Elaine of Black Tulip totally wowed me with her millinery skills last year, especially this stunning number, so I was overjoyed when she agreed to take part in our July #VintagePledge Extravaganza! She may not have a hat for us today, but her dress is a work of art, worth all that time and effort she invested!
I was thrilled when Marie and Kerry invited me to make something for this year’s Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge, and it was just the push I needed to make up a pattern I’ve had for a while.
Butterick 6877 dates from 1954. Butterick at this time were quite fanciful in their pattern descriptions, so this one begins, “Seen in town or at the show. Its quiet good taste is reflected in the shoulder-framing neckline, contrasting detachable undercollar (view B), jutting pockets, cut-in-one sleeves, slender skirt.” That first sentence was enough to sell it to me, even if my version is more likely to be, “Seen in the office or going round the shops”!
I’ve got Kerry to thank for the fabric choice. In one of her posts she mentioned Frumble Fabrics, a new name to me, so I just had to have a look. I fell in love with this Robert Kaufman cotton from the Mod Geek collection. It appealed to my inner nerd, the colours and motifs are just so perfectly 1950s, and the double helix design gave the dress its name, after Rosalind Franklin.
The buttons are from a great stall in my local market, and the finishing touch was a fabric-covered belt and buckle from Harlequin for that really period look.
Making the dress took far longer than I’d expected. I had to redraft the pattern to my size, and found that the original pieces were mostly badly cut, with very wobbly edges. Some of the grain line holes (the pattern isn’t printed) seemed out of kilter as well. I made a mock-up, and was really glad that I did, because the bodice didn’t sit well at all. The skirt, which I expected would be the problem, was fine. I thought that the bodice was too wide, but my mum had a look at it and instantly worked out that it was actually too long – thanks Mum!
I spent ages wondering how on earth the oddly-shaped pocket pieces would fit together before noticing that the instructions stated, “Note: Pocket stands away from side.” Those would be the “jutting pockets” then! The dress is very cleverly designed so that the pocket doesn’t get in the way of the side zip, although I did hand-pick the zip, just to be on the safe side.
I made a few changes to the pattern. I cut the skirt sections out as single pieces, rather than with central seams. Conversely, I split the collar into two pieces so that the design would be symmetrical. Then I had to decide which way round I preferred the design, which I did by photographing both options and comparing them.
Because the fabric has such a bold pattern, I got totally obsessed with pattern matching. The bodice back was too wide to cut as a single piece, but I’m reasonably pleased with how the back seam matches up. I wanted the front to match up as well, so my final change was to fasten the front with press studs rather than buttons and buttonholes, so that everything stays put.
I’m really pleased with the end result. It was a lot of work, but then I wanted to give myself a challenge. Initially I wasn’t sure about the neckline, but now I’ve got used to its ‘shoulder framing’ qualities I like it a lot. Not having to set in sleeves was a joy – I can see more of this style being made in the future!