1950s | Dresses | Mildly Insane Photo | Modern Patterns | Pattern Sizing | Vintage Sewing

1950s Picnics and Parties Dress

By on May 30, 2013

I swooned when I saw this dress over at ButchWax Vintage – it’s divine! It would be perfect for weddings, parties and picnics – every occasion, but such a tiny waist!












I knew I needed to make my own (modest) version if I was to ever sleep at night. So, here goes….

1950s Gingham Dress

I used the Billie Jean Pattern, from Blue Ginger Doll – and drafted my own collar to suit.

The Billie Jean pattern comes together really easily, and i’m fairly sure i’d use it again as the base for other dresses. The size 16 ended up being the best size for me at a 39.5″ bust (it’s meant to have zero ease, but I found that too tight for this style).

I can’t wait to wear this dancing! (and excuse the headless photos, it’s way too early in the morning).

More details, as always, on the blog

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1950s | Dresses | Pattern Sizing

Year End Summary

By on December 31, 2012

First I just want to say thank you to everyone on here! I have been so inspired by seeing everyone’s projects and enjoyed getting to contribute to this lovely community! I can’t wait to see what happens next year!

I wanted to start the new year with a clean slate so figured I should get my last vintage dress posted on here! This was actually the first full vintage dress I made and I wore it all summer! It just took that long to get pictures of it!

The moment I saw this pattern I loved it. Pleats are my favorite and that lovely red… who doesn’t want to make that dress?!?!

I decided to use a gorgeous coral cotton I picked up last February that has been mourning quietly on the shelf that it was not a dress yet.

I did a tissue fitting and things came out ok so I didn’t take in the bodice at all even though it read a size too big. Whoops. When I finished the dress and put it on, the neckline did need reduced. Can you spot my clever fix? On the other hand the waist fit perfectly with just enough ease. Next time I will just take a pleat out of the neckline and it should fit perfectly. The skirt had to be reduced to half the volume the pattern called for since I did not have enough fabric and wasn’t going to wear a petticoat with it.

In honor of sewing thoughtfully, the slow clothing movement or whatever it’s called, I added a couple special additions so it would be more wearable for me personally. I added pockets. Special pockets for my insulin pump! A hole in the inside allows me to thread my pump through so it is always accessible. I much prefer this to where it usually gets stashed when I wear dresses. This added a little extra time to the making since I had to remember how to do hidden pockets and finish the raw edges differently.

I also added the lingerie straps since I usually have kids crawling all over me and I hate showing off my undergarments in church. 😀 Or any public place for that matter.

I finished it by hand picking the lapped zipper topstitching for an invisible finish.

It came together very quickly even with the adjustments I made and the construction was super easy. I am delighted with it and can’t wait to make up another version in a solid or more subtle print so the neckline pleating will really stand out.

Well that’s it for me this year! Hope everyone has a great time celebrating! Happy New Year!

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1960s | Dresses | Pattern Drafting | Pattern Sizing | Vintage Sewing

Polka Dot Dress

By on December 11, 2012

Hi all! I’m finally finished with my semester at school, so I celebrated by sewing myself a dress. I decided to go with a maternity pattern because I wanted something empire waisted. I chose to make the dress in the middle of the picture. (McCall’s 6576 C. 1962)

I needed to resize the pattern since it is designed for pregnant women. After looking at the pieces I decided I wasn’t going to like the dress, even resized.

I ended up whipping out my pattern blocks and just designed something based off of the picture. I ended up adding four darts at the front of the bodice and two darts on the back of the bodice. I also made the dress zipper-less because I just wanted something that I can easily throw on. I also decided to go with a boat neck and a somewhat low back.

Here’s my final product!

For more pictures, check out my blog!

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1950s | Dresses | Mad Men Inspired | Pattern Sizing | Vintage Sewing

Two 1958 Sheath Dresses: Advance 8617

By on September 26, 2012


View 1, Advance 8617, from 1958 – I made this dress first. It has gussets in the sleeves.

Here are two sheath dresses I made from a vintage 1958 pattern, Advance 8617. The yellow “tropical dress” has kimono sleeves and the fitting is more relaxed in general, and I think it is better for it. The blue dress has gussets in the sleeves and a more fitted bodice. The original 1958 pattern was much too big and I re-sized it to my size. My weight has shifted slightly since cutting the pattern, so the fit was longer perfect, a good learning experience for the next dress.  (Don’t wait 8 months between cutting and sewing!)  I ended up taking in the bodice side seams a little and lengthening the darts slightly.

Advance 8617_view3_1958_vintage_sewing_pattern
View 3, Advance 8617 from 1958 – my “tropical dress.” I made this dress second. The kimono sleeves give it a more relaxed fit. Notice that the waist falls in the right place in this version.

What I found in the test run with this pattern: This dress is best in a very lightweight cloth with good drape, especially silk, chiffon or rayon.  The pattern is more roomy than expected, leaving space to take it in or let it out later.

The inspiration was Joan’s dress from the accordion scene in Season 3, Episode 3 of Mad Men, see photo below.  But obviously I am not shaped like Joan, and few people are.

Tropical dress – I imagine myself wearing this dress lounging on a warm and breezy veranda sipping hibiscus cooler.  Since I’d be lounging, who needs a belt?!  So I set aside the belt hardware and I did not make the self-fabric belt.  But maybe I will make it later.  What do you think?

Blue dress – I like the shorter sleeves and the more fitted upper body, but the extra time to do the gussets was not really worth it.  Short cap sleeves or very short kimono sleeves might look just as nice and save a lot of time.

To see much more technical detail on alteration and fitting issues, please go to WesternSpinster.com


Advance 8617_view_3_1958_vintage_sewing_pattern
View 3, Advance 8617, from 1958 – my “tropical dress.” I made this dress second. The kimono sleeves give it a more relaxed fit. Nessa has the best expression in this photo! She looks skeptical.
View 1, Advance 8617, from 1958 – I made this dress first. It has gussets in the sleeves and a more fitted bodice. This blue cloth is a more retro look, but the yellow West African print was probably around in 1958.






















Joan’s accordion scene in Season 3, Episode 3 of Mad Men.
Advance 8617 vintage sewing pattern from 1958. The very stylized illustration make it look like Joan's dress, but the actual dress is a bit different. Also notice that the sleeves in this illustration look much shorter than in the complete dresses. I did not change the sleeves for these dresses.

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1950s | Dresses | Pattern Sizing | Vintage Sewing

Advance 5971, a “wearable muslin”!

By on September 20, 2012

Hello again!  I finally have pictures of the Advance dress that I was complaining about so bitterly a few months ago.  Here’s the pattern envelope again:

And here’s my version!

Since the pattern I have is (nominally) a little too small for me, I wanted to do a muslin first.  On the other hand, if it happened to fit, I wanted to be able to wear it.  So, I made up the bodice out of leftover fabric from one of my first circle skirts and added a little length to the lower edge of everything so that if it ended up being the right size-ish, I could just tuck it in to the waistband of the skirt and pretend it was a dress.

As it turns out, the bodice DOES fit, which is a bit surprising since it lists the bust measurement as 29″ on the envelope!  Either a gremlin switched out pattern pieces or this pattern has a heck of a lot of ease.  Of course, I’m not big-busted by any stretch of the imagination, but with a gently-padded bullet bra, my measurements come in a lot closer to 34″ or 35″, and this top wasn’t THAT snug.

I ended up extending the zipper placket all the way up to the bottom corner of the underarm gusset, as I felt like the snugness of the top made it a bit difficult to put on.  Once it’s zipped, it’s just fine… but wiggling into it is a trick.  It does pull a little across the bust/upper back, but I’m pretty happy with it anyway.  Speaking of gussets…

I think I managed some pretty successful First Gussets Ever.  I really love how much more range of motion they give… I will be on the lookout for more gusset-sleeved patterns in the future.

General sum-up?  I really love the finished result, even though I hated some parts of the construction process.  I’ll definitely wear it again, and I might even consider making a full dress with this pattern… although it may need a few small sizing tweaks.  I’ve got a few more (less over-exposed) pictures of it styled on my blog here, as well.



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1950s | Dresses | Pattern Drafting | Pattern Sizing | Shirts | Vintage Sewing

Advance 5971, pattern woes edition

By on July 14, 2012


Hello again!  Thank you all for the very warm welcome.   I’ve been working on a bit of a “wearable muslin” for the bodice of a dress pattern I picked up a while ago.  I’m using up remnants from one of my circle skirts, and if the bodice turns out properly I plan on adding some ballet loops so I can stick the two pieces together and wear them as a dress.

So.  I have a question.  Have you ever been sewing along and looked at your pattern and realized the pattern writers must have gone out to lunch and left a team of monkeys to finish writing the pattern?  Because this has been my experience with Advance 5971.

Here is the pattern envelope illustration.  To be honest, I have a couple problems with it.  First, and perhaps more importantly, it seems to think it is a pattern for a person with a 29 inch bust.  The illustration does not come anywhere close to depicting the amount of ease in this pattern!  I was sure I’d have to make some creative adjustments to size it up, but first I compared the bodice pieces to the bodice pieces for a 34 bust 60s sundress pattern I’d made earlier.  To my great surprise, they were very nearly the same size!  The pieces for the smaller pattern were a smidge smaller, but so were the seam allowances, so I forged ahead.  I DID skim the instructions ahead of time, but apparently not in enough detail, and for whatever reason the pattern images of the collar did not quite click…

Um.  Look at Step 9 for me, if you would.  Step 7, too, I suppose… although that I was able to figure out eventually by ripping out the seam I’d sewn until I got it back to where I was supposed to have stopped.  Because, you see, from the pattern picture I had not figured out that at this point the pattern (written by the aforementioned monkeys) would have me do some impressive sewing origami to end up with A ONE-PIECE COLLAR.

Pardon the lack of finishing inside, I’m sure I’ve committed a minor sewing crime.  It’s evident that my corner turns are less than entirely smooth… but everything seems to have worked out okay in the end.  However, I’m not really sure that the amount of swearing is worth actually making the entire dress ever.  Also, I can’t work out why the monkeys (who may have gotten into the pattern drafters’ liquor cabinet) would have you sew the center front seam of the bodice BEFORE doing all of the fiddly neckline work!  I think this pattern would be much easier if you waited to sew the center front seam until AFTER you’d assembled the collar.

I’m also a little skeptical of this sleeve finishing… I think there ought to be a better way to do it.  For now, though, I’m just following the pattern… which has you attaching the cuff to the outside of the sleeve and then sewing a layer of bias facing over it, turning the facing to the inside, and slip stitching it down.  It makes for a very bulky cuff edge.

Do any of you have advice or suggestions for dealing with this pattern?  Is anyone else planning on sewing Advance 5971?  Or just inebriated monkey pattern stories?  I’m going to add a strip of fabric to the bottom to cover the raw edges, put in a zipper, and stick the ballet loops on, and we’ll see how the whole thing looks.


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