1940 Summer Plaid Sundress with Mock-Shirred Bodice

Some of my projects unintentionally get passed up under my radar of “things to be posted”.  This lovely staple in my summer wardrobe of vintage garments is one of them.


At first, this dress was an “Un-Finished-Object” (often dubbed as U.F.O.’s) for quite a while ‘til I eventually conquered its problems and finished it, then it became a “Un-Blogged-Object”.  No longer!  I am proud at how I saved a potential failure here to make another ‘favorite’ frock.  I know the pattern I used is still published (and seemingly popular), so I hope you like my sundress, too, and find both my review and my way of making the dress helpful.  The bolero jacket, part of the pattern, too, is something I have plans to make in the near future, so that review will have to be in a different post.

THE FACTS:Vintage Vogue 8812

FABRIC:  My dress’ fabric is a loosely woven-style polyester blend in blue/tan/white plaid; the lining is a poly pongee in white

NOTIONS:  The thread, zipper, and hook-and-eyes came from on hand.

PATTERN:  a year 1940 reprint, Vintage Vogue #8812

THE INSIDES:  bias bound seams are in the skirt but everywhere else is fully lined.


TIME TO COMPLETE:  Well…this is a story in itself.  It was first made in spring 2013 for Lucky Lucille’s 1940’s “Sew for Victory”, yet finally finished on May 5, 2014.

TOTAL COST:  This fabric came from something my parents found in their basement and gave to me.  I know it’s not like vintage kind of old, just something from awhile back.  No one remembers when it was bought, so I’m counting it as free.  The lining was from my stash, so I’ll count that as free, too.  Yay!


In general, I have never had a Vintage Vogue re-print that I didn’t like, didn’t have great fit, nor have I had one that did not turn out successfully.  When this 1940 sundress didn’t seem like it was working for me I was so sad to break this record, so I was elated I could easily make it turn out well.  It was really easy to make, super quick to put together, and does fit very well – I will say that.    But I really think my change improved on the design and also places my dress more on the emphasis of the late 1930’s side of the year 1940.  Yet, at the same time, it seems (from the compliments I’ve received) that either this sundress is deceptively modern looking or this vintage style is quite appealing…maybe both.  It’s great to wear, that’s all I know.

100_2883a-compMy main problem was with the bust gathering of the dress, but I also had random problems everywhere else.  To start with the smaller problems, the skirt length was extremely long and needed to be shortened by about 3 or 4 inches for my taste.  Also, I did not see the back closure working with buttons – I do not relish the idea of “blind” buttoning on myself contorting my arms behind me.  Besides, I wanted a snug smooth fit and (rightly or wrongly) imagined puckering if I added buttons and buttonholes.  So, long story short, I sewed a zipper into the back placket in the same method as a pant or trouser front fly.  I added in hook-and-eyes to the back placket flap edge at both the waist and the top for extra smoothness.  Finally, I changed up the placement of the straps to criss-cross rather than simply going over the shoulders.  I didn’t want to have a dress with straps that droop, always needing attention to be picked up over the shoulders much like many lingerie slips.  With the straps forming an X between my shoulder blades adds added interest but especially gives the bodice more support and just plain stays up properly.

100_2882-compNow the bodice…well, perhaps part of the problem was the stiffness of my chosen fabric.  I can possibly see this working out “as-is” if the fabric was a lovely jersey knit or a handkerchief weight cotton (something loose and flowing), but even still, I’m doubtful.  I did raise up the neckline of the front of the dress’ ‘bra-like’ portion higher by a few inches to make it less revealing, as well as leaving out the “window” opening through the middle.  This added a bit of a challenge to cutting out the pattern and perhaps the more gathering that I ended up with made it overwhelming.  Either way, how it turned out, I could not stand the way the bust drooped a puffed out all at once – so awful!  I was so upset, and for a long time all I could figure for a fix was to cut off the gathered part and top-stitch something on instead. However I had done a good job (not to boast) and the points of the bodice under the ‘bra’ part turned out very well and I hated to give up on all of that.  Finally, it occurred to me to merely control the gathers by the then (1940/late 1930’s times) popular method of shirring or ruching.

100_2871-compWell, I couldn’t start from scratch to make real shirring, so my stitching sewn on the top of the bust gathers are a fake look-alike but just as beautiful and effective.  I maxed out my supply of straight pins to tack down all the gathers.  Seeing all those pins really put my hubby off when he saw it – I suppose he was picturing it on myself like that, making me like a prickly sharp porcupine in the wrong place.  Anyway, I stitched across on top in as straight lines as possible starting from one back side going horizontally all the way around to the other back.  This mock-shirring almost feels like quilting in reality and ends up giving the bust part semi-firm, yet supple, needed support better than some good interfacing.

I felt such relief to see how this mock-shirring was the perfect solution.  It can be so hard to happen to have to right idea for amending sewing projects that just don’t fit the bill of100_2877a-comp approval on oneself.  I find such ideas can’t really be forced, and I have to relax and let the solution come to me after (calming down, first) and be alright with the idea going on a “back burner”.  If I regard it as a failure (easily done), the thought is too crushing and kind of defeats the goal of re-purposing my project into something I’ll eventually like.

So, this is part of the reason why I waited so long between when my dress was first made and when I was finally happy with how it fit and turned out.  Maybe, this is also why I get so many good ideas in the evening…when I get relaxed with a happy tummy my mind also gets happy!  Now, why it took me so long to get to posting about this, well I’ve got no excuse except that when I wear something I’ve made often enough it doesn’t seem ‘new and excitably blog-worthy’ anymore.  Silly me!

‘Flowers Out In the Cold’ – Pullover UFO Dress and Mini Apron

Here is a project which is a happy relief to have it finished.  I saved it from languishing in my “Unfinished Objects” (UFO) pile and now have another interesting dress to wear.  It’s just perfect for bringing a bit of spring with me when I wear it in chilly weather!

100_0975aTHE FACTS:

FABRIC: 100% cotton gauze in a predominantly pink floral design, 4 something yards @ 99 cents a yd.;  100% cotton quilting fabric for lining and contrast neck and cuffs;  poly cling-free scraps for sleeve linings

NOTIONS: 2 spools of thread; had interfacingSimplicity2748miniaprons

PATTERN: Simplicity 3557, year 2007, for the dress; and Simplicity 2748, for the mini apron

TIME TO COMPLETE: Too long!!!  I spent a number of hours in the Fall of 2010 to cut out the floral cotton.  Then, several more hours were spent in mid-October 2012 just to figure out what I had done and cut out the pattern pieces for the lining/contrast cotton.  Finally, in late October ’12, I took many hours to finish the dress.  After a little more time in January 2013, eventually it was perfected and I was happy.  So, in total,…at least 12 hours?  It’s so hard to count time on UFO’s.

The see-through cotton gauze fabric was probably not the best for this pattern (since it required a substantial lining) but, when it was so soft and so cheap, what seamstress could resist?!  I think this dress would have had better drape with a softer fabric.

However, I am quite glad to be able to finally wear this dress for TWO big reasons.  Firstly, it is nice to have a fall, winter, and spring dress that is not a dark color, like many conventional winter RTW clothes.  Something about wearing flowers cheers me up a bit at a time of year when everything outside looks dead.  Secondly, this was the very first sewing project that launched me back into sewing garments (and other interesting things) after a several year hiatus of sticking to altering, tailoring, and small projects.  I did put this dress off to the side before completion, and my “Happy in the Navy” Sundress ended up becoming my first ‘finished’ dress project since I’ve been sewing more frequently (spring of 2012).  In my mind, my flowered pullover dress is still “the first”.  Now I am actually glad I didn’t finish this dress in 2010 because I would have been disappointed then…luckily my navy sundress was a ‘wow’ project to start me out. 100_0987

Simplicity 3557 was not exactly a hard pattern, it was in fact really simple with no big tricks, easy to understand, and straightforward.  But, I have a problem with the pattern saying “easy-to-sew”.  To me, easy to sew means it is not only easy to understand how it goes together, but also comes together in a flash. ‘ Easy to understand’ can be different for every seamstress, but this pattern had so many long seams, and it was almost at my limit as a tiresome and time-consuming dress.  All the gores, and there were a lot, had to be stitched together, the seams stitched to finish the edges, then I top-stitched the seams down.  All this stitching quickly ate up 2 spools of thread, and it was oddly hard to find a color thread to match.  Isn’t it how it goes…

The cool contrast neckline is the saving grace, otherwise the pattern would end up just blah!  Following the directions to make the neckline produced a very stable, sturdy support for the rest of the bodice, and it was very fun and a different technique to do-it was the best part of my project. Even my corners came out so perfect.

100_0979a     As a pullover dress, the ease was quite generous, but I assumed it was needed to get into it and, for the most part, I was correct.  The side ties help pull the waist and bust in a bit, but even the large bell sleeves added to the Mumu-like appearance.  I eventually sewed the sleeves slimmer by several inches, and this alone helped immensely towards making my dress lose some weight.

What worked wonders for this dress was sewing in a strip of bias tape on the inside, just below the bodice seam in the center back, and sewing down a small piece of elastic that runs through that channel.  Wow..perfect!  I hope you can see a little of what I did in the picture at right.  I can still pull the dress on, but it looks much slimmer, and the gathers pull the dress back for me and are cute from behind.  There is still too much extra skirt fabric, especially below the back gathers, but I top stitched all my seams, so…as Tempest from Sew Weekly says, “done is beautiful”!

As a side note, the only reason I lined the sleeves in a different material is for the basic reason of simply running out of fabric.  I actually like the sleeves being lined in poly lining – it’s lighter in weight than the rest of the dress.  My ‘make-do’ turned into a nice design element that no one but me (and all of you) will ever know.

100_0535a     I hardly had much of any scraps leftover, but it was just enough to make yet another mini apron.  Simplicity 2748 was unfolded again.  This mini apron pattern was already used in my post for the “Polka Dot Challenge: 3 for the Price of One”.  A different view was made this time, one that is a shrunken version of a vintage style.100_0537

The mini ‘shoulder’ ruffles were so frustrating, tedious, and nearly impossible for my machine to handle.  I had to make several attempts at the ruffles before my machine make a decent stitch.  X-shaped back ties were also small work to get to come out right.  Here again, the finished product makes my efforts worthwhile 🙂

100_0986a      We took my dress pictures on a blustery day, with a cold front blowing in after some crazy warm days.

It is nice to have a chance to get outside and run around, but 70 something warm temps one day turning into 20 something cold weather does too much havoc on many Mid-Westerners’ sinuses like mine.  Yes, in my state, we can have all the seasons’ weather in one week – quite crazy!  At least, in the bottom picture, our dachshund was enjoying sniffing around for one afternoon with no cold ears!

Do you have a favorite ‘out-of-the-ordinary’ seasonal print, like my floral for the wintertime?

By the way, I’m not really flying in these pictures.  I was just balancing on a skinny piece of concrete.  Hey, it might be strange, but I like to practice my coordination, and, besides, it’s hard to figure out something to do for a photo shoot sometimes.  Doing silly stuff is a good way to bring out a smile!


I ‘Heart’ Aprons! – A Remake of a UFO

If you care to learn something about me, know that I love aprons. I will…and do…wear my collection of aprons A LOT, which is the great thing about making more aprons! (There is always someone to give one to as well.) My cooking, my gardening, my housework just isn’t right if I’m not wearing an apron, and an apron has more than once saved me from an unexpected change of clothes.

This is my newly finished apron. I started this in 2008 (I think) and just recently found it in my parent’s basement to finally pick it up and complete it. Now that I’m finished, this apron might be my new favorite!  Please excuse the non-me-made, non-vintage attire underneath, I can’t always look like a perfect June Cleaver.  For now, it feels good to finish another UFO (Un-finished Object).

Vintage inspiration was a big influence behind this creation.  I am still growing and adding to my stash as my pocketbook provides, and as I figure out what my tastes are with what I make. These are patterns I do not own which inspired me.

This apron originally started out as a short skirt bought from Goodwill for a few dollars.  Finding cheap, second-hand mini skirts (or even mini sundresses) at thrift stores is a very fun, creative, and easy way to make aprons.  My mom and I have a number of such projects always on hand.  There are more ideas in my head than time on my hands!

For my heart apron, I simply cut off the side seams, and kept one half for the top bib and the other for the bottom.  After deciding on a design, I cut the two pieces into the shapes I wanted.  I kept the waistband for support from the pulling of the ties, and I also kept the skirt’s lining, sewing it into the back of my apron for a perfect finish.  The heart bib is actually two pieces sewn together vertically because cutting the heart in one piece messed with the fabric’s bias and it would not have hung correctly.  All the edges are finished in lavender bias tape.

A bit of Disney’s “Tangled” vibes, here, huh?!

By the way, it might be helpful to add that I think I found a trick which helps heart shaped aprons fit much better.  On Nov. 7 (2012), Trish Blair posted her “I Love You” Apron and mentioned that her heart apron was a bit floppy and it seems in the photos to get in her way a bit (mine did too at first).  I sewed in a 1 inch dart in on each side of the heart horizontal to my bust.  The darts are just enough to fold the heart in away from my arms without losing its shaping.

The heart apron’s ties were a really great coincidence.  Two long strips and two squares of lavender cotton were all that I had leftover from lining my 1957 “Betty’s style” vintage sundress made this past summer.  Another F.Y.I about me is I HATE doing ties, but each time I sew them, somehow I suck it up to sew them correctly…well, those two 45” long ties were worth making for this project.

To continue the unique features of my apron I have the ties attached at the top of the heart, so I tie it on in an X shape across my back.  This is actually a very comfortable way to wear an apron.  It beats having ties that pull at the back of your neck, catching my hair in the knot.  I merely sewed a small loop on the inside top corner of the waistband (wrong side) so I can run the ties through, thus pulling the waist back when I tie the apron back.
I really liked the cute simplicity of my basic heart apron, but I also must have pockets. I feel lost without them! My solution was to make a sort of slash pocket, with the purple cotton of the pocket showing through just enough to hint at what is there but not being distracting.

My creative juices ran freely to make the slash pockets.  I have not yet tried welt pockets.  didn’t exactly know how I was going to do pockets here, but it worked just fine once I started sewing.

First I measured out with chalk where I wanted the pockets on each side, then sewed a long, skinny rectangular hole around the line.  I clipped the middle free, then folded the edges inside and sewed them down.  Next, I sewed ivory hem tape along the edges for strength and stability, and sewed another line of hem tape inside to create a perfect square.  You can see what I was doing in the picture below.

This might not have been the best way or most professional, but I am pleased at a very stable, dressy, and clean finished seam.

Finally, I took one of my two leftover lavender squares and sewed it along the back, with the top of the square just above the top of the slash opening.  I just can’t get over how cool this looks;  I called up my husband, then my mom to brag about it.  It’s cool when I surprise myself!

Now, I have a question for all of you.  If you can look at my top main picture, tell me if you think I should put a pocket on each side, or just leave my heart apron with one slash pocket (I love to have my vintage hankies sticking out!).  It took me an hour and a half to do the one pocket, and I wouldn’t mind doing another one, but I hate to overdo something that can’t be undone.  Do you think I should put a decorative button with a loop to keep the pocket closed?  Let me know.

Anyway, I will leave off with a picture of me wearing my knit dress and my apron to present my homemade, from scratch, double layered carrot cake, made for Epiphany company.


FABRIC: a stretch cotton print skirt with poly lining (bought for $3); soft cotton broadcloth for straps and inside of pockets (leftovers from a past dress)

NOTIONS: bought ivory hem tape; already had the bias tape and thread

PATTERN: none; hand designed by me; didn’t even use a template for the heart…I just eyed the shape

TIME TO COMPLETE: maybe 4 or 5 hours

FIRST WORN: ? not sure, but I have worn it plenty since I finished it on January 14, 2013

Gold Tapestry UFO Dress

This wrap dress had been made by me several years ago, probably 2007, as a last minute decision for Christmas/New Year’s fancy occasion wear. I think this was my first real dress project on my own and from scratch. I do not think I really knew what I was completely doing back then, but, looking at this dress now, I did sew it quite well, interfacing and all, despite never finishing it!

I now have the perfect fancy vintage style dress for all seasons and any nice occasion.  We happened to have our picture taken professionally when I wore my dress to hubby’s work’s Christmas party.  There’s nothing like a handmade dress to feel happy and confident!

_CMD2956      I remember the sewing machine needle kept catching the fabric and pulling runs – and the fact never hit me to think of changing the needle. Wow! I feel badly admitting this, but it also makes me feel like I’ve come a long way with my sewing skills. I’m just glad the fabric survived its torture well enough to still look good.
My parents had resurrected this dress from my old stash in their basement in the fall of 2011.  I decided to do the finishing touches it needed to be wearable.  There was no way to close it – no snaps, hooks, or even a tie, but otherwise the body of the dress was done. So I looked at the dress’ original pattern, Butterick 5030, and I also looked at a similar vintage pattern, Butterick 5152, before I decided on making a cummerbund.

Somehow, among all the millions of scraps between here and my parents’ house, I had found the few handfuls of the dress’ fabric pieces left. There was just enough fabric to make a cummerbund, but no solid long scrap, so I had to plan for side seams. The side seams gave me an idea to gather the cummerbund sides instead of a making a plain waistband. This gathering of the cummerbund looks good, except it was quite difficult because of two factors: 1) I double sided the cummerbund for a finished band; 2) the fabric was shedding and fraying all over (just like I remembered from before). I used the right needle this time, by the way…100_0461
I found a large antique gold button at Wal-mart and thought to attach the cummerbund to the dress and so close both at the same time! I basted the cummerbund on by machine, but most of the gathering and attaching to my dress was done by hand.

I really like the metallic gold elastic I braided as the button loop.  The elastic loop’s raw ends were stuffed into the gathered end of the cummerbund and hand tacked into place.

My only regrets for this project are the hook-and-eye closures I sewed on the front of the dress to minimize ‘exposure’.  The hooks catch everywhere on the dress’ open weave. In some spare time in my sewing future, I think I will change this so I can be completely happy with this dress, but, hey, I can wear it now, so how it’s finished is good enough.
After wearing my UFO dress, it occurred to me that the reason I balled it up as a wrinkled mess in ’07 was not just because of the sewing problems, but also the nagging thought that maybe this looks like a fancy housecoat. That word “housecoat” still nags my brain, but my tapestry wrap dress fits so well and looks elegant, it can’t be all that bad!


FABRIC:  some sort of rayon/cotton blend; guess I could do the burn test on a scrap

NOTIONS:  just the big button and gold elasticButterick 5030 cover

PATTERN:  Butterick 5030, view B, year 2007; I am impressed with everything about this pattern – it fits great, has a versatile design, and a moderately easy construction

FIRST WORN:  out to a St. Louis Symphony concert. Didn’t get there as early as needed to get the free tickets, so we just hung out at my parents’ house and watched a movie (“Follow the Fleet” Astaire/Rodgers movie to be exact); later, I also wore my dress to the Christmas party were you see us in the first picture of my post

TIME TO COMPLETE:  back in 2007 for the dress, maybe I spent 10 or more hours; in 2011, for the cummerbund, about 4 hours