I just love vintage sewing patterns – the unique styling, interesting seam lines, they are just so tactile with all the tissue paper etc. I learned to sew with my Mum’s old patterns, this pattern, however, was not one of my Mum’s, but one of my paternal Grandmother’s. I’m feeling really fortunate to have it, and even more fortunate to be able to sew it up for my oldest daughter, Mathilda.
This is my copy of a vintage Simplicity 5513 in a size 11/12, it was printed in 1973. The pattern is for a sleeveless shift dress with oversize patch pockets and options for either a Peter Pan style collar or faux button placket trim. There is also the pattern for a shoulder bag!
This dress would have been made for my Aunt (I’m guessing that by its age), and when it was previously made it used the collar but not the patch pockets or the little bag – these pattern pieces were still uncut. For Mathilda’s dress, we omitted the collar, used the pockets and definitely made the matching bag.
I love the darts on this shift, although they are hard to see on this printed fabric. There are French darts on the front and double-pointed darts in the back – these are my special favourite as they eliminate all the excess fabric that my daughter would have otherwise with what I call her “banana back”. The darts are also curved, so they give a nice and precise fit.
The length is called ‘mini’ in the pattern, but it does have a generous hemming allowance – they seemed to be keen on deep curved hems that were painful to sew back then. I stitched with an allowance of about 3/4 inch, which gave it a little bit more of a modern length.
Also included with this pattern is a particularly cute graphic for assistance with selecting trims!
I used an invisible zip, I chose a teal shade that matched the printed fabric in case it is slightly visible (which it is, just a tiny bit).
And I drafted an all-in-one facing. the separate neckline and armhole facings are not my favourite thing. I’ve done these quite a bit, so I’m pretty comfortable with drafting them, I first did this during a workshop with Gertie, and it is definitely a valuable skill to have.
The Fabric and Trims
This is a cotton poplin from Spotlight. Mathilda is just mad about foxes, and she says that she’s not really keen on dresses, but she’ll make an exception with the one! It was fun doing some pattern matching with it too, I did okay on the back, but really well on the pockets.
Speaking of the pockets, I used two separate trims. The teal lace is actually a stretch lace bought from AliExpress, the grey mini-pompom trim is a pre-cut from Spotlight – both were purchased quite a while ago, but they matched so perfectly with the fabric and were just right for this dress.
The Little Extra
So the little bag was a definite deal-maker for this whole outfit. I did modify the pattern somewhat, the instructions didn’t include a lining, apart from the interfacing, so I used iron-on tricot interfacing and cut a lining piece the same size as the interfacing and fused the two together. Then, I changed my mind and used the lining for the outside by stitching both the lining piece and the outer piece along their side seams, slipping the larger piece inside the smaller one, folding the top edge over, pinning it and stitching it down. This created a band at the top of the bag. I hope that made sense!
The fox print is directional, so it didn’t matter which way I put it, it was going to be upside down on one side anyway, so I had the band at the top of the bag with the print facing the opposite direction to the main part of the bag. I used a purchased trim for the strap (as per the instructions, this was also from Spotlight, and purposely bought for this project. I just simply stitched it on to the sides.
This dress is a size larger than what would fit Mathilda at the moment, but I’m okay with that, because she can layer a long-sleeve underneath it through the coming winter, and then, hopefully it will still fit her next summer!
She loves it.