1940s | Dresses


By on July 5, 2015

You know how you have that moment when you don’t just want, but NEED to make yourself a dress? I’ve learned that the urge must be obeyed. Of course the muse strikes at inpooprtune times… like right after I got home from vacation last week. (I actually made THREE dresses in one week, but the other two are waiting for shoulder pads still, while this one is ready to go.) I’m trying to work through my stash of fabric and patterns – so I can buy more fabric and patterns, duh – and sometimes it’s just a matter of finding the right match.

The fabric, in this case, is Amy Butler Hapi:
amy butler hapi

I love the colors, and the folk-art-inspired graphics. I bought it a while ago to go with my favorite blue shoes – trouble is, I only got three yards. I think I was riginally thinking of making a dirndl skirt, but I hardly ever wear skirts – I really prefer dresses. And three yards isn’t much to squeeze a dress out of for a full grown adult.


Fabric rationing came to my rescue. This pattern is undated, but it very clearly hails from the Second World War, no? I still had to cut carefully because I was working with a one-directional print AND had to match that strong vertical line at the center front. I had just barely enough of the main print to eke out the dress – in true Make Do and Mend fashion, I had to cut the facings out of something else.

I started out thinking I was going to make View 2, the non-scalloped version. I quickly came to my senses.

20150705_170528Aren’t those scallops neat? I used white Imperial batiste for the yoke – the busy print needed a bit of contrast – and added a wee self-fabric tie. The whole project came together smoothly – I worked on it for about a day and a half – and I’m proud to say the entire thing came out of my stash. I even sewed it together with black thread because I did’t have anything else that matched. (Don’t worry, it doesn’t show. Mostly.)

I wore my new creation to church today, and thought I’d share some pictures that weren’t taken in my smeary bathroom mirror. Instead I got my 12-year-old daughter to take a few snaps of me outdoors. As you can see, we had a little help.

20150705_162307(Yes, she was licking my pantyhose. Imagine if I’d done as I’m told they did when nylons were unavailable during the war, and painted my legs with gravy!)

20150705_162334That’s better…



I think she likes it, don’t you?!




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1950s | Dresses

Making It Work

By on July 15, 2013

I found some of the Amy Butler ‘Soul Blossoms’ challis on clearance at my local fabric shop for $5.00 a yard – it’s been on my Pinterest board for months so of course I snapped it up. We are going on vacation to the Florida Gulf Coast next week, so I thought this would make a great vacation dress.

Butterick 5773 was actually the first vintage pattern I ever made – I originally did it in a pink Kona, which was a little too stiff for the pattern. (The dress sadly got ruined a few years back due to some indelible staining.) I was hoping a challis would be more suitably drapey. What I had forgotten is that straight out of the envelope, this dress is actually really, really unflattering.

Just… no.

However, I liked the fabric a lot so I set about trying to salvage it. (This, by the way, is the reason for my cardinal rule: ‘Never work with fabric that you don’t love.’ If I had bought the yardage only because it was cheap, this whole thing would be in a dumpster at the moment.) I narrowed the sleeve tunnels by a few inches (I always forget that I don’t really like vast sleeve openings), put in shoulder pads as the pattern suggested, hacked SIX inches off the bottom, and put in a contrast belt instead of the self-fabric belt I had been envisioning. The belt buckle is vintage, by the way! I also found that there was enough ‘give’ that I could get the dress on and off easily without the need of a side zipper.

The finished product reads more 1940s even though the pattern is dated ’51 – but I think that works well with the fabric. The ripply front opening is the consequence of cutting slippery rayon on the bias; they didn’t say to stay-stitch, so I didn’t – I should have either stay-stitched or cut the bodice straight. Either way, it’s nothing I can’t live with.

Bonus outdoor shot (yes I do wear my dresses someplace other than my bathroom) so you can see the awesome shoes I bought just to go with this dress! (They’re Chelsea Crew ‘Carla’ sandals, in case you are wondering, and now I really kind of need a pair in black as well.)

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1960s | Dresses | Vintage Sewing


By on July 21, 2012

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!

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1960s | Dresses

The Funnest Dress

By on April 19, 2012

We’ve been going through some tough times in my family lately. I needed a bright cheerful dress that I could sew from my stash. Dresses make everything better, don’t they?

The fabric is an Amy Butler print (I can’t remember which line) that just struck me as being soooo cheerful. I love that the newer Amy Butler prints have a decidedly retro vibe – her earlier prints were a bit too modern for my taste. I picked this one at a massive sale at my local fabric shop specifically because it reminds me of the It’s A Small World ride at Disney World. I balanced out the crazy with some solid black Kona for the bodice (which I did iron, I swear) and a wide red belt from eBay. The pattern is Simplicity 3815 – no date, but it’s obviously early 1960s. I’ve had that one in my stash for over two years (shame); I snatched it up when it was once featured on a Dress A Day blog post!

Since I was using a purchased belt (although the sash and cummerbund options are so tempting) I had exactly six pattern pieces to work with. Skirt front, skirt back, bodice front, bodice back, facing, facing. Simplicity indeed! Unfortunately, that charming bateau neckline wasn’t going to work for me; it was about an inch and a half too wide. Fortunately, necklines are one of the easiest aspects of a pattern to alter! I briefly considered a round neckline but then settled on a vee, which would look great with a pearl necklace (I finally treated myself to a pearl necklace earlier this year, after all the vintage dresses I’ve made!) It would be easy peasy to cut the bodice front and back on the fold, but I really like the look of the vee neck + bodice center seams. I had to do a total re-draft of the facings, but that was a breeze. I love this bodice – four darts total, no shoulder seam, it doesn’t get much easier than that!

I think this pattern must have been meant for me, because the previous owner cut the bottom few inches off the skirt pieces already! (I’m always complaining about the skirts on vintage patterns being WAY too long. I like them to hit at knee-length so I don’t look stumpy.) That saved me from having to do it, which wouldn’t have been fun on a circular skirt. I added a pocket to the non-zipper side of the skirt (I’m sure it’s possible to have a side pocket with a side zipper – I’ve seen it on RTW – but I don’t need the additional capacity badly enough to figure it out!), used an invisible zipper, and hemmed the skirt by hand. Even with my bodice alterations this dress only took a few hours to make. I may have found a new go-to pattern!

Poorly-lit nighttime photo:

This may be the funnest dress I’ve ever made and worn! I can’t wait to try out some other variations of the bodice and skirt on some of the other fun fabrics in my stash.

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