by Joni on July 21, 2012 · 15 comments

in 1960s,Dresses,Vintage Sewing

As promised, here is my second new dress in as many weeks! I started with McCalls 5808, dated 1961, and a gloriously retro-looking Amy Butler print. I love peonies – and they are the state flower here in Indiana!

The construction of the dress, while simple, was pretty interesting – the bodice is faced, the yoke is constructed separately then topstitched in, and finally the raw edges of yoke & facing are finished together. I used a serger instead of overcasting as they would have done in 1961 but otherwise it was the same. I did make a few changes: mainly, I moved the zipper from the back to the side, because I knew the yoke seams would never match up at the back if I didn’t! I added a hidden pocket in the non-zipper side of the skirt. And I chopped FOUR INCHES off the bottom of the skirt before hemming, because for a knee-length skirt, it almost came down to my ankles and I am not short! Have I mentioned that these patterns were drafted for giants?!

I really wanted to make a belt to wear with this dress, but ran into a snag… All the vintage belt kits I have been carefully hoarding are unusable. The belt backing is permanently creased from being folded into a package for 50+ years and resists any and all attempts to flatten. :( JoAnn’s has ONE width of belt backing and a few ‘fashion’ buckles… ugh… I’m going to have to find a way to make matching belts for future dresses. But I was wearing this one on a hot date with DH last night, so I went ahead and whipped up a sash with the same Kona I used for the yoke. Mine came out shorter than the one on the envelope, but I like how it makes a little bow at the front of the dress.

I can’t believe how well the bodice fits – although the fact that I am finally wearing the right size bras probably helps with that. I know I say this every time, but I think this is my new favorite! When we went out last night, a gaggle of teenage girls stopped me and asked if they could take a picture with me! “Do you dress like this all the time?” one of them asked. If only I could!


New Year, New Dress

by Joni on January 5, 2012 · 5 comments

in 1960s,Dresses

Even though I didn’t have anything more exciting than church planned for New Year’s Day, I thought a new dress would be in order. Continuing my pretty well-documented shirtwaist fetish, I tried out one of my latest eBay acquisitions, Simplicity 3580 from 1961. The pattern called for button links, and as luck would have it I had some nice vintage pearl ones in my stash! (They are really just shank buttons with a metal linky deal in between.) The fabric is some wonderful Tula Pink ‘Parisville’ I’ve been hoarding for the right moment. Yes, that is a Marie antoinette-style lady you are seeing with a fully rigged sailing ship in her hair.

I used five smaller buttons instead of the one giant button they suggest – since I had the lovely vintage pearl shank buttons, it seemed a shame not to use them. I also used some wide ribbon instead of making a covered belt, but other than that, I followed the pattern pretty much exactly. It’s a ‘proportioned’ size, so I took advantage of that by making the bodice in the ‘tall’ size, since I am 5’7″. I cut the skirt at a Medium and still had to hem it up 4 inches (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, these patterns were drafted for Amazons) – next time I will save some yardage and cut the skirt at the Short length. Anyway, here I am all tricked out in heels and my trusty crinoline petticoat.

I love it, this dress was so easy to make (no side zipper!) and a lot of fun to wear. The only thing I really didn’t like is the one piece front facing/collar thing, it doesn’t lay flat no matter how much I press and understitch (but it’s a dark and busy print so you can’t really tell). I can see myself using this pattern again and again and switching out the collar and sleeves.


Okay, don’t laugh–this is one of my “modern” patterns.

I’m not kidding. Apart from a handful of genuinely modern patterns, that this is copyright 1961 makes it the most recent pattern I have. It was nicknamed “Polly Esther” because it’s made from–drum roll, please–a pink cotton-polyester bedsheet and cotton-polyester gingham trim. I normally use 100% cotton. I think I’ll stick with that policy from now on, too, since the cotton-poly was rather slippery and fussy to work with.

I really am unreasonably enamored of the pink-with-gingham-trim idea, though.

The appallingly-bad mirror shot below shows the results:

The shoulders are a bit big and I think I’ll probably trace the pattern piece and adjust them accordingly (bring the neckline in toward the center, mostly), but otherwise it seems to fit well. It think it will also fit better when I’m not wearing it over a bunchy tank-top.

The project Flickr set is here.

I shrank the pockets up a bit since they were in the running for the biggest pockets I’d ever encountered; bigger, possibly, even than those on Simplicity 4015 (1952), which were pretty darned big. The smaller pockets–I only trimmed off 1/2 inch all the way around–are still as big as any I’ll ever need.

I was irritated, however, to discover that I didn’t need anywhere near as much bias binding as the pattern said I would. I spent a lot of time custom-making that pink gingham bias because nobody in my area carries it pre-made. I guess I’ll have to use the rest for something else.

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Addendum: Now that I’ve worn it for a day, I think I will also be adding a button and loop on the back to help keep things from gapping. I love the idea of back-wrap dresses but they seem to be tricky to pull off in practice.