Vintage Sewing Adventures
Nothing haunts us like the vintage we didn’t buy.
For those that shop vintage, you know the sadness you feel when you find a stunning vintage piece only to realise it’s too small, too expensive, far away or already sold. This is the vintage that haunts us and I am certainly haunted by many vintage pieces that slipped my grasp over the years. Sometimes when I am browsing the web, I come across vintage that I save into a folder for future sewing inspiration or just really beautiful pieces to use as references. As I was recently going through my computer files, I found some gorgeous vintage dresses but one, in particular, stood out to me. I don’t remember why this vintage treasure slipped away from me, most likely it was too small or it was sold very quickly, but I had a few photos of it which made me think, “can I sew something like this?”. And thus, my new mini-series was born where I recreate the vintage that got away.
The original reference images that I had came from the Etsy store Coutura Vintage but I can’t remember how long ago these images were saved. Although there’s no brand name or much detail on where the dress originated from, it’s the colours and style that really caught my eye. Luckily, I saved images of both the front and the back of dress so I had some great angles to work through. I have wanted to sew this dress since early 2020 for this channel but the idea to remake this dress has been around a lot longer. Despite the gorgeous, This is a very exciting little mini-series and I am excited. to hear all your thoughts on it. As per my 2023 sewing goals, I wanted to recreate some true vintage garments to the best of my ability; this series will be slightly challenging but I hope to achieve this goal. Weirdly enough, I didn’t have to go far to find fabric for this dress and I already had something in my fabric stash which could work for this style, my main issue, however, was I only had about four meters so every scrap was precious.
As I’m on a budget for this project, I was very cautious about avoiding purchasing a new sewing pattern. I’m in no way brave enough to draft my own pattern but I hope sometime this year I’ll actually give it a go and throw caution to the wind. I went through my entire pattern stash thinking, “I’ve got to have a square neckline with a flappy flap pattern in here somewhere” to find one pattern which matched. To make this dress, I will be making the bodice from the Charm Pattern’s Night and Day Dress designed by Gertie. For those who are unfamiliar with this pattern, Gertie has started her own pattern company and the Night and Day dress pattern is basically a ‘create your own adventure’ pattern book where you can mix and match pattern pieces to create your very own unique dress. I have actually wanted to try a dress from this pattern for quite some time so this project is the perfect excuse. I will be using the square neckline bodice and the square flappy flap pattern as well.
Now, what do I do about fabric? When looking for a vintage fabric replica, it’s always a challenge unless you know how to design your own fabric and that right now is over my budget and I’m also back on my fabric buying ban. Magically, as though the universe was on my side, I had a really similar fabric in my stash which I purchased from Kuala Lumpur about 7 years ago. The fabric, a gorgeous silk cotton blend, features two tones of coloured stripes adorned with a scattering of flowers. I had the same fabric in pink and purple and decided to go with purple. It’s not exactly the same as the original reference fabric, but I think it’s quite similar in style, vibe and tones which is the best I’m going to get at the moment. Good enough, close enough!
Sew, let’s get started. I made sure to take my time when cutting out the pattern as I wanted to stripes to be straight and line up as best they could. This was especially important when it came to the square neck collar as the original inspiration dress has a white strip through it with a smattering of flowers. As my fabric didn’t have a white stripe within my fabric, I opted for the lighter stripe but I kept a darker purple edge like the original. As a perfectionist, I had to learn how to let go of this dress coming out as a very close replica and I tried really hard to just enjoy the process of creating something similar instead of a copy. It’s a strange idea to struggle with but I think I just really wanted to do this task justice and it all came down to how the pieces were cut. Once everything was cut out, I ironed on my interfacing to the back of my collar pieces and facing and once the excess was trimmed, I was ready to sew.
The first thing I did was add some stay stitches to the neckline of the bodice pieces to make sure the fabric doesn’t warp and then I moved on to sewing up my darts. With my bodice pieces prepped, it was finally time to start assembling everything. Starting with the shoulder straps, once they were sewn it was a simple trim and iron. It was then time to move onto the collar. Sewing the collar together was pretty straight forward and I made sure the stripes were lined up as best they could. It was important in this step to trim off excess material from the seam and clip all the corners to make sure that the corners were sharp and point instead of bent in and sad. The good thing about the collar coming together is that the front and back of the collar can be changed depending on how the flowers came out; originally the front piece had larger flowers on it but I opted for the side that’s now visible as the front as the flowers were spread out evenly and it looked more cohesive. Once the collar was together, the edges were basted before I pinned the collar to the front of the bodice and then basted the collar to the bodice.
Moving to my facing pieces, because my bodice had no sleeves, I used the ‘all in one facing’ from the pattern. The front and back were attached at the shoulder with the excess trimmed off and then once ironed flat. With the facing done, I pinned it to the bodice/collar pieces front sides together before it was sewn together. I made sure to trim and clip off the excess and then gave it a very good iron. The last thing the bodice needed was the sides to be sewn and all seams to be overclocked.
Moving onto the skirt, I started by cutting my left over fabric into panels at 28 inches long. I ended up with four panels which I then sewed together leaving me with one very long skirt piece. Normally I would just gather the fabric and make a gathered skirt that way but today, the skirt needed a pleated skirt. It took me a while to figure out what pleating method I wanted to go with. In the end, I opted for a box pleat which I made sure resulted in alternating coloured stripes to try and keep with the original look from the dress. I wanted to add as much skirt as possible so the skirt would still look lovely when worn. Once I was happy with the pleat, I ironed the pleats to help hold the shape before basting the top of the skirt to keep the pleats in place. After pinning my bodice to the skirt I realised I only needed about three panels so I trimmed off the excess and sewed the skirt to the bodice.
The last things I needed to do were to add a lapped zipper, which didn’t go as well as I hoped and finally, I just had to hem my skirt. Overall the dress took me two afternoons to complete it depending on your skills and focus, a solid day is all you need if you want the dress made faster. I found this pattern easy to follow and the only time I got stuck was knowing when to sew the sides of the bodice together as the instructions are a little scattered. We’ve sewn from this pattern before but never tried out the square neckline which I must admit, I really like and hope to make more of. I do wish I added pockets but for a first attempt at pleating with no guide, I think my focus was needed elsewhere. Overall, the dress came together really smoothly and I love how it turned out.
Fit; I think the dress fits like an absolute dream. Depending on how I stand or move, sometimes the back zipper can pucker so I need to remember to take half an inch from the back when I sew but honestly it’s not very noticeable. If you remember back to the Liz Dress pattern from Charm that we used to make an Easter dress, the shoulders were about an inch too big and kept slipping off. I was worried that this would be the case in this pattern as well and the lack of sleeves would make this obvious. After making my bodice and before I added the collar or facing, I made sure to try the bodice on and was certain the shoulder would fit. In the end, I think they came out perfect which was a lovely surprise. I will try to find a matching belt for this dress or at least make one for myself eventually when I’m feeling brave. I woudln’t mind the waist brought in just a little as I’ve lost a lot of weight due to being sick all December. I didn’t want the make the dress too small in the waist as I don’t want this dress being too tight later down the road if my weight returns.
Although the original reference dress has a higher neckline, I think making the neckline on my own dress lower was more flattering to my body and shape. The higher neckline would have been cute but the square neckline in the pattern just seemed nicer, more comfortable in the hot weather and more flattering. After sewing in the collar, I did go back and understitch which I think really helped keep the collar down and flat.
With most of my sewing, I love a full skirt with lots of gathers, this dress pushed me out of my comfort zone as it was pleated and didn’t use my normal amount of fabric. In the end, I think the skirt turned out really beautiful. There was enough fabric in there to still have a decent amount of swish and I love how the stripes look when I walk. Going with a box pleat was the better idea as not only do the stripes look like a repeated pattern when the skirt. isstill, the stripes look even better when worn as you see the hidden stripes. Although the skirt is not my normal ‘go-to’ style, I am trying new things this year and I’m glad that this one turned out really well. The next time I make this dress, I want to add pockets as that’s all I needed.
Overall, I think this pattern and fabric was the perfect combination to recreate my original dress inspiration. I really want to continue with this mini series of creating the vintage that got away in a way of encouraging others to do the same and also having others to lament with when it comes to lost vintage. I might complete a few other sewing projects before I make another vintage replica but I’d also love to encourage you to feel free to send me stunning vintage dresses that you think I can recreate. If you’d like to sew along with me, let me know and that too can be organised.
I am very excited to present my first major sewing project of the year. Although I wasn’t able to film everything I made last year, I want to do a bit for sewing filming this year so please feel free to come through with feedback on how I can improve as there are so many ways of filming my sewing and I’m trying to see what works best. Thank you all for being a part of the first big Vintage Sewing Adventure for 2023; I can’t wait to keep working through those sewing goals with you all.
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.