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PROJECT SPACE: Retro Dress

Project Space, Vintage Corner
2015
Post By 0 Comment
Ahoy There!
I saw this beautiful Ralph Lauren fabric in my local fabric merchants & completely fell in love with it! I knew it would be perfect for this Retro Butterick 1951 pattern I had at home, & using it would also give me the opportunity to embark on my #vintagepledge to use vintage patterns outside my comfort zone. This pattern fit the bill as I had only made it once before, the version with sleeves, and had found it tricky (particularly positioning the button holes). At home I found these gorgeous buttons in my button stash, left to me by my husbands’ Gran. She always removed the buttons from a garment before discarding it, so I have no idea when they might date from, but they complimented the fabric well. Fortunately, I also had a belt buckle bought ages ago at a vintage fair that would match nicely, so it was meant to be!
Fabric, pattern, buttons, buckle & thread
What materials do you need?
Gutermann Threads
Medium weight Interfacing
Fabric Scissors
Basting Thread for tailor tacks
Seam Ripper
Tape Measure
Tailor’s Chalk
Pins
Instructions
I like to have everything ready to hand before I begin, as it saves time once I’m in to a project, if I don’t have to then dash off looking for bits & bobs. I also have my measurements to hand; iron board set up & even decide which bra I’ll be wearing with the dress as for me, it can make all the difference to the final fit!
Sewing tools
I decided to make the sleeveless version of the dress, but without the recommended slip, as the fabric is not see through. For the first step, I shortened the bodice by around 1cm, front & back, where the pattern indicates, as I have a high waist. I also shortened the skirt by trimming a couple of centimetres at the bottom, measuring carefully so that the skirt hem wasn’t uneven, as I am only 5 foot & wanted the finished dress to sit just below the knee.
Shortened bodice ready to cut
Having shortened the bodice, I also had to shorten the front neck facing so it would correspondent with the bodice neckline, before cutting it out.
Front neck facing
Another alteration I made was to the belt, which I lengthened by around 5cm, as I prefer belts a bit longer than the pattern allowed. I then cut out all remaining pieces, along with the interfacings.
Cut pieces
Next I tailor tacked in all the key places as indicated by the pattern, so that I could later position the darts at the bust correctly, as well as the gathers on the skirt & position of the pockets. I must admit, I do find this a tedious process, but essential if I want to ensure a beautifully fitted garment. This also applies to the notches, which ensure the pieces are later matched up in the right places.
Tailor tack darts in bodice
The tailor tacks on the pockets would later mean its design feature would be evenly matched & symmetrical in both pockets.
Tailor tack pockets
So now the fun begins! The darts were sewn in to the front bodice parts & ironed towards the centre. Then the darts were stitched in to the back waist & shoulders (a feature of the design I love as it means the bodice sits neatly on the shoulders). The darts were again ironed towards the centre.
The front & back pieces were sewn together at the shoulders & sides, then finished with a zigzag stitch (as I don’t possess an Over locker).
Front bodice pieces attached to back bodice
Next, I placed the front & back pocket pieces right sides together & stitched, leaving an opening & pivoting on the corners of the triangles. I then slashed in to the peak of the triangles & trimmed before turning them inside out, through the gap in the stitching.
Pocket pieces stitched together
The opening was then slipstitched shut & pockets were pressed thoroughly.
Pockets turned inside
The pockets were then pinned to the bodice, having been placed where the tailor tacks indicated, & edgestitched on to the bodice.
Pockets pinned to bodice
The remainder was straight forward. I finished off the bodice armholes with facing and then prepared and attached the skirt to the bodice. I then prepared and attached the neck facings.
This is where I feel the notches, tailor tacks & careful measurements pays off, as a neat finish is only possible if measurements are accurate & if any adjustments are consistent in all corresponding pattern pieces!
Neck facing attached to dress
Once the facing was attached, I slashed the fabric in to the points of the triange & trimmed the seam. I then understitched before turning the facing to the inside & ironing it. Although the pattern doesn’t suggest it, I also topstitched the edge of the neckline, as I feel it makes for a crisp finish.
Neck facing turned in and topstitched
The dress was then turned right side out, & tried on to check whether I was happy with where the button hole positions. As I have a proportionally large bust against a small back & waist, I often find the bodice front gapes slightly. To avoid this in my handmade garments, I ensure buttonholes& buttons are placed to accommodate my shape. So I adjusted the buttonhole markings, then realised the pockets would have to be removed & repositioned as a result!!! So out came the seam ripper & I repositioned the pockets. (Note to self; next time I might want to add the pockets after making the buttonholes?)
So now, finishing off. I sewed the button holes & attached the buttons. I then slipstitched the armhole facings to finish them off, & machine stitched the hem of the dress (to be honest, I would normally recommend a hand stitched hem but was impatient to wear this so took a shortcut!).
Finished dress back and front
Finally, I made the belt and Voila! This dress is a dream to wear! Let me know if you have tried this Retro Butterick B5920 pattern.
Finished dress with belt and addition of petticoat

feeling inspired by William GeeFeeling inspired? Head to our online shop and start planning your next project today, or be sure to follow William Gee's on Instagram for more creative inspiration from your favourite haberdashery!
Shabana loves to sew using vintage, and vintage inspired clothes patterns. In the Vintage Corner, she will be sharing her makes with you, past & present, and celebrating all things vintage! Shabana is the creator of Bobbin&Spool, producing sewing projects for children inspired to sew.

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