50s housewife day dress – FINISHED

Hooray for finished projects! This is Vogue 8789, view A.

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This one I toiled a month or so ago but was interrupted by the vintage races dress so it got put on the back burner. Once I started working on it again (less than a week ago) I realised how quick it would be to sew up and I couldn’t stop! A couple of 2am nights, one solid morning of sewing, a fight with my machine over the blind hem last night, and, voila!

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It’s a GREAT pattern. It’s relatively easy and quick to sew up, the bias-cut bodice looks great and the cummerbund gives you the hourglass look AND visually breaks up an otherwise very busy pattern.

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Here it is without the petticoat:

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That skirt is still massive! It uses a whopping 4.4 metres of fabric. I used a printed Retro Depot poplin from Spotlight that I bought on sale for $9 a metre. With a skirt like that, it’s going to take me yoinks to iron, but it’s comfy yet crisp enough to wear without the petticoat on those days I feel like channeling my inner 50s housewife (and by inner I mean very much close to the surface given my hobbies are cooking and sewing!)

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Pattern alterations and design changes

Surprisingly, I was quite true to the original pattern. I made a size 12 with the petite adjustments and took about another 1/2″ inch out of the back waist. I think this is because my chestal region pulls the bodice up at the front, which is fine because of my short waist, so there was too much length in the back bodice, giving me all kinds of neck gaping issues. But not in the finished product!

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I actually have to give credit to Fit for Real People for helping me solve some fit issues with this dress. That book really is as great as everyone says it is! My mum, who has sewn since she was teeny tiny and grew up with a mother who had done the same, has never been particularly fanatical about getting the perfect fit (because I think in mum’s sewing glory days of the 70s and 80s garments were no where near as fitted), but she was so impressed with FFRP that she wants her own copy. The pictures are SO daggy but the content is golden.

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The tip FFRP gives is to use a piece of stabilising tape 1/8″ LESS than the neckline you wish to secure. I stitched the tape to the wrong side of the self-facing pieces of the neckline with the tape on top. The feed dogs of my machine eased the neckline into the tape, so after a quick press, I had a perfect neckline that wasn’t going to go anywhere! Thanks FFRP! If you ever plan to do this, make sure you stabilise the neckline before trying on your bodice 20 times because a V-neckline WILL stretch given it is cut on the bias. And make sure you get a copy of FFRP – I held off for about a year because I would always think “what can a book tell me that I can’t find online?”. I was WRONG. The book is a wonderful resource and if I ever achieve my dream of becoming a sewing teacher I will make it compulsory reading!

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After that unpaid endorsement, let me return to the dress!

Overall, I am happy with the fit. I am NOT happy at all when it is not worn with a cummerbund. The back is quite loose and I would use the word “frump” to describe how I feel in this dress without the cummerbund. I put the cummerbund on and the baggy waist is gone and a desirable silhouette appears.

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It only occurred to me when reviewing these pictures that my bust darts are pretty poor. There is some puckering going on there and so I’m going to put it down to shotty construction.  The darts are massive, and if I wasn’t so worried about distorting the chevron/stripe effect of the bodice, I would have considered splitting them into two. There is actually a whole section in FFRP about sewing neat darts so I should probably review that!

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Construction notes

The instructions for this dress are really simple, but I do have a few minor gripes. These might not apply to everyone, but…

  • Why wouldn’t Vogue specifically state this pattern (or at least view A) should be cut on the single layer? I didn’t even bother trying to cut this on the double – what a nightmare matching those stripes otherwise? I know the Big 4 aren’t renowned for their in-depth instructions, but this could have been noted in the cutting layout.
  • The waist stay is really quite redundant unless the waist fits you like a glove, which theoretically wouldn’t happen if this dress is as they say “semi-fitted” – which according to Vogue means a good 2-4″ of ease. Who wants a piece of ribbon with a hook hanging down the side of their waist by 4″ when they’re going to wear a cummerbund over the top anyway? I attached the waist stay and then unpicked it. I don’t think I need it at all, but I don’t know much so please don’t be afraid to comment to set me straight!
  • DEFINITELY stabilise your neckline (as I described earlier) if you are worried it will gape. It will. And FFRP is the bomb.
  • I overlocked all the seams, including the edges of the facing. The pattern tells you to turn the edge under 1/4″ but overlocking was so much quicker.

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Phew! I think that’s all I have to say about this dress. Let me leave you with some shots not so much of the dress as much as some farm girl/beagle love.

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Sew Selfish

13 thoughts on “50s housewife day dress – FINISHED

    • Thank you so much! Can’t say I’ve been part of a link party before but I just read about it on your blog and it sounds fun. I will edit my post now. Thanks :D

    • Why thank you! It is a great pattern – good luck on the fabric search! I didn’t find anything for ages and had kind of forgotten about the pattern. Once I found fabric I became very excited about this dress and couldn’t wait to finish it.

  1. PS I just made a dress with a waist stay and instead of using whatever length they suggested, I used Gertie’s book which suggests measuring the waist and adding 2″ (iirc) – and then the 2″ is used up in folding over/doubling the ends where you add the hooks, so the stay ends up exactly your waist measurement. It worked out well.

    • I should have consulted Gertie’s book! Thank you for reminding me as that is also a wonderful book (I still recommend FFRP – start dropping hints for Christmas presents, perhaps? :D) I might dredge up that ribbon and re-attach it. Thanks!

  2. This is so lovely and the pattern you chose is perfect. Love the chevron effect on the bodice. As a side note, the purpose of the waist stay is to support the weight of the fabric at your waist rather than the full weight of the garment resting on your shoulders.

  3. I think you do have a point about the waist stay being a bit unnecessary if the waist has so much ease. Other than for the purpose M Inez mentions above, I think back in the 50’s they made dresses to really FIT the waist; the ribbon reinforced the waistline to counteract the tension that might otherwise cause the dress to rip or bust at the seams. I have started experimenting with this technique and I think it adds a nice finish over all those gathers too. I love your dress and all your pictures! Especially all the garden shots. I am inspired to follow your blog now. (:

    • I hadn’t considered how it affects the gathers – that will be something I’ll ponder for my next waist stay :-) thanks for the lovely words – I often think my garden is too untidy despite how much time I spend in it so I’ll have to keep motivated :-)

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