1950s | Dresses

A Little Bird Told Me

By on June 21, 2014

I’ve done coordinating dresses for my daughters before, but never outright matching. Browsing vintage patterns online I came across McCall’s 4346 (copyright 1957, the same year my mother was born), and knew that I had to do it for both of my girls. It took a little while to find usable copies in sizes 6 and 12 – these were supposed to be Easter dresses (don’t judge me) – but I finally pulled it off.

I was considering making both of their dresses in solid blue with a red bow just like the blondie on the pattern envelope there. But once I laid eyes on this Michael Miller print,  I couldn’t stop picturing my girlies in it. I mean, come on! It’s birds hanging dishes on a clothesline!

Other than my buttonholer’s continued refusal to cooperate, these dresses came together amazingly fast. I love how the simple lines work with an obnoxious novelty print (I’m already thinking about Christmas dresses). And here are my girlies all decked out with their new crinoline petticoats and big smiles!

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Green tea, a new dress

By on April 7, 2014

I’ve wanted a green dress, to fell better after this rainy winter…

I’ve found the fabric last summer with no idea… then I’ve found in my “atelier” a pattern that I’d forgot…


A Vogue model : 8789

I’m very happy to wear it because it’s really a pleasure, it’s fit well and I’ve no problem with the V neck in front and back.


I’d a lot of chance with the weather …


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Plaid and Velvet

By on December 26, 2013

This was a last-minute, impulse project – that’s the only way I sew anything for myself, to be honest. The pattern is Vogue 9059 – one of my favorite Vogues of all time. It took me the better part of two years to find it in my size for a price I could afford – I ended up getting it for under $25, yay! Even better, the fabric for this dress was totally free. My sister found a bolt of this gorgeous Ralph Lauren tartan sateen home dec fabric at a thrift shop and bought the whole thing. She’s made a few projects for herself and she also cut off a generous dress-sized hunk for me. Everything else, from the velvet to the zipper to the vintage belt buckle, was scrounged from my stash. (Know what this means? It means I get to buy some more fabric.)

My first thought was that the elegant yoke bands should be a contrast fabric – maybe solid white.  However, as you can see from the line drawing, the bands end at the shoulder seam; using a contrast color would have caused awkwardness there. (Design elements that end abruptly at a side seam = my absolute biggest fashion pet peeve. Remember all those awful Nineties blouses with the vest attached on the front only?) 

So the yoke bands were plaid, but I eliminated the button overlap and cut them in one piece so they wouldn’t be too busy. Totally unintentionally, the plaid on the top and middle bands matched perfectly. Nice! The bottom band didn’t match and I needed something there to break up the yoke seam, so I cut the bottom band out of some black cotton velvet instead. (The bottom band doesn’t reach the shoulder seam – as you can see, it peters out around the high bust area.)

This pattern wasn’t really intended for a plaid – I don’t think it was intended for a print material at all, actually – so I knew I was going to have to fudge it on the skirt. So I decided to worry about matching the plaids on the skirt front seam only and let the others fall as they may. This was my first attempt at matching plaids, and I was clearly affected with some sort of beginners’ luck, as it came out pretty good. We just won’t even talk about the other skirt seams, particularly on the zipper side!

And here is the dress in action on Christmas morning, complete with red lipstick and pearls and my new chiffon petticoat!

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1950s | Dresses

Wandering through a Poppy Field

By on October 12, 2011

The dress I pulled out of the closet for a day in San Francisco at the De Young Museum is Vogue 2903.  I felt that the bright colors were appropriate for a Picasso exhibit.

I adore this reproduction.  And it is still in print, so I cannot be the only one!  I have a bad habit of hoarding patterns, pulling them out to look at the lovely cover illustrations, but finding excuse after excuse not to sew up an actual garment.  Instead of wasting time dreaming of the many possibilities, I should just dig in.

In this case, I could not resist cutting into this one as soon as I got the pattern home a few years ago.  And luckily, the perfect fabric found me.  These are not the colors I would normally be drawn to, but I could not resist the large-scale watercolor print on crisp cotton.  It leapt out at me from the quilting cotton wall at JoAnn Fabrics.

I love, love, love the neckline.  The yoke construction is ingenious.  The shoulder pieces are finished off and then the sleeves and yoke, which are constructed as one piece, get set into the finished garment.  For a more formal look, the yoke section could easily be removed from the pattern altogether and a length of bias fabric used to finish off the underarm raw edges.  I am surprised that the pattern does not include this as an alternate view.

The only downside with the dress is that the pleats can be a bit of a pain to iron.  I made the mistake of basting them with a bright red color that blended in with the print, and every time I iron the dress, I find more basting thread bits.

The dress was a bit hit at the museum.  And wearing a crinoline is a great trick to keeping a bit of personal space in an over-crowded gallery!

More pictures may be found over at my blog, Lilacs & Lace.

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