1940s | Dresses

My Dress And Me ~ Stitching Stories

January 26, 2012

Happy days!  I get to share with you the details of my very first me made dress!  Yes, it’s a shirtwaist ~ er, of sorts {you’ll see why  say that in a bit}, it’s got an A-line skirt, a self –drafted Peter Pan collar, cute buttons and pockets; and oh!  I should stop talking and just SHOW you.

I started out with the McCall’s M4769, in view C.  Yes it’s a modern pattern, but I figured that using possibly-vintage thrifted fabric and styling the dress in a 1940s manner it would pass for retro sewing?

Anyway, because I have never sewn a dress and have no idea how to do a tissue fit or anything I decide to trace the pattern pieces and then do the Full Bust Adjustment I knew I would need from the measurements on the back!  I found that this FBA tutorial on Sew L.A. Blog was EXTREMELY helpful, and I could actually understand what I needed to do. Yay for comprehension!

I didn’t take any photos of the construction process, unfortunately I was too focused on the garment and getting in finished ~ I had an end of 2011 deadline, so I was all guns blazing!  The fabric I was using was a pale baby blue with cute little three colour flower/teardrop things with with white diagonal lines.

Thankfully I was paying enough attention to notice as I cut out the first piece of skirt that the back skirt piece and the back bodice were “upside down” on the fabric and the pattern would have been going the wrong way!  A reshuffle of pattern pieces, and the disaster was adverted *whew* so that all the pieces were going the right way and would match.  After I finished cutting out, the dress seemed to come together quite easily.

My first sleeves set in really quickly, which was a pleasant surprise for me ~ but I think I was helped because I adjusted the sleeves so that they were puffed{using this tutorial} rather than a plain cap sleeve, so that meant I could have gathers to my heart’s content up the top of the sleeve and smooth out the underside so that it matched the arm scythe nicely.

I changed the button closure to a zip for ease of breastfeeding access by sewing the zip to the left hand front placket and then to the inside edge of the right hand front placket so that they overlapped and hid the zipper.  I also sewed two invisible snaps to hold the placket shut on the top of the bodice, and a hook and eye at the waist because all the vintage dresses have them so it seem right to do that!  I sewed the skirt shut so that the placket overlapped and couldn’t fly apart, as the zip was only 16” long.

Then I ran into my waterloo ~ the collar.  Of course I hadn’t been able to leave well enough alone, and had adjusted the shirtwaist collar into a Peter Pan collar.  {That’s why I am not sure if this dress technically counts as a shirtwaist at all!}  This changed the whole front of the bodice and the construction of the collar which meant I skipped steps 42 to 48 on the pattern instructions and just had to wing it.  I think if I had ever attached a Peter Pan collar before I might have been fine, but as it was, there was almost a meltdown of nuclear proportions, with a ton of seam ripping, fraying fabric and some holes as well as – well, swearing.   It did finally go on{although I had to mend it before I wore it as I somehow missed a bit and there was a hole already!}, and even looks quite alright for a totally made-up-as-I-went-along attachment.  The collar turned out to be quite deep which I also really love, even though it was a total fluke!


When I tried the dress on the bodice ended up being too large at the back, so I pinched out 2cm of fabric from the middle with a dart and made a belated Sway Back adjustment.  Of course I had already attached the bodice to the skirt by the time I figured that out, but it still worked out ok.   To finish off the dress I did a blind hem, which is a nice touch I like to do, popped my new pretty on and did an outfit shoot ~ On My Way.

Here is a sneak peak of the dress in all it’s glory ~

And that my friends, is the saga of my first sewing foray into Dressland, of which I hope there will be many more tales to follow!

~ Project Details ~

Year: Modern, 2005 styled by me to look 1940s
Pattern: McCall’s M4769
Fabric: About 2.9 yards/2.6 meters of thrifted cotton{?} doona cover {$9.00}
Notions: One zipper {$? ~ I think $5.00}, three buttons {$6.90}
Time to complete: About a week on and off ~ maybe 15 hours all up?
Make/Wear again? Yes! Now that I have a perfect fitting bodice, I am dreaming of all sorts of ways to mix it up.  I think I want at least two more of these dresses; I am planning to add a full circle skirt for a 50s shirtwaist dress, and another version with gathers at the shoulders for a really 1940s look and tulip sleeves.
Total Cost:  $20.90

I would totally recommend this pattern for beginners who want to sew a dress. I am a total beginner, and I did it, so you can know for sure that it’s a pretty easy pattern.  : 3



P.S ~ For more posts, outfits, and tutorials please visit to my blog Depict This!  I hope to see you there soon!  ^ ω ^

    1. Amonik, I think it is a good pattern ~ very easy to adjust too, which is great. I have to fiddle, so a pattern I can fiddle with easily is a-ok in my books. 🙂

  1. This is such a sweet dress and I’m so impressed that it’s your first one! You did such an amazing job. Love the collar. Looking forward to seeing more!

  2. It is a really lovely dress and not the simplest to take on as your first one, well done and love the photo shoot!

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