1940s | Dresses | Vintage Sewing

1940’s Hollywood dress

By on February 6, 2015

IMG_5834Hollywood 1413 is the quintessential 1940’s dress in my book. I was over the moon when I bagged a copy on ebay a few months ago. This is my first make with it using pre WWII silk crepe kimono fabric. The pattern as-is is technically 2 sizes too small but by cutting out with larger side seam allowances and counting on the generous ease in the pattern it went from the stated body measurements of 32″/27″/ 35″ to a more comfortable 36″/29″/38″ still with ease.  The only other alteration I made to the pattern was shortening the back bodice length via a 3/4″ horizontal pleat below the armhole  and adding in a second bust dart to make the front side seam match the new shorter back side seam… the same alteration I make on virtually every dress I make for myself since compared to most patterns I have a shorter than average back waist length and a ‘prominent bust’. Anyway the pattern went together perfectly and looked like the picture. The dress is unlined, seams are simply pinked and the neckline is finished with a facing. I did make the drape double. It was suggested as a single layer with rolled edges but the reverse of the fabric didn’t look that good. Zip and hems all hand sewn. It is a very light and fluid dress and I wear it over a slip.

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Will I make this pattern again? I definitely intend to.  This dress was my favorite of the trio of vintage patterns I made up from vintage kimono  written about in a longer blog post.


Cornish pasty shldr pads The shoulder pads for the dress are made from 7″ circles of fabric, cotton quilt batting and stuffed with some slightly shredded poly wadding It’s how the pattern instructions suggested making them. Usually I use modern pads and cut-up/reconstruct them to suit but I though I’d try this method out and liked the results. They did make me think of making Cornish Pasties.

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1940s | 1950s

Presto Pjs

By on October 14, 2014


PJ cutting layout- shows how F. & B. pants pieces are almost identical & the continuos placket
VV Weldons pattern pjs
The modern make and Weldons pattern cover

Take a late 40’s or early 50s Weldons pj pattern add a fun flamingo cotton border print bought yesterday and hey presto- pjs. It’s an unprinted pattern but the original seamstress very helpfully pencil labeled each pattern piece. I joined the two pants pattern pieces together down the sides so there is no side seam on my version… but as the top of the pants has pleats and a tailored waistband I still had to make a slash placket on the left hip to get them on and off. I also left 2 of the back pleats unpleated, which gave me about 3 inches extra in the waist. I cut a longer waistband and slotted in a bit of elastic into the centre back to create some ‘give’. I had bought  2 and a half metres of fabric with no particular usage in mind but looking through my pattern stash this one seemed perfect.  Unfortunately the fabric was only 45″ wide and so I had to lose 3″ off the length of the top to fit all the pieces in. The crotch is very low and almost comes to a point rather than the scooped out shape modern trousers have. However this makes them seem really comfy. I still need to add buttons and buttonholes and will be sleep testing properly tonight. But so far I’d say I will definitely be using this pattern again- easy to wear, uncomplicated to make- a relaxing project for a change.

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1940s | Dresses | Vintage Sewing

Holiday Sewing

By on April 16, 2014

Sewing while on holiday? Not a feet-up do nothing at a beach resort holiday but a visit to my Mum- without husband and offspring, where the weather was warm and sunny and and I wasn’t working … so definitely still a holiday!
While still home in the UK I’d bought and had some patterns delivered ahead of my arrival, just to save international postage, no sewing was intended. Well I only lasted 6 days without sewing before this 1940’s Hollywood shirtdress just begged to be made up.
The pattern was one size smaller than needed so I just added ½inches at waist and hip seams as I cut out. It had many many perforations needing marking for the pleats… I cheated big time and used a lead pencil to mark (no chalk to hand and pins kept falling out of the loose weave linen). Unfortunately many of those dots ended up on the right side as that was how the pleats needed to be folded up but fortunately an eraser took the most obvious dots away. The sewing instructions were minimal – the horizontal slashes that the sleeve pleats go into were therefore confusing at first as the illustration in the instructions really wasn’t helpful and the slash and pleats didn’t match up too well. They got done in the end, a topstitch on the outside helped and cotton bias binding strips on the inside to make it all neat.
The 4 front buttonholes are bound and I bought some pretty shell buttons locally but no belt buckle was to be had…I’m sure I have one at home that will be good. So for its first outing the belt was safety pinned closed. It has its second outing tomorrow being worn on the looooong trip home.

Definitely a pattern I will use again and soon too but in a soft fabric, like a thin crepe next time so it will seem quite different.

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1940s | Dresses | Pattern Drafting | Vintage Sewing

uh-oh Lutterloh

By on July 16, 2013

As a pattern cutter and a collector of vintage patterns I’d been curious for quite a while about the Lutterloh pattern system and it’s similar-ish contemporaries, a French system called Eclair-Coupe Paris and The Haslam system, I think from America, but hadn’t had a chance to try any of them out. How exactly did the mini-size patterns grade up to virtually any size/shape figure with the special rulers?  Well out of the blue a few months ago I was very generously gifted not one but two Lutterloh pattern books on cd, from 1940 and 1941. That very same week on eBay I won the bidding on an original Summer 1949 supplement being sold from France. Spoiled for choice much? I printed a few favourites out, did a draw from a hat and this mock wrap from 1949 was the winner on which I finally got to try Lutterloh out.



How did my try at Lutterloh go? Well, drawing the pattern out was dead easy like the advertising says. But-and this is a BIG,  HUGE but: there are no seam allowances included on the patterns, no real indication of grain placement, and no facings or lining pieces. Also there are absolutely no sewing instructions or finishing suggestions, no hints of what to interface, line or even where to put openings to get the garment on and off.  So, basically, if you don’t already know how to work all of that out or don’t relish the challenge of learning and experimenting you might get a little stuck.  However if  it does appeal arming yourself with a good sewing  book will certainly help.


How accurate was the pattern once drawn out? Actually not too bad at all. The sleeves needed no alterations other than shortening to suit me and the skirt just a little adjusting to hang well. I did add a good amount more fullness into it than the pattern had though. The bodice needed the most alteration as the shoulder height and pitch were just wrong on me, the armhole needed moving in an inch and the bust dart was in a bad place; I finally just took one of my own basic bodice blocks and made a similar pattern with it, knowing then that all elements would fit me. I’m not at all sure if the bodice problems were due to me being a bit careless with how I marked my initial pattern points or what. I’ll have a better idea when I tackle a second style.


I made a muslin mock up first which as well as highlighting fit issues was a huge help in deciding how to finish edges and where to locate the zip. I opted for one in the left side seam instead of a centre back one, and made the left side under-wrap  pass through a slot formed by leaving a part of the right dart open…rather than the usual side seam opening, which I thought was a clever way to do it.  The neck edges are finished with a narrow self bias binding. The three extended sleeve darts definitely needed some support so some very stiff  Vilene cut in crescent shapes then sewed into the armhole did the trick. The belt ends just close in the back with hooks and bars.

All in all an interesting experiment and I will definitely try another. This pattern from 1941 is the next I plan on making:

While Lutterloh Co. is still a very active company producing contemporary pattern styles they aren’t interested in reproducing the vintage books. Google ‘Lutterloh patterns’ for all kinds of further info on the system. The Haslam Pattern System books from the 20s-40s are available as reprinted books I believe  and Eclair-Coupe Paris reproductions on cds can be found on ebay for those who are curious to try one of these  systems out for themselves. They are a good way to access vintage patterns that are different than the Butterick, Simplicity etc ones seen around… or to use just for inspiration  and are a great reference for costumiers as well.

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1960s | Dresses | Vintage Sewing

Oranges & Lemons

By on March 26, 2013

This Butterick pattern from 1960 has been floating around my workroom patiently waiting it’s turn and when a couple of meters of this Makower cotton came my way it was a perfect match. Even have a glass necklace I bought in Venice years ago to follow through on the oranges theme… just need some sunshine and warm weather now.

About the pattern:

Fit- The 34″ bust easily fitted my 35 1/2″ bust. The bodice needed to be shortened a good 1″ through the waist as I have a rather short waist measurement, which happily also made the waist the  2″ bigger I needed.The shoulders sit very wide which I like, but the front and back necklines both gaped a bit. There is a centre back seam so the back was easily fixed. I could take a little tuck under each bow to fix the front but its not dreadful gapping so will probably leave it alone. It is easily fixed on the pattern for making another time. I also shortened the skirt pattern about 2″ to finish at 26 1/2″.

Style- The skirt is 92″ around the hem, I love a full skirt! However I don’t really like when vintage styles are left looking limp without a petticoat but at the same time often feel wearing a petticoat is too much… so I compromised by sewing a 2″ wide band of crinoline in the hem turning. That does help keep a nice skirt shape but wasn’t quite enough as the hips needed a bit of ‘oomph’ too. My theory is it makes my waist look smaller 🙂  so I made a very simple petticoat from some stiffened cotton mull. It’s not very nice looking and is scratchy as well so I’m going to redo it in some organza instead. It is just an A-line shape with tight gathering only at the sides to hold the dress out just in that area. The pattern illustration is of course a little idealised. The main differences are that the neckline is really more of a bateau neck and sits almost above my collarbone rather than in the shallow curve pictured. Also the neckline notches, by the bows, which are a nice detail, sit quite high, nearer the shoulders than as sketched and could do with being lowered. These are alterations I will make for using it again. I’ll probably add side seam pockets in the next full skirt version too.

Will I make it again- Yes. Both in the full skirt style and in the jacket and narrow dress version too as that is the real reason I bought this pattern. Now I know exactly what to do to the pattern to make the fit perfect next time though for the jacket I will do a quick toile first because I really want the collar to be just as pictured in the illustration and I suspect the pattern will need some tweaking and a good interfacing to achieve the look.

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1940s | Accessories | Hats

Birdy Beret, 1948 French style

By on January 31, 2013

I just loved the bird ornament on this pattern from Mrs. Depew the moment I saw it. So I bought a copy and made myself one.

The pdf contains instructions for drawing out the hat and bird patterns and describes how to do the other  variations pictured. Sewing instructions are minimalist to say the least. But drawing the pattern is simple and it’s easy to sew. An unlined felt one would be perfect to start with if you were unsure and needed a practise hat.

Anyway I made this to complete a tailored suit which uses the same suede as a trim, but no pictures of me in that ensemble yet as I still have an extra Christmas inch on my waist and the pencil skirt was already tight to start with. As soon as I can button the waistband again I will post about my making of that as it’s a copy of a late 40’s suit and I’m quite pleased with how it turned out.

But back to the hat- I made this one out of suede and lined it. The bird wings are two layers of suede fused (bondaweb) together to keep them from flopping. Next time I’ll probably do the same on the tail but it depends on how firm the material is. The two pattern changes I made were to enlarge the head opening and make the birds body a tiny bit shorter… but possibly my initial measurements for that were a little off in the first place. Stitching the edges gave it a more finished look I thought.

How long to make?  With drawing the pattern and messing about with my sewing machine to get it sewing suede nicely about 4-5 hours. I expect further hats to take much less time.

Will I make it again?  Definitely. Plans for red velvet, black felt….

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1940s | Applique | Dresses | Embroidery | Vintage Sewing

A Labour of Love

By on November 17, 2012

I saw this vintage dress on FabGabs.com and fell in love. I had to have something similar so set about recreating it.


My pattern is a hodgepodge from other projects- sleeves from a 40’s style evening dress I made for a client, bodice slashed and spread from a slim fitting shirt block and bias skirt developed from a 30’s style pj top pattern I made myself earlier this year. I have to admit I am pretty darned pleased with the results.The main fabric is a heavy satin backed silk crepe and the velvet is a silk & rayon mix. How to re-create the embroidery posed a small problem as hand embroidering it wasn’t something I wanted to spend weeks on and not something I’m very good at anyway. So I came up with a cunning plan… and re-purposed a lovely embroidered upholstery sample I had. To do this first I cut out the areas of embroidery I wanted to use leaving a good margin around the stitching edges and ironed BondaWeb on the back to stabilise it. Then I trimmed very close to the embroidery, lightly ironed it in place on the velvet yoke and pockets and lastly blanket stitched all the edges in place with silk buttonhole thread. I did try a sample first without the BondaWeb but the  embroidery started to fall apart as I was edge sewing it so some kind of stabilising was definitely needed. This is my version:








Making it didn’t go entirely smoothly. I had to reset the left sleeve three times before I got it to hang the way I wanted. Then a certain amount of messing about with making different size shoulder pads and what best to round out the sleeve cap with (felt in the end, rather like in some jackets) was needed. The hem has been done twice. After the first time it was an inch too long to wear with a particular coat so knowing it would really bother me I did it again. Doing the multiple rows of shirring was a bit tedious too. Even so I’m intending to use the pattern again soon with some rayon flower print fabric as the shape is very flattering to wear. It should all go much more easily second time around!

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