Monday, October 21, 2013

1943 Is Calling, They Have A Dress Pattern For You-- Week 5 of the Fabricista Fashion Challenge

It's Week 5 of the Fabricista Fashion Challenge sponsored by Fabric Mart!  We took two weeks to work on this challenge allowing me to work on lots of hand sewing and all the small details that can make a garment from a vintage pattern so special.  Now let's review the latest challenge:

Week 5: Timeless Classics & Vintage Patterns-- 6 Seamstresses will have 2 weeks to complete this challenge.  Sewing a garment from a vintage pattern is challenging. The pintucks, pleats, and precise fit can be difficult to master. Choose a vintage pattern and modernize the piece. You can modernize your piece with styling, embellishment, or fabric.  You will be judged on difficulty, craftsmanship, how fashion forward your look is, and FIT!  Take your time, you will have two weeks to make it perfect!  The winner will receive six yards of silk fabric.

Go check out all the lovely work all the seamstresses made this week and choose your favorite!

The folks at Fabric Mart will post all contestants work on their blog Tues, Oct 22-- voting will be open Tues and Wed the 22nd and 23rd-- results will be up on their blog Thurs, Oct 24, 2013.

I was overwhelmed with all the options when I chose my vintage pattern!  I adore the various styles in patterns of the 20th century but didn't want to end up with something that looked like a costume that I'd never wear in public.  My lovely friend Heather has a massive stash of vintage patterns-- she allowed me to borrow a handful to work with.  I was THIS CLOSE to making one from the early 1970s but I fell hard for this no-nonsense wartime dress from DuBarry Patterns.  Picture it:  It's 1943.  World War II has ladies "making do and mending" their clothes while the menfolk were at war.  The fashion is simple, smart and efficient.  Petticoats are out.  Recycling old garments is in.  DuBarry patterns are being manufactured by Simplicity and ladies head to Woolworth to buy them.  Fast forward 70 years-- It's 2013 and I've got my hands on this amazing condition pattern that someone once sewed up last century.  Time to make it contemporary.    

I tried to do an outdoor photo shoot but didn't get the images I wanted of the dress.  I thought it was a really appropriate setting for my 1940's sewing project.  My neighborhood was built up for WWII vets after they got home and started their families. Lots of the original older folks who moved in then are my neighbors today.

Yikes, that's a long hemline!
I sewed up a muslin to check the fit... those pretty dresses on the models on the pattern envelope are a bit misleading.  The dress was significantly longer, the sleeves almost hit my elbow, had a very full, puffy cut in the bust and looked extremely matronly.  You can see in the snapshot to the right the length of the original pattern while I was still working on the dress (the sleeves were not hemmed yet but I had cut of several inches already.)  It was even more awful in person... the skirt hit the absolute worst spot in my leg.

My notions
In the spirit of WWII era sewing habits I kept my fabric choices to only what I had on hand... plus I used only vintage notions I inherited from my great aunt (who I could imagine was a killer seamstress back then!)  I used a red and white polka dot cotton poplin, a linen/silk navy blue along with a navy blue cotton to line the skirt-- all from my stash. The rest was vintage: the metal buttons, hem tape, bias tape and sewn-in underlining.

It was such a joy to cut out the fabric for this pattern.  The tissue is already cut down to size making it a breeze to cut around... no tracing!  It's an unprinted pattern, meaning nothing is printed on the pattern pieces.  The marks are all done with notches and holes punched into the paper allowing me to mark up my fabric for darts, buttons, etc so simple with zero damage to the 70 year old tissue paper.  The only piece missing was the pocket.  I just drafted one up myself.  

All pattern markings are shown with holes and notches

After making my muslin, I altered my bodice pattern pieces.  The pattern is a size 38 bust, which I can be with the right undergarment.  The bodice was quite full so I got rid of a couple inches of width in front.  I shortened the sleeves by a couple inches and took off even more before the dress was completed.

The original sleeve on the left with my shortened one next to it.  Front bodice width reduced.

I underlined the collar and the inset belt.  I wanted to give them a more crisp, structured look.  There was a slight musty smell on the material so I aired it out for a few days!  

Let's take a look on the inside of the finished dress.  The pattern didn't give any pieces or suggestions for linings.  I used some of the red and white material to line the waistband and a navy blue cotton to line the linen & silk skirt.  In the right light the skirt would have been a bit too sheer for my taste.  Also the cotton lining gives the skirt a nice weight and structure ideal for a dress like this.    

I hand sewed like a crazy person for so much of this dress.  I did not want any machine stitches to be seen from the outside of the garment.  I used the white polka dots to make each stitch... I double dog dare anyone to find a stitch of thread on that fabric when I wear this dress!  I can't even see the stitches unless my eyes are about a few inches from them.  You can see in the photo below how I slipstitched the collar edges and how the completely disappeared.  I love it! 

They're ain't no stitches to be found here thanks to their strategic placement.

I was careful with my handstiching on the hem of the skirt and the inside edge of it as well.  It was nice to have a matching navy blue hem tape.    

I added a fun mint green bias tape on the back neckline and edge of the inside of the sleeves.  I enjoy unexpected little surprises on the inside of my garments.    

I didn't use shoulder pads like the pattern wanted me to.  I would have looked like a linebacker, I'm sure.  I wish I could figure the age of the metal buttons I used.  I'd guess 1960's but just don't know.  

If someone says 'wrap dress' I instantly think of the 1970's or Diane Von Furstenberg, not wartime design-- this was a nice surprise for me.  It's so comfortable and I will absolutely wear it this spring... or to a Fourth of July picnic.  This adorable dress is a nice addition to my closet. 


  1. Very cute, Kathy! You definitely honored the vintage pattern!!

  2. By the way, I thought it very interesting that my dress was also a lot longer when made up than is shown on the pattern. I guess they were more accommodating of taller women back then?

  3. The skirt was extremely long but I shortened it by 7 or 8 inches... this was the style of the 1940s but it was much too dowdy for me. I have a photo in the blog post of the dress before I cut off all that extra fabric. I think overall patterns were and still are meant for shorter figures.

  4. Thank you so much!! I know it's not a flashy vintage pattern but I wanted to make something that I'd normally wear and was very well made.

  5. Very cute! So many vintage patterns DO look more costume-ish or something that you'd wear only for a special occasion. I love that you used vintage items and fabric that you had "on-hand". Very "of that era"! As my grandmother used to say (and I do to this day), "When you use what you've got, you won't need what you have not".

  6. Wow! beautiful dress... I could very much be fooled is not a 30's dress!!! Impeccable make! wish best of luck!

  7. Thank you so much! I see so many really wonderful vintage patterns sewn up on blogs and love to see then, but really I just won't feel comfortable wearing them... but think it's really fantastic others can rock them. I LOVE that saying... I think that's a smart mantra to keep in mind all the time.

  8. Thank you Carla! I think I was drawn to the pattern because it does have a more timeless look.

  9. Beautiful modern take on a vintage pattern and such impeccable sewing. Well done.

  10. Your neighborhood is so cute, Kathy! I love how this dress turned out. I'm in the same boat as you- I love the look of vintage patterns, but in reality I just want to be wearing jersey dresses all the time :) Perhaps I'll get up the nerve to try out a vintage pattern sometime soon.