1950s | Dresses | Modern Patterns | Pattern Sizing | Vintage Sewing

Butterick 6453, Spring Jenny Dress

By on May 23, 2017
Patterns by Gertie Butterick 6453, View A | Vintage on Tap


I’m ready for all the summer dresses!

I hope you guys have already found your favorite summer sewing pattern to whip up tons of sundresses!

Butterick 6453, Gertie Sew Along | Vintage on Tap

Patterns by Gertie Butterick 6453, View A | Vintage on Tap

Making this dress was definitely quite a journey.

I broke down the entire process, from fitting to completed garment, in a bunch of videos, which really allowed me to take my time and make this dress right. The video series was a total of 5 videos long.

Butterick B6453, View B | Vintage on Tap

Butterick B6453, Sewing Pattern | Vintage on Tap

Did I love this pattern? Absolutely.

Midway through writing this post I went ahead and browsed Etsy for more fabric. View A (the yellow tulip dress) is tooooootally where my heart is at right now and I love how similar the design is to Pinup Girl Clothing’s Jenny Dress.

Overall, the garment was super simple to construct, but of course the trickiest part was doing a full bust adjustment on a princess seam. It turned out really well, though, and wouldn’t be afraid to tackle it again in the future.

Vintage on Tap, Butterick 6453

To view the full photoshoot, including all my sewing notes, check out my blog.

To watch the Sew Along video series (including fitting videos), head on over to YouTube. 


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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 | 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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Tattoo-print Sundress, Gertie-style

By on March 27, 2013

Hi again guys! I feel a bit spammy for the two posts within two days – sorry!

Here’s my version of Gertie’s 1950’s-inspired Sundress, in an Alexander Henry quilter’s cotton (I think its called ‘Tattoo’). I know her pattern’s arn’t strictly vintage, but the styling is pretty close. I’ve made four of her design so far and feel like i’m sewing my way through her book.
















 I love this pattern! Its super easy to sew once you’ve gotten the fit right (like all of her patterns). It also only took 3m of fabric!
















I made a couple of changes – tweaking the fit of the bodice  and adding in-seam pockets (complete details on the blog). If you’ve been contemplating making this one go for it, it looks much better in real life than in her book!

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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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Vintage Sewing

Still Summer…….

By on March 18, 2012

So my New Years resolution was to make one thing a month for myself (and post it on here of course!). Unfortunately this is only my first post this year – which means that I have a little bit of catching up to do.

I made this 1950’s inspired dress from some beautiful cotton fabric that my husband brought back for me from Mexico. I absolutely love the colours and although it’s been a pretty wet and mild summer over here I thought it was just calling to be made into a sundress. The pattern is something I drafted myself. Originally I wanted something very simple so that the fabric was the feature of the dress however I’m not very good at keeping things simple so I went for a cut-out and tie-up back.

To avoid having to wear a bra with this I inserted bra cups between the bodice and lining. I have never done this before and let me tell you it is something that I will do to all my strappy dresses in the future. It’s very easy to do and so much more comfortable than wearing a strapless bra. Plus no accidental straps slipping out (maybe I’m just old fashioned but I HATE my bra straps showing).

For all you Sydneysiders interested this photo was taken at the Rock n’ Roll markets in Tempe. It’s a great day out full with live music, all things rockabilly and many stalls. I haven’t been in about a year but will be at the next one for sure.

Happy Sewing Everyone!


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