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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Simplicity 4727 (1943) dress and bolero

By on July 8, 2014

I’ve posted variations of this dress before, along with the gory saga of fitting the pattern.

I actually finished this version of the dress for the Fourth of July, 2013, and wore it on a day trip to Camp Hearne, but I haven’t posted it because I didn’t have the matching bolero done.

The bolero needed a little tweaking, but nothing like the dress pattern did, which is fortunate because I might otherwise be posting this for the Fourth of July, 2027.

Pardon the squinting.  This is on the courthouse square in El Dorado, Arkansas, where the weather was incredibly lovely but sunny.

This photo is also proof that not all introverts are shy.

Almost everything was closed because of the holiday, but we went for breakfast at Jimmy B‘s (I highly recommend the Western omelet) and then wandered around for awhile, just because.  There was one antique shop open.  My brother got some old Ball jars to use as samples at work (he’s an archaeologist, except in Arkansas it’s spelled “archeologist”, because you can do that when you’re the most geographically beautiful state in the Union), and I got a Napco sitting Great Dane and a Frankoma “Good Luck” trivet, which has horseshoes on it, in case I someday achieve the cowboy-themed kitchen of my dreams.

In case anyone is wondering: The buttons are decorative only, but there are two hooks-and-loops on the inside edge of the jacket to keep it closed.  I will very definitely be using the jacket pattern again to go with my sundresses–this was awesome as a coverup for sun/air-conditioning/situation-appropriateness.  Also, because people always ask, the boots are Ariat Heritage r-toes.  I also have them in brown.  They’re super comfortable.

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1940s | Dresses | Vintage Sewing

A Tropical Wrap Dress

By on June 14, 2013

Rayon is perhaps my favorite fabric to sew with! Love it! And it’s absolutely perfect for 40s dresses!

When I saw this fabulous tropical printed rayon in the garment district in LA, I knew it had to be a 40s tiki dress! And I promptly bought 7 yds. lol.

I used Eva Dress 3863 from 1943. It’s a daring wrap dress and it’s available as a multisize pattern!


I did view 2! It turned out so lovely!

I really love this fabric! More photos and construction details over on the blog!

P.S. These photos are from a modeling shoot with a professional so that’s why there’s watermarks.

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1940s | 1970s | 1980s | Dresses

Simplicity 4727 (1943): Black sundress

By on May 30, 2013

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.

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1940s | Dresses | Vintage Sewing

Simplicity 4718 (1943)

By on January 28, 2013

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.

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Simplicity 4727 (1943): Drunken Muskrat dress, Gingerbread Girl edition

By on October 15, 2012

Introducing . . . the dress I meant to wear for the Fourth of July.

At long last, I have something to show for my months of work, zillions of test muslins, and shameless pleas for help.  I believe I stated that I thought the pattern had been drafted by muskrats with drinking problems.  I stand by that assertion.

I’m not saying this pattern is bad, I’m just saying that it should not be undertaken with the expectation that it will be an instant success.

Once again, the pattern illustration:

The expectation.

Notice the mini-me at the center bottom.  Take a close look at how that dress fits.

(Sorry about the lousy resolution.)

The expectation, part II.

My pattern was a size 18 (bust 36).  I’m a size 16 (bust 34), so took it in a size before I even touched fabric.  I used the usual slash-and-overlap method.  I’ve done this before, on patterns that were far more complex than this, and gotten excellent results.  Also, I’m generally a pretty bust-waist proportional size 16.

This seems ironic in retrospect but, as I was taping the pattern pieces back together, I remember thinking, “Wow, these don’t look very big.  I hope this pattern doesn’t run that small!”  Notice I didn’t say that I actually measured the pieces to see if they were as small as they looked.  That was a mistake.  A mistake I promise I will never make again.

I fussed a long time over the skirt.  I have big hips so I was very careful to cut the skirt at the original size 18 at the hips and taper it to a 16 at the waist.

I glibly cut out the dress and sewed most of it together.  I do remember thinking that the darts were awfully large at the bottoms and hoping that the waist wouldn’t be too tight but, again–I wasn’t worried enough to do something sensible about it such as, oh, I don’t know–measure the bloody thing.

The skirt fit like a glove.

The bodice didn’t.

The reality.

This is the bodice that I feared might run small.  Now we know how good I am at eyeballing stuff.

I sort of wanted to cry at the time but now it’s pretty comical.  I mean . . . lesson learned about measuring, etc., but you have to admit–that’s kind of hilarious.

I took four inches out of the bodice just under the arms.  I took more out in other places, too, but the underarms alone were an inch too wide per quadrant.  I won’t detail all the alterations I had to make here, but you can see some of them in the Flickr set.  In a nutshell, though, I:

1) Took one inch out of the underarm on each side, front and back (four inches overall).
2) Took one inch out of the center front and center back.
3) Shortened the straps by one-half inch in both front and back (one inch overall).
The fit was better but was still snug so I:
1) Added the inch back into the front and back center.
The second muslin was lumpy and weird so I:
1) Took the inch back out of the center front and took a half-inch out of the center back.
2) Did a full-bust adjustment.  This is how I know that Hell has frozen over, because I’m not even remotely full-busted.
The third muslin was better still but still had some issues so I:
1) Lengthened the bust and waist darts.
2) The shoulder strap buckled at the back so I slashed it and rotated the strap outward/downward about half an inch.
The fourth muslin was too short, which was easily remedied, and still needed the bust darts lowered about 3/4 of an inch, but it waspretty good.
Then it turned out that the bodice wasn’t too short so I ended up having to take the skirt off, cut an inch off the bottom of the bodice, tweak the darts, and sew the dress back together.  The lowered bust darts were just right, though.
This is the result.  Well, half a result.  It’s technically a wearable muslin since it’s not even the fabric I meant to use.  I’m kind of slouching here–probably from exhaustion–and the angle is bad.  I need to get a new picture of it as I wore it Saturday, with red boots.  Now that it fits, though, it’s super comfortable, and the pattern was easy to make once I’d done a million alterations.
I'm slouching.

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1940s | Pattern Sizing | Vintage Sewing

Plea for help: Simplicity 4727 (1943) and pattern drafting references

By on July 9, 2012

I am such a doofus: I just realized that the illustration at the top of the We Sew Retro page represents the decades 1910’s through 1970’s. Doh!

That said, has anyone else here attempted the sundress version of Simplicity 4727 (1943)? What were your results?

Simplicity 4727 (1943)

I spent my evenings last week altering it down to a size 16 (bust 34, waist 28; I measured myself at a bust 35, waist 27 1/2) and got most of it sewn this weekend. Okay, I know this is my fault for not measuring them, too, and I promise you I’ve learned my lesson on this, but I swear the pattern pieces didn’t look that big when I cut them out.  I’ve resized patterns before with completely fine results, so I don’t think that was the problem, either.  Besides, even if I hadn’t resized it, it should not have been as much too big for me as it is.

The skirt fits like a glove. The bodice fits like a garbage bag. I’m not kidding: I’ve never before seen a pattern that was six inches too big in the armpits.  What the heck?  I’m already bigger than most 1940’s women, and I’m pear-shaped but I’m not that pear-shaped.  I think this pattern was designed by a muskrat with a drinking problem.

It’s so bad I’m not even sure it’s worth the time to do all the altering it would take to get it to fit, and it’s a pretty basic bodice, so . . . what are y’all’s favorite pattern-drafting references? I know about Leena’s online tutorial and OpenSourceStitches, but I’m at the point where I’m willing to buy books, too, if I can afford them.

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