1940s | Dresses | Vintage Sewing

Advice for Du Barry 5932

April 1, 2014


I’m at the final stretch of finishing this dress, but am having second thoughts about it.  I did the pink view, but used navy fabric as a contrasting ruffle – thought the flowers to be too much.  Now the dress fits nicely, but I’m getting the feeling it’s more like a fancy old-lady potato sack.  Any thoughts?  Should I continue as is with the navy trim?  Get rid of the ruffles altogether?  Do the ribbon like on the green dress?  I wonder if putting some navy bias tape on top of the princess seams just to break up the pattern?  Or just scrap the whole thing?  (Excuse the bathroom selfies – and I haven’t set in the sleeves  yet)  🙂

  1. I recently made a princess seamed dress and before I took it in, it did look like a hideous sack. A few things made me look more like the picture on the package. One was about three rounds of taking it in (during the muslin stage). I took in about eight inches at the waist and quite a bit at the bust as well.
    Two was wearing a corset to make a visible waist (it was a party dress. In the old days almost everyone up until the late 60s wore very, very tight undergarments that reduced the waist – which is part of the reason we never look like the picture). For a day dress you could try a navy belt to highlight the waist. This would also help contextualize the navy trim.
    Three, you could consider raising the hemline. The pattern picture looks to be at the bottom of the knee, which was pretty much as high as possible in that era. Where do your day dresses usually hit? In the picture it looks well below the knee, which is a very unpopular length for dresses right now (and may be making it seem ‘grandma’).

  2. I agree with Kat’s suggestion of defining the waist with a belt and making the dress length hit at the knee. I also wonder if the sleeves are too long? The packet image is more bracelet length I think. If you are thinking of a bow at the V of the neckline perhaps make it a pin on so you can choose it or a brooch. I think it is a dress that would like fine with boots if you didn’t want to keep it strictly vintage.

  3. These are good suggestions. I’d also say try it with a belt, and shorten the hemline a little bit. I’m on the fence about adding the neckline bow, but if you made it a pin as suggested, you could try it both ways easily. Its not a bad dress- it just needs a few small adjustments.

  4. I would definitely accent the waist, maybe take it in or use a belt like suggested.
    Any maybe a bit late in the process, but you might want to consider lowering the neckline a bit. It would make the dress more fun and flirty.

  5. Ohh I like the idea of lowering the neckline and shortening the hem, also I think the green view sleeves would make it a bit more modern looking and definitely defining the waist.
    Possibly loosing the ruffles all together would be a bit more chic?

  6. I think there’s real potential here for a charming dress. In addition to the suggestions already made to add a belt (+ take the dress in more at the waist, perhaps) and shorten the length to the knee or just above I would add:

    – take off all the ruffles, they’re doing nothing for the dress. If you like the navy contrast (which does make a nice contrast) you could do bias binding around the sleeve ends and/or along the neckline. The suggestion of a pin-on navy bow at the front is also great!

    – shorten the sleeves to 3/4 length, just below the elbow, or make them short sleeves. The current length looks a little awkward and is also adding to the frumpy vibe

    – instead of adding bias binding to the princess seams (I wonder if that might look heavy?) you could add a few decorative navy buttons to those seams, spaced out according to what you like the look of, and create a sort of faux double-breasted look that would add some real interest – just a thought

    I think just a few fairly simple/cosmetic changes will result in a really cute dress! Definitely worth persevering with!

  7. 1) Belt. Definitely.
    2) Short sleeves.
    3) This doesn’t look like it has shoulder pads yet. It will look better once it has a good 1940’s shoulder line. If you weren’t planning to install shoulder pads, you might want to rethink that. I resisted them for a long time but they will totally rescue your 1940’s dresses.
    4) A dress this age should hit you just at the bottom of your knee. If it’s not hemmed yet, aim for that when you hem it. If it is hemmed but it’s longer, take it up.
    5) I agree that I would reconsider the ruffles and maybe go for flat trim on the neck and sleeves. You could even do a double line of narrow bias or something.

    I love that print–I have a piece set aside for a small project–but I’ll admit it takes some nerve to wear a whole dress out of it. If you can’t save this one and end up making a new dress, go for something lighter in color and less busy in print that won’t hide the princess seam lines (which are what make the dress look so curvy).

    1. Another 1940’s princess dress: American Weekly 3740 (no date; probably 1945-1946). This one is mine; you can’t see the seamlines in the picture but you can see the length, short sleeves, and flat trim on a dress in a rather scary color combination.

  8. Thank you guys so much for the advice. As of this morning, the ruffles are on the floor being played with by the cat! I’ve taken in the waist and it’s already looking better. I’m going to shorten the sleeves, maybe add a contrast binding to the edge of the sleeves, and lower the neckline slightly. I like the idea of a removable bow. I hadn’t hemmed it yet in the pictures, but planned on having it hit at the bottom of the knee. Yes, I know, shoulder pads are a must – I made a bunch of them last summer to keep on hand to stick in these dresses.

    Thanks again. I’ll be sure to post an update when it’s done – hoping to wear it this weekend on an outing!

  9. I agree with the suggestions above…for this dress to flatter, it must be nipped in and defined in all the right places.. and I would add, what about opening up and deepening the Vee of the neck? Make it a little lighter (for Spring) with a white eyelet ruffle, then a couple of navy buttons and a navy belt for accent. Repeat the white eyelet on the sleeves (which can be taken in about 1/4″ at the seam, and definitely shortened to the elbow.)
    Sew interesting! (sew to speak) Please post what mods, if any, you end up making….
    I do really love the silhouette of this pattern, good luck!

  10. Princess seams need to fit to flatter–nipping the seams in at the waist will help define that area and make it look less grandma-frumpy.

    An issue that *I* often encounter with vintage patterns is that some small details like sleeve length and neckline can read very dated. I would lower the neckline just a skosh to keep it true to the pattern but also make it slightly more flattering (drop it maybe about 1-1 1/2 inches). I would also shorten the sleeves. In the picture they look about elbow length; in real life they’re wrist length. Shorten them back up to elbow length.

    Good luck and post pictures of the final product!

  11. It’s all been said, so I’ll just agree with everyone else! Wide belt, no ruffles, shorten everything, lower neckline. Can’t wait to see how it looks!

  12. everything has already been said…shorten hemline, lower neck, toss the ruffles, take it in and add belt and shorten sleeves!!!
    i am a new follower and wanted to leave a comment so you know i was here! i am looking forward to seeing the finished dress on you!

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