Sewing a 1950s dress
For my very first attempt at sewing a vintage dress, I decided to make Butterick pattern B5708. This pattern is a modern print of a vintage pattern originally sold in 1953.
The dress features a self-lined bodice, gathered skirt, invisible zipper and shoulder ties. Since it's sold as an 'easy' pattern, I figured it would be a good starting point for my vintage sewing adventures.
This is a very popular pattern online and can be purchased from several retailers. I bought mine on sale from Fabricville over a year ago. Fabricville had a really good sale at the time and I purchased around a dozen patterns all at once. However, since then they've just been sitting in my sewing stash waiting for me to get around to sewing them.
This pattern is sold in sizes 6-22.
ALWAYS choose your size based on the measurements on the package and NOT on the size you typically buy in store.
COST & MATERIALS
Fabric (6 meters):
Thread (Gutermann 250m):
$4.49 (-25% discount)
$5.00 (-10% discount)
Invisible zipper foot:
(Pins, chalk, scissors and hand sewing needles)
According to the pattern the best fabrics to use for this project are cotton broadcloth, chambray, linen, crepe or shantung.
I chose 100% polyester.
I had absolutely no problems working with this fabric. It's lilac in colour with pink flowers. It's also soft and pretty and it hangs beautifully. It may not be the most accurate fabric for the time period, but I'm definitely happy with my choice of fabric.
The only problem with the fabric is that the manufacturer decided to print the fabric in sections and sew those sections together before wrapping the fabric around the bolt. This means that there is a sewn seam roughly every meter. I've never seen this, so I asked the people working at the shop if they had come across this before. They hadn't seen it either, and no one is entirely sure why it comes that way.
This strange addition of the seams, combined with how I want the pattern to fall on the dress, means I bought more fabric than the pattern calls for. The pattern requires three to four meters of fabric depending on size, but I ended up buying six meters.
My desire to have the pattern fall a certain way also means that I will be ignoring the grain line when cutting out the pattern. Ultimately, my goal is to have a finished product that I'm proud to show off. This may not be best sewing practice, but I'm the only one who will be wearing the dress.
You'll notice in the 'Cost & Materials' section that I bought a 55cm zipper. The pattern only calls for a 35cm zipper, but the shop didn't have any at the time. I bought the 55cm zipper and I’ll cut it down to size before attaching it to the dress.
If you shorten a zipper, stitch horizontally across both short ends of the zipper. This will prevent the zipper pull from flying off while you are sewing.
(pattern instructions in italics)
Easestitch lower edges of one bodice front section between small circles.
Ok, so right off the bat I've run into a problem with this pattern. The written instructions say 'easestitich'. This typically means to sew one line of long stitches. However, the image alongside the instruction clearly shows two rows of stitching... which would be a 'gather'.
Looking at the drawing on the pattern package, I don't see any gathers on the bodice. I've decided to stick with with written instructions and do one row of stitching between the small circles. Honestly, I don't think it will make a huge difference to the final appearance of the dress either way.
Stitch two midriff front sections together at centre front, ending at large circle.
Easy enough. After sewing the seam, I pressed the seams open.
It turns out that I forgot to cut the pieces for the bodice lining. It’s not an issue right now, but I’ll have to get my fabric back out and cut more pieces for the bodice lining.