1950s | 1960s | Dresses

Vintage Dress for Wedding Guest? Need Your Advice

April 5, 2013

This August, I’ll be attending a family wedding ‘down the shore.’  (That’s at the beach, in Jersey-speak).  So, the conditions for dancing will be hot and muggy.  I’d love to sew a dress from my vintage pattern stash, picture below.

Vintage Dress Pattern Stash

Please share your thoughts.  Which dress would work best for a family wedding?  Originally, I planned to do the Spadea dress (lower right) in silvery blue silk shantung with an white organza collar.  But the pattern is unprinted, and really beyond my skill set.  The Advance 2836 two-piece (lower left) is my favorite, but it might not be best for dancing.  That leads me to the Advance 9781 (bottom center).  I’ve not sewn a full skirted dress like this.  How difficult would it be?  Would it need a petticoat?  What fabric would you suggest?  Appreciate any advice or suggestions that this group can share.  Thanks!

  1. A few things for consideration

    1) Unprinted patterns aren’t any harder than printed patterns. There is a key telling you what the holes on the pattern means. The first one I did didn’t even have instructions, and I managed it easily.

    2) In order to look like the pattern envelope, a full-skirted dress needs crinolines underneath, which you will also need to make.

  2. Unprinted patterns aren’t blank, they just have punched markings instead of inked ones. As long as you read the directions carefully, mind your seam allowance (which is marked on the plate on your sewing machine, no?), and mark where the holes are punched, you should be fine. I use unprinted patterns all the time, to the point that I find printed patterns messy and confusing.

    A full-skirted dress is no harder than one with a fitted skirt. I find them easier because they don’t require as much fitting. Gathering or pleating the skirt isn’t usually that hard (if the skirt is just a bit rectangle, I mark it off at the side seams, then in halves, quarters, eighths, etc. Do the same with the lower edge of the bodice and gather the skirt so the markings match). You’ll need petticoats if you want the skirt to be that fluffy.

    As for fabric . . . I probably can’t help. I’m a total cotton devotee because I live in southeast Texas and we can match, if not surpass, the Jersey shore in heat and humidity (and my mother is from south Jersey so I know what I’m talking about). I want it breathable and washable. If you want something more formal . . . I guess start with the suggestions on the pattern packet?

  3. Unprinted patterns are not as scary as they seem at first! I just “translate” the punches and holes to printed markings when I trace my vintage patterns.

    Full skirted dress will be poofy like on the pattern cover with a crinoline unless you are using a really stiff fabric. Crinolines aren’t too difficult to make, just annoying. My first crinoline was made from a thrift store prom dress lining that already had the tulle attached. All I did was add an elastic waistband.

    If it’s going to be hot and muggy, try to stick with natural fabrics so they’ll breath. I find that a crinoline also helps in hot, sticky weather because they allow air flow under your skirt.

  4. Full skirts aren’t that hard to make as the others have stated above. They would probably be easier to dance in then the wiggle dresses…
    I wear my full skirts without anything under them but I’m not trying to be historically accurate or anything. I guess it just depends on the look you are going for.
    You have several lovely choices. Just take your time and I’m sure you will come out with a lovely dress!

  5. I agree with everyone about the unprinted pattern. Don’t let it intimidate you. They’re really just as easy once you identify the markings. The full skirted one would be comfy for dancing, and the large pleats would make it pretty simple. If you’re having to even out gathers that can be tedious, but with the pleats marked it should be really simple. I wear full skirted dresses all of the time without a crinoline and while they don’t stand out like the envelope illustrations, they look perfectly fine, especially if you have a heavier fabric, or something light but with a stiff body. If you have a relatively hourglass figure, or slightly wider hips, that will actually make enough difference in the skirt to waist ratio to help make the skirt look a bit fuller (in my experience). Good luck with whatever you decide!

  6. Wow – thanks everyone for the helpful comments. You’ve given me a lot of confidence! I will certainly post the results. Best wishes from Lise

  7. Yes to everything, plus try a silk shantung or
    Dupioni, it’s crisp and light and luxe too. Asian
    Countries use it a lot (Thai silk) and what’s more
    Humid than Bangkok? You can interline the bodice with
    Cotton so it doesn’t stick to you. And use horsehair
    Braid to help the gem stand out without needing
    A crinoline if it’s too hot to wear one.
    Enjoy the wedding!

  8. Maybe not the easiest choice…but I would pick the slim-cut version of 9848 in a pretty print, and the jacket from 9781 in a coordinated, cheery solid color, so it can go over other stuff, too.

    Add pearls and pumps and you’re THERE, baby!

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