My 1951 Tabard “Spider Dress”

What has eight stringy ‘legs’ and likes to come out when it’s warm?  Me in my 1951 pullover dress, that’s what!  If you were thinking of a spider, you’re right on, too, for this dress is like a secret spider in disguise.  Humorously coined by my attentive hubby for someone like me that is terrified of spiders, I consider this dress’ nickname quite oddly catchy.  With all the lovely colors in my dress, the exotic print, and black dashes, I tend to liken this dress to the large and special “golden silk orb-weavers”.  Look for me in my “spider” pose later on down below in the post and you’ll understand.


My dress saw its debut at our church’s summer family picnic.  It was perfectly comfy for eating lots of food outside in the grass.  This also explains the bright painted daisy on my cheek!

This design is not exactly part of the pattern and was not originally intended but became a very pleasing way to “save” a fitting mistake I made.  I personally think my dress turned out better and is certainly more interesting the way I made it!  It’s “tabard” look is still authentic for the 50’s, though not as well known, so I’m glad to have a more unusual style.  Its easy fit makes it effortless and a go-to piece for the warmer months.  Plus, it is from a year that I hadn’t made anything from as of yet. Score in more ways than one!

THE FACTS:100_5209-comp

FABRIC:  100% cotton for the printed fashion fabric and a cotton/poly blend broadcloth for the black sides

NOTIONS:  Nothing but thread was needed here, and that’s an easy one to have on hand!

PATTERN:  Simplicity #3612, year 1951

THE INSIDES:  The original seams to the dress (the center back and center front and the shoulders) are in French seams.  The seams to the waist and the side panel inserts are covered in bias tape.

100_5345-compTIME TO COMPLETE:  The dress “as-is” according to the original pattern was done in a matter of 2 hours.  Then to change it and adapt it how you see it now, took me another 3 hours.  It was finished on June 3, 2015.

TOTAL COST:  This was a cheap one at only $1.25 a yard for just under 2 yards – a total of $2.50!  The black broadcloth was on hand in my stash so I’m counting that and the thread as free.

I started this dress on the wrong foot I guess, for it was one of those ‘sudden inspiration’, impulsive, ‘got-to-finish-it-now’ kind of projects.  This is not bad, but sometimes this situation makes me forget things that are important.  I saw the fabric, immediately knew 100_5324a-compwhat pattern would be right for it, and as soon as it was washed, the fabric was down under the tissue pieces ready to succumb to my scissors.  Add in an energy-filled 3 year old running around the house chasing our seriously freaked out dog (both of whom would not give me space) and I mistakenly doubled up on the amount I needed to take out of my chosen pattern.  Instead of 2 inches I took out 4 inches.  DUH!  I did think the waist seemed quite small, but I actually didn’t realize my total mistake until the dress was whipped up in the matter of one evening’s work of a few hours.  Yes, the pattern is incredibly easy, which duped me into thinking, “I can do this even with distractions…”  No, I can’t, apparently.  These oversights do happen, however, and I was not put down, surprisingly (I must have been in too good of a mood that night), determined to make the best of it.

My fabric had been bought as part of a clearance clean-out when my favorite fabric store was closing, so going back for more was out of the question.  However, looking at the dress, I realized that a whole dress out of the one fabric was too much, like a sensory overload of busyness.  Perhaps maybe my “mistake” was for the good of the dress, after all.  I knew I liked the way the center vertical seams matched and my inner seams were too nicely finished to unpick them anyway.  My best option was to add something in down the sides.


Now, I didn’t want my dress to obviously look like I threw something into the sides, so I decided to go with making it go for a “tabard” look, where the front and back are like scapular flaps that hang from the shoulders with what should appear as an under-dress.  I went into length about the “tabard” style in this post and see Simplicity #4123 for some of my inspiration.  Among all the color tones in the print, solid black side panels were chosen in order to contrast with the ivory background and show off the side ties.  Ah, yes, the ties (two pairs on each side) are what makes me like a spider, makes my dress more obviously a tabard (even for a fake), as well as versatile for dressing.  A zipper just seemed complicated for this simple dress and fitting the side panels just looked weird – I tried it.  So, the side panels were just kept as slightly tapered rectangles with ties to pull in the dress and fit it to myself.  It’s great – I just pop on the dress and tie it as I like.  So many vintage dresses are like a circus trick to put on, and this one is a nice break.


A few additional changes were made early on to the pattern.  In lieu of facing around the neck, I kept things simple and made my own bias tape from the printed cotton.  Also, I included one of the two inseam pockets.  Only one, yes, because I originally thought I was making the dress “as-is” with a zipper in the side, so to keep things simple but still practically utilitarian, I only made a pocket in the right side.  When I started to re-made the dress I briefly thought about adding in a second pocket, but I am right-handed anyway and don’t really carry that much with my pockets, so…nope!

100_5331a-comp1951 is rather too early for a French twist but the early 50’s did have elegant upswept hair-dos for longer hair, thus my hair is like a cross between both styles.  Starting with the top half of my hair, I tightly twisted it into a long rope then pulled it up towards the sky, and back down and under itself, pinning this down.  For the bottom half, my hair was divided out into about three sections which were also tightly twisted into ropes and spun into bun-like “bird’s nests”.  Even the front face portion was waved and then twisted, too.  This is just an experimental style but it seems to fit with my dress and it kept my neck cool in the heat!

Hubby made a passing joke about my being the nursery rhyme “Miss Muffet”, sitting outside in this dress attracting a spider to “sit down beside” me as I’m wearing an arachnid-inspired garment.  Ugh, luckily that didn’t happen.  Besides, I’m not crazy over cottage cheese, “curds and whey”…


Here’s my spider pose!  Boo!  (I love how this picture shows the lines of the fabric mitering into the center waist.)  Now do you see my dress’ eight “legs”?