I have been a bit all over the place for the last few weeks – there was family holidays, and then I was ill….but now we seem to be back into our routine again, and I have a bit to catch up on. Today, I’m going to finally share my creation as part of a sew-along called “Dress Like Your Grandma!” hosted by Mrs. Hughes. This has been a fun sew-along where the aim is to be inspired by a vintage photograph (preferably of a relative) and to re-create the outfit that they are wearing. I used this photograph of my paternal Grandmother:
This photo was taken in 1948, shortly after she was married. There are a lot of interesting features of this dress, which I (hopefully) managed to recreate in this, my final version of the 1948 dress:
I didn’t have a pattern, and wasn’t able to find one quite like this dress, so I ventured into new territory – and I drafted it myself!
Creating the Pattern
I started with a basic one piece dress block, which has been fitted to me properly. I drew a Plan of Action (P.O.A.) which looks something like this:
I drew the P.O.A. out first, and then traced all my pattern pieces. Starting from the top, this dress has a yoke, I chose to use a narrow facing, but I could also have lined the yoke. The main bodice is bloused into the waistband, so I moved the under-arm dart to the waist, easily creating an amount of fabric to gather into the waistband:
To create the peplum I am simply going to split and open the pattern piece to create the flare, I used 3cm as the amount.
For the back I opted not to have a yoke, mainly because I can’t see the back of the dress in the picture of my grandmother, so I don’t know if it was also bloused, but I am thinking that it wasn’t, because if you look closely you can see that the gathers are contained at the centre front of the dress and don’t continue around the sides. So I chose to cut the back bodice as a single piece above the waistband.
Again, I prepared the peplum for the back in the same manner as the front:
For the sleeve I added some additional height to the sleeve cap to create the little puff that appears in the photo.
So, at the end of all that, I have quite a few pattern pieces drafted:
1. Front Neck Facing
2. Front Main bodice
3. Front Waistband
4. Front Peplum
5. Front Skirt
6. Back Neck Facing
7. Back Bodice
8. Back Peplum
9. Back Skirt
I kept the under skirt as a straight skirt, after studying the photograph quite a few times, I decided that it is definitely a straight skirt, not a-line, and definitely tapered in for a pencil silhouette.
The original dress was made from light blue crepe, and purely by chance I happened to have about 4 metres of some light blue crepe that I acquired as part of a “moving house sale” bulk purchase!
The dress in the photo has a trim below the front yoke, and below the waistband. The actual photo is quite small, so it is difficult to see what it is. I have a whole card of this gathered cambric lace that I bought out of a discount bin at Spotlight some months ago (I think it would work well to trim any denim creations for my daughters but I haven’t used it for that purpose yet), and it just happened to be the perfect colour match for my light blue crepe!
…and I even had a random unused light blue dress zipper of the right length!
Obviously the stars were aligned for this project.
The original dress had embroidery on the front yoke and peplum, apparently this was also beaded. Very pretty. However, I didn’t plan on spending the time or effort for this dress, but I did use something very special in its place. This gold orchid brooch was handed down to me from my Grandmother’s mother – my Great Grandmother, and I wore it on my wedding day. So I think it works perfectly here.
Just as I started my drafting from the top, that is also where I started to assemble this dress. I started by basting the trim onto the lower edge of the front yoke, and then attached the front bodice. Next I did the back shoulder darts and attached the back bodices to the front yoke/bodice at the shoulders and side seams. I gathered the lower edge of the front bodice between the two notches that I had marked, in preparation for attaching the combined bodice to the waistband.
Everything was going really well at this point, my pattern drafting experience was proving quite successful – all my pieces were matching and aligning perfectly, just as they did in my head. However, I had made a single fatal error, and it wasn’t until I attached the waistband that I realised what had gone wrong:
The dress block that I used to draft this pattern from is for a one-piece shift dress, and I vastly underestimated the amount of ease around the waist. This waistband, as per the picture above, was not going to look anything like my grandmother’s photo. Unfortunately, I had used up all of this particular fabric, so at this point I had two choices, I could scrap the lot and start again…or I could find a solution to this little problem!
I found the solution – shirring elastic! I stitched around and around and around though the depth of the waistband with shirring elastic, and this, although slightly unconventional, fixed my problem well enough.
The Final Dress
Firstly, I’d just like to point out that this is not a colour that I would normally wear. I tend to wear all the black things, partly because my teenaged brain was formed with the conviction that black is slimming, but mostly because it is easy. So this is kind of a big deal for me, and although this dress isn’t going to form part of my regular wardrobe any time soon, I have to admit that I don’t hate it.
The style itself is quite flattering – the slight blousing of the bodice and the peplum give full advantage to my waist, and the overall proportions – length, puffiness of the sleeves, fullness of the skirt – were pretty much spot on. So I’m quite pleased with what I did there.
If I were to make this again, I would add a little bit of length to the front bodice, as I felt like I constantly needed to tug it down, but I would simultaneously need to reduce some length of the back bodice to remove some of that excess fabric there.
I would also re-draft the waistband, and add some structure to it – it kind of crumpled with all the shirring.
But, I am really pleased that my actual pattern making was successful, even if my choice of block was not right. All my pattern pieces lined up perfectly, I didn’t miss anything, forget to add seam allowances or make any of those kind of errors and it was quite exciting to have created the pattern just from a picture. The bodice, particularly around the shoulders, fit quite well too – an area that I often have troubles with.
If you’ve got this far through this post, thank you so much for reading it all. This has been quite a long one. If you’d like to read more about the sewing challenge, visit the Dress Like Your Grandma Sewing Challenge page, all the information is there.
Thanks for reading!