Sewing Circle: A beautiful 30's retro dress!

You're going to enjoy this Sewing Circle...

I know I've seen this image around Pinterest and the fashion blogs, and you may have, too--this dress is just lovely!
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So, Melissa wrote to me with this question:

Q: Not only is this 1930’s dress absolute perfection, but I definitely saw a gauzy navy polka dot at Joanns recently. I know we can make this happen :)


I’m just an intermediate sewer, so I’m not completely confident in my ability to pull off those pintucks pleats around the bodice and skirt. I’d be happy with something simpler there as long as the skirt is still floaty and swingy. The gathering at the shoulders, the drapey neckline, and the gorgeous floaty sleeves are my favorite parts.

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A: Hi, Melissa! I haven’t seen a pattern for that sort of collar before, or for a bodice with so many pleats to create the fullness at the bust. But I’m sure there’s a pattern out there that will give the right look. Here are a few I found!

Here's one. Made of a soft fabric, this collar could flop over. Use a puffy sleeve pattern, full length, or lengthen a short-sleeved one. Cut the cuff to fit your wrist with and inch or two of wearing ease. Don’t use that skirt, of course; the skirt can just be two rectangles, pleated with knife pleats, like the original. Measure from your waist to the point on your leg you want the skirt to hit, and cut two panels of fabric that length plus ½” at the top and 2-3” for the hem.

If you want something simpler, you could try this basic bodice:

A really cute one that’s similar, but doesn’t have the same basic construction, is this one. You could almost make that one just like the pattern, but of course add the long, puffy sleeves.

This one also has some cute options. You could use either collar, really, and make the skirt like I described above with the 1” knife pleats.

You don’t need a pattern for the gathered sleeves, but if you want one, you could use this:

or the puffy sleeve on this and just lengthen it to your arm length. That kind of sleeve would work with any of the dresses above, and you’ll gather the puff at the top, anyway, so it’ll fit any armhole.

Readers, I'm sure you have ideas, too!  Have you seen the perfect (vintage?) pattern?  Have you made a sheer crepe dress like this one before?  Any other ideas for Melissa?

14 comments

  1. Such a cute dress! I'm nowhere near good enough to start on this!

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    1. It does look a little tricky, although I'm betting the toughest part would be the fabric texture! Slippery! The patterns aren't too complicated, really. =)

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  2. I have that exact fabric! I have three yards of navy and white polka dot chiffon and I've been struggling to think of something to make with it. Maybe this would be perfect!

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    1. Ooh, lucky, I've been looking for the perfect polka dot myself!

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  3. Or you could buy the dress for a very reasonable price at Old Navy. I know that takes all the fun out of it - but think about the instant gratification!! And for $35 - wow. such a great look at a great price. http://oldnavy.gap.com/browse/product.do?pid=1116550020001&cid=15292

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    1. Amen I was going to say that! I know a few of my local stores were clearancing it too!

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    2. WOW, awesome! That is totally the same look! I might go that route myself... plus, stuff at Old Navy usually goes down 40% in price on weekends or special sales ;) Might be cheaper than buying the fabric!

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    3. Haha I was going to say I tried on something just like that at Old Navy last week :P

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  4. Really great dress! The new spring patterns from Simplicity have a dress that could be tweaked to get fairly close, # 1880 which is a half-shirtdress.
    http://www.simplicity.com/p-7453-misses-dresses-project-runway-collection.aspx#t-0
    One of the views has a wrap front but you could get rid of the wrap easily by simply tracing the bodice front, find the center front and cut it there then simply place the center front on the fold when cutting it out to get a non wrap front. You would also need to making a facing or line it.

    A muslin for these types of alterations would be must, you wouldn't want to ruin your cute polka-dots after all ;)

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    1. Yes, I looked at that one too--the good thing about those Project Runway ones is they have SO many pieces so you can mix and match pretty easily! Good idea, converting a wrap to something like the inspiration dress.

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  5. Thanks for all your insight into mixing and matching patterns. I always come up short in my search for the right pattern and have been trying to lean to draft them on my own. However, splicing patterns together seems like a better place for me to start since I have such limited sewing skills. Thanks again!

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    1. Of course--"splicing" is a great way to have barely-limited options for so many different things! Once you start thinking that way, sooo many choices!

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  6. What a great dress and a sweet blog you have! If I only had the time to sew...

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    1. Aaw, thanks! It's fun to do whatever you can when you have a few spare minutes. Sometimes I sew one seam or paint one thing and then have to move on!

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