I feel like I am barely making it through most days lately. There, I said it. Why hide it? I think I speak for many people. So, all I felt like making most recently was something really useful and unpretentious from my go-to decade of the 1940s. I have a whole slew of fantastic things to make, all ready to get put together, but they sit there intimidating me at the moment. Something as basic as my days have been, an item which helps me feel like myself, is all I wanted out of my newest sewing project.
It has been a long while since I last had a new 1940s shirtdress but I’m back with another one finally! The way my chosen cotton complements the local fall season foliage cheers me. The relaxed feel but refined appearance to the thrifty 40’s era design suits any sort of occasion. Not that I have many formal ‘occasions’ to dress up for anymore, but sometimes that means getting put together for myself because my well-being matters. My most recent event which called for this post’s dress included taking a stroll through the neighborhood to find this amazing Dogwood tree at the height of its seasonal colors. I rather wish I could stay hidden in its beauty but the leaves are nearly gone now by the time I write this.
The color scheme here alone helps me find joy by reminding me of some favorite seasonal homemade comfort food by the rich cranberry color of my dress and the orange hues of the tree. I love making homemade cranberry sauce with a hint of orange zest (no canned version for us). Also, there is a fabulous roasted beet and mandarin orange salad I make with a red wine and olive oil vinaigrette poured over a bed of fresh spinach leaves. Besides, these dishes, there is my yearly “upside down cranberry sour cream cake”, which is a family favorite I try to bake each November. Mmm – are you hungry yet?
So excuse me if my palette for this fall is exceptionally inspired by both nature of the moment and what’s cooking in my kitchen, but now you will know why after seeing the dress that started my current color scheme. Look for more golden, earthy, rustic, rich tones to come!
FABRIC: a 100% cotton print, probably vintage from the 90’s or even 80’s, with the brand of “VIP fabrics inc.“ printed along the selvedge
PATTERN: McCall #3828, year 1940
NOTIONS: I used lots of thread, one side seam zipper, and three vintage Bakelite buttons out of the stash of hubby’s Grandmother (There was fourth button to the set which has been sewn down the front of my dress. It is on an older me-made project – this year 1940 velvet hat, posted here.)
TIME TO COMPLETE: This dress was finished on October 16, 2020 in about 6 to 8 hours.
THE INSIDES: cleanly bias bound
TOTAL COST: This was a 3 yard piece out of box of about 50 something different cuts of vintage fabrics, all of which I bought for only $25. So this was one incredibly cheap dress!
There’s really not much to say about making this dress other than praise. It was pretty basic to sew but I can brag this is probably my best made collar to date. The overall dress turned out perfectly without any fitting tweaks needed (although I did grade up in size). I will get much use out of this because the color, fabric weight, and ¾ sleeves will lend this to being an all-season item so I my 8 hours spent to make it was very worthwhile. This can be dressed up with pearls and heels or dressed down with tennis shoes or sandals. The dress is deceptively as comfy as a nightgown but makes me look oh-so-put-together in the blink of popping it over my head. Altogether, it is nice casual wear that is the golden ticket to versatility – so very hard to find in RTW. I know I am partial, but my opinion is that the decade of the 40s does this style of dress best! We are so lucky to be still enjoying the benefits of such smart fashion, born of the trials of the WWII era, in our own times.
The buttons might be the coolest part to this dress, being prized vintage Bakelite notions from the sewing stash inherited from my husband’s side. They are purely decorative because I was apathetic enough to not even bother to make proper buttonholes. “As long as it’s wearable…” I felt so very below my normal par. Honestly, I almost felt bad using them on such an everyday style dress I (nicely) whipped up. Weird, right? It’s the kind of the feeling of wanting to save them for something better. Yet, I really think there is something to letting ourselves enjoy those really special things in seemingly not-so-special settings. Don’t wait for the ideal tea party to feel the thrill of connectivity when using your Grandmother’s antique china. Why wait for the right occasion to make yourself up if you think it would make your day nicer? You are worth it, even if you are just at home. Enjoying something special in a regular setting is better than never at all. Yet, as these singular buttons were the perfect complement for this dress, I’m just going to let them be one of the many reasons why I want and need to wear this dress frequently!
My dress’ details are surprisingly low-key given the date on the envelope – year 1940. Vintage McCall’s patterns are always such wonderful designs but this one is a little different than the norm. I appreciate the fact that the collar is a lot smaller than the traditional 40’s era overpowering one and the sleeve caps are not as obnoxiously puffed as most from the time. It slightly bothers my mathematical perfection tendencies that the front overlapping blouse-style bodice leaves the seam off-kilter to the center seam to the skirt. No matter – I can get over that but I have come to expect a bit more precision from a vintage McCall! The skirt’s front box pleat and the back skirt’s 3 panel seaming is classic early 40’s feature which keeps the skirt looking slim but gives me plenty of room to move easily.
At some future date I may come back to embroider an arrow point to stabilize the top seam end where the pleat opens up. Apparently, I’m expecting to wear this out soon enough! Such a detail might bring this dress up a par, so until it is needed, I will not add it. This has to stay a stress-free creation that fulfills a need for the moment. I also realize now after the fact that a good project which grounds me is just what was needed after all the super fancy dresses I have been sewing in secret behind the scenes…subtle hint for a vintage princess themed series to come! Not that I have any qualms about going out in a strongly vintage outfit or over-the-top frock, but it is always nice to have something to wear which doesn’t scream my presence as loudly as other new items do in my closet of today. As I said above, this way I’m camouflaged with my favorite fall tree!
I added something old, something new, and items dated in between the two when it came to my accessories. My leather woven belt and leather Naturalizer brand heels are from my teen to early 20-something years. My earrings and watch are late 40’s from my Grandmother, when she was a teenager herself. However, the one add-on that stealthily steals the show is my handbag.
The purse I am using is a true vintage mid-40’s telephone cord treasure, also known as a “plastic cord bag”. (See this excellent post at the “Dusty Old Thing” blog page for more history to these!) The ivory and brown version I have creatively has a different design layout for the cord on either side (which you can see if you look close at the details of our pictures)! I used to always think these kind of purses were too novelty for me and I never intended to buy one. The bright red, blue, white, and yellow combination versions turned me off by being so garish (in my eyes). However, I came across a perfect condition one locally for a steal of a price (they tend to be very pricey) and I couldn’t resist. Owning one for myself now, I have found a true appreciation for their quality, besides the fun and statement-piece like quality a “plastic cord bag” has to perk up an outfit. A basic outfit needs a bit of a pizzazz, right?
I can’t just finish up this post without giving you something extra. All this cranberry and orange colored saturated color goodness can’t go wasted. I know you are curious about some of my favorite cranberry recipes, right?! As Thanksgiving will be soon upon us, I’ll give you the recipe I use for homemade cranberry orange sauce. This is a ‘from scratch’ recipe which is super-easy and it calls for healthy ingredients like applesauce and a touch of maple syrup. Enjoy and please do let me know if you try it and find yourself liking it as much as I do! Here’s a toast to all the goodness around us, whether we are able to realize it or not, which is upon us this season.