1950s | 1960s | Dresses

My Retro Wedding Dress: A Year Later!!!

By on September 29, 2013

I always planned on sharing my self-made retro wedding dress with the Sew Retro massive, but I never got round to it. Lame, I know. Well, today is our 1 year anniversary and naturally my thoughts have been taken back to the Big Day, so it seems fitting to finally share it with y’all now if you’d like to see. So here it is! The most important, most photographed and most stressful garment I’ll ever make: my wedding dress!


I was always going for a mid-century retro look and spent a long time gathering images of inspirational vintage an retro garments. By the time I’d narrowed down my research, I was definitely erring towards a wiggle silhouette made from a separate skirt and bodice and lots of shoulder/decolletage on show. Above all else, this dress had to make me feel special, so it didn’t seem like a time to hold back on the sexiness or glamour! My husband’s Best Man told me on the night ‘a bride’s job is to make other men feel sad you’re no longer on the market’! Apparently.


I chose the Burdastyle bustier/bombshell dress pattern as my basis because it had the general wiggle silhouette, waist seam and tight fitting bodice I knew I wanted. I ignored the cups sections and proceeded with toiling the bodice (with frequent fitting help from the ever-amazing Rehanon) again and again until we achieved a really good fit. Instead of the faceted bust of the original pattern, I wanted to recreate a draped, gathered bust effect something like the white Modcloth dress pictured below.

As for the skirt, I was initially going for a draped effect like Gertie’s bombshell version of this pattern, but it kind of, umm, evolved in a different direction. What I mean to say is that the gathered skirt toile didn’t look very good and I felt unsure how to approach getting a nicer effect. Time for completing this dress was getting tight, especially with all the other elements planning a DIY wedding entailed, so I decided to go for a straight wiggle skirt. As soon as I took that headache away, I breathed a sigh of relief and knew I’d done the right thing. I love the sleek, straight skirt in these pictures, and I think it allows the gathered bust design to really stand out.

Fabric and colour:

My mum and I planned to buy the fabric for my dress and my best mate’s bridesmaid dress in one of the fancy fabric purveyors on Berwick Street in London, knowing that if we drew a blank, we still had all of Goldhawk Road to plunder. For my dress I went with an open mind, but knew it needed to have some structure, be a bit special (AKA, shiny or something) and red. I also had one eye out for a nice brocade. In one of the silk shops I was drawn to some fantastic red silk that had a vintage-y embroidered flower motif but it was very narrow and a squillion pounds per metre. The search continued…

In Borovick Fabrics, I found the most perfect red acetate duchess satin stuff (its official name escapes me) at about £30 a metre. Hurrah! I thought. I glanced at the other colours it came in and was instantly drawn to an incredible peacock colour that really shone out. The sales guy was really helpful and pulled a long length of each colour off the rolls and held it up to me so I could see in the mirror which worked best with my colouring. He even dimmed to lights to create for me a night time effect, bless him! Both looked great, so he cut a swatch of each and we went off to have some lunch and a margarita to deliberate. Rather wonderfully, whilst my mum and I were staring at menus in the windows of potential lunch venues, I spotted Kat, the editor of the only wedding website I allowed myself to read: Rock n Roll Bride!

We thought and ate, chatted and drank, and although Mum was on ‘Team Red’ at the beginning of the meal, she’d switched over to ‘Team Peacock’ by the end. Uncharacteristically, I felt pretty relaxed about having to choose between them. I think it was because I thought both were so lovely, I knew whichever I picked would have looked fantastic. The peacock won because it was just so vibrant and special.


My goodness this dress took some work. For example, the bodice is underlined in calico to give extra support and structure, and there was so much hand-stitching, including a belt section that I eventually removed. Following Gertie’s Bombshell Dress class, I added boning to the lining, effectively making an inbuilt corset.

I made the whole thing in secret away from Pat my husband because I didn’t want to see it before our wedding day. I didn’t even want him to know that I’d gone for a different coloured fabric than the red he (and almost everyone else) was expecting. I had planned to make this dress at work, but when the studio I worked in closed down and I lost my job a month before our wedding, I had to make it in our bedroom on my own with the door closed! I wish I had a pound for every time I said to Pat, ‘Don’t go in there’! I repeatedly vacuum the carpets and went around picking up tiny threads because the raw edges fray constantly.

There are more details (about the accessories and stuff) to be found on my blog post here. Thanks for letting me share this dress with you and therefore relive the panics and the highs that contributed to one of the most amazing days of my life!

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1950s | 1970s | Children | Dresses | Kids | Vintage Sewing

Retro Baby Dress and Nappy Covers

By on September 21, 2013

It may seem mental to be making baby clothes before I’ve even given birth, but these last few weeks might be my last chance to get any sewing done for a long time!

Dress Pattern:
If memory serves, I bought this vintage Style 1106 pattern (published 1975, Size 1) from the awesome Snooper’s Paradise in Brighton not long after we moved here a few years ago. How frustrating must it have been trying to sew for children before multi-sized sewing patterns became the norm? Such a small window of opportunity for each pattern to be of any use to you! This is actually the second time I’ve used this myself, the first being for my friend’s daughter Surayya that I made in Africa wax fabric. When I made that first version I wouldn’t have guessed that the second time I’d use it would be for my own little Missy! I also recently leant this pattern to my friend Kate so she could rustle up a birthday present for a mate of her’s daughter, thus getting more use from this than it possibly ever got from its original owner!

Dress Pattern changes:

Kate and I both came to the conclusion that the neck opening seemed a little tight, so we both made that a little wider on our respective versions. I also added a couple of cms to the length, plus only used 3cms of the suggested 5.7cms (!) hem allowance to make it a bit longer. What is up with those crazy-short hems on kiddie dresses of the 1950’s/60’s/70’s?! I’m hoping that our little girl will be able to wear it for a longer period of time if the length is a bit more generous. Kate and I also decided to opt for small poppers to fasten the top back opening instead of buttons because we’d narrowed the neck yoke and creating button holes would have been a bit of a faff on the new reduced dimension.

Also, I created a slightly different sleeve shape pattern for this version. I wanted something less frilly or puffy than most of the sleeved versions included in this pattern already so that this dress can be worn with a cardigan over the top (seeing as this outfit should be coming into use next Autumn/Winter).

Nappy Cover/Pants Pattern:

The matching nappy cover pants are made using Newlook 6818 pattern. I changed the pattern slightly to make them look less ‘bloomer-esque’. It’s not a vintage pattern and I haven’t used vintage fabric, but I think the style of the pants and the floral fabric have a sufficient retro vibe to justify their inclusion on this blog, I hope you agree! I’m not sure how seasonally appropriate they will be for when this outfit comes into use, it’s possible that wooly tights might be in order at that point, but who can say?! Making these nappy covers is so quick and so much fun, and I’m sure she’ll get some use from these ones even if it isn’t with the dress.

These nappy cover/pants are sooo quick and fun to make. I really hope they turn out to be useful because I could happily sew them again and again. Here’s another version I made from the pattern from a small piece of vintage linen that’s been in my stash for over a year:

I’m no expert but I think this fabric might be from the early 1950’s. The print is so pretty:

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1950s | 1960s

Leopard Print Capri Pants

By on September 19, 2012

I’m super proud to be able to share my recent creation with you! No they aren’t made from vintage fabric and no, they’re not made using a vintage sewing pattern, but I think you’ll agree that these capri pants have a distinctly retro feel. My inspiration was the super-awesome leopard capri’s (clam-diggers, pedal-pushers, cropped trousers, etc.) in the vintage image below. I love how from the neck up she’s all Doris Day-innocence, and from the neck down she is a total vixen!

Source: theniftyfifties.tumblr.com via Zoe on Pinterest

My own interpretation and subsequent outfit is distinctly more sedate (and probably more comfortable) than this super-vixen’s, but I think it has something of the essence of the late-1950s/early-1960s era and look. I use the Colette Patterns Clover as my starting point but made a whole host of changes to fit my figure. If you’d like to read more about this creation and the pattern changes I made, check out this post.

Thanks for reading and happy (retro) sewing!

Zoe xxx

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1950s | Blouses | Skirts

Yellow High-Waist Sailor Skirt and Rizzo Blouse

By on August 23, 2012

In case you are feeling a touch of deja vu, I must admit I’ve already shared this Floral Rizzo blouse on this site back in March. However, I have finally created a suitably kitschy-retro looking skirt which I feel brings out this blouse’s full potential.

The skirt was made from a decidedly un-vintage 1990’s high waist skirt pattern (McCall’s M5590) using some yellow canvas/twill that had been dwelling in my stash for over six months. I made the longer, more retro-y length and applied two rows of cream buttons which give the skirt a nautical feel not dissimilar to the sailor slacks by Tara Starlet. For more details on this skirt, check this post.

I would definitely call this outfit ‘retro’ rather than ‘vintage’ inspired, because I’m not sure how appropriate that vivid yellow shade is if attempting to accurately recreate 1950s styles. I could probably pass as an extra in the film ‘Cry Baby‘, for example! Anyhow, I’m loving my new outfit. I’m certainly not going to get lost in a crowd!

Happy (retro) sewing lovelies! Thanks so much for the continued inspiration.

Zoe xxx

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1950s | Blouses | Vintage Sewing

Floral Rizzo Blouse

By on March 20, 2012

Hi peops! I check this site regularly, but haven’t contributed since it moved house. Really happy to be posting here today. Thanks everyone for sharing your work, it makes for SUCH inspirational reading. I’d like to show you a recent project I made using a vintage sewing pattern, vintage fabric and vintage buttons.

Pattern Description:

I finally got round to making up the blouse I’d confessed to having cut out months ago in my recent Sewing Pattern Hoard post. I made View B, a sleeveless winged collar blouse with tucks for shaping at the waist. I was drawn to it because I could imagine Rizzo from Grease wearing it, but I also feel it’s something Kitty & Daisy might rock too. This pattern is dated 1956.

Pattern Sizing:

This is a 34″ bust pattern. I was fully expecting to have to let it out around the waist but actually is was fine PLUS I’m wearing a vest underneath in these images (what? It’s still March and where I live, it’s damn chilly at times!).

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?

I’ll let you be the judge of that!

Were the instructions easy to follow?

Well, in the instruction were sparce, in that wonderful way vintage sewing patterns usually are. But yes, it was very easy and quick to put together after I’d faffed around with the pattern and cut it out.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?

Rizzo would wear this. And it rocks hard with my thrifted red cardi.

Fabric Used:

Some amazing vintage printed cotton with an almost Hawaiian floral design that I scored at work. This fabric is actually quite faded in places, so not really appropriate for the range we make at work. I’m actually quite happy the fabric was faded because I think it gives it more of an authentic vintage feel. The orangey-red plastic buttons are also vintage and have lived in my button stash for an age.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:

Well, I folded 2cms out along the waistline of the bodice to account for my short-waistedness and that worked very well as the tucks now hit my natural waistline as they should. I think I’m going to do this alteration as standard on every pattern I make from now on. I also lowered the armholes because I find vintage patterns can be very restrictive around the armholes and neckholes. I then had to redraft the facings of course. I’m pleased I made that alteration but I think maybe I lowered it a little two much in the end.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?

Yep. I would like to make another in black with the leopard print buttons I bought at Sew Over It in South London.


I’m a big fan of this blouse. I’m not sure how much wear it’ll get due to it’s sleeveless nature, but it’s actually very comfortable (I think I had a nap in it during the day!) and it seeing it makes me feel very summery.

For more of my creations and more info about this creation, please head over to my blog. I’ll get the kettle on!

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