Taking Time to Stop and Smell the Roses - Lilacs & Lace joins the #vintagepledge!

Boy have I got a special treat for you today! The crazy-talented, queen-of-vintage-stitching Laura Mae from Lilacs & Lace has kindly joined in with my Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge (#vintagepledge) and is sharing intricate details of her journey with her beautiful Vogue 4203 dress! If for some unthinkable reason you're not familiar with Laura Mae's blog, you really must check it out - I promise you'll be hooked! I hugely admire how she embraces couture techniques, which she generously shares with her readers, alongside many other tutorials. How she manages to be so productive when creating such quality makes is a mystery to me! Laura Mae's blog is also a great source of inspiration posts, none better than her own makes. I love how she creates the most exquisite dresses (here, here and here to name a few) and even manages to give modern patterns a vintage twist (here and here). Oh, and she's an expert knitter too!

Hello, fellow sewing enthusiasts! I  am so excited to be participating in the Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge! Thank you, Marie, for having me over to your online home for a visit!

To join in the festivities, I thought I would pull out one of my vintage patterns that has been ignored for far too long. Vogue 4203 is a Special Design from 1960 or 1961 (the instructions are dated 1960, but the pattern envelope is stamped 1961). It is often impossible to find any mention of a copyright date, and here I have two for one!

At first glance, this looks just like any other basic bodice/full-skirt/sleeve combo. Upon closer inspection (as is the case with so many vintage patterns) there is so much more to this dress. There are a combination of released darts in addition to the standard fare, a piped waist seam, a skirt that is pleated and gathered for maximum poof, tucks along the sleeve and skirt hems, an included petticoat, and bound buttonholes up the bodice back. Not too shabby, right?!

This particular pattern includes a rather in-depth look at a type of bound buttonhole I have never tried, so just for fun, I decided to skip my usual technique and try out a new one. So out came some fabric scraps!

I have learned so much about apparel sewing from working my way through vintage pattern instruction sheets. You may not get the information spoon fed to you, but there are plenty of reference books to fill in the gaps if you are willing to take the time – check out your local library for some great older sewing manuals, and of course, there are bound to be a few online tutorials to help out as well. If you are anything like me, you will get lost in the world of sewing construction found in the reference book and learn a few more tricks along the way!

Most vintage techniques are not all that difficult, but they do take more time than sending a seam through a serger and calling it a day. Which leads me to my favorite sewing mantra: slow down and enjoy the process! Buck the fast fashion trend, and stitch up something made to last through years of wear and washings.

Making a mock-up of any design is always a good way to ensure you will be happy with the final outcome. Not only is it a wonderful way to check fit, but you can also work through any questions you may have about the construction along the way. I usually end up using my muslin as a fabric pattern.

Take the time to hand baste markings in place once you start working with your dress fabric.

Make your own piping with self-fabric and some scrap yarn.

My muslin was an excellent reminder that a skirt like this needs a foundation in order to look like the illustration!

I love borrowing techniques from vintage patterns that I have worked with in the past. This design is illustrated as a bell shape. I have always found this look intriguing, so I thought it was high time I tried it out. The included petticoat is certainly going to help to achieve the look, but the exaggerated curve starting from the waistline reminded me of a past project.

As a bit of an experiment, I used a technique from a Vogue design from 1954 that adds interfacing to each skirt piece from the waist to upper hip for added stability before darting, pleating, or gathering in the excess width. Pellon was often used as an underlining in vintage frocks to give some oomph to a skirt, so I decided to have some fun with it.

Without a petticoat of any kind, the dress is holding its shape quite nicely, thanks to the Pellon!

I may end up making a petticoat as well, just because they are so much fun to wear, but the dress could certainly be worn without one – all thanks to that 1954 pattern instruction sheet.

Interfaced skirts, bound seams, bound buttonholes, piped seams, hand-picked zippers, nice deep hemlines . . . all of these elements can elevate a basic dress into something really special.

And isn’t that why we sew? To create something with our hands that we can be proud of, that will last for years to come, and is worth the extra effort and time that it takes.

I am off to finish hemming my dress, add a waist stay, and figure out if I will be adding piping to the neckline to match back to the waist seam . . .

Vintage patterns give us the opportunity to build something truly one of a kind with beautiful details and unique silhouettes. And who doesn’t love working with yummy fabrics and oohing and aahing over the gorgeous pattern illustrations?!

Another fabulous thing about vintage is the ability to suit every figure type out there – the variety is incredible. From the easy fit of the 20s, to the ruffled flounces and slinky bias skirts of the 30s, to the structured silhouette of the 40s, to the soft feminine 50s ideal, to the figure revealing look of 60s mod, you are bound to find something you like.

Whatever decade you choose, working with a vintage pattern is sure way to learn a few new things about garment construction!

So have fun with those vintage patterns that are finally getting some much deserved love and attention for your Vintage Pattern Sewing Pledge and do not be afraid to get creative with the construction and enjoy the journey. There really are no rules . . . when you end up with a wearable garment that makes you smile, pat yourself on the back for a job well done!

And, of course, happy sewing to all! 

Wow, is anyone else in as much awe as I am right now? Laura Mae makes me want to be a better stitcher! We're over half way through the Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge, so to see what everyone else taking part  is up to, check out the dedicated  Pinterest board


  1. This is absolutely stunning. I'm most definitely in awe of Laura Mae and her incredible talent.

  2. What a great post Marie - and Laura Mae. I am definitely in awe of Laura Mae's skills and knowledge and am off to check out her blog in great detail! Thank you both.

  3. So true! She has inspired me greatly since I discovered her blog. I'm working on a somewhat complicated (to me) pattern right now, and I keep hearing her words in my head when I get annoyed with having to go slow on something. "Make something quality, make it to last, do it right, couture couture couture!" It's helpful.

  4. Beautiful handiwork as usual.
    And don't forget to mention Laura Mae's exquisite beading work, when you sum up her skills.

  5. Laura Mae is such an exceptional creator/writer/teacher/inspiration, she has plenty of guys reading her blog, (every one a "man fan") too.

    "Lilacs and Lace" is an opium den where one person's creative brute force is tempered with the intoxicating feminine mystique illustrated on so many vintage pattern envelopes.

    Rally or rage, it's of no consequence - where Laura Mae is concerned, you'll be hooked before you know it.

  6. This dress is so beautiful! I'm as always so impressed with Laura Mae. And I really liked the interfacing to give more oopmh and New Look-look to the skirt.

  7. Whoa, when two favorite blogs come together! Laura Mae, this is truly a jam-packed post full of inspiration, tutorials and a new skirt technique I'm just in desperate need of! (too hot for the petticoats! love the concept of more air down there). Thanks to one and all!

  8. Wow, what a gorgeous dress! The pattern and fabric are both lovely!

  9. Wooow nice dress.You look so pretty❤❤❤


  10. Super smart dress! I just love this floral print.

  11. This is lovely!!! Is it too late to join the vintage pledge? :)

  12. So completely inspired by this. Your dress is beautiful, the attention to detail, you have such an amazing talent. Thank you for sharing it with us. I love this era because a woman's body was worshipped and the patterns from then exudes femininity and such sassiness yet women weren't exposed. It is impossible for me to going your pledge, however I shall endeavour to attempt to sew one vintage outfit from my vast selection of sewing pattern for the next 4 months.

  13. This is so beautiful and inspiring! Love the foral print, and your attention to detail is amazing!