Sewing the perfect vintage day dress for spring (Sew-Easy 3296)
The weather is just starting to get warmer in Britain, and at last we can enjoy the outdoors again. It’s the time of year when you start thinking about floral prints and floaty day dresses, and I decided to try to sew a very wearable yet stylish 1950s dress for this time of year. I wanted something that not only looks great, but is also practical bearing in mind the changeability of the weather at this time of year. In Britain we can expect sunshine, wind, and rain all in half an hour. So I chose Sew-Easy 3296 – flattering with a modest neckline and knee-length hemline, and the pencil skirt and three quarter sleeves will keep me from getting chilly when the weather takes a turn for the worst. And to be brutally honest… the fact that it was in the “Sew-Easy” range was part of my decision making process!
What I really love about this pattern is the neckline. The pleating looks lovely, but it provides an incredible fit around the bust area (and it’s pretty easy on the eye as well… a real show-stopper!). It also looks like it has plenty of darts in the bodice, so making this dress to fit like a glove shouldn’t be a problem. My only reservation is the pleats on the top of the skirt section and whether they might not be quite as becoming as the pleats above the bust.
First things first, fabric. I went to my local market stall, Sharma’s, and chose a heavy weight cotton with a touch of stretch in it. I wanted to use the pleats and darts in the pattern to create body in the dress and improve fit. Plus I really loved the floral pattern!
I tried scrunching the fabric when I was buying it, and it left very few creases behind (always a good sign). I also liked the way the fabric looked when folded over itself, and the body and substance it created. This fabric would easily hold its shape, and also improve the fit of all the darts and pleating.
Speaking of darts, there are quite a few darts in this pattern. Luckily for me, darts were always my favourite tricky bits in sewing class at school. I had to shorten a couple of darts around the bodice so they didn’t land on my bust, but it wasn’t as hard to do as I thought. I found that tacking the darts before sewing them really helped the whole process.
I did, however, fall to pieces when it came to the double darts on the sleeves. Two darts so close together were enough to reduce me to a heap of tears. I must have tacked and retacked these darts at least three or four times.
So by now the whole lower edge of the sleeves looked a bit of a mess. To be honest, I was just glad to get the darts in. By this time I had cried enough tears and eaten enough chocolate to be past caring.
But when I turned the sleeve over I realised what a lovely shaped the two darts had created – enough room for an elbow, perhaps!
I stuck to the pattern for most of this project, except for when it came to the pleats on the front of the skirt, which faced inward towards each other. I’m not exactly Kate Moss, and I didn’t really fancy having pleats across my tummy. So I decided to be a rebel and to redraw the pleats so they faced outwards (away from each other and towards the hips) and decided to top-stitch them down flat. In the photo below you can see the original pattern instructions and my own modified version in the fabric above.
I also decided to tack these pleats before top-stitching them, just to be on the safe side. I turned my fabric right side up while doing the top-stitching so I could see what I was doing (or doing wrong!) while it was under the needle.
The next thing on the agenda was the neckline. The pleats on this neckline are incredibly flattering, and I really wanted to get them right. Necklines are crucial in any dress – get them wrong and the whole garment looks a bit odd. Get them right, and no one ever asks you if you made the dress yourself. So I decided to get my measuring tape out and measure each pleat to make sure they all looked equal in size.
I absolutely love this neckline. And I love the fabric even more – its body and substance coupled with the structural pleats in the pattern creates an incredibly flattering bust on this dress. This is why I am so passionate about vintage patterns… they just don’t make them like this anymore.
I had a great adventure into the world of fabric when I made this dress, and it’s really shown me just how much the substance and weight of a fabric can contribute towards the fit, shape, and appeal of a dress. Even though I met with a few challenges in the double darts, making this vintage pattern was a very enjoyable experience – and now I get to enjoy my new dress! I’ve already worn it out to lunch with friends, and I’m pretty chuffed with how well it wore.
Here’s a picture of me in my Mom’s garden wearing the vintage Sew-Easy 3296.