some rayon flower print fabric as the shape is very flattering to wear. It should all go much more easily second time around!

This post was written by...

– who has written 15 posts on WeSewRetro.com.

Professional costumier & pattern designer and it's also what I do for fun... usually 1930s & 1940s style.

Jeanne's posts / Jeanne's website

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Roxy November 17, 2012 at 9:33 am

Oooooo what a lovely dress. I think you did an excellent job recreating the one you saw.


Anthea November 17, 2012 at 9:36 am

Wow, amazing! I even like it better then the Fabgabs dress.


mrsbeevintage November 17, 2012 at 10:23 am

what an amasing dress , so beautifully done :) …can I ask if you were to make this for someone else what sort of price do you think would need to cover your cost ? I only ask because I am having some trouble getting paid a reasonable amount for anything i make these day’s :)


Jeanne November 17, 2012 at 12:22 pm

Thank you ! I’ve sent you an answer via your site.


Anonymous November 25, 2012 at 5:59 pm

thankyou so kind :)


Laura- Creando mi armario November 17, 2012 at 11:14 am

Amazing dress, really beautiful!


Jill November 17, 2012 at 11:47 am

Speechless. That’s incredible.


Julie of Fab Gabs November 17, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Wow, I am so impressed! And pretty flattered…. I guess I mean it feels I have good taste. I LOVED that dress and it sold right out of the Sneak Peeks. It’s a really special piece, and i love that you took the time and care to make one so perfectly. All that shirring! The shoulderpad size! I’m amazed at what you accomplished. Congratulations! (P.S. We are still open on Etsy, just have the stand alone website on hold.)


Jeanne November 17, 2012 at 12:31 pm

Thank you :) It’s no wonder that dress sold straight away. I’m not joking it was love at first sight for me. I linked to your Etsy site on my blog….you do have gorgeous things on FabGabs!!


Jesse of FabGabs November 17, 2012 at 1:27 pm

Hi there.
As the seamster for FabGabs, I am quite impressed! Not only are you able to make a pattern, but have the ingenuity to make the embroidered part work. Thank you for sharing. I would love to see a step by step of your process (I’m not asking for it ). I know the difficulty of sewing velvet, and would like to see other vintage style things you made/ make :-)


Jesse of FabGabs November 17, 2012 at 1:32 pm

OOps. I wrote too soon. I am now subscribing, and looking through!


Jeanne November 17, 2012 at 1:56 pm

Hi Jesse,well if there is anything in particular you’d like to know more about just drop me a line via my site… I’m always happy to discuss patterns and vintage style making!


tina vines November 17, 2012 at 1:48 pm

This dress is stunning! I am so impressed with the work you’ve put into it..wow! All I can say is “WOW!”


Evie November 17, 2012 at 1:52 pm

This is absolutely gorgeous! And I have to agree I think I like your version better (although that seems to be a trend with your work. The 1940s pleated-back coat you made a while back I liked much better than the original). You’re work is always exquisite, and inspiring (while also intimidating) to see. Beautiful job as usual!


Jeanne November 17, 2012 at 2:26 pm

Lol, that is exactly the coat I had to hem this dress twice for!


Jeanne November 17, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Thank you all very much :)
While I definitely don’t recommend breaking a foot to anyone it at least gave me a good block of time off professional work to make something special for myself without having to rush through it. Vintage clothes are so inspiring.


Mainelydad November 17, 2012 at 4:33 pm

This is a total work of art.


EmSewCrazy November 17, 2012 at 6:00 pm

Very lovely! What a wonderful piece. Thanks for reminding us that taking your time to make something well certainly pays off!


Michelle jadaa November 17, 2012 at 6:02 pm

Its lovely ,so many great details!


Tessa November 17, 2012 at 9:00 pm

Wow, just wow. The draping of the velvet sleeves leave me weak in the knees! (not trying to rhyme, just happened like that) You did a wonderful job.


Tanya Maile November 17, 2012 at 11:19 pm



Laurie H November 18, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Wow… I am very impressed and love the dress. You do marvelous work!


Bex November 18, 2012 at 9:37 pm

Wow, just wow! This is the level of amazingness I would like to achieve some day!


Kelina November 20, 2012 at 2:30 am

Absolutely, totally, completely fabulous! Great colors too!


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