Thursday, 7 February 2013

Restyled 50's dress

Remember the vintage floral fabric I acquired?  Here is how it looked made into a dress back in the late 50s.  My mother made this outfit herself at the age of 14.  I don't know about you, but at 14 I'm pretty sure I wasn't sitting at a sewing machine making my own clothes.  Such wasted opportunities - and something I plan to address (did you get the pun - heehee) with my own girls.

When she decided she no longer wanted to wear the dress, mum pulled it apart and saved the material from the full skirt.  There was roughly two metres of fabric, more than enough to make a swing dress for Renee.

Despite her expression, she truly does love the dress.  Something stung her on her upper leg just before I took this photo.  I captured the moment she realised she had been stung:

What the....??
Poor girl, our photo shoot was very short-lived.

Inspired by the mini Boden dress below (isn't it adorbs?), I drafted a pattern and made up a test dress using an old sheet.  The first attempt was a bit snug and the neckhole was too tight so I'm glad I took that step instead of cutting straight into the fabric.

Tackling the panel and facing on the front of the dress was the hardest part. I made two attempts at it and I am still not entirely happy with it, but since I have no fabric left to have another go, it shall remain like it is until it falls apart.  There is probably an easier way of making a facing with a neckline shape like this, but I ended up making a full facing that is in a 'y' shape to neaten the panel from the reverse side.

The most enjoyable part of constructing this dress was stitching a diamond pattern on the front panel.

I don't know about you but one thing I cannot do on a sewing machine is a blind hem stitch. Somehow, I miss stitches completely in places and have huge stitches on the outside of the garment in others and, to me, it just looks so messy with all those v-stitches on the reverse of the fabric.  I usually just topstitch my hems to avoid this issue altogether, but for this dress, I ended up hand sewing the hem and front facings.

The dress has deep hidden pockets, good hidey holes for Renee's little treasures and she thinks they are the best part of the dress - although for a child who has been known to be a little light-fingered at times, I'm not sure I thought that one through...

The dress is a little on the big side, but at least this way, she will get a couple of years' wear out of it.

Degree of difficulty: Inserting the panel into the neckline at the front of the dress and the facing was hard, the rest of the dress was easy
Time taken: 2 days
Result: Renee loves her new dress and wants to wear it to school while her mother will spend the whole day praying it won't fall apart in the playground.


  1. Looks pretty pretty. I don't know how to hem blind either. I have started to hand hem things I want to look awesome. This looks awesome. So happy.

    1. Thanks Sus, I think hemming by hand gives a much neater finish too, it's so worth the effort.

    2. Note: It is worth the effort and I'm doing it sometimes for us but not for a green life. I REALLY wouldn't be making any money then! Shame.

  2. I LOVE this dress Leanne and the fabric. Will be pinning this too. You are getting very clever at making your own patterns!

    1. I love this fabric too, I'm so sad to see it dwindle. Thank you for pinning my creations, it makes me feel like a crafting rock star :).


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