Vintage Sewing Adventures; Recreating Chuck’s Yellow Dress from Pushing Daisies
Remember that crazy time when we were all trapped in our houses and couldn’t embrace our friends or family? Yeah, wild times I know but it got me back into one of my favourite shows, Pushing Daisies as I found many of the themes in the show relative to what was happening during the lockdown. If you haven’t seen the show, it is utterly wonderful and whimsical as it follows Ned the piemaker who has a special gift of where he touches the dead, they come back to life for a minute before he touches them a second time and they are dead for good. If they are not touched a second time, they will remain alive but at a cost. In the very first episode, we learn he teams up with a detective who uses Ned’s unique skill to help solve murders. This all comes to a head when one such victim is childhood crush Charlotte, or Chuck, and after bringing her back to life, he keeps her alive. Oh, and did I mention they can never touch or else Chuck will die again? The show is a fabulous adventure of colour, hilarious dialogue, adorable costumes and really fun characters. There are unfortunately only 2 seasons as the show was cancelled way too early but it’s a fun and easy watch.
One of my favourite characters is Chuck as she is kind, understanding, passionate and has a wonderful sense of style. Her outfits are always very colourful, well accessories and it’s so heartwarming to see someone own as many cardigans as I do. Throughout the show I just sit there and toggle her outfits but one such outfit has always stood out to me. Chuck has a true vintage yellow dress with floral embroidery that she wears both in the show and in promo photos (making it easier to zoom in and study) and I’ve loved it since I first saw it. Part of my 2023 sewing goals was to sew some garments from Pop Culture and although the show hasn’t been around for over 14 years, it’s a show with a big fandom and it just warms the cockles as you watch it. It also makes you crave eating pie but that’s something to save for later. So today, I will be sharing the process of how I made my very own yellow floral Chuck ‘Pushing Daisies’ inspired dress.
Taking a closer look at the dress, it’s a bodice style I’ve never seen in a pattern before which already sets the challenge in motion. The yellow daisy Chuck dress has a cross-over bust which is then tucked into a darted bodice. The bodice has short cap sleeves, an a-line skirt, a matching belt and a lapped zipper on the back. After going through all the patterns I have, I was deciding between Butterick 5603, Vogue 8997, Butterick 6582 for modern pattern inspiration and McCalls 5251 and McCalls 5671. None of these patterns are an exact match and after much research online, I really struggled to find a matching pattern. I did find evidence that two other bloggers had made their own versions of this dress but either their blog has since closed and they didn’t disclose the pattern or the link took me to the BurdaStyle website which gave me no concrete results. I thought about shelving this project for a little while longer but since I’ve started working on this idea since June of 2022, I didn’t want to wait any longer. On a final last-ditch attempt to find a pattern, I revisited vintage McCalls 5251 and eventually found a copy on Etsy. This project will not be an exact copy or replica and instead a loose interpretation so my apologies if you are trying to get as exact to the original dress yourself. If you do know of a closer matching pattern, please let me know.
As I’ve been planning this project for a while now, I bought the fabric for it back in August of 2022 from fabric.com (rip) and the site is no longer accessible so I’m not sure where you can find a dupe for it. The fabric I purchased is designed by Michael Miller and it’s called “ups-a-daisy’ which is quite fitting. Although the fabric is just plain cotton and doesn’t have the exact pattern of the original, I think it’s a great dupe and reminds me of the fabric I used in this project which can also be a good substitute. I purchased 5 years which should be more than enough and I plan on lining it with plain white nylon lining.
The vintage McCalls 5251 pattern originally came out in in 1959. The dress bodice has a folded over cross section, a V-neck bodice and the choice between a full or fitted skirt. The biggest feature of the dresses bodice is the wide collar which wraps around the neckline on both the front and back of the dress. In order to make this pattern work for the original dress idea, I will be omitting the collar pattern for this particular project. The bodice has a darted bodice in the front and short set-in sleeves. The dress’s opening is at the left side of the slim dress closed with a zipper, the full dress is closed with a zipper, hooks and eyes and snaps. My plan for this pattern is to keep the zip on the side instead of moving it to the back just for sake of ease, adjusting the sleeves to be short, and sew in the bodice fold so they stay in place. I’m not sure how I will go about lining everything into one cohesive dress but I’ll see how I go and I’m sure I will learn a few things. For this project, I will make a wearable Muslim before I cut into my good fabric and worse comes to worse, I’ll figure it out as I go.
Sew, let’s get started! After laying out all the pattern pieces I needed, I realised that this dress doesn’t have any lining and is in fact finished with some facing. With everything cut out, I began by prepping some of my bodice pieces by staystitching along the neckline and fusing some interface to the facing pieces. From there it was time to add four darts to the front of the bodice and two to the back. The bodice came together with the front foldover pieces being self lined and then I very carefully sewed them to their proper place by using the inner lining to put my seam down. I didn’t want any visible stitching on the bodice front and I was surprisingly happy with how it turned out. Sewing down the front fold could easily been done with some hand sewing as well but by going slow on the machine and being as accurate as I could, it all came together.
To finish off the bodice, I added some sleeves which came with the pattern. I wanted my sleeves to be shorter than the patterns in order to match Chuck’s dress, so I hemmed them back a fair amount and even then, I still wanted to take them in a little bit more. The sleeves had a slight gather on the top and they fit really well when set into the bodice. The last thing I prepped the bodice for was the side zip which I planned to make lapped but without realsing, I prepped the sides incorrectly so the zip would end up being placed in weirdly with the lap showing the zip rather than hiding it.
With the bodice complete, I moved onto the skirt which I made out of some rectangular pannels. My skirt pannels are generally the width of the fabric (in this case 45 inches) and 28 inches long as it’ll be around 27 inches in length once added and hemmed which for me is ideal. I only used three fabric panels for my skirt as I surprisingly didn’t want the skirt too full and although I didn’t add a pocket, the skirt came together quite quick. I used the dental floss gathering method which worked just fine and I was super happy with the skirts outcome. The final touches the dress needed was the side zip added in, the edges finished and the hem of the skirt hemmed. This didn’t take me long and the dress was pretty much done.
The last thing I wanted to add was a belt, much like the original dress had. Back in the 1950s, it was really common to be able to buy self cover buckle kits, but today, they can be a bit challenging to find. I ended up finding a Sullivans Brand self cover buckle kit from a Lincraft in Canberra but unfortunately it came with no instructions so I had to make it up as I went along. I added some double sided tape to the back of some fabric and then after cutting an opening, I wrapped the fabric around the belt buckle. This got a bit messy as I didn’t know what I was doing and I had only seen the two part buckle kits (that work like self covered buttons). I ended up cutting a second piece of fabric to seal the ends of the buckle fabric and this was hand sewn into place. Moving onto the actual belt part, I measured out my waist plus 8 inches of extra length and cut out a fabric strip just short of two inches thick. This strip was sewn right sides together to form a tube before it was turned inside out. I then fed a length of belting fabric into the tube and sealed off the ends. I returned to the buckle and attached the inner rod using some pliers. On one end of the belt, I added a button hole which I used to help loop the buckle rod in before sewing the end of the belt together. To finish off the belt, I marked where to put my eyelets and using some gold coloured eyelet seals, I went ahead and added 5 loops. I was very excited to use my grommet machine which gives me so much satisfaction. With my first ever attempt complete, I finished off my dress by removing and blue marks and she was done.
This may be one of my favourite sewing projects of the year and I know it’s barely March by the time this comes out but I really love this dress. Although my version isn’t as vibrant a yellow colour as the original, I think it’s a really great dupe and replica as far as sewing project go. I love how the feel and the vibe of the dress is that of the original worn by Chuck and as soon as I put it on I loved it which doesn’t happen very often. I’m really happy with how the bodice came out as I was worried about awkward puckers and bust details but in the end, there was nothing odd about any of it. This pattern was certainly a challenge as most vintage patterns, McCalls 5251 included, don’t give you too much direction. By omitting the original collar, I had to make sure my dress was coming together smoothly and I didn’t accidentally miss a step. Having the dress have facing as opposed to lining made this project just a little bit smoother.
I’m oddly proud of myself for getting this project done as it’s been well over a year in the making. I originally got the idea for this project during the original lockdowns when I felt like rewatching Pushing Daisies and I fell in love with the yellow dress all over again. From there, I had kept an eye out for similar fabrics and patterns until mid last year, I decided to make a start and at least buy the fabric I needed. I was so happy to have bought this fabric as one of my final orders from fabric.com (rip), and I’m really happy by how close this was to the original. I was intimidated by the concept of creating this project without much of a proper pattern but I think by taking my time finding the perfect pattern, it all came together in the end. I don’t often as for help but I did reach out to a few online sewing communities asking for pattern recommendations for such a project and the response was very encouraging. Further more, I’m glad I had further challenged myself by attempting to create a matching belt which I had never done before and made up as I went along. I do hope to keep practicing belt making for future projects and eventually sharing a cohesive tutorial with you all here.
This project took me about 5 episodes of Pushing Daisies to complete and it was a nice way to reconnect with the show and put lots of love and fun into the dress. I got very excited when I saw the dress show up on screen which encouraged me to keep going. There are so many great dresses and outfits in general from the show that I might come back and make another replica later down the line but for now, I am super happy to leave this project where it is. This dress has given me a great bit of a boost to start taking on some more difficult projects and to keep learning as I sew.
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.