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1950s | Dresses

Capper’s Weekly (1950’s) 2875 Western dress

September 14, 2015

Capper’s Weekly (an agricultural magazine) 2875, 1950’s. I was outbid on this ages ago but then stumbled across another copy relatively recently. The copy I have is a vintage 10 (bust 28) and I’m . . . not. I know that two sizes is considered to be the maximum safe grade, but when you can’t just pop out and get another copy in your size, what do you do? You suck it up, grade three sizes, and make a lot of test muslins.

Cappers 00 dress

(Actually, I think there is a bust 34 for sale on Amazon, but I have enough duplicates, and I was going to have to personalize the fit, anyway.)

I really, really, wanted to wear this to a concert on Friday night so I graded and sewed like crazy all Labor Day weekend, most of the evenings last week, and all day Friday (which I had off from work). I didn’t quite make it and ended up pinning myself into it, but it was dark and nobody was going to notice that I didn’t have buttons.

The fabric is green plaid homespun with, yes, gold lamé running through it.  It had to be a cowgirl dress.  I got 1 yard + 3 yards, which was all my Joann’s had, and never did find any more. That’s a lot of fabric but not for a 1950’s dress so I had to make it count.  I didn’t trust snaps to hold a whole dress closed so I went with white pearl buttons instead:

cappers 2875 02 fabric

I cut the yoke on the bias and made self piping to play up the Western-shirt look. The lamé only runs in one direction so I had to piece it.

cappers 05 bodice back

Since homespun is comfortable but kind of flabby, I went overkill and lined the whole thing (this meant I had to alter the pattern pieces into a lining that was in single pieces, front and back, to avoid the bulk of the yoke seams and gathering). The bodice is lined in green sheeting scrap and the skirt in muslin. It’s heavy but I sort of like the feel and body of it.

Cappers 2875 lining

I finished the armscyes using the 19th-century neckline method of whipstitching the piping seam allowance to the lining. Worked great.

cappers 06 armscye

I chickened out on grading the skirt and used a “pattern” I’ve been messing with in small scale, for a gathered quarter-circle skirt. Basically between a circle skirt and a dirndl–lots of sweep but more forgiving to fit around the waist than a circle, but less bulk than a dirndl. It worked beautifully, although it took every inch of three yards, and I wish I had had enough to make it an inch or so longer.

I LOVE this dress. The only issue is that it still has a bit of “side boob” going on–it’s poochy around the front dart. Not along the dart, though; it’s not a dart issue. I made a copy of the bodice front last night, slashed it diagonally from center-front-waist to side-armscye, then perpendicularly from that slash to side-waist, and rotated the quadrants inward a bit.

Cappers 01 comparison edit 650

That left the waist, side, and front measurements the same but took up some slack in the side front (around my ribs, basically) and made the dart shorter and shallower.

Cappers 02 comparison edit

I made a really ratty test of it last night and I think it’s what I want. It’s not meant to be tightly fitted but it’s less baggy without spoiling the softness of the gathers into the yoke.

Cappers 03 bodice refit

(Link in comments to the Flickr set, which has pictures of what I did to fix the bodice piece.)

  1. Two sizes is the limit for simple grading at the seams. After that you need to slash and spread the pattern piece at various places to add width and length through out each pattern piece. Most patterns can be remade in most sizes. You could probably check out a few sewing books that discuss grading from your local library or look for an on-line tutorial. Look for the slash and spread method of grading.

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