The Summer Dress

When I decided to try my hand at sewing a few months ago, I wasn’t sure if it was something that I would stick with. My main motivation was to add affordable vintage pieces to my wardrobe. My favorites are the silhouettes of the 1950’s and 1960’s. It’s not always easy to find vintage/reproduction pieces that fit my budget or my proportions. Since I am petite with a larger bust, sizing is an issue for me. Making my own clothes seemed like a step in the right direction.

I bought what is basically a toy sewing machine and I made the worst dress ever out of an old, drab sheet. I chose the smallest size and it came out comically huge.  I’m still not sure why the sizing was so off. The pattern is from the 90’s, so maybe it has something to do with the aesthetic of the time. Or maybe I made some error in my stitching. But honestly, even the most prudish church mouse wouldn’t wear such an unflattering sack. On top of all of this the “fabric” had a terrible drape, which made the fit even more awkward. Alright, so that does not sound like a roaring endorsement of sewing, but I was still hooked! I couldn’t believe that all the pattern pieces fit together. Or that I could makes sense of the facings. My mother was sufficiently impressed with my efforts that she gave me her Brother.

The pattern that started it all…

…and the resulting dress.

Armed with my awesome new machine and some basic skills, I tackled Butterick 5748. It’s a reproduction pattern from the 50’s. I admire the simplicity of the design. It’s a clean, classic look that ended up being a perfect intro to various techniques. The two most challenging aspects of this pattern were putting in the zipper and hemming the circle skirt. I thought the hemming would never end. And the tension in my machine must have been wrong for the light fabric, because my hem kept bunching up, making it extremely frustrating to sew. Overall, I’m very pleased with the fit and drape. I have plans to sew this one up again for my sister. When that time comes, I’ll post  a more detailed tutorial for this dress.


Front view. Much improved from dress #1, yes?

Back view, bow detail

Side View

B5748: Green Gingham 50’s Dress

  • Size: 6
  • Fabric: Sage green gingham fabric
  • Lining: Yes (I used an old sheet, which a good way to go if you don’t want to ruin nice fabric while you’re learning the ropes)
  • Notions: Tiny black rosebud for neck detail, grey zipper
  • Adjustments: I chose to make the petite version of the bodice included in the pattern, other than that I followed the directions. Well, to be honest, I didn’t really understand the zipper directions so I botched that part. I watched a couple of Youtube tutorials and fumbled along with the zipper foot until it was attached. If I could go back, I would replace it with an invisible zipper in a matching color. I also shortened the skirt. We are in the 21st century, after all.
  • Would I recommend it to other sewers: This pattern comes highly recommended by yours truly. I had only sewn one dress before and it was my first time sewing a zipper. The instructions are clear and the pattern is flattering.
  • Techniques used/learned: lining the garment instead of using facings, side zip, hemming a circle skirt, sewing sharp corners, ironing seams. I would have really liked to finish my edges properly, but I’m not sure how to do that without a serger. Nor do I know how to use a serger. Ha, I’ll definitely have to figure that out soon.

Flower detail

Bow detail