1950s | Dresses | Pattern Drafting

Suggestions Needed! My first original dress design

December 7, 2013

We’re iced in here in Texas, so yesterday I spent the day designing a dress.  I’ve made plenty of 50s era dresses from patterns before, as well as several skirts and a few blouses.  I’ve also designed my own skirt pattern using How to Make Sewing Patterns by Donald H. McCunn.  In my opinion, the book is a little complicated.  I think I prefer altering existing patterns to creating my own from scratch.

Using the peplum blouse pattern from Simplicity 1590, I made a princess seam bodice with buttons in the back.  You can read more about the altering process on my blog.  Let me add that I have never done anything like that before!

Here is the dress so far.  The skirt is basted onto the bodice, and the “belt” is actually my husband’s tie.  There are mostly-invisible pockets on either side of these skirt.  My torso is about 4 inches longer than the dress form’s, so the proportions are not quite right.  I also realize the skirt is not sewed on straight.  But something seems to be missing.  I am not sure where to go from here.  Any suggestions?

Thanks for reading!

  1. It seems a) unconnected and b) a little plain.

    Also, both of your patterns are a little busy. So you might need something to tie them together, while not adding any more busy-ness.

    Honestly, the skirt could probably stay as is, but that top needs some more visual appeal. Maybe some trim or buttons in an interesting pattern? I am, personally, really bad at finding that thing that makes a piece click, so perhaps browse the vintage pattern wikia for 40s and 50s full skirted dresses and see what details make or break each dress.

    Or just search etsy for “pattern full skirt 1950s” and see what you come up with. This is just for inspiration, obviously, as you don’t need a pattern at this point! 😛

    Good luck, and let us know what you decide!

  2. I don’t know if you want to deconstruct anything, but I would start by swapping out the neckline trim for something in a solid black- I agree with Tegan you have two busy fabrics and its a little much without some calmer elements to bring it all together. I do like the idea of a plain black belt with this dress though. I’d want to try something about twice the width that the tie appears to be in this photo. I think it has potential to be a great dress though!

  3. I agree with the black around the neckline. I would also do a solid black trim around the sleeve edges and around the skirt edge.

  4. A very promising design. Love the top color.
    I would remove the binding finish at the neckline and replace it with a facing in the top fabric. Fold the facing to the wrong side for invisibility. Finish the sleeves in the same way. I would not edge the neckline/sleeves with the skirt fabric because that’s what makes the top busy.
    I’d pick a broad belt with shiny finish and a big buckle. Since your waist is long, I recommed a 2-3 inch belt.
    Back to the neckline. It needs to be shaped better into a smoothe edge. It looks crooked.
    Wear the dress with a bold necklace or a small scarf tied into a knot at the side. Add a decorative pin on front below the shoulder if you wear a scarf. If you chooce a bold becklace, select a plain pin or none at all.
    I don’t think the two patterns are to busy together if the top is kept plain so its beautiful color can be a statement.
    Hem the skirt by hand or use a black bias binding folded to the wrong side.

  5. I vote for the plain neckline lined with facing as well. I think we are all seeing that the proportion of the bodice to the skirt is wrong. This may be the angle at which you took the picture. Stand right in front of the dress. If the red bodice looks “heavier” to the eye, you need to add “weight” to the bottom. You said you added additional length to the bodice. You can raise the skirt up a little higher, such that it makes a waist higher than your natural waist. Or you could add a wide, black belt and/or a border at the bottom of the skirt as others have suggested. Another thought would be to add some volume to the skirt with a crinoline for that true vintage silhouette. I love the combination of fabrics and your creativity in designing your own dress! Well done.

  6. Thanks, everyone, for the suggestions! I think I am going to remove the neckline edging and recut the neckline. I was never very happy with it in the first place. I think if I make it lower, it might help with the blankness of the bodice. I’m going to replace the edging with plain black – probably a satiny ribbon, like the belt/tie. Hopefully those small changes will help with the dress! I will post pictures when I am done with it.

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