I love wearing vintage clothes but it’s not always practical for daily life. They are often too delicate or fragile, and can often be difficult to launder so don’t stand up to the requirements of everyday wear and tear. The other problem for many of us with wearing vintage is that gals were shorter and thinner back then. In addition to their smaller frames ladies would usually wear foundation garments to give them a defined waist and curvier silhouette.
Even as a UK 10 I struggle to find dresses from the early 20th century that fit properly, without resorting to this kind of thing…
If you simply can’t find vintage clothes to fit then why not cheat and make your own? There are some fantastic patterns available, here is one of my favourites from Simplicity…
I made it in a wool/viscose mix from Ditto and used some scraps of red silk crepe to pipe the seams and for covered buttons. I rushed to finish this dress to wear for a night out at the opera, but I’m not entirely happy with the fit, so will be altering this before it gets another outing.
The night I wore this was a chance to really dress up, so I wore my hair like this….
and styled the dress with seamed tights and red patent heels, happy days!
I think my ‘vintage’ dress might get another trip out to Goodwood Revival this weekend (my favourite genuine vintage outfit being a little snug at the moment), so I must get those alterations done.
Having worn the dress and knowing it needed a little tweak in the fit it spent a couple of weeks on a mannequin in the studio. During which time it seduced two of my students who borrowed my pattern and made it themselves.
Danielle made it in a viscose and elastane jersey, and then again in a lightweight cotton sateen….
Jenny chose a vintage Paisley Viyella that she bought from my big fabric clear out last spring.
I think you’ll agree they all look gorgeous. If you have made this dress too please share your pics, it would be great to see them!
Now that I have some experience of this pattern I can give you a couple of tips for making your own…
The fit: The centre front bodice panel ends slap bang at belly level, if like me you have a little tummy think carefully about whether this pattern will suit you. The pleats of the skirt all come together in deep, angled folds so that there are at least 8 layers of fabric in the seam that sits right on the fullest part of your tummy, as I don’t have much of a waist this added bulk was NOT what my belly needed. I had to nip the back waist darts in as much as I could to balance the fuller front.
Another note; we all found the bodice to be slightly full in the under bust region. The details of pleats and gathers needed to be under a little more tension to look their best. Before machine sewing the centre bodice panel, do try your dress on and pinch away any excess fabric from the side panels into the front seam.
The construction: The side bodice panels have both small pleats and gathering to fit into the seam with the centre front panel. I personally thought it unnecessary to have both and would opt for just gathering above the waist, losing the pleats. However, if I’d used a stripe to make up this dress (that would have looked cool!), the pleats would be really effective, I’d make each one slightly deeper than the pattern markings show, until the panel fits so no need for the additional gathering.
I hope you feel inspired to try out one of the many retro patterns on the market, and I’d love to see what you’ve made.
Happy vintage sewing!
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