I have always loved vintage sewing patterns. I learnt to sew using the patterns that had belonged to my mother and her sisters when they were teenagers and even though I like all the mod cons – like my overlocker and cover stitch machines – I do still like the old techniques that vintage patterns sometimes have.
I also find that the fit of the patterns is a little different to modern patterns. This pattern is one that I bought more recently, I don’t know the exact age of this pattern, but judging by the hair styles of the ladies in the cover art, I am guessing that this is a 1940s pattern. The Vintage Pattern Wiki was no help with this, there was a pattern with the same number – Butterick 8800 – issued in the 1950s for doll’s clothes, but this is definitely not doll’s clothes, so it seems that they re-used the pattern number, they do that sometimes. If anyone knows anything more about this pattern I’d love to know the date!
So, this pattern is for what I call a shirt-dress, with an optional belt. There are variations to length, sleeves, collars and pockets. One of the collar pieces is missing, as is the original embroidery transfer. But all the other pieces are there – this is an unprinted pattern, so all the pattern pieces are pre-cut on tissue with various sized dots to indicate all the different markings. The tissue has held up quite well for its age and has no tears or other damage, but it is quite fragile, so I have traced all the pieces onto new tracing paper.
I used the longer length and short sleeves. I used the collar with pointed tips, but I had no choice there as sadly the rounded collar piece is missing. The short sleeves was interesting – rather than having a separate pattern piece for the different sleeve options, there is only a pattern piece for the long sleeves, but the lines for the short sleeves are marked with a series of small holes, and the pattern instructions show how to alter the pattern piece for the short sleeve.
The instructions, while they included quite a lot of detail for some parts of the construction, were completely brief for other parts – there is no mention of interfacing or stabilising the collar or belt at all, likewise there is no mention of inserting shoulder pads, which I believe would have been included according to the fashion at the time. It seems that Butterick assumed that home sewists of the day would automatically know to include these things.
As it was, I could not get my head around how the collar was supposed to come together, I’m pretty sure that I didn’t get it right, but I did manage to get it to work, but there is some slight puckering at the corners. Apart from that it was a really quick and easy pattern to sew.
I used the pointed pocket pattern piece, but once I’d attached them, I realised that the points were going to disappear into my waistline (i.e. they were placed a little too high), so instead I flipped them down.
I have a huge amount of buttons, and quite a lot of them are vintage, but I didn’t have enough of the same buttons for this dress, so I actually had to buy buttons! I chose some basic black buttons, and I actually bought a large bag of them, so I will probably be using these same ones for quite a while.
As I mentioned above, the embroidery transfer for the belt is missing from the pattern pieces. I’m not really sure that I would have used it anyway, because of the printed pattern on the fabric, so instead I used some embroidered ribbon to trim the edges of the belt. The ribbon just happened to match almost perfectly to the fabric.
This fabric is from Gertie’s range for Spotlight that was released in about April this year. It might still be available in some stores, but its no longer online. It is a printed rayon, and it is lovely and silky soft. I absolutely love the combination of strawberries and roses, it’s so pretty.
I haven’t had any trouble sewing with rayon in the past, but this fabric was really tricky, it just did not want to behave! I didn’t want a machine-stitched hem, so I ended up unpicking and re-sewing the hem by hand at least 3 times before I was happy with it.
It is also very prone to wrinkling, even though it has been ironed, it almost immediately looks like it hasn’t, and it drapes quite ‘heavy’, so it always sags where the buttons are – when the dress is lying flat, the buttons sit just fine in the button holes, but when I’m wearing it….
Still, this fabric is lovely and lightweight and this dress is going to be worn a lot this summer!
I do love this dress, despite the fabric troubles, it was quite a quick and easy pattern to make and I didn’t make any alterations at all! The fit of this pattern is just really nice, and works for me, the shoulder yoke, the pleats in the back to give shaping, and the pleated sleeves are all really nice.
And, for some reason this dress just draws compliments – even from complete strangers! So this is a winner for me.