Have you ever had those days where you have errands to run and things to do but you want to be casual and comfy yet not completely dressed down? No matter how nice it still appears, this is another much needed, throw-on, chore-time dress…yet it’s still vintage!
Here’s a dress from 1948, something late in the 40’s and not yet 50’s, that now, re-made and sewn with modern fabric, becomes a frock for current times! The lovely ribbon-like seersucker fabric of the dress is effortless to wear and take care of (it’s meant to be wrinkled, for goodness sakes), making this one of my wardrobe’s go-to, easy-wear pieces for those “laundry days”. The cream, white, yellow, and green tones are a lovely combo that has a cool mental ‘feel’ for warm weather, yet pairs well with many cardigans and blazers in cooler temps for a multi-season garment. What more could I want from a dress?!
To put the icing on the cake, this dress looks much like one worn by my Grandmother, as seen in her high school pictures. She was 18 in 1948, and there are several pictures of both her and her sister from that year lounging around the high school campus with her books, both wearing matching, striped, button front dresses. Her mother, and herself as well, were good at sewing whatever they needed, so I’m curious as to whether or not their two dresses were made by them. My Grandmother’s dress, in particular, (on the left) has the most fun with stripe placement, most similar to my dress. Her dress and mine even have the large, handy horizontally striped hip pockets, too! This is a lovely knock-around-town dress, so I perfectly understand her style in these pictures now. I guess it’s no wonder this dress is part of Tanya’s “Dress Like Your Grandma” sewing challenge.
FABRIC: a 100% polyester seersucker, with the bodice facing and pocket lining cut from a scrap of 100% cotton
PATTERN: McCall #7212, year 1948
NOTIONS: all that I needed to buy was a pack of buttons, but the bias tapes, thread and hook-and-eyes were already on hand
TIME TO COMPLETE: not long – 7 hours. It was finished on August 23, 2016
THE INSIDES: Every edge is cleanly and easily finished off in yellow bias tape. (In this detail pic, you can also see my “fake” feature at the waist – there might be a button and a button hole on the outside, but there is really only a hook-and-eye inside to keep things stable.)
TOTAL COST: This fabric has been in my stash for as long as I can remember (it was in my parent’s fabric stash first). Thus, I’m counting the fabric as free, so all that this dress cost was the pack of buttons…$2.00!
I actually hated what I saw of this dress as it was coming together. It did fit perfectly in the size that it was, and it was mildly challenging yet easy enough to be fun. It’s just that the dress ran so darn long…as in ‘evening length’ long. I know that fashions from post-WWII were much longer, more mid-calf than the actual early 40’s shorter knee length of my dress. However, this was the only length that I felt looked good on me and did well for the dress, too. I’m not one to try to be so authentic to every detail at the cost of sacrificing my taste and my style and happiness with making a garment. The shorter length also solves a few issues as well. Yes, there is a deep 8 to 10 inch hem on my dress, and –no- I did not want to cut it off because it makes the poufy, lightweight fabric hang nicely and it also results in a completely no-see through skirt (which would have been a glaringly obvious problem otherwise). Guess I was ‘taking down two birds with one stone’ as the saying goes! After all, I did have four yards of this fabric so I might as well keep it on the dress rather than in my ever growing scrap pile…
The hardest part about making this dress was deciding on the buttons – of all things. It took me a week to figure that out. I even ordered matching green buttons…which I didn’t use. I looked through my substantial and varied button stash from Grandmothers on both sides of the family, and still nothing seemed to be ‘the one’. This is when hubby came to the rescue. He enjoys browsing through button collections and frequently has a good eye for my projects. He said I needed to go with something not distracting from the rest of the dress, but extremely plain, basic, and mundane, so I picked out the cheapest bulk pack of what were labelled as “sweater buttons” at the fabric store. I think he nailed it here. Where I would be without his help sometimes, I don’t know. (Don’t tell anyone that my man goes with me to the fabric store!)
Instead of choosing the high, choking, buttoned-up-to-the-top view, I chose the option that has the slot-type of neckline with buttons starting at the middle of the chest. However, I still thought it looked a bit confining so I merely have both sides of the neckline flipped back as if they are lapels and only temporarily tacked into place. Guess it’s a good thing after all that my cotton facing for the bodice matched with the dress so well! I think the lapel neckline softens and lends more of a relaxed casual air to the dress (which I want) than the proper and perfect drawn cover version on the envelope.
I sort of feel bad that I did kind of copy off of the cover by using a green striped fabric. At the same time, I don’t feel guilty. You see, after looking around at all the versions of this same sort of style of dress (and there are lots of them believe me, dating from about early 40’s to 1950s, at this Pinterest page of mine), I realized that many of them were in a green striped fabric of some sort. As I figure it, I am going along with a late 1940s trend, not just copying the cover to give me a good reason to use up a long-time occupant in my fabric stash, ahem. Besides, I did find ‘proof’ that this type of ribbon seersucker was around years back. Granted they wouldn’t have had a fabric made from polyester in the 1940s, but look at this old original 30’s dress for sale at Emily’s Vintage Vision’s Etsy shop – doesn’t that type of fabric for the bodice seem so very similar to the fabric for my dress?
We were happy to chance upon a vintage Laundromat in one of our shortcuts to get from one errand to the next. Funny thing is, I found out that day this dress actually repels water and keeps me dry. I suppose the tight polyester and rippled seersucker keeps the water rolling right off. Later on, at a “Steak n’ Shake” for lunch that day, when my dress did get wet from my water glass, the fabric sort of “held” the water and kept my under layers dry. This is one weird but awesome fabric – I haven’t had another material act like this. Now, the only problem was making sure my natural fiber wedge espadrilles and braided cord belt didn’t get wet, too…
At the onset of this sewing project, I was aware that I have a similarly styled dress dated to the year before, 1947 (see it here). It does have the same slashed neckline and pockets, but with the stripes and buttoned front, this post’s dress is different, after all. This is a look alike to one my Grandma wore anyway, so that’s a big win. Maybe this is just a trend of the post war that I like. I know the large pockets are a big draw for me. Do you have a certain style niche in the history of fashion that you especially love for one reason or another? Do you too find yourself copying envelope cover images more often that not?