A Dress for Me!

I love sewing for Biddi, but on a trip to Joann’s to find some lavender thread, I couldn’t help but swoon for a small sign that said “All Simplicity Pattern $1.” I died. And then Brigid sat happily and watched me look for patterns. And by “look for patterns,” I do not mean that I casually perused books, but instead I frantically pulled out drawer after drawer of patterns and scavenged while she ate 5 mandarin oranges like an angel. A tiny angel with a ticking time bomb, when she was out of snacks, my shopping was done. So, I had to pick some cute patterns, but not go crazy with an unreasonable number of patterns or get caught up and pick ugly patterns. It was unbelievable, I found 5 pattern across the Simplicity brands that I really liked for Spring/Summer and would be easy to modify.

I do love pattern drafting, but I find my time is so limited these days that buying a pattern cuts the time in half. And I justified it by choosing looks that are good base designs that can be altered many ways. Of course, when I sew I don’t cut out the pattern but transfer it to packing paper, so there isn’t an incredible amount of time savings, but a store-bought pattern saves my brain.

I selected 2 vintage patterns (1692 and 8085) and one summer romper, and another casual summer look. Also I chose one child’s pattern, 1122 mostly to learn a new technique for finishing tutus. There really isn’t much to a tutu, but I’ll pay a dollar to learn a new construction method. Recently, I asked the gym if there was a dress code for the 2-year old ballet class. I was really expecting “ballet shoes, leotard, and pink tights,” which was standard in my childhood. The answer was “No dress code.” I thought “I will still get her some tights.” And then the craziest thing that I was not expecting came out of her mouth, “…but most of the girls wear, you know, tutus.” Say What? So full on prima ballerina is the norm for toddler ballet. Now I know! I digress.

Fabric Selection

The first pattern I chose to complete was the vintage circle skirt dress in a red white and blue cotton print with red and white floral. I debated not using the pockets, but they can always be removed so I cut them out when I cut the dress, plus pockets are still in style and I can always put some snacks in there for Biddi. The 1940s pattern is so cool, but it has an invisible zipper and I need a foot for my machine and I have been avoiding trying to find the one that goes with my 15-year old machine.


I made a muslin mock-up which I have not done in ages! Since it was a vintage pattern, I knew there was a risk of the fit being out of style, strange, or for some other reason not worth the effort to sew. At first I thought it was so weird–it seemed very short-waisted. After I wore it around for a while it grew on me and I embraced the retro fit. It also seemed short–both illustrations of the shorter wrap dress show it with pants and I am planning to wear it as a dress. Flashing moms and nannies at the park is low on my “To Do List” so I thought the extra length was a good idea. I bought about an extra half yard of fabric because that was the last of it, so I had some wiggle room for pattern placement when I cut.

When I fit the mock-up there was really only one issue- 1950s undergarments. My body does not ascribe to the 1950s bust shape (waaaay up high and crammed together). I’m not sure what type of girdle-bra combo I would need to get my chest in those bust darts, but I consider it dressing up to wear an underwire bra instead of a sports bra, so I moved the bust point lower and adjusted the two darts accordingly.

Everything else fit surprisingly well, but I lengthened it about 2″. I thought making the shortest skirt might be too short to wear as a dress because the shorter dress is pictured over pants in the original 1950s pattern illustration. My plan is to wear the short dress as a dress, not an apron. So, I added as much length as I could with my fabric, about 2″. My plan B was that I could put in a 2″ hem if the length looked strange.

In the muslin mock-up, the top of my bra showed a touch in the center back, but I did not make any alterations to the pattern. The actual fabric is much stronger than the muslin, and the red trim gives some weight so the fabric doesn’t fold back. So it overlaps enough to hide my bra.


I followed the instructions for the most part, but of course I added French seams. I also disregarded the directions to utilize hem tape to keep the waist from growing. I am hoping the French seams will do as much or more than hem tape would, we shall see. Simple construction: darts, seams, bias tape, hem. I finished the darts by hand, tying the knot in threads under the dart.

One change that I made was to use 1/4″ bias tape instead of 1/2″ for a more delicate look. retro-dress-pocket.jpg

When I was making this, I realized how much I have missed darts. Everything I wear is a T-shirt or tank top. The tailoring of good darts just makes me stand with better posture and feel more put together.

The front bodice is very plain and I considered adding some design to it, like a cutout in the front or some different straps, but I thought I would just make once through super-basic and see how it turned out.

The pattern instructions–which I disregarded–said to let the dress hang overnight before hemming. At the back, the hem ends droops really long and I needed to seam rip and rehem 8″ or so on either end of the skirt about 2″ shorter on the edge, tapering to nothing at 8″ in from the edge

All in all I think it is really cute. If I make it again, I will definitely add side seams and remove that annoying center front seam, although nobody else seems to notice that. I could remove some volume and make it more of an A-line, too. I think there is also an opportunity to reverse the look and have the V in front rather than in back. My husband thinks the front it a little plain, but I think with the red trim pockets and red tie in the front, it needs a little moment of calm and simplicity.

Before it was completed, a friend saw it hanging by the iron and thought it was a housecoat or apron. Which I can’t say for sure wasn’t the original spirit of the garment. I think as a finished dress, it is cute and will be a great fabric for summer.

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