1940s shirt dress revisited

1940s red shirt dress

I always wondered why, with all the patterns in the world, would I ever make one twice? In the case of my peasant tops, here and here, I can only say it was because they were dead easy and required little brainpower, perfect for a late night sew. But in the case of this dress, the rationale was purely because I’ve never had a dress I feel so at home in! I had in my head, that I was a simple shift dress girl but actually I think I’m more of a shirt-dress girl!

1940s red shirt dress

Without the association of the pattern, I wonder if anyone would guess it dated back to the 1940s? Do you think it’s obvious? Or have I been looking at vintage patterns for so long now, I think they are the norm?! Perhaps if I were to style it with appropriate accessories: hat, bag and gloves, it might give the game away, but – dressed traditionally sporting wellies and a brolly – I think it also crosses over as a modern shirt dress too.

I’d like to tell you what this fabric is but I have no idea! It’s red and it’s 100% cotton for sure. Kind of like a cheesecloth seersucker but not, and vaguely reminiscent of my candlewick beadspread I had as a child… without the little soft threads that pulled out oh-so satisfyingly easily! I thought it might be ribbed cotton. I’ve heard that mentioned before but I really haven’t a clue. It was kindly donated to me by a friend who desperately needed to get rid of a big bag of fabric… I could never be like that! And I knew what ‘the red’ was destined for immediately.

1940s shirt dress detail

It came together sweetly as before with the addition of a few minor changes. I added a third button just because I love the little ‘targets’ and two didn’t showcase them enough. They cost £2.45 for six, bought at the London Vintage Fashion, Textiles and Accessories Fair, September 2011 and I think they are vey happy on this dress!

target button detail

I made it an extra inch longer, but really could have gone for 2 inches… oooh, I am getting brave in my old age!

length of skirt

I also added an extra inch around the midriff, knowing the struggle I have to get the dress on, over my head and judging by the photos of the last dress, it does look a bit snug. But it was highly unnecessary on this version. The mystery fabric, unlike the shoe fabric, has a lot more give and resulted in little poofy bits at the sides. I put it on the mannequin and looked at it for a few days, wondering if I could get away with it. I probably could have done, but it would have annoyed the hell out of me!

dress before alteration

And so… I sensibly turned the dress inside out and chalked and basted where I wanted the new line of stitching to be. Namely half an inch in from the original seam, starting from just above the waist, in a straight line up to the armscye. I tried it on again and was much happier with the silhouette.

Dutifully, I removed the basting and unpicked the topstitching where the midriff meets the bodice. I sewed the new side seams on the bodice over the chalkines. Sewed the new side seam on the right side of the midriff section and trimmed the left side opening to match (where the zipper goes).

I must be getting better at this. I would never have had the patience to do that a few years ago! But it was of course, worth it and now I am a happier bunny!

Here is a picture of the zip in the side seam. Once I’d sewn one size of the zipper in place, I made sure to make chalk marks where the midriff needed to line up. I pinned the second side of the zip to those marks first and then pinned the rest. Worked like a treat!

zipper detail

I opted for longer sleeves this time. Not full length, just three quarters. Mr Ooobop! thinks they will annoy me being so fitted and I have a little tendency to agree but I wanted to see how it affected the overall look.

I’m intrigied by the construction of the sleeve with darts to shape the lower arm. I guess this is a vintage thing because, to date, I have not come across these in a modern pattern.

vintage sleeve darts

Allowing for adjustments, this dress did seem to take longer than the first. About 5 evenings after work, spread over a couple of weeks. I have been really keen to see it finished but not so keen that I wanted to rush it and ruin it! And in any case I had to wait for Mr Ooobop! to be around to do his usual photo magic . . . and for the sun to come out! Well, we gave up waiting for the sunshine!

1940s red dress in the rain

I’m sure that this little revisitation wont be the last but I do have an incredibly long list of other ‘wannamakes’ to tend to first, so its back into the envelope and into the box ’til next time!

Do you like to revisit a favourite pattern or do you prefer to try something new every time?

back of dress

butterick 2638

Horizontal or vertical buttonholes?

horizontal buttonholes

I’m in the process of making a second version of the 1940s shirt dress I made in May, and I’ve been prompted into wondering (ie arguing with Mr Ooobop!) whether it is usual to make horizontal or vertical buttonholes on a garment. I couldn’t bear the quandary any longer!

So I did a little research and came up with the following…

  • Horizontal ones allow for a little more expansion. The button can slide along the opening without distorting the buttonhole as much as a vertical one.
  • It’s easier to sew buttons in position, following a column of vertical buttonholes as there is a little  more room for manoeuvre, but you have to sew them on more accurately to meet the positions of the end points of horizontal buttonholes.
  • Horizontal buttonholes generally can’t be placed on a shirt placket band as there is not enough room for them to sit comfortably and so vertical ones are used.
  • Exceptions include the collar and cuffs where there is more stress, then you will find a horizontal one. And in the case of more expensive shirts, the bottommost button too!
  • Horizontal buttonholes take a bit longer to create as the foot needs to be repositioned and position measured each time, whereas its easier to shift the position down each time for vertical ones. I’m thinking this is a reason for mass produced garments having vertical ones.
  • Horizontal buttonholes stay buttoned more securely. Any stress across the garment opening, pulls the button into the the end of the buttonhole, where the button stops.
  • It is a little less-fiddly to button up with vertical buttonholes.
  • Most vintage patterns are marked for the buttonholes to be created horizontally.

So there you have it… fascinating, hey?! It doesn’t prove much except that you can seemingly create them however you like… so long as it works for you and your choice of garment!

I’m going with horizontal ones and now feel much happier about doing so. Apart from the fact that it makes me feel a bit rebellious, (and that I won the argument) I like that it’s a little bit of authenticity for this little 40s number.

Which way round do you sew your buttonholes? Any reason different from the above?

I’m hoping to have said dress all finished and blogged by the weekend so bring on the sunshine so Mr Ooobop! can take some sunny shots!

The 1940s Shoe Dress

1940s shoe dress

I do believe I have just made my most fitting and appropriate dress for this lovely hot summer we have just entered into. And it’s covered in shoes! And it fits in with this weeks Sew Weekly challenge, ‘Inspired by the 1940s’. And I just realised it matches my Ooobop header too! I am just a little bit happy!

1940s shoe dress

Last July, I posted about the ‘shoe fabric‘, quite sure it was destined to be a 1950s shirt buttoned dress. The pattern had to be just right. I wasn’t going to waste that fabric, even if it did only cost a fiver! That was until I found this amazing pattern for a 1940s shirt buttoned dress which was spot on.

butterick 2638

I was sold on the midriff! I knew it would be flattering, it was just a question of how the shirt top would fit. Well it all went together like a dream. I took 5 inches off the length, worried as usual about the granny factor but actually I might be inclined to leave it a bit longer next time. And yes, there will so totally be a next time! The other alterations I made included adding 2 inches to the waist, being careful to add it to the shirt top and the midriff and the top of the skirt.

1940s shoe dress pleats

I was a bit worried about the gathering ‘poofing’ out the skirt section so I replaced the gathers with soft pleats. I know it kind of takes away a bit of the authenticity but I think its a lot more flattering. I also included a little turn up on the sleeves, as I did with my wing collar shirt. Just a little detail but I think it finishes a short sleeve much better and gives a little more interest.

1940s shoe dress front

I so enjoy a good old rummage in the button tin. I quite often had my whole head in my mum’s button tin when I was little and so the whole searching for the right button thing generates such a nostalgic feeling which escalates to pure joy when you find the perfect ones! These two little red beauties were 2 of a little set so kindly gifted to me by Rachel at House of Pinheiro as a thank you for doing a little guest spot over at her place! Gotta love this whole blogging thing!

1940s shirt dress buttons

The back of the dress is finished off nicely with side-ties that tie in a little bow at the back which also serve as a great device to hide the near invisible side zip.

1940s shirt dress back

Of course, there are no prizes for guessing who took the lovely photos! Mr Ooobop! is so clever and so willing and so lovely. My blog would be truly rubbish without his wonderful photos.

1940s dress yellow backgroundWe had such fun taking these today, en route to lunch in a local pub garden…. and then onto dinner at our local Italian restaurant, Casa Mia. Totally indulgent day today but it wasn’t our fault. It was all sunny and everything and we were seriously confused into thinking we were on holiday!

1940s dress sunshine

Sewing, Sunshine, park life, Prosecco and pizza….and more sunshine! I am so easily pleased!