Last month, I joined in with the Sew Vintage September Instagram challenge, where you had to post a project made using vintage fabric or a vintage pattern. I was initially planning on using one of my vintage reprint patterns or one of Gertie’s retro patterns, but this eBay steal was just so exceptionally 80s that I just had to go for it. I had to. I mean, look at it! It is so ridiculous:

The sleeves! The collars! The ruffles! The pintucks! The gathers!


Anyway, this was my first time sewing a vintage pattern, but I was pleasantly surprised with how I got on 😊 I didn’t make a muslin, which I am sort of kicking myself about… but on the other hand, I had no time at all in September, what with my trip to Canada and an exceptionally busy end of the quarter at work!

I picked up three metres of this Lady McElroy Artisan Splash cotton lawn in October last year, with a vague idea to make a summer dress. This print is even dreamier in reality, to the point where I am seriously considering buying another three metres, purely because this shirt dress has reinforced how much I really, really want to make a cute sun dress in this print. Although I can’t quite work out if there is a direction for this print or not, I don’t really mind at all — I just love the watercolour painterly effect and the colours are really vibrant against the white background! I tend to gravitate towards the Lady McElroy fabrics for the prints and the quality; this cotton lawn was no different, as it handles really well and it holds all the skirt gathers beautifully.

Despite the utter extra-ness of this vintage Simplicity pattern, I am surprised how wearable this dress is with only a few modifications (including a fairly major sleeve change!). I went for View C, which had the fewest fussy details; the classic collar is constructed with a collar stand and the trim around the front yoke is optional (a braver woman than I would be able to pull off the pintucks, ruffles and wing collar for View A). The gathered skirt for all views is very full, which is a silhouette I really like. This pattern has quite a few other nice details, including the oval front bib yoke, the front skirt hidden placket and it has really roomy pockets. This dress has a button-front closure with six buttons, but I used ten as my buttons are smaller in diameter than the recommendation. My buttons are Pigeon Wishes ‘Painterly’ resin buttons that I got from Hey Sew Sister, which pick out the colours in the fabric fairly well.

The first major thing about sewing vintage patterns is that they tend to be single-sized; as I mentioned earlier, I didn’t have time to mock up the bodice, so I went for the straight size 14 and didn’t make any fitting adjustments. Looking at these photos, I can tell the bodice is too wide on my shoulders, the back shows a lot of excess fabric pooling, and it should be more fitted at the waist. These are all tweaks I can change if I make this pattern again, but it won’t stop me from wearing it as it currently is. I found the construction very straightforward and I really like the steps to create the hidden placket in the skirt front. I made one major change, which was changing the enormous puff sleeves into standard short sleeves from another pattern. I do think this change makes the garment lose some of its fabulously over-the-top 80s style, but I leant towards making it more wearable from the get-go!

I am thinking about making this dress again in the future; as a general rule, I love shirt dresses and wear them fairly often! If I do make this again, I would make some of the changes to get a more fitted bodice and maybe experiment with some colour blocking. Perhaps sunshine yellow with a turquoise bib yoke? Or go classic in black with a white bib yoke?
Don’t forget to check out the #SewVintageSemptember instagram hashtag, as there have been so many gorgeous vintage makes!

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