June 6, 2015


Finally! Here are the pictures of my gathered 1940's dress. The weather has improved, it's weekend so E is at home and (sort of) willing to take pictures and of course, the dress is finished.

I made this dress using this pattern from from EvaDress. The original design is from 1946. It's an evening gown but I picked this one because I loved that gathered design and figured it would be easy to make this dress a bit shorter. It was. 
After my struggle with the 1937 dress, I was prepared for fitting issues with this one. I'm between sizes in the EvaDress sizing chart. Based on that earlier experience, I traced the bodice pieces for the smaller size and made a muslin. To my surprise and relief, the fit looked good. I measured the skirt pieces at hip level and decided to use the larger size at the hip (16 and 18, if I remember correctly).

Then, I cut into the pale orange crepe (today's pictures look a bit bleached out because of the direct sunlight. The real colour of the fabric is what you can see in that terrible mirror-selfie) from my stash. I bought this fabric a while ago have considered it for several 1920's, 30's and 40's designs. Crepe was just so popular for many of those...
I only had about two meters and I just managed to squeeze out all the pieces, helped by my choice of a shorter skirt. 
The instructions were clear and easy to follow. 

Half-way through the construction, I was doubting the fit again. In the soft crepe, the bodice seemed very loose. When I asked on We Sew Retro, many people reassured me that it was likely to be right for a 1940's fit. And everyone agreed it was almost impossible to tell without the sleeves and neckline facing. 

The neckline is a bit of an odd thing. On one side, it comes down in a straight line and the facing is cut on the bodice. The rest of the neckline has a separate facing in a sort of L-shape. At first, I was surprised at how angular in was but it does do a great job at controlling those gathers just under the neckline. I used some lightweight interfacing on my facings (this is not in the instructions, which is in line with the instructions of original period patterns but I thought stabilizing the neckline would improve the result). 

The back bodice is shaped with two tucks, the skirt with darts. The sleeves are a very simple cap sleeve shape. They are cut double, folded in half and then sewn into the very deep armscye with the fold edge forming the sleeve hem. Then, you sew in an extra underarm piece. It works well but because both the sleeve and the underarm piece are double, this only really works in a lightweight fabric. 

To be honest, the pattern also contains pieces for shoulder pads, which I didn't make. Of course it would be correct for the period but I'm just not a fan. Interestingly, the pad pieces had to be cut from fabric and crinoline. I'm no expert, but as far as I know, crinoline is the stuff you use for fluffy petticoats. I would have expected to use wadding in shoulder pads...
I think the fact that I didn't use shoulder pads is also the reason for the one change I made while sewing: In this soft fabric (not in the muslin), the bust dart sagged too low and the waistline seemed too low as well. Simply taking in 1 cm along the entire shoulder line (not just at the arm joint, so maybe shoulder pads wouldn't have solved this) solved it. 

There are instructions for a closure with snap and a hook-and-eye at the waist but I chose to embrace the advantages of modern times and put in a zipper instead (there were zippers in the 1940's but they were probably still quite expensive. In the instructions it says "for slide fastener, follow instructions on packaging").

I'm a lot happier with this dress than I was with the 1937 one but I have to confess it doesn't really feel "me". I suppose it's because I usually draft all my own patterns and do that with certain ideas about myself and how to fit and suit me... A ready-made pattern can't really do the same. 
I guess I'll just have to start wearing it. 
This is also my fifth make for this year's Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge. So, I have reached my target. I don't think I'm done sewing with vintage patterns for this year though. I may decide to go for 10, or not to count reproduction patterns...

Oh, and it wasn't until I was posing for these pictures that it dawned on me that I, a Dutch woman, was wearing a dress design from 1946, just a year after WWII, in orange, the national colour (It's associated with the royal family, it's still a national colour today which you may know if you've ever seen pictures of Dutch sports fans. And you were not allowed to wear orange when the country was under nazi occupation).
A history geek like me should have picked up on that earlier... 


  1. Beautifully done! This dress is absolutely stunning, the gathers are so flattering

  2. fantastic, that draping across the front is so pretty.

  3. What an interesting design, it shouldn't work but it does. I love it in orange, it would also look fantastic in black. Lovely job.

  4. Beautiful dress, the orange shade is very nice too, especially with the historic meaning of it. It's more subtle though than the orange used today.

  5. Lovely dress and thought provoking historical link.

  6. I love the skirt drape---what a fun experiment! And great, if serendipitous, colour choice.

    I have made shoulder pads with just a couple of layers of hair canvas---they worked well for giving a smooth line at the shoulder without adding bulk. But like you said, it sounds like the fit problem was more to do with the soft drape of the fabric.

    Great work! (And I hope you are getting to enjoy that sunshine!)

  7. It's a gorgeous drape, no wonder you were drawn to it! But I also get the part about not being certain about a ready-made patterns - you're much further on the journey of self-drafting and self-draping than I am, and I think even I feel wary of patterns now.
    But it looks great on you - the soft drapey fabric works really well, and the colour... heh, my sister studied Dutch and orange is her favourite colour: and her wedding colour was very, very similar to that shade. :-)

  8. Wonderful dress Lauriana, and I love the colour! :)