Whilst visiting my family in Europe a few years ago, I was chatting with my aunty who mentioned she had a box in storage full of ribbons collected by my grandmother. She asked if I wanted to see it and of course I said yes and the next day, there it was on the dining table and inside was the greatest treasure trove of vintage ribbons ranging in size, colour, embroidery patterns and more. I instantly fell in love with it and to my absolute shock and delight, my aunty gifted the box to me so I mailed it home. I’ve owned my grandmothers vintage ribbons for a few years and although I’ve used little pieces here and here, I haven’t felt brave enough to use a decent amount or properly sew with it, I knew I would eventually find the perfect pattern and fabric one day. Well, today is that day.
On a recent op shopping trip, I came across a vintage pattern dated back to 1962; Simplicity 4343. It featured three dress designs all basically the same but with different decoration options. The dress features a round neckline bodice with two sets of front darts and options for short sleeves. The skirt of the dress has a big frontal pleat which gives the illusion of a wrap-around skirt which I think is really cute. The main variation between the dress styles comes from the option of sleeves (1 and 2 have sleeves and 3 is sleeveless) and then various trimming and decorative options which are added whilst constructing. This pattern is easily found online and at the time of writing this, there are various sizes available on Etsy such as this one, this one and this one. It’s also worth mentioning this pattern can also be found but sized for young girls.
Vintage pattern sizing can be a little daunting. The Simplicity 4343 pattern I have was marked as a Miss Size 14 with a Bust of 34. Although I have a 38″/39″ bust, I actually oddly find that this pattern fits me well. I measured all the pieces and sure enough it should fit me.
Whilst looking at the pattern envelope, I loved all three of the suggested dress designs but most of all, drooled over style 1 which featured a pink gingham print and a white rick-rack trim. Looking at my fabric stash, I had some pink gingham from Lincraft which I thought would be perfect. I had about 3 and a half meters of the fabric which was more than enough for this pattern. Looking at the envelope art, I loved the ribbon/bias trim on the dress skirt and I wondered if I could use my grandmothers ribbons as a trim to compliment the gingham. After a quick peek into the vintage ribbon box, I found several options and narrowed it down to a thick cotton ribbon with pink edges and an embroidered pink floral design in the center. The pink tones in the flower were the same shade as the pink gingham so the match was perfect.
Sew, let’s get started. This dress had a very simple bodice featuring four darts at the front and two on the back bodice. The bodice is finished with facing that I also added interfacing to for added strength. The sleeves were just simple cap sleeves but once again, I can never seem to get them to fit perfectly so I added a little top pleat which I think is kind of cute. The bodice came together really quickly and it was done in an afternoon. The bodice has a back zipper which was simple enough.
Now the skirt. After cutting out all my skirt pieces, I used sewing clips to attach all the pieces together as I figured out the large front window skirt pleat. With all my pieces together, I gave the skirt a really good iron to make all the folded edges crisp. I sewed the pleat together, ironed it again and then added my ribbbon. I pinned my ribbon to the edge and then carefully sewed it onto the edge of the fold. I thought about taking the ribbon all the way to the bottom of the skirt hem but after googling this pattern for some inspiration, I saw a few others who left an inch and a half gap along the bottom and I loved how it looked so I thought I’d do the same. Honestly, I think having the pink gingham peek out the bottom of the ribbon looked really cute and gives the illusion of a longer skirt. If you’re sewing up this pattern, give this ribbon trim idea a go.
With my ribbon added to both sides of the skirt, I gave it another good iron and then I went about gathering the top edge of the skirt and attching it to my bodice. This was simple enough although I did have to unpick a few gathers to even them out. If I was using my special ribbons I wanted my dress to be as perfect as I could get it. With a final press, the dress was done.
Fit: This dress is a dream to wear and I love it. The fit is pretty spot on for me and fits my waist (28″) really well. The bodice fit is really comfortable but I could take the back in by an inch or so as I often find patterns are too long in the back. Honestly, I think this dress is one of my favourite makes of the year and it’s a dress that now feels very special to me thanks to the ribbon trim. I felt really cute wearing this dress and I enjoyed embracing my love of gingham and florals all in one garment. After taking a few photos, I sent one to my Aunty who loved the new use of ribbons and she was chuffed they were finally being used instead of sitting sadly in storage.
If you are tempted by this pattern, I’d highly recommend it even for beginner sewers. The bodice is straightforward and with a little extra time and care, the skirt is really worth it. I love the pleat window in the dress and it gives the illusion of a full skirt with an over skirt on top. Simplicity 4343 is a fantastic pattern to play with trims including ribbons, rick-rack or bias tape. I hope that this pattern becomes redistributed by Simplicity and sold again because the possibilities are endless. It’s also a very quick pattern to make and personally took me just two afternoons (cutting and bodice on the first day, skirt and finishes on the second).
I am in love with this pattern and want to make a few more versions. The envelope art for style 2 features a dress with a white background and a scattering of rose buds all over. I noticed that Gertie released a cotton sateen with almost an identical print to the one on the envelope. I’d love to make a replica of this dress and use pink bias tape on the edges of the skirt and neckline so I’ll be adding that to my sewing wish-list pile.
This dress is a dream and I am so happy I gave it a go. Such a simple design is such a joy and I hope if you manage to grab a copy of this pattern, you’ll love it just as much.
Note: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions and thoughts expressed are solely my own and not influenced in any way. There are no affiliate links and I do not benefit from any link clicks or purchases made.