The dress that nearly wasn’t

. . . but I’m so glad it is!

Spotty rose dress

Following on from the vintage rose print dress, I fully intended to make the next one from some gorgeous red rose cotton. But I knew I should improve on the fit of the bodice beforehand. I’ve turned once again to my trusty Elisalex bodice pattern. Why fix it if it’s not broke, I say!

I’ve taken the advice from the By Hand London site to perform a full bust adjustment. Something I never thought I would ever need to do for me. But on closer examination of my last version, and the one before, the upper bust was defo a tad too big whilst the fabric was more than snug over ‘the girls’. I’ve always gone by bust size and increased the waist, but never thought to go down a size and increase bust and waist. More than anything I plainly couldn’t be arsed! I must also learn to take bust measurements with whatever bra I mostly intend to wear!

Well. Big fat lesson learned. I now have a properly fitting bodice pattern that fits under arms, across chest, over bust and waist. Not bad for 2 years of (not) trying!

properly fitting bodiceAnyhows. This is not the reason that this particular dress didn’t happen. This spotty rose fabric has been sitting in the bottom of stash mountain for eons. I bought it from a charity shop and quickly decided it would only ever be suitable for a toile after doing a burn test.

Let’s just say I nearly burned down the kitchen in the process. Once the flames died down and the stinky fumes dispersed, my science test revealed that this fabric was totally synthetic and was never going to be acceptable in sweaty weather.

So I used it, with my dramatically altered bodice pattern to make a toile. Really not bothered if at first I didn’t succeed. I really didn’t want to cut into the lovely red fabric without knowing the alterations worked. But they did. Clearly. And all of a sudden I can forgive the fabric for being so unnatural! It’s amazing how blurred one’s vision gets when one is blinded by a darned good fit! I really must learn to be so snobby about fibre content!

front view of spotty rose dress

That said. I am still holding out for some 100% cotton gingham. How hard can it be? A sleeveless number in poly is fine but I can’t imagine having a sleeve, however short, in such close contact with my pits, in summer!

I wore it out to the park today in a sticky 26 degrees. Extreme test for a plastic dress. But because the skirt is so full and the fabric is so thin, it was remarkably cool.

Wearing the dress in Ravenscourt Park Gardens

Smelling the roses

I am still going to do the red rose version but I’m so pleased with this Brucey bonus one that I landed up with in the process! It has a 1950s vibe to it and of course is the perfect base dress to accessorise with a pair of crazy heels.

spotty rose dress

These heels being of the pink, furry leopard-print kind, of course!

sitting pretty on the doorstep

spotty rose dress

And I think you’ll agree that Mr Ooobop worked his magic as usual!

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So much style and history… in a Morrison’s bag

I thought you might like a look in more detail at that Ebay haul I won in July.

morrisons bag of patterns

Their arrival was a little ungainly to say the least. Not damaged in any way but clearly hurriedly bundled and tied up in… a Morrison’s bag. Not that there’s anything wrong with Morrison’s. But I did have a moment of OMG have I just bought a sack full of rubbish?! Surely these antique patterns deserved a carriage with a little more style!

I gingerly untied the knotted handles. Actually that’s a lie. I completely tore the bag apart because I couldn’t wait a minute more. Was a bit whiffy to say the least! But I can totally forgive the smell, the packaging and the wait.

I think I am still gobsmacked.

For starters, almost all of them are my bust size which means the only alterations will be to the waist and hip. So much less faffing. Even the few that are too small will be worth the adjustments. And I tell no lies when I say that each and every one was a doozy. Most of them unused and uncut.

The first little beauty that caught my eye was this cut out cover of Home Notes. A delight in itself but what was the chance of the patterns for these beauties being inside?

home notes 1939 coverEvery little lovely chance. I had guessed 1940s by the styling but in fact this unused and perfectly preserved pattern is nicely dated October 7th 1939:

four frocks tissue 1939

Love the bit about: “Other sizes… obtainable FREE on application”. Can you imagine that happening nowadays?

I can’t find dates on most of the patterns but all are truly vintage and very beautiful. This is the first I’ve heard of Economy Design patterns. And I feel pretty damned lucky to have landed these lovelies:

Economy design patterns 161, 197, 198

Economy design patterns 161, 197, 198

Next up is a more familiar name, Simplicity. These stylish little numbers have all their pieces in tact, despite the damage to the envelopes. In fact the one on the right had some very interesting accompanying material!

simplicity patterns 3979, 4494, 8488

Simplicity patterns 3979, 4494, 8488

Whoever Mrs Poole was – the name on most of the mail order pattern envelopes – she was a lady of very fine taste with impeccable organisational skills. In the envelope with Simplicity 8488 (above right) there was this cutting:

simplicity suit cuttingGreat to see these vintage patterns in ‘real life’ photos. And it makes me love the ensemble even more! Also inside the envelope (from Readers Digest) was each copied piece of the pattern, traced and labelled with precision onto a 1960s edition of the Daily Express. This is one of the reasons that all these patterns are in such great condition and seemingly unused. Mrs Poole has dutifully copied them and kept the originals factory folded. This has given me a fine source of entertainment too, reading all the snippets of the papers. This one quite topical: “Billie Holmes, 24 year old Hull engineer, won the first Olympic cycling road race trial yesterday – by ONE inch. And this victory, over 96 miles near Chesham, Buckinghamshire, strengthens his claim for Rome spot……”

1960 olympic reference

Thank you Mrs P.

Leach Way Patterns is a new one on me too. Any one heard of these? The dress pattern was still in it’s original mail order envelope which is date stamped 1949, so I might be inclined to date the coat and the suit around that time too. Needless to say, all three in perfect condition.

Leach way patterns, 12536, 12375, 12963

Leach way patterns 12375, 12536, 12963

Weldons is a name I recognise. I have a couple in my collection already and I love how they are always so incredibly stylish and yet a little bit quirky.

Weldons patterns 143 and 151

Weldons patterns 143 and 151

Now I am assuming ‘Womans Day’ was a womans magazine and this was a supplement… correct me if I’m wrong:

womans day gift book

womans day gift book

But even better still, than this cheeky little gift book, the blouses featured on the cover and in centre spread are an exclusive Norman Hartnell pattern and all the appropriate pieces are present and correct in this gorgeous little pattern envelope:

Normal Hartnell blouse patterns

Normal Hartnell blouse patterns

I love this 40s (?) McCalls suit. It is so reminiscent of the suits my grandma used to wear:

McCall 6780

McCall 6780

And who could resist running up a few slips and bloomers for under their vintage dresses?

Style 4469 slips and bloomers

Style 4469 slips and bloomers

Woman’s Realm was defo one of my mum’s reads. So these conjure up a bit of nostalgia. I love the first dress. It’s numbered WR.1. I wonder if that is the first ever dress pattern issued by Woman’s Realm? The middle one is far too small for me in any case but the wedding dress with a few adjustments, I’m sure would be really flattering. I do like an empire waistline.

Womans realm patterns

Womans Realm patterns

Here’s a classy Dior number from Woman’s Journal:

Womans Journal Dior pattern

Womans Journal Dior pattern

There’s a couple of other great coat patterns too. One from Odhams and the other from Woman’s Own magazine. I am thinking of making a coat. Just thinking, for now!!

Odhams and Woman's Own coat patterns

Odhams and Woman’s Own coat patterns

I think Mrs P was too as there were various cuttings of coat images too:

coat newspaper cuttingIt’s amazing that all the pieces seem to be present for these Du Barry patterns. Whatever their pattern envelopes were made of they certainly disintegrate in a big brittlesome way.  But look how Mrs P (I presume) has lovingly recreated the image herself. Don’t you just love the sharpness of these suits and frocks?

Du Barry patterns

Du Barry patterns

I do like a shirtwaist dress and was delighted to find this one from Woman’s Weekly in the bundle. Woman’s Weekly was another of my mum’s reads. I distinctly remember the pink header and the elongated type on the cover:

Woman's Weekly B170

Woman’s Weekly B170

Here’s a smart little dress suit from The People. One day, one day!:

The People 794

The People 794

There was one little girls pattern included in the bundle. I would love my youngest daughter to wear little vintage dresses but I think there is some chance and no chance of that ever happening 😦

Butterick 9161

Butterick 9161

Most of the other patterns were from Woman magazine. Another of the larger format mags if I rightly remember. And what a fine selection we have here:

Woman patterns

Woman patterns

And imagine how excited I got when this one jumped out at me:

Woman Hardy Amies exclusive pattern

Woman Hardy Amies exclusive pattern

With all supporting cuttings once again:

Hardy Amies cutting

I love the collar and the buttoned hip pockets. Not to mention the self covered buttons all the ways down, ooo… and the self covered belt. How amazing would that be?!
Woman cover

I am soooo making that Hardy Amies number!

And this wrap dress from Woman looks so much more inspirational in the mag too:

Woman 479 wrap dress

Woman 479 wrap dress

wrap dress mag cutting

And, if ever I am going to make a pair of ‘Trews’, it is going to be this pair! I love that they are called ‘trews’. I thought that was a term only used and made up by my mum!

Woman p132 Trews

Woman p132 Trews

Apart from the masses of cuttings that I still have to sift through – believe me, there are stacks of pattern pieces cut out from really old newspapers – the above are without edits, the most amazing collection of patterns ever. Not one duff one among them. Well…. there was this strange one…

Woman p131 hats bed jackets and duck

Woman p131 bed-jacket, bolero, hats and duck

…which has to win the prize of most random pattern ever!!

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