1930s | 1940s | 1950s | 1960s | Vintage Sewing

Announcing the Vintage Suit Sew Along

By on April 8, 2016


Hello We Sew Retro Sewists,

I have an exciting announcement, it seems to be the season for Sew Alongs! A friend of mine, Amy Jansen Leen from Chica Chica Boom Chic and I have been planning a Vintage Suit Sew Along, and I have all the details on my blog if you would like to join….

We are going to share our progress, tips, inspiration and at the end of the Sew Along we’ll share all your and our makes!

So, who’s in?

Visit my blog, Mermaid’s Purse, for all the details, including how to participate and the time frame.


line drawing of suits

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1940s | 1950s | Dresses | Vintage Sewing

“I dream of Tiki” Hawaiian dress sew-along!

By on April 7, 2016


Aloha, my fellow vintage sewing enthusiasts! A couple weeks ago I posted an inquiry on the We Sew Retro sew-and-tell Facebook page regarding a Hawaiian dress sew-along. There seems to be enough interest to make this a fun little activity, so here we go!

The rules:

1. It must be a Hawaiian dress. It can be a full skirt, sarong, or whatever floats your boat, it just needs to be Hawaiian/tiki themed!

2. You can use whatever pattern makes you happiest, (or draft your own!), but it should be vintage/vintage reproduction/or styled after an actual vintage garment.

That’s it!

In order to make this as fun and engaging as possible, take pictures of your progress and post each week before we advance to the next stage of our sew-along! I’ll post details on each step as we progress.

If you are having troubles at any point, post for help! This can be in the comments on the blog post itself, or on the sew-and-tell page on Facebook!

We’ll start May 1st, so everyone has a chance to gather supplies 🙂

Post your pattern and fabric choices in the comments for inspiration!

I can’t wait to get started!

Xoxo Rhandee

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1940s | 1950s | Dresses | Vintage Sewing

‘Pass the Peas’ Dress – a Vintage Mash-Up

By on April 5, 2016

Hello! I’ve just come back from adventures in Los Angeles and Hollywood, where as well as visiting all the sights, I also managed to do some fabric shopping. For some reason, it didn’t occur to me to visit Mood’s Los Angeles outpost; instead, I was excited about seeing Islands Fabrics, which is a whole store devoted to Hawaiian and Tropical fabric!

I was very restrained and only bought one piece, which is the barkcloth-weight leaves in the picture below, bottom right:
Juat a selection of what I purchased

The rest was picked up in the surrounding shops, and there were so many more than expected:

Most of them are earmarked for shirts for Mr Needles, would you believe, but I managed to sneak in one more for myself, the little garden peas print cotton. It was sitting unloved on a pavement at the bargain price of only $2 per yard (had to go back to Imperial for this visit; metric never really did take off in the US), so I felt sorry for it and bought a couple of yards.

At first I saw it as a blouse – it seemed like too much pattern for a dress – but this beauty had been playing on my mind:

This was part of my prize from Vintage Pattern Pledge for 2015, run by Kerry at Kestrel Makes and Marie at a Stitching Odyssey. It seems apt to use the pattern won from 2015’s pledge as part of 2016’s pledge, so I went for it!

Just one hitch – buying without a specific project in mind had backfired, and 2 yards wasn’t going to be enough to accommodate the flared skirt. Solution – use a straight skirt from another favourite pattern, Butterick 8571:

I’ve used this pattern twice before, once as illustrated here, and once just as the skirt here and it worked out fine both times.

I had planned to take some pretty photos in my garden, doing some gentle weeding or something, but the recent gales we experienced here in the UK have turned my neglected garden into a bit of a mess. But I carried on regardless – here’s the new dress in action:

I don’t think the change in skirt makes too much difference – it still looks 40s’ish. besides the skirt, I also had to adapt the sleeves to a shorter length in order to fit them in. But I gave them a little scalloped detail just as a reference to the original ruched shape:

Inside of sleeve with facing



Speaking of sleeves, I decided to insert the sleeve before the side seams were attached, on the flat, as it were. This was much easier and less fiddly than the usual technique of closing the side and underarm seam first, and the sleeve head came out pretty smooth:

The neckline is the main feature on this dress, being made up of 2 draped and pleated panels which then attach at the centre front and are covered with a little tab:

Before attachment to bodice…


…and after



I wasn’t quite sure how to finish this seam so that it was neat and attractive, and the instructions give you no guidance. I finally decided to bind it with bias cut from the same fabric as the lining:

The hem was also finished with matching bias strips:

I rarely line a dress fully – I get too hot! – and this was no exception. I used a gold poly to line the skirt, which you can see at the kick pleat at the back:

And finally it all gets closed up with a zip at the centre back, which is again a necessary departure from the pattern which saved fabric. But I did stay old-school and put the zip in by hand, with a little hook and eye at the top:

And that’s pretty much it. I’m off to learn how to drive this thing!

See you soon!


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1940s | Dresses

1940s-Style Shirt Dress

By on February 9, 2016

Recently, while sewing for a placement, I took a step away from my usual 50s-style makes, in search of something a little more practical as well as elegant. The solution? A 1940s-inspired shirt dress!

I used Simplicity 1880 for the pattern, and made it up in red cotton lawn. The only alteration I made was to add a pocket on the right hand side – because every dress needs pockets! I also added decorative stitching and self-covered buttons; I think it’s details like this that make all the difference 🙂

Speaking of details, I think this dress also looks great with a pair of retro back-seam stockings 😉

You can read all about this dress here on my blog!

Until next time,

Miss Maddy xx

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1940s | Burlesque / Pinup | Lingerie | Vintage Sewing

Retro Butterick 5152 Dressing Gown

By on January 7, 2016

YAY! This is my very first post on We Sew Retro!  I have been silently stalking in the background, but never had the courage to post till now.

I’ve had Butterick 5152 in my vintage-inspired pattern box for quite a while and had intentions on making a dressing gown that was pretty enough to lounge around the house in when I was disinterested in wearing clothes.  (Like, every Sunday afternoon!)  But the red charmeuse in my stash was vying for my attention, so I changed my mind and went for an over-the-top gown with feathers and lace!

The pattern was not too tricky, save the yoke.  It was awful!  I LOATHE hand-sewing!  The feather trim was also a nightmare as the feathers were already attached to a strip of ribbon, but apparently they were glued to the ribbon, so the glue ended up ruining three needles and made all the stitches skip. Ugh!  : >(

Otherwise, I ADORE this gown! While it is no good for lounging, it’s perfect for a romantic evening at home with hubby and a flute of bubbly!

For more eye candy, see my blog post.

Thanks for looking!

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1940s | Dresses | Vintage Sewing

My wedding dress

By on December 6, 2015

My wedding dress journey officially began on March 20th 2014 when my gorgeous man popped the question – however I had already spent almost 6 months researching couture gown construction methods – you know, just I case I ever needed to produce such a garment…. (wink wink).

( I posted the result of this research, the ‘index of DIY Bridal Gowns‘ to my blog as a resource for other DIY brides, if you know of a blogged dress I have missed please let me know and I will add it ! )

I have watched enough “say yes to the dress” to know that around 5 out of 10 women want to look like either Audrey Hepburn or Grace Kelly on their wedding day, but I really meant it: “Timeless, simple lines with a tidy updo, thanks!”  I already had simplicity 2442 in my stash and was pretty sure I would use it  (minus the gloves and boob-collar), I love the proportions and the use of print on the pattern envelope. This rare pattern is circa 1948, I purchased it on etsy.


My sewing experience at that point consisted of a pencil skirt that didn’t fit and a vintage dress with floppy facings, however one thing going for me is that I am one of those annoying people who can cut a vintage pattern straight out of the envelope with no problems whatsoever. Just to be on the safe side I visited local couture wizard Sally Mussared who produced a moulage for me using Parisian drafting techniques, this is a fantastic asset and I have used it for every sewing project since – I highly recommend doing this if you are sewing an important garment, fitting becomes a synch!

How did this strapless dress stay up? I spent 6 months sewing the corselet alone. If you want more detail on that there are several posts on my blog regarding this mysterious process (here, here and here)

With that done I had about 10 weeks to produce the rest of the dress! I chose a beautiful silk organza jacquard which was a dream to work with, and underlined it with a blueish grey silk to tone down some of the yellowness


I completely altered the skirt of the pattern after I saw this Rochas dress on pinterest:


I loved the huge centre box pleat – I just draped it on my dress form and basted the pleats into place, ensuring the centre pleat was  as wide as the darts in the bodice piece are apart so that everything matched up.



I also modified the bodice by adding a highly unorthodox seam right across the bust apex. This allowed me to achieve a very close fit in the centre of the bust and added a bit of interest, I thought.

For my veil I took inspiration from one of my favourite ballet moments, the Willis from Giselle. The Willis are deceased jilted brides who have been left at the alter! They’re certainly miserable and sombre beauties, but super chic in my opinion.


Ok enough chat – here is the finished gown, with stacks more photos here for the wedding enthusiasts among you !




I enjoyed every minute in this dress and was quite sad to take it off at the end of the day! It was light, snug, and didn’t budge an inch which I am very proud of. I am a very different sewer on this other side of this project and look forward to applying these new skills in some garments that will get a bit more wear. I’d like to publicly acknowledge the effort Mel from Poppykettle.com and Laura Mae from Lilacs and Lace have gone to to document their couture level techniques on their blogs, without these resources I would not have had a chance of success – have a look if you don’t already follow!

There is more construction information than you could ever want and two construction disasters  on my blog , which you will enjoy if you’re the schadenfreude type.  Thanks for reading !



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