1940s | Dresses | Vintage Sewing

McCalls 5229

September 1, 2013

My first daliance into 1940s wartime patterns.


This pattern has a reminder of the Civilian Clothing restrictions on the front, but also has a reminder inside of the present conditions as a reason for an unprinted pattern. I don’t mind unprinted patterns, but I understand why they might be a little daunting for a beginner seamstress. When you’ve got diagrams and clear instructions it’s reasonably easy to figure out, but I guess a little time consuming.


Anyway, the dress. (The photos aren’t great as my camera seemed to struggle with all the red.) It’s made from a cotton/linen blend with a nice texture to it. There was a lot more ease than I was expecting.  With hindsight, I should have taken in the seams at the front and back skirt gores. The sleeves are shortened by around two inches.

I also interfaced the collar, which the pattern didn’t mention or call for. I’m happy that I didn’t interface the bodice edge as it allows the bodice to be a little blousey. Otherwise it may have been a little too stiff.


The dress has lapped seams, which were quite nice to do. I topstitched them using regular thread, and a stitch on my machine that does three straight stitches side by side. Not sure if this has an official name or not. It makes for a more prominent stitch line. The buttons are also vintage from my collection, I’ve been waiting to use them for a long time.


Also, bound buttonholes, and thread belt loops using this tutorial from Oliver + S. This is so easy to do, and so much more delicate than big fabric belt loops. The dress fastens with snaps down the side too.


The insides are all overlocked. The fabric frayed quite easily, so this seemed like the safest and quickest measure. It’s not period-specific but I may as well take advantage of what sort of seam finishes can be done now. There was something nice about mixing an old pattern with new techniques. Does anyone else use modern techniques to finish vintage dresses, or is it better to stick with tradition?


  1. “It’s not period-specific but I may as well take advantage of what sort of seam finishes can be done now”

    I always figure that, if things like invisible zips and overlockers had been around then, they’d have used them too. They just didn’t exist yet. So I have no qualms about mixing vintage patterns with modern techniques and notions!

  2. I think there is nothing wrong with mixing, but I like to keep mine true to the period and I pink all my seams if I did not french seam them. I saw a great tip someone posted somewhere, they cut their patterns out with Pinking sheers so they don’t have to do after it is sewn. I started doing that.

    1. Funnily enough, that pinking tip is mentioned in this pattern! I like pinking seams and topstitching them, but I’m not sure what era that’s from.

  3. While finishing your vintage dress with pinking shears, which would probably be the way they did them all back then I don’t think it hurts to use a modern finish. Either way it is a wonderful dress and I love that color, it suits you!

    1. Thanks! I’m already planning another version.
      And as for those belt loops – I’ve been adding them onto everything, they are so easy, useful and inconspicuous.

  4. The “three straight stitches side by side” is called a Triple stitch, Triple Stretch stitch, or just Stretch stitch. I love it and it was a great choice here. Wonderful color and dress!

  5. Lovely dress and very nice workmanship! The red is a great colour choice (I need a red dress!).

    In addition to what waterbear mentioned about that triple stitch on your machine, it’s not just a decorative/topstitch feature, but an actual functional stretch stitch. If you sew any knits, or want to, this is the stitch to use.

    1. Oh really?! I had no idea.
      My machine tells me that a lightning bolt shaped stitch is my stretch stitch, but I also use a zig-zag from time to time (if I’m not using my overlocker). I will definitely give this one a test run next time I sew something with a knit fabric. Thanks!

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