Gertie’s Shirtwaist dress HELP!

by Gilly

in 1950s,Dresses,Vintage Sewing

Hi all, this is my first post ever, and I’m in need of some help. I am new to sewing, self taught thanks to a wonderful thing called you tube! I only started about 6 months ago mainly making things for my daughters. This is the first dress I’ve made for myself from Gertie’s book, I have also made the portrait blouse with no problems. So here is a few photos front and back it is a size 14 which I normally fit very well the blouse fit me fine. But this dress is swimming on me, I took one line of shirring out as I had read in a review that it had made her dress gape at the front. My mother in law thinks that I should take it in at the sides. I also think the shoulder area looks a bit baggy and the sleeves definitely need to be less boofy. Any help would be appreciated sorry the photos aren’t the best. I’m hoping to embark on Gerties Tiki dress next any advice on that one accepted gratefully too.

This post was written by...

– who has written 1 posts on WeSewRetro.com.

Busy Mum to two beautiful girls. I like to squeeze in a bit of sewing, knitting and anything crafty in between cleaning, dishes, dinner and nappy changes! I have always admired vintage clothing but only now has it come to my attention that I could make my own. Fueled by my ultra cool mother in law who told me that she made all her own clothes in the seventies I've been inspired to give it a go. Loving Gerties NBFBS at the moment.

Gilly's posts / Gilly's website

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Pamela March 3, 2013 at 12:11 pm

Hi Gilly
I couldn’t see your photos.

Does this pattern have two darts going from the waist to just under the bust?
If so I would use these to make the waist less bulky.

After that, I would try it on and look for one thing. The point where the sleeve attaches to the top at the top of your shoulder should be just at that intersection. It shouldn’t be down your shoulder at all. What I do is cut this area until I have the seam sitting just at the top of the shoulder.

After doing that if the back is still gaping I would consider some small darts (in the back) halfway between the top of the shoulder and the armpit. Maybe a 1/4 inch wide and 2 inches long. This can help.

Remember it is just fabric – baste it together until you have it like you want it.

Hope this helps

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Nicole March 3, 2013 at 4:23 pm

No photos!

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Katherine March 3, 2013 at 5:49 pm

Hey Gilly,

If you’re having trouble adding photos, feel free to attach the pics to an email or email me links to them and I’ll add them to the post for you (and take some screenshots while I do it so you can see the steps I took)

My address is katherine [at] wesewretro.com

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Gilly March 3, 2013 at 8:25 pm

Thanks Katherine I did upload them but couldn’t seem to add them to the post. I will email now. Thanks.

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Jeannie Watt March 3, 2013 at 11:29 pm

Hi Gilly,
I can see your photos. Love the color of the dress! I’m no expert, but it looks like the shoulders are too wide, so the dress is falling off your shoulders. You might pull the sleeves up to the points of your shoulders (the crease when you raise your arms) and pin them there (taking a tuck in the shoulder fabric) to see how the dress hangs with narrower shoulders. From the first photo it looks like you could tuck out a good inch.

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Beth March 3, 2013 at 11:38 pm

Shoulders have already been covered in another reply.

I think the poufiness of the sleeves and the fullness below the yoke in back may be design features. I like both. Of course, you can rework to suit your own taste.

If you add a snap or small hook and eye to move the overlap 1/4″ farther around at the waist, below the third button, you might be happier with it. That’s a feature of many high-end ready-to-wear button-front dresses and it makes the front line lie more smoothly.

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novemberfoxtrot March 4, 2013 at 12:05 am

Does it sit at your waist? I wonder if you were able to pull the skirt up to your waist and put a couple darts in the back if that wouldn’t help.

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inertia March 4, 2013 at 12:40 am

Hi Gilly!

Love the fabric! I noticed you said that you usually fit a size 14 – but I don’t think Gertie’s size 14 matches with a traditional pattern sizing. If you check the size chart on p. 125, you’ll see that a 14 is designed for someone with measurements around 44″ bust, 36″ waist, 48″ hips. The size 8 is closer to a “traditional” 14 IMO, at measurements of 38″, 30″, 42″.

Good luck!

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Gillian March 5, 2013 at 4:10 am

Yes your absolutely right I’m floating between the 10-14 I can’t believe I missed this before. Oh well live and learn!

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rad13 March 4, 2013 at 12:49 am

Put on a nice wide belt and you’re good to go =)

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Erika March 4, 2013 at 4:40 am

Hi Gilly! First – love the fabric! Wonderful spring colour =)
About the fit, maybe for your next project it might be a good idea to cut at least one size smaller and do a FBA (full bust adjustment)? The shoulders are too big here (as is the waist), but I see telltale stresslines over and at the sides of your bust, indicating that in this place there’s actually too little fabric. A FBA is generally always needed whenver once has a C-cup or bigger. I do believe Gerite covers this alteration in her book (which I assume you have as you’re making a pattern from it =) ). Basically, you’d measure your overbust and choose a size based on that, and then alter the front to fit the bust.
On this make, I’d follow the tips in the comments above and I’m sure you’ll be very happy with the dress! But for the next project it might be a good idea to do a FBA and of course do a muslin =) A FBA is seldom perfect fitting the first time…

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Doortje March 4, 2013 at 4:50 am

Your dress is definitely a size or two too big! I’d suggest to take it apart and cut at least a size smaller. That way you fix all the problems in one go instead of taking in the sides, adjust the darts, bust line etc. It would give the most work but also the most clean and neat finish i.m.o.
A tip: I always make a muslin to get the fit right before I cut up my fashion fabrics. You could use an old/used/thrifted sheet for this purpose.
Good luck!

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Gilly March 4, 2013 at 6:34 am

Thank you all for your wonderful advice and thanks Katherine for putting in the photos for me! I will definitely be making a muslin next time I was so eager to get this dress done for a High Tea that I was going to that I skipped that step, lesson learned! I was a bit scared of adjusting the pattern being new to sewing that seemed like such an advanced step for me but I have a night of unpicking ahead and hopefully I can fix it so it’s a better size. Appreciate all your help thanks again :-)

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Jessica March 4, 2013 at 7:30 am

Wow, that dress looks enormous on you! I am with inertia, did you check your measurements against the sizes in Gertie’s book? A pattern size is very different from ready-to-wear clothing sizes.

I know you said the portrait blouse fits you fine, but it looks like this dress is big all over — the waist falls too low and is too big, shoulders too big, everything. I’d just measure again carefully, and check it as you go. You did a lovely job finishing it too!

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Linda N March 4, 2013 at 8:56 am

Very pretty but you cut it way too big at the shoulder. Remove the sleeves and take your pattern to the shoulder and cut it down a size or two. Measure across your back from shoulder point to point and compare to the pattern to find your size. In the future use multi size patterns where you can cut the waist and bust one size, shoulder and hips another. I think the only way is to remove the sleeve and do this, then reattach the sleeves and they will sit properly up high on the point of the shoulder. Taking in the sides won’t fix the shoulder. Going back and doing this will be worth the effort. Patience!!

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Gail March 4, 2013 at 11:10 am

Hi , What a cute dress!
Have you tried putting in shoulder pads? That can sometimes solve alot of shoulder area problems. I think your mother in law is right, a simple take in at the side seams , tapering from the arm pit to the waist and then down to the hem might help. Try basting it first. to see if you like it better. The puffy sleeve head looks like part of the design. I would not change that.
It is such a cute dress it is worth getting it right.

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ConstantlyAlice March 4, 2013 at 11:51 am

What a lovely color! I would put in bust darts, and maybe two waist darts in the back and then take in the fullness of the skirt at the waist.

Good luck!

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roseannlee March 4, 2013 at 11:25 pm

That is beautiful fabric! Congrats on your first post–am still working up to that one myself! I can’t tell exactly from your photo, but I’m wondering if the waistline of the dress is sitting at your actual waist line? Looks a little long… I say this because it took me many ill-fitting dresses to figure out I have a short upper body and have to shorten all my bodice pieces by 1.5″ at least.

Also, for the “bust-gaping” issue– since I shorten all of my bodices, I have to respace buttons anyway, but I always try on the dress/shirt and mark the first buttonhole right across the middle of my bust line and then spread mark them up and down from there. If I plan on always wearing a snug belt with the dress, I consider the beltline to be another “button” and don’t put a buttonhole near there either. So it would go, button, button, belt, button, button, etc. all evenly spaced out. I hope that makes sense… No gap, and no uncomfortable button gouging me underneath the belt!

The “boofy” sleeves will be great, but I agree with earlier poster that the shoulders of the dress are too wide. Narrow them down and I think you will like them. Please post pictures again when you are finished with your dress and happy with it! Good luck!

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roseannlee March 4, 2013 at 11:27 pm

“Spread mark”? Huh? I meant, “mark”!

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Betty Stitchup March 5, 2013 at 6:00 am

Well done! You’ve done really well with this dress, and you probably have enough tips from other users’ comments already. Just to give you a heads up on Gertie’s Tiki Dress – my measurements are bust 34.5, waist 28, hips 37 and I made up a muslin using size 4 and let me tell you it was enormous! So much so that I even thought size 2 would be too big and I double checked a few times just to make sure I had traced off the right size. So it’s definitely worth making a muslin first. Good luck.

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Gillian March 5, 2013 at 6:36 am

Thanks Betty I will definitely be doing a muslin next time, I was going to do a 12 but maybe a 10. Is your Tiki dress on here or do you have a link I’d love to see it.

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SueC March 6, 2013 at 4:23 am

It’s definitely a size too large and I agree with Linda N’s post as to the best way to alter the dress. No need to take it all apart totally, the main problem is the width across the shoulders and the width of the bodice. Once the shoulder seams are in the right place the “boofiness” of the sleeves will look fine.

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Bree March 7, 2013 at 11:04 am

You did a really great job for a beginner! This pattern is a little advanced for a first (adult) dress. You should start with something with a basic bodice and a gathered or a-line skirt. Almost all patterns need fitting alterations. You need to measure your high bust ( around your chest, right under your arms) this is the number you need to go by as your bust measurement on a pattern, rather than your full bust measurement ( around fullest part of bust). If you are bigger than a B cup, you will then have to do an FBA ( full bust adjustment). You might have to do a few muslins to get the fit right. Get some good books on fitting. “Fit For Real People” is supposed to be good. You can get it cheap used on Amazon.
Also see if Youtube has FBA videos. It seems complicated to do, but once you figure out how to fit things to your body, it’s a snap and you can make anything you want! Here are some good sewing websites and blogs to check out too:

Patternreview.com – Great website to get sewing advice from more advance sewers (in the forums). You can also look up patterns you own or like and see reviews of them and pictures of completed projects.
You obviously already know about Gerties Blog ( my favorite!) You should read through all her old posts. There is some really great stuff on there.
If you like retro check out “Casey’s Elegant Musings”
And “Lladybird.wordpress.com”.
“Coletterie” is also a great site. Check out the tips section. I hope this helps. Good luck in all your sewing!
Bree : )

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Bree March 7, 2013 at 11:40 am

Oh yeah! Check out the website: Male Pattern Boldness. Yes, it is a man’s sewing blog, but it is a great site! His name is Peter and he makes both men’s and women’s clothing. He loves vintage patterns and sewing machines etc. , plus he is really funny!

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keri February 14, 2014 at 5:31 pm

are you in Europe? Gertie’s sizes are American (US), which are quite different that European sizing.

Even within our own country there are variants to sizes depending on which year a pattern was created. Today’s 14 is about an 8/9 50 years ago. It’s because we still want to eat pizza and hamburgers but not feel like it makes a difference in our shopping, that’s all. I agree, anyway, that dress is too big for you! :D

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