1950s | Dresses

Making It Work

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.)

  1. So lovely! Yay for pushing through and making this dress fit! One of the big things that sets the transitional late 40s/early 50s period apart from the rest of the 40s is the length of the dress so that’s probably why the shortened version feels more 40s to you. Either way, it’s just darling! And I love the contrasting belt.

    1. Also, pattern companies run a year or two behind in terms of fashion, so it makes sense that something from ’51 might look like something that someone famous (er, noteworthy enough to have had photos taken of them that survive today in an easily accessible way) was wearing in the late ’40s.

  2. I’m so glad someone came and unlocked the bathroom door finally 😉

    The second version is a major improvement. Well done you. I’m going to keep my eye out for that fabric – tropicalicious.

  3. No wonder you love the fabric! I just finished a fifties shirtwaist dress, too, and spent hours altering the bodice. The first version looked like an oversized prairie dress. I am going to write myself a note on it now cause I would probably do the same thing you did! Like your rule for only choosing fabric you love.

  4. What a great save! I always make notes on patterns I have used too – saves so much head/heart ache! Beautiful fabric, and flattering too 😀

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