I have three cousins getting married in the next few months.  Luckily, I am running out of cousins to marry off because I can barely keep up with the sewing.

I had to be realistic and accept that I had procrastinated too long and frittered away too much time on non-necessary projects, and I wouldn’t be able to complete a full dress for the first wedding.  I’m old-fashioned enough that I feel a bit weird wearing black to weddings, especially summer weddings, but . . . oh, well.  It was time to trot out the black skirts and settle for making a new blouse.

I picked one that looked comfortable but also looked like it couldn’t have too many fitting issues.  Advance 4858 is from 1947 or 1948:

Classic postwar design: Extended shoulder line, long waist, big skirt.

The red flags were length (easily remedied; I always have to add length) and neckline (thin shoulders; boat necks and I do not get along.  But necklines are also easily altered).  I decided I’d switch to a back-button closure because I seem to be going through that kind of a phase (see the Simplicity 4727: Black sundress post below) and make the whole thing into a peplum blouse.

It didn’t need a lot of help–I lengthened it a little, closed up the neckline some, and changed the button opening, but the bodice itself was basically fine.

I completely winged it on the peplum: I drew a rectangle (two, actually, front and back) that matched the waist circumference, then slashed and fanned it out until it looked the way I wanted.  And that was it.

In fact, it was so OK that I put the entire thing together without a hitch despite the fact that my copy of the pattern has no instruction sheet.

And here it is.  Sorry, my hair won’t do anything.  I live in braids.

The fit is a little blousy but I think that’s intentional.  It also has massive shoulder pads.  They look less ridiculous here than I thought they did, actually.

The necklace is a double-strand of faceted crystals that belonged to my grandmother.

Close-up of the back with the awesome huge iridescent plastic buttons:

The fabric is, as usual, cotton.  I had originally chosen a purple stylized floral but then decided it was too funereal.  It was also an out-of-print remnant and I didn’t think I had enough, and couldn’t get any more.  I’m not wild about splattery magenta prints but at least it was happier.  (Don’t get me wrong: I love me some funereal fabric, but it wasn’t my wedding, right?)


I’m sure we’ve all seen those 1970′s patterns that imitate 1930′s and 1940′s lines, right?  Simplicity 6164, Simplicity 5844, Butterick 3174, Marian Martin 9327 . . . you get the picture.  Well, I decided it was time to turn the tables.

Since I spent so much time and bother fitting 4727, I figure I might as well get as much use out of it as possible.  I’ve actually used it as a semi-sloper a couple of times, not to fit precisely but to ballpark the sizing of other patterns before I do detailed alterations on them.  I’m getting a lot of wear out of that orangey-tan gingham sundress, so I figured I should do a few more projects out of that pattern to make it pay for itself.

Back to that turning-of-tables bit.  Alas, I don’t have any pictures of the dress on me yet, but I used the bodice to make a 1970′s-style prairie sundress.  I raised the neckline a bit and rounded it to make it easier to apply bias binding (I wanted a little bit of trim on the neckline and armscyes).  I had four yards of . . . probably 1980′s or early-1990′s black Concord calico with tiny yellow roses.

Four yards sounds like a whole lot unless you want to make a dress with a long skirt and a flounce, because flounces take up an insane amount of fabric.  You can do a 2:1 flounce:skirt ratio, but that’s really minimal–your flounce will be adequate but still kind of skimpy-looking.  I did a 3:2 flounce:skirt ratio and I think that, for this project, it came out just right.  Fluffy but not ridiculous.

I saved calico by making all the interior parts out of solid black scrap fabric.  Here, you see the pockets, inset belt lining, neck facing (I added a neck facing even though I was bias-binding the neck because the calico was pretty thin), and the back button placket:

I also used up five different colors of hem tape.  Ha, ha.  Navy, teal, electric blue, pale yellow, and olive green.

The front is plain.  I did hours of lunchtime Google research on Gunne Sax dresses, trying to choose a pattern for the front of the bodice, but I couldn’t settle on anything.  I knew I needed trim to break up the sea of floral-ity, but I didn’t want it to be that Seventies, and I wanted it to be a kind of neutral look so I could wear it with a belt and denim jacket, and I had just spent the weekend hanging out with metalheads and didn’t want to interfere too much with the . . . blackness?  Yes, I know this is the least metal garment in history that isn’t pastel, but aesthetic influence is weird stuff.

I went with just binding the neckline and armscyes, and adding a trim strip around the skirt above the flounce.

It buttons up the back.  This is completely impractical but it’s hot.  Yes, hot.  As in, I’ve had to block Flickr stalkers who love back-buttoning dresses hot (I wish I were joking about this because it’s actually pretty creepy, but . . . nope.  Not kidding).  I think it’s because it suggests that one needs help getting undressed, but I’m not going to go too far into that because this isn’t that kind of blog.

For the record, I can dress myself.  I button the mid-back buttons, slip the dress over my head, and then button the nape and the waist (reverse the process to undress).  It’s tricky but I’m going to enjoy it while I can before I dislocate something and have to convert it to a side zipper.


Despite the monumental fitting headache that was Simplicity 4727 (1943), I decided to suck it up and take on its close numerical predecessor, Simplicity 4718.

I’m going to hazard a guess that they were not drafted by the same person.  This pattern took me less than a decade to complete.

To begin with, I know we’ve all seen this pattern.  It’s, like, everywhere.  I don’t think anyone ever actually sews it because it’s so ubiquitous it’s not even interesting.  It’s like the Hanes T-shirt of vintage patterns:


Well, sometimes you need a Hanes T-shirt.  Even if you don’t literally need a Hanes T-shirt.  I needed a straightforward everyday dress pattern that didn’t have a lot of detail, because the fabric I mean to use was kind of loud:

Moda chambray stripe

That is an amazing light-blue and white chambray stripe from Moda.  Yes, it really is that color, and that’s my hand for scale.  I don’t have small hands.  This fabric is fantastic: Yarn-dyed woven stripes in wonderful, sturdy, cotton fabric.  That’s a pattern that stands on its own, though; I didn’t want to cut it all up for shoulder yokes and darts and stuff.  4718 has a classic 1940′s gored skirt but very little else going on.

I also found the perfect buttons:

The chevron buttons were in my stash.  I used them for the sleeve keepers.  I know sleeve keepers are more 1970′s than 1940′s, but I like them, and they seem like an idea that would have caught on like wildfire in the 1940′s had anyone thought to promote them.

Since the fabric is a bit heavy I decided to go with long sleeves.  I made the housecoat pattern but fudged bishop sleeves by grafting the pattern I’d fudged recently for McCall’s M4548 (2004) onto 4718′s original sleeve caps.  When I got to the cuffs, I debated staying in my comfort zone and doing the usual continuous-lap placket.  However, I’ve never really liked continuous-lap plackets because I hate the idea of so little fabric being caught in a seam.  It seams like disintegration waiting to happen.  Besides, the chambray was slightly coarse and given to raveling (not badly; just a bit), which made me doubly paranoid about seams pulling out..  After waffling for a totally unreasonable amount of time, I dove in and learned to do a proper sleeve placket.  The method can be seen here, although I used the instructions and template from David Page Coffin’s Shirtmaking, a book I would recommend to anyone looking for a reference for finishing details on shirts (blouses, dress collars, etc.).

Proper shirt-style plackets are not actually difficult but involve lots of folding and ironing, and seem to be exactly the kind of thing of which I could make a complete and total hash.  It appears that the shirtmaking gremlins were on vacation, though, because everything went off without a hitch.  Ladies, I owned those sleeve plackets!

I also added a small breast pocket.  Other than that, my only alterations were the usual long-torso and big-hip ones.

Next time, I need to rotate the bust darts downward and I think I’ll shave a half inch or so back off of the bodice length, and maybe hem it a bit shorter since it’s 1943 (it doesn’t look bad as it is, it just looks more like 1946).  I would definitely recommend this pattern, though.  It required much less help than 4727, it’s not difficult–the bodice and skirt have gathered sections so you don’t even have to worry about making your darts even), and it’s comfortable.  I’m already planning to make the sundress out of a blue chambray bedsheet I got at Goodwill and some old flat lace trim a friend sent me.

I’m squinting here.  It was sunnier than it looks, and windy.  The seawall is always windy.


This is a bit off-topic but it’s very, very, interesting.  The video shows you how to reconstruct (as best researchers can tell) the braided hairstyle of the Roman Vestal virgin priestesses.

A bit more on the Vestals, from Wikipedia (yeah, I know–not academic).