Tuesday, 10 May 2011

New School Vintage: 50s Day Dress


Some time back I made a bunch of noise about some idea I had which I introduced under the title of 'New School Vintage'. My intention was to make a series of garments by using vintage patterns and out of vintage fabric from the appropriate era to create items that could pass as vintage pieces, rather than home-made retro interpretation. These would, of course, sit in my wardrobe next to my home-made retro interpretations.


Since vintage fabric in sufficient quantities sadly doesn't grow on trees (can you imagine!), you were never going to see these New School Vintage garments come thick and fast. However, I am delighted to present to you my second creation to which fulfills the criteria. I'm calling it my 50s day dress, even though the pattern (pictured above) is from 1963.

This pattern appealed to me for a number of reasons, the most of which being that I wasn't sure it'd look any good on me. I haven't really worn anything this blousey or voluminous for yonks, and surely there is a reason for that?! I had to find out.


Result?: I do think this dress, with it's puffy bodice and funny tie neck, looks like something my gran would have worn. But isn't that the basic aim of 'New School Vintage'?! The pattern was actually a little big for me as well, but seeing as this was meant to be quite blousey, I didn't think there was much point in grading out one whole inch from the bust measurement. But I really like this dress. This pattern is from slap bang in the middle of my favourite fashion era, but if you asked me to describe to you the style elements of that era that I enjoyed the most, NONE of them would be found in this dress! Yet it's a pleasure to wear. Hmmm... curious.

Well, a reason could be found in the fact that it feels nice on. Oh, and have you seen the fabric? Take a closer look. Cute, eh?! All I know about fabric is through my own observations, so I can't be sure that this really is from the same era as the sewing pattern, but I'm confident. Check out how close the fabric print is to the print of the illustrated dress on the pattern envelope. Plus the fabric was very narrow, another tell that it's probably pretty old. I had just enough to squeeze out this dress (oh, an a couple of extra collar pieces because I didn't pay enough attention). Aside from having an insanely cute print, it's fine and light which feels lovely to wear on a hot day.


The construction was pretty easy, however, I paid a touch more attention to the instructions than I normally would, as there were a couple of elements that were different from previous projects I've tackled. Making a waist stay from grosgrain was something new to me, but turned out to be a piece of pi$$ and something I may incorporate into projects in the future even if the pattern didn't call for it, especially if the fabric was light weight like this. The second new technique was trying a new finishing method for these grown on/kimono sleeves. I've queried other peoples' finishing methods for these before and recently been doing some investigative work inside real vintage dresses, and my jury's still out on my preferred method, so I thought I'd give the method in these instructions a whirl:


The inside looks like this:


The outside looks like this:


This seems like a good, if fiddly, method. I found a vintage dress in Snooper's Paradise the other day which also had this finishing method for the under arms, which made me feel pretty good that I'd used an authentic method (even though era-authentic sewing methods are not necessarily part of my NSV criteria). The third new(ish) construction element was inserting a side zip, which I've only done with a concealed zip when I made my Macaron. To be honest, I botched this zip a bit. It's ok but I was in a rush to finish and kind of thought I might go back and re-do it at some point. Having already worn this dress a couple of times, I am pretty sure that will not happen. I could have done some proper research of different methods of inserting a side zip, and taken my time, but mastering side zips will be something for the future. You may have noticed, I am not a perfectionist!

Before I wrap this up, may I clarify, I am aware my mass-manufactured belt (a birthday gift from a belt manufacturer (yeah, I used to know a belt manufacturer, wierd I agree) FYI) and flip flops are not vintagey in any way! But that's not trick I'm trying to pull off here. I'm trying to look as though I'm rocking a vintage dress in a modern day outfit, not trying to look like I stepped out of the original pattern illustration.

Final nugget: I wore this dress in Bologna, Italy, this weekend. It did not go down well with the locals. I'm actually quite pleased because I saw less than two people the whole weekend rocking any even vaguely vintage look, so my interpretation is that they thought I was wearing my granny's dress!

26 comments:

Corrine said...

I don't think you look Granny at all. The print is so cute, you look very summery to me. I personally do not feel that a Vintage look needs to be 100% all the time. I think that avoiding a costume-like appearance probably plays well for most people. There are exceptions of course. Two bloggers I can think of can pull off the Vintage style effortlessly. That said, this dress would also be cute sleeveless and darted a bit at the waist sans belt to look more like the famous 60's shift, just a thought. You did good.

Cindy said...

I love it. I have the same pattern but never made it up.

Gail said...

I love the pattern and the fabric is very cute. The idea of reinforcing the underarm is very smart - I've never thought about before so thanks.

meli88a said...

This is seriously cute. I have seen similar patterns on eBay that I have thought of buying, always wondered what the dress looked like sewn up.

Sigrid said...

I'm a sucker for anything with kimono sleeves, or a tie neck, or a gathered yoke. . and this dress has it all plus that AMAZING fabric. It really is cute in a sort of " I raided gramma's closet and look what I found" sort of way.

As for the Italians, they have amazing style, but are incredibly homogenous dressers. Yay, for finding your own fashion angle!

kristenmakes said...

Wow, that is a great dress and very wearable! The print on that fabric is so quirky - a nice surprise on the eyes up close!

didyoumakethat said...

Zoe, I have to ask - how were the people in Bologna showing their displeasure with your outfit? Throwing fruit? Cat calling? The mind boggles! Great make - love that underarm detail.

Sølvi said...

Tihi, I loved reading this post. And apart from a highly entertaining post with some great tips for reinforcement (thank you!), I love the finished result. That fabric is fantastic!

Carolyn said...

It's a gorgeous dress! I love that print.
Thanks for the info on finishing off the underarm sleeve. That's a new one to me, and it seems like a goodie!

chrrristine said...

oh Zoe, I love it, it looks so summery! the yellow belt is perfect with it.

Stacy said...

Very cute! And I like the modern shoes and belt with it, so you don't veer off into costumey territory. The print is so fun! But you know me, I love prints. That is, if you can remember back when I actually used to post sewing posts on my blog. It's been waaaay too long! Life has been very stressful and busy, but I'm trying to get back into the groove by at least reading and writing about sewing....

Law said...

I really like this dress on you Zoe. I know it's not your usual style but it totally suits you! The fabric is awesome too.

It's nice to know even experienced sewists like yourself still haven't mastered every technique out there! Does anyone anywhere like inserting zips???

Jane said...

Zoe, it's lovely and you look fab in it. That underarm detail is mentioned in one of my patterns and I'm sorry to say I ignored it. It's good to see it in action, it really adds to the whole vintage appeal of the dress.
PS. I wore flip flops in a posh shop in Italy once and was made to feel like a visiting tramp! x

Sonia said...

Oh, I wish I knew how to sew! The fabric is so adorable!

Alessa said...

*lol* I'm sure the Italian Mammas were whispering behind your back that at least *some* kids still have some taste in clothing... ;)
It's a really cute dress and the blousiness looks rather nice with the belt. :)

Dilly said...

That's such a cute dress - and the pattern on the fabric is just adorable! It's always good to see vintage patterns made up as "real" dresses. I have a pattern I've been longing to sew up with a very similar neckline, but wasn't sure how it might actually look - I'm pleased that it looks so good! And you don't look grannyish AT ALL.

A technical question - I've always been a bit confused about finishing after serging the edges. Is it ok clipping e.g. curves like you have there? So far I've been too scared to do it in case the stitching unravels and/or the fabric frays on the unserged bit - does it last ok? I tend to fudge it a bit and serge very close to the seamline so I don't have to clip, but this doesn't give entirely satisfactory results as it can still pull and restrict a bit.

charlotte said...

I think it looks beautifull made up. x x

toboldlysew said...

The fabric is great and the dress looks really summery - love it with the yellow belt! I haven't made any vintage patterns yet - it's always really interesting to see what they look like made up, which is an imaginative leap I struggle to make in my own head!

Tilly said...

Zoe, you don't look like a granny. Even if you did, that would be fine. But you don't.

This dress is awesome. If I had this dress I'd wear it everyday and then be super grateful for the underarm reinforcement.

Rachelle said...

Great dress! I always find it very... I don't know, satisfying? to see vintage fabric made into a vintage dress. It's like the fabric has finally been given a chance to fulfill it's destiny.

Geesh. I've got a lot of very unfulfilled fabric at home...

Gabrielle said...

I think it looks great on you - perfect for a hot summer's day, when you really don't want your clothes to feel at all restrictive! Thank you for showing us the kimono sleeve treatment as I'm a big fan of the old kimono sleeve and hadn't seen this before.

themateriallady said...

Its a great dress. Much better to wear vintage with modern so it doesn't look like 'costume'.

I'm sure the Italians will catch up with you eventually!

ErinC said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ErinC said...

Sorry - had an issue with posting, had to re-do. I thought of you while I was in Joanne Fabrics here in the U.S. poring through McCall's patterns on sale. M5391 has an awesome top pictured in the McCall's book that seems so like that rockabilly/pinup look you were working on - but that pattern is for the shorts! I couldn't find a pattern for the top :-(. Thought I would share, maybe you'd have better luck. It doesn't seem to be on the pattern package front picture, just in the book-o-patterns. Weirdness.

Debi said...

Great dress! I am seriously in love with that fabric!!!

The Sew Convert said...

Too lovely to be granny my dear, I love the dress and it looks adorable on you!

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