1940s | Dresses

DuBarry 5986 (1944) St. Patrick’s Day

March 18, 2015

Actually, I learned yesterday that March 17 is also St. Gertrude’s Day.  She’s the patron saint of travelers, mental illness, “against mice”, and cats.  I’m picturing an eccentric lady with cats in an RV.  Anyway . . . I guess I’d better start planning a cat-themed dress for next year.

DuBarry 5986 is adorable:

Dubarry 1944 5986 packet

but the “Easily made” bit is a half-truth at best.  It did assemble easily, I’ll give it that.  Actually getting it to fit, though, was an uphill battle.  I’m usually a pretty standard bust 34, with a few minor tweaks for fit, but that wasn’t an advantage this time around.  My pattern was missing the bodice back, but I borrowed a similar one from another 1940’s DuBarry pattern and went on my merry way.

I added 1 1/2 inches width to each side of the skirt front because it fit, but the gathers looked chintzy.  We’re not really on fabric rationing any more, anyway.

At it turned out, things were too short, too blousy, not blousy enough, etc.  It took me six and a half (six, with the last one altered on a second go-round) bodice muslins to get this thing right.  And it was worth it, mostly.  It will never be my favorite dress, but it’s cute, and I might like it better if I made it out of a better fabric.  The holiday-themed cotton is adorable–green and gold shamrocks on black–but the fabric itself is pretty cheap and not very lovable.

Dubarry 1944 5986 done

Hemmed it a little too short, too, and I need different shoes.  These are nice and green but they’re 1970’s and kind of pinchy.

  1. I think it looks very good, although I could imagine it looking better yet in a different fabric. Great job on the fitting and totally worth it for such an adorable pattern. Were you also talking about this dress on Sew&Tell last week? I already liked the design back then. And if that wasn’t you, then someone else is struggling with this pattern as well now.

  2. Looks like you triumphed in the end! It is an adorable style and your final fit is great. It would be nice to see this made up in something with a little more drape, like a lightweight wool or midweight rayon – and probably a lot easier to work with!

    Was part of the problem that it had shoulder pads that you eliminated? Your finished shoulder looks quite rounded vs. the illustration, although we all know about illustrations … as a 34 bust myself with small shoulders, I often have problems with too much volume in weird places if I don’t pad styles that “want” padding.

    And for once, I don’t think it’s too short. I’m always cringing when people chop off late ’40s and ’50s hems, but this looks just right for the period. I’m always surprised when I see an early 1940s movie (they look shorter in action than posed) and realize just how short the skirts got before they headed back down again.

    This photo from Life Magazine in 1944 is a great example of how the fashionable skirts are just BARELY covering the knee (the girl in the white shoes’ skirt isn’t quite!), although the old frumps are hanging onto longer hemlines:


    1. No, it has shoulder pads. I think they’re swallowed up by the poofy neckline, though, which sort of overwhelms everything else. 1940’s dresses just don’t fly without shoulder pads, unless you already have pretty broad shoulders. I don’t.

      It’s *just barely* long enough. It hits under my kneecap but by, like, millimeters. Another half-inch would have been better. But it’s not worth tearing up the fabric by doing it over. I don’t like having my knees out, and I’m (not actually tall, but) tall enough that I’m not tempted to shorten hems on period dresses, but this is sort of my upper limit.

  3. One of the first things I noted was the rounded shoudlers. I’m with Jessamyn—I think having shoulders that are a little more square would help. It would provide a nice contrast to the soft gathers of the bodice and skirt.

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