1950s | Dresses | Vintage Sewing

Weekly Star Farmer/Pattern Bureau 1950s 2207 – Foal Dress

By on April 11, 2017

I’m usually a very slow seamstress, but occasionally–very occasionally–I actually work well under pressure.

I had an event coming up and decided I really, really, wanted a new dress to wear.  A themed dress.  I’d had the fabric for awhile but hadn’t given myself permission to sew it (this is an ongoing problem for me: I feel obligated to burn through a bunch of boring utility projects before I let myself sew the high-investment ones.  But of course I have limited time so I never get to the high-investment ones).

The fabric was Moda Purebred Bluegrass Foals in coral red (not quite this bright in real life.  The foals are natural cotton color, not bright white, and the coral is slightly faded):

 

It’s a big print.  The foals are about three inches each.

My pattern requirements were specific: It had to be 1950’s (big skirt) and it had to have a skirt that was four panels or fewer, and couldn’t have a lot of design elements, because I wanted to preserve the foals as much as possible.

I went around and around on this but kept coming back to Weekly Star Farmer (probably Pattern Bureau) 2207, from the early 1950’s.  This design was also sold as Pattern Bureau 2911 and, later, as 2593.

I love the pockets.   How can you not love those pockets?

It needed a lot of adjustment, partly for personal fit (longer bodice, added upper back width, minor full-bust adjustment) but also for design reasons.  The illustration is kind of a lie: The skirt is actually conical, not bell-shaped, and the pockets are set two inches below where they’re shown.

The skirt pieces have straight sides.  Not kidding.  And no darts.

I knew this would need alteration, anyway, because I have big hips, but the test muslin, while better, still didn’t look good and wasn’t comfortable.  The final solution was to both curve the side and center back seams, and to add 3/4 inch width per side in the back, and then create waist darts.

The other major issue was the collar.  The original collar was two pieces that, I guess, met in the back?  I didn’t like the way this looked and also thought it seemed structurally weak:

So I reshaped it to meet in the back as a contiguous collar.  But the test collar was enormous.  I am not kidding–it was as wide as the shoulder points on the dress, and it looked nothing at all like the illustration.  It was like wearing an open jacket flapping around all the time, except it was attached.  I narrowed it by two and a half inches (you read that correctly) and lowered the point in the front by an inch and a half.  It’s still plenty big but at least I’m not in danger in a stiff wind.

I mounted the pockets two inches higher than the pattern called for.  For the record: I’m a little over 5’7″, so I have no idea for whom the original pockets were intended.  Chimpanzees, perhaps?  I don’t know how a shorter woman would have reached them.  (They’re not crooked.  I’m slouching because the show lasted 15 hours.)

Still plenty of collar!  I think I could narrow that by another inch and it would still look good.

I sort of want to make this again . . . ideally in a large blue-on-blue gingham with solid trim.

And in case you’re wondering why I needed a dress with horses all over it . . . Lemmonade Live Model Horse Show 2017.

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1970s | Dresses | Vintage Sewing

Prairie-palooza: Simplicity 9778 (1971), Butterick 4888 (1977 or 1978), and McCall’s 4872 (1975)

By on January 27, 2017

Three-fer!

This project started out as Simplicity 9778, a Mother Hubbard-type dress from 1971.  It’s cute, but you sort of suspect it will work out less well in reality than in theory:

I have a weakness for these prairie dresses with yokes.  #dontjudge

But I found some hideous-slash-amazing Concord print in dull green with brown/purple flowers on eBay, and some awesome deadstock buttons in a weird raisin color, and got to work.

I knew when I got to the collar that I was making a mistake.  The band collar is drafted–well, “drafted”–as a straight strip of cloth.  It’s not contoured toward the front of the neck the way a band collar should be.  Seamsters, take note: If you make this pattern, IGNORE THE COLLAR.  Draft your own or borrow from another pattern whose designer wasn’t so lazy.

Predictably, it sat around my neck like a section of pipe.  This looks a lot better and far less amateurish in the picture than it did in real life.  Plus, it was uncomfortable.

It looked cute with a belt, though:

But that didn’t help the collar.  It also turns out that this pattern, obviously, is basically a nightgown:

Even with the belt, it tends to shift forward as you walk so all that fabric ends up bunched around your stomach.  I sewed six tucks into the back waist, which helped a lot, but . . . eh, I still wasn’t wearing it that much, which made me sad because I loved, loved, loved the fabric.

Patiences pays off: Surfing eBay netted me another yard, so I decided that I would try to salvage the skirt (well, lower half) and sleeves from the baggy dress and attach them to a new bodice.

Butterick 4888 is from 1977 or 1978 and I want us all to take a moment to contemplate the phenomenon of the wedding gown or bridesmaid dress that comes with an apron.

With an apron, people.

That woman is wearing an apron to her wedding.

However, it’s still a cute pattern and, since I wasn’t planning to make the sash, I was pretty sure that 1 yard + scavenged pieces from the old bodice = just about enough to scrape together a new bodice.

I hate long back zippers so I altered it to button up the front (I had to put a placket in the skirt) and made the facings out of scrap from another dress to save on the “good” fabric (this is the waist seam, finished in bias, with the front facing tacked over it):

I cheated on the sizing.  I’m usually a 12/bust 34 + slight FBA + added width across the upper back + added bodice length + lowered bust.  My 4888 was already a 14/bust 36 so I experimented with just taking in the shoulders and leaving the back width and bust measurement alone (although I still lowered the bust point and lengthened the bodice a little).  This time, at least, it worked.  I might still do a very, very, tiny FBA the next time because I added more of a front facing than was intended so it takes a little more room.

I actually got some brown/purple solid to make an apron to wear with this.  I have no idea where I will wear it with an apron, but whatever (this is the old bodice with the yoke).

As a side note: If anyone is into loose prairied dresses with yokes, try McCall’s 4872 (1975)–it’s similar to 9772 but the bodice is trimmer and the skirt/lower half is more flared, and it’s more flattering and less bunchy around the waist.

Sorry, you can’t really see it in a black dress, but it worked a lot better than 9778:

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1950s | Dresses

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

By on 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.)

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1960s | Dresses | Vintage Sewing

McCall’s 2440 (1962) back-wrap “apron” dresses, again

By on July 27, 2015

I made this one in 2009 in pink cotton-polyester with pink gingham binding.

Version one used this awesome faintly-Japanese Jules and Coco floral print from Joann’s.  I actually made this, discovered that the bodice was too big (it was too big on the pink dress but I’d gotten used to wearing it that way), tried to jerry-rig a fix, and then gave up.  Then I rallied and took the dress apart, cut a new bodice, and put it back together.  It was worth all that seam ripping:

19612440 19 Japanese flowers done

I went to DSW for work shoes on Saturday and found pink loafers on clearance.  I’m not really a novelty shoe kind of girl but something told me I might need them for my early 1960’s stuff:

19612440 20 pink shoes

I finished another version last week of the same dress but in a yellow atomic print I got at Joann’s a few years ago.  I loved it, kind of, but it was way too modern and the wrong scale for all my 1940’s dresses.  This pattern is 1961 so it’s a much better fit.  You can’t really see them, but it has big black buttons on the pockets.  (I borrowed DSW’s mirror.)

19612440 21 yellow atomic done

A word on fitting this pattern: It runs in small-medium-large-etc. sizes, not individual sizes.  This one is a 14-16 (bust 34-36) and I think the shoulders run a bit big.  I fixed it by taking in the shoulders a size on the upper front bodice (not the lower front, just the upper front) and by taking a wedge out of the back bodice.  I basically took an inch out of the center edge of the back, tapering to the lower side-seam corner, to shorten the center edge without shortening the sides.  This pulled it closer to my back and helped the gapping.

The yellow dress and pink dresses both have buttons added to keep them closed.  I’m not sure I need that now and have not added one to the flowered dress yet; I’ll wear it awhile and see.  (The back button catches on my hair, which is annoying.)

Flickr set: YellowFlickr set: Flowered

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1940s | Dresses

Simplicity 4102 (1942): the Shy Sister of the Chicken Dress

By on July 10, 2015

I made the sweetheart version of this a number of years ago out of green Aunt Grace fabric with chickens on it.  This time, I made the button-front version out of a dark gray (with maroon and pink) Concord VIP mini print that somebody gave me.  I realized this should be a quick project since I’d already done all the fitting.

My only two issues with this pattern are:

1) The inset belt appears to have been drafted without wearing ease.  That is, the size 16 (waist 28 inches) allows for an actual 28-inch finished inset belt, not a 29-inch one.  It fits, but an inch of ease would be more comfortable.  Measure yours before you cut.

2) The waist ties are too short.  Fabric rationing be darned, cut yours about eight inches longer so you can tie them into a real bow and not just an knot in your lower back.

I only have a picture of the empty dress right now, but here is a link to the Flickr set.

Simplicity 1942 4102 finished

Also, this has a daughter pattern in Simplicity 4103, which I don’t have (and I don’t have kids, anyway).

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1940s | Dresses

DuBarry 5986 (1944) St. Patrick’s Day

By on 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.

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1940s | Dresses

DuBarry 5612 (1943)

By on March 16, 2015

I whipped this up for Valentine’s Day so I would have something nice to wear while I stayed home with my cat, eating Fig Newtons and watching “Fast N Loud”.  Yeah.

DuBarry 5612 (1943) does not say “easily made” on the front . . .

DuBa 5612 packet

. . . but don’t let that deter you.  I did a few tweaks for personal fit (long torso, low bust, wide upper back) and had to reengineer the sleeves because smooth sleeve caps as-drafted are always and forever a lie, but after that, the I could have sewed this in my sleep.  I made one muslin just to check and then dove headfirst into my good dress fabric (well, relatively: Cotton from Joann’s).  There just isn’t anything to tell–it practically sewed itself.

DuBa 5612

 

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