Friday, June 12, 2015

Vintage sewing with McCalls 2386 in cotton sateen

Vintage patterns are not something I use very often but recently I pulled this dress out of the closet and realized it hadn't made an appearance here. For a while I went through a phase of looking at all the incredibly cute vintage patterns available on Etsy or Ebay and then ordering a few. Not with any real intention of sewing them up but just because they were so pretty or unusual. I also went through a phase of selling on Etsy, so I bought a fair amount of yardage which I have been sewing from for a good two years now.

I saw this fabric on line and ordered a lot, like 12 yards as the price was very low, and then when it came I loved it. I made a sample dress, someone contacted me on Etsy. Long story short I made 5 bridesmaid's dresses using this print and had about a yard or so left. Yes - I am short and can get a sleeveless dress out of about 1 yard of 60" wide fabric.

So that is the kind of long backstory of how this dress came to be sewn up.

Vintage dress on me

Here is a close up look at the detail on this dress, which is really simple but clever and easy to sew. The shaping is achieve by sewing with elastic thread along pre-marked lines at the waist.

vintage dress gathers

Here is the pattern envelope. You can see I changed the neckline area quite a bit. As it it so reminds me of the later season costuming on Mad Men. Can't you imagine one of the women in the office wearing any of these 3 versions?
Looking at the pattern envelope brings me to something I was thinking about the other day. Why not just draft the pattern instead of buying one for that simple detail of where to put the elastic stitching?
For me it is all about proportion. I could fiddle around with a simple dress pattern and get here in the end but it just seems like so much work. Perhaps that is why I rarely draft anything unless I absolutely have to. It is sooooo much easier to start with the pattern that I want and take it from there. I realize that this presumes knowing how to do the fit adjustments needed and fully admit that fitting is something I don't mind at all, whereas starting from scratch or close to it sound an awful lot like work :)
Anyway - I am happy for the commercial pattern companies, old and new, to do all that work for me.
Dart placement, collar size, skirt width, seaming, etc are all such issues and if the proportions are not right it just bugs me. (my current pet peeve, some indie patterns where the darts are way too long and end up looking strange or too noticeable)  OK rant over. And conversely, to stick up for indie patterns I just started another Pauline Alice pattern last night, it is looking good!

McCalls 2386 vintage pattern

Front and back views. I was actually careful with the pattern placement, yellow is not my favorite shade to wear - don't think I have a single yellow item - and so I wanted the mostly blue/lavender sections on the front bodice.

Vintage dress formVintage dress on form back

MCC Dress on me

This fabric is cotton sateen, with no stretch, and very lightweight. To me it is gorgeous, both the quality of the fabric which really surprised me  - ordered from Fashion Fabrics Club - and the coloration. I just think it looks like a beautiful abstract watercolor painting and the color combo is beautiful.

vintage dress neckline

For the neckline, I think I used one of my other sheath dress patterns that has a square neckline and copied the depth of that. (proportions again) . I really like a square neckline, it's my favorite shape (as opposed to V-neckline: nice, round neckline: just OK, boat or high neckline: serious dislike)  So I copied the square neckline but rounded the edges a bit as that makes it easier to apply the bias binding and looks a little softer. So in my mind I call this the "roundish square neckline" and I have used it a lot over the years. For the binding I wanted a visible binding as this gives a nice finish and emphasizes the neckline - as opposed to sewing a binding and turning to the inside and topstitching. I am not a fan of using bias tape for binding, it seems just a smudge to bulky or stiff for anything other than mid-weight cotton. But I did use it for the armholes as there was nothing left of the dress fabric.

Now one more pic which made me laugh when I saw it on the laptop - what is up with that pose? Mail order catalog model?  Bendable Barbie doll stance?  Didn't you put your Barbie in this exact pose? I always found Barbie kind of annoying, and my sister and I always lost the stupid tiny high heel shoes immediately so ours ran around in ball gowns and bare feet. Our dolls did a lot of swimming since that is what we did all summer in the backyard consequently their Barbie hair was completely fried. Come to think of it, our hair probably was too! Chlorine from the pool and lemon juice to try and create blond highlights. Oh well - it was natural and organic, ha ha.

Vintage dress on me2

I wanted to take some blog photos on Wednesday as it rained most of the day here, to document a dash through the raindrops but it was actually pouring. Crazy!  Oh well the plants liked it. Now today it is over 100˚F here. More crazy! Summer in California. As we all say "at least there's no humidity!"

Happy summer sewing, Beth

and in the background in this photo above, on the left, is the shooting star hydrangea. It is getting huge and I am so happy. I think my mom bought it for me about 3 years ago, it was in an 8 inch pot and not very big. It must like that spot because this year there are a lot of blooms. Pretty huh? and so nice when the small white flowers dance in the breeze.

Shooting star hydrangea


  1. Love your dress - it looks wonderful on you. And I love the hydrangea too!

  2. Very pretty dress and love your version of the neckline.

  3. Love your fabric choice for this dress! Beautiful!

  4. Oh now that's very cute. That shirring round the waist is very effective and the fabric is lovely.

  5. What a very beautiful classic dress.

  6. I love, love, love this dress. Very flattering look and the fabric is very pretty. Love the waistline using elastic thread!

  7. What amazing flowers! Glad it's thriving :) Your dress is so pretty too, especially the fabric. I can't wait until I have enough experience to have go-to alterations and pieces of patterns to sub in!

  8. Gorgeous! I actually bought this same fabric too, eons ago when I was first starting to sew garments. I made a Burda free skirt out of it, which I loved, but sadly is too small for me now. However, I still have scraps, so it is also the pocket lining in two pairs of my jeans!
    I really like this dress - I was just admiring a dress on Boden that has a similar bodice and an elastic (but wide elastic in casing) waist and was wondering what pattern I could mod to knock it off... I'm totally with you about modifying the heck out of an existing pattern rather than starting from scratch - I'm a hacker not a drafter!

  9. What a lovely summer dress! I do agree with you that it is so much easier (?) simpler (?) to fiddle with details on an existing pattern, than having to draft from scratch. When I took the course (years ago) I had visions of drafting every pattern for every idea that came to my head - didn't take long to figure out that too much drawing took away from sewing time!

  10. Really pretty dress. The simple style lets the fabric print be the main feature. While I like the floral print, I always enjoy the pictures of your real flowers. I have a similar looking hydrangea, but is a climbing variety (15 ft). I enjoy it's light fragrance, when it is in bloom.

  11. I agree this is a gorgeous fabric. You look very pretty in the summer dress!!

  12. Beautiful dress! Nice change with the neckline!

  13. Such a gorgeous print. I really like the waist treatment and your lower neckline, a great dress for summer.


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