1940 Floral Summer Dress – Progress

As promised, progress photos on the 1940 dress, done up in brown floral cotton shirting, and using a vintage 1940 Simplicity pattern belonging to my grandmother.

The wonderful thing about vintage patterns is that they very often have either darts or gathers, and these can be let out or removed altogether to allow the difference between my grandmother’s measurements and my own.  Little tweaks here and there will get the thing to fit without grading the pattern at all!  There are some problems with this – one is that I need to add at least 1″ to the shoulder seams, in future patterns, and possibly to the waist, because the tininess isn’t just around the waist and bust, but neck-to-waist as well.

I’ve altered some things, and gone about the construction my own way.  For one, I’m not doing a side zipper – they are the devil’s work, and since this dress has buttons up the front, might as well make them functional!  I’m also sure I didn’t do the sleeves according to spec, and I will never, so long as I live, put in shoulderpads.  Luckily for me, the extra space that would have been there in a size 30-26-33 lady isn’t there in my modern bigger body.  Yay!

My regret – not finding magenta piping.  The brown floral is so busy that you lose the details, and a bit of piping would have been just perfect around the belt waist, trimming the cuffs of the sleeves, up the front placket.  Instead, I will finish the dress, so I can wear it, and keep my eye out for magenta ribbon that I can couch on in the future.  I do have lovely magenta buttons what will help break up the space, but after working on James’ 18th c. suit, everything seems to be under-trimmed, lol!

The dress isn’t quite finished – I need to attach the skirt, do all the interior seam finishing, and work out the buttons and buttonholes on the front, as well as put in the hem.  Another day’s work, but then I’ll have Vintage Summer Dress #1!


  • Lauren Stowell

    April 19, 2010 at 3:19 AM

    You are totally right – I love making my own piping too, but I have to then find the proper color of fabric and get some cord (if I'm out of my stash), and sometimes I just can't be bothered, haha. Now I regret not putting in the effort! I've learned my lesson, though – it'll have to be couched ribbon for this dress, but for future dresses I won't leave out the piping, it really does add *so* much to an outfit.

  • Rebecca Ann

    April 20, 2010 at 12:37 AM

    Hi I found your blog through you comment on my sister Bethany Lynn's blog called Diary of a seamstress and I love your dress! Its beautiful, timless, and simple enough to wear daily and still feel like a lady! I am working on a 1950's style shirt dress and I can't wait to finish it! thanks for the inspiration!

  • American Duchess

    April 20, 2010 at 1:31 AM

    Hi 'Singing', welcome! I'm so happy to be able to inspire you! Are you keeping a blog on your 1950s shirtwaist? I would love to see the progress!

    Update – ran into a little bauble with the closure, but have geri-rigged it. Also, some things don't match up as nicely as they should 🙁 That's what I get for not grading the pieces. Next time I will know better!

  • Angela

    April 20, 2010 at 7:50 PM

    Hey looking good, girl. I also try not to do side zips if I can. I usually use the pattern instructions for the basic put together but most of the time I do go my own way. Shoulder pads – yes, I use them – I make my own very thin ones just to give the shoulders a crisp look for the time period. I don't for 30's and 20's. Just late 30's and 40's. I am inspired! Keep us posted.

  • Anonymous

    May 21, 2012 at 6:29 PM

    Hello, You can buy white piping (usually polyester unfortunately) and dye with "iDye" for polyester fabrics. Dharma Trading Company sells iDye for natural fibers and for synthetic fibers. Dharma also sells silk bias ribbon that can be dyed with the Acid Dyes they sell. Or what about making your own bias from commercial fabric already dyed?

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