When Pattern Review announced that the challenge for April 15-May 1 would be Vintage Patterns, I decided I should interrupt my regularly scheduled sewing to actually stitch up one of the many vintage patterns that I own. However, nothing was really grabbing me in my vintage pattern stash. But then I remembered this pattern, Simplicity 2827, which for some reason I had put into my regular Dresses-Woven pattern stash instead of with the rest of the vintage patterns, probably because it totally works for modern day.
I have no idea where I got the pattern. For some reason I associate it with Karen. [**EDIT** Confirmed! Karen tells me she gave this to me at PR Weekend 2007. Thank you, Karen!!! Both for the pattern and for jogging my memory.] It does not have a copyright date, but the style and the price (I looked in the Vintage Pattern Wiki for comparison) put it in the late 1950s.
It is a Miss Size 14, 34 Bust (corresponding to a 26 waist and a 36 hip). I am a 32 bust with a 27.5 inch waist, so I had to do some altering. When I pulled out the pattern tissue there was a tiny shorten adjustment pinned into the bodice, which I thought was so cute! I traced the bodice front and back. On the front, I scooped out a little width under the arm, narrowed the two darts, and added some width at the waist. For the back I just added to the waist. After I put the dress together, although the bodice had seemed the right length in the tissue and in the fabric, once I added the skirt it was too long, so I shortened it by 5/8 inch. The bust area was still too large, so I tightened the side seams, taking out a total of 1.5 additional inches. As with my vintage 1947 shirtdress, I think the illustration shows a much more fitted dress than it was actually drafted to be. I guess ridiculous ease is nothing new to the Big Three.
I bought the fabric, a large scale abstract floral print, from Fabric Mart in June. I have been feeling so guilty about that order because I hadn't sewn anything from it! I just couldn't find the perfect project for this print (and seriously, it was $3.74/yd) so I dithered and dallied and now I am so glad to have it done. Of course, there are three more fabrics in there waiting to be sewn... I got the buttons at last year's Goodwill Trunk Show; I don't know how old they are, especially as there is no price printed on the card, but I would hazard that they are older than I am. They don't match exactly, but I liked the idea of using vintage buttons on a vintage pattern.
The cotton print was somewhat sheer and needed to be underlined. I underlined with cotton batiste and used Julieb's tip from pattern review on doing a combination underlining/faux Hong Kong finish This is my new favorite thing; I just used it on a skirt (haven't photographed it yet), so when I had to underline this project I used the same technique. You can only use it to finish the seams along one axis, either the horizontal or the vertical. In general, it will be best to use it for vertical seams, as your horizontal seams will be finished by hemming and a waistband or neckline finish.
The tip has you cut the seam allowance on the underlining twice the width of the fashion fabric seam allowance, but that was too wide for my taste in the skirt project. So for this dress I cut the underlining an additional 3/8 inch wider than the fashion fabric. As with my cheater French seams, I use the serger to stitch together the layers, which gives a very precise seam allowance.
Each piece is finished individually before being sewn together. After cutting the underlining an additional 3/8 inch wide, line up the cut edges of the fashion fabric and underlining, right sides together. Serge together.
Then turn the piece right side out. Lay out the piece so the serger stitching lies flat with the underlining wrapped around it and press. That's it!
I love this method because it is only a hair more work than just constructing a pattern normally (I'd underline sheer fabrics and serge all those edges anyway) for a really lovely finish on the inside.
You can see how pretty my seams are in the photo at right. To finish the upper edge of the skirt I first did the vertical seams as describe above. Then I turned the piece so the right sides were together again, rolled the underlining of the vertical edges outward, and serged along the top edge. Turned right side out and pressed, this time with the serged seam at the top, rather than the underlining rolled over. It's nicer than having the serged finish showing.
The closure on this was interesting. If this were designed now, it would have the buttons and buttonholes along the front opening edge the same way, but the lower edge of the button bands would be stitched together and there would be a short invisible zip at the side seam. However, this has a sort of faux fly in the center front seam with snaps. This gives enough room to get in and out of the dress with the look of a continuous skirt. I only had x-large, large, and teeny snaps. I'll have to remember to get medium snaps the next time I go to a fabric store and then I'll replace those large snaps. They don't affect the look or hang of the dress and are perfectly functional, but I think aesthetically they're too large and heavy.
I love the little bow on the back neck, it's one of my favorite parts. I was a little disappointed with the back neck as the pattern illustration shows visible gathers but there's really not enough extra fabric there for visible gathers. But the bow is cute. Unfortunately, with my print it kind of disappears. I am going to have to look for a royal blue ribbon to replace it.
I had fun dressing this up for the 50s with a crinoline and pearls and a chignon (I tried gloves but I only have off white gloves which looked weird with the white of the dress), but it can also be worn in a modern, non-costumey way. All photos are here and the pattern review is here.
Gretchen the Household Deity