Sunday, January 9, 2011

All Dressed Up and No Place to Go- Vintage Paisley Dress

Around Thanksgiving my mother in law sent us a package from our late Grandma’s house of a few odds and ends she thought we might like to have. Among them was a piece of paisley fabric, 45” by about 3 ½ yards. I loved it immediately and knew I would want to use it for my next project, a long sleeved blouse, Simplicity 4606. 

I sewed view 3 in a detailed muslin because I figure I need all of the practice I can get. Well, although I sewed it to (very near) completion, and I do like the look and fit, it was still a fiasco, and I am saving it for another day as there is still work to be done. I was trying to do this thing where I sewed practical stuff that is needed in my wardrobe, but it turns out that just isn't where my heart is. 

So, along the way I decided I wanted to do something more special with the paisley fabric and determined that I had enough for a dress. “Wouldn’t it be cute,” I thought, “to sew a Christmas dress for me too, and baby A and I could have our photo together with her in hers?” I hatched this plan a few days before Christmas, and rooting through my patterns 10 times, I found a suitable dress, Simplicity 5914 from 1965.
 The pattern was a bit too small at a 34" bust and needed to be sized up to accommodate my still there baby belly. So, I did some pattern work. I sewed up a mini muslin with a shortish skirt, and found that I had over sized the pattern and it needed to be sized down again. Plus there was this weird wrinkly thing going on over my butt. I dismissed it as a poor zipper basting job and charged on.

After making the mock up, I found that the dress went together without too much ado- I am not an extremely experienced seamstress, and I did a fair amount of seam ripping, but I did remember to back up on my darts correctly, the facings came out very pretty, and the collar gave me very little trouble. I was excited to see the dress going together as I had envisioned it. Then I sewed the skirt on. Ick. Again I had that dreaded “v” shape over my rear and below the zipper. I referred to my 80’s Vogue Sewing Guide, and was diagnosed with a “flat derriere.” Right. Whatever. I don't remember having a flat butt, but if Vogue says it, it must be so. So I pulled out the stitching and took out some of the bulk from the skirt back redistributing the gathers. I re-basted. The dreaded “v” was still there, but the skirt fit everywhere else. I finally got the idea that if I had too much fabric in that area, I needed to pull some from the waist seam to get the back to lay flat. I tried it, and voila! No v-butt.
Next I took on the self fabric belt. This was a first, and I used a belt kit. It was really freaking easy , and it came out really well. The bonus was that I got to use one of my hoarded vintage belt slides. It goes beautifully with the fabric. Then, I sewed in twill tape for a waist stay, another first. I also hand picked the zipper following the Threads tutorial I have seen other blogging seamstresses rave about, and I understand the hype- mine’s not perfect, but it's not puckery, and I am sure I would have had pucker problems if I had sewed it by machine. I attached a hook and eye at the top of the zip, and Threads Magazine diagram be damned, mine looks nothing like that. Nothing. But it’s in. Finally I slip stitched the facings together and hemmed the skirt up with some pretty, hoarded hem lace. I love thrift stores for this stuff.Oh yeah- I forgot to mention that all of my notions, excepting the thread, were vintage and possibly from the correct era. I used seam binding, hem tape, and a metal zip that cost me pocket change. So, with the gift of fabric, this dress cost me almost nothing but my time, and I that was all fun to me, a true nerf-herder. So, without further ado, here are some shots of my finished dress.   
The reel to reel is not a prop- it sits there in our living room all the time.
We have no TV, but we have the reel to reel. Are we living in the past?
The lighting with the candles makes me look nice and glowy, but you can't see any of the details of the dress.
That is why we later moved outside...

These are the shots we get when I follow my husband's directions ;)
Baby A, a.k.a. "Gremel" always wants in on the excitement. 
I guess it's art-fart of me, but I always thought it would be neat to have a photo where I am
 dressed formally, and Gremel is in her diaper.
I can now cross that one off the list!
We moved outside, where it was frickin' cold, but the lighting was way better.
 See? The dress has a collar.

Keeping it real country with the cold frame and dead fall garden in these shots.

Love that barn!
Here is a back view showing the zip and back collar. Neither of us realized my hook and eye were undone,
 so the facing does not actually hang out like that. Too cold for a redo!
A close up on the belt and slide
Hem tape- ooh la la!
All in all, I had a wonderful time making this dress. I learned so much and gained a ton of confidence in my sewing ability. I now know I can almost fit things, and I can sew beyond just casual house wear. At least a little. I still need to work on my finishing skills- like all of you other dedicated seamstresses and seamsters out there, I am working toward having clothes that look polished on the inside too (lining next time?). And I realized along the way that, for me, it is not about utility, or I'd be sewing only t-shirts and underwear. I want to sew what I want to sew, and I want to sew the pretty. I want to sew the impractical. That's kinda what makes it a hobby- sewing out of necessity sounds a lot like work!


  1. AJA It's GORGEOUS!! You've done so well. I wish I had your figure! After having Elliott. He was 2 last week (starts pre school tomorrow! Argh!)I still feel like a house. I've yet to pluck up the courage to do an outfit post on my blog. But you look fabulous. Your man definately needs to take you out on a date. That's a definite date dress!

  2. Thank you so much Miss P. I can't tell you how much I appreciate that. It is hard on us having children, eh? I mean, I wouldn't trade it for anything, but I had no idea what it would do to me physically, really. Thank goodness, a little shapewear goes a long way! And you are beautiful. Get your pluck up- I look forward to an outfit post!

  3. OMG! I love your comment "I want to sew what I want to sew, and I want to sew the pretty. I want to sew the impractical. That's kinda what makes it a hobby- sewing out of necessity sounds a lot like work!" I want to make a vintage dress now. Great job!

  4. Thank you! I hope you will make a vintage dress! I am constantly inspired by all of you in the sewing blog community. I looked at your profile, and I feel the same way you do- I get a lot of work done in snatches, but I also get on an obsessive roll and sometimes can't move away from the machine! Then, when I do, I lie in bed like a zombie thinking "must attach facings. Must pink seams. Must sew in zipper..." It's an exhausting and rewarding love affair!

  5. That fabric is gorgeous! The dress looks lovely (much better outside too, even though it meant going out in to the cold!).

  6. What a pretty, pretty dress. I love that photo of you and your baby, such a great idea. Mind if I keep the picture in my inspiration files?

    I wish I could convince my husband to get rid of the tv. ugh.

  7. Thank you very much Steph. No, I do not mind at all if you keep the photo in your personal files. Luckily, on the TV issue, I can count on my husband's cheap side for regulation. :D He would never pay for cable or a satellite dish. It does mean that he hits the sports bar & grill for important football games, but that isn't too bad in small doses.


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