Where does the pollen go?
May 3, 2011 9:51 AM   Subscribe

I rather like this 1940s reproduction dress. However, although it fits everywhere else it doesn't on the bust. Are there any similar patterns or adaptable patterns out there?

The main dress is a simple bodice with a square neck, single dart on the bust (not princess seamed) and a zipper up the back. The skirt is a six panel skirt with seam in the centre (it's more full than circle). A dress that would fit these criteria should be fine, and I can 'borrow' a patch pocket and collar elsewhere. Surely this is a common shape, common enough for the big 4 companies to have produced one?

I know this was a common style in the 40s/50s for day and house dresses, but having had a quick look at vintage patterns I can't find anything dead on. The other problem is that I have a very large chest and most vintage patterns either didn't go up to what was then a 20/22, or didn't survive. I'm running at the moment so will be likely to lose weight, but certainly not enough to suddenly become a 30 bust - and as we know pattern alterations are necessary due to shape rather than size.

I'm also wary of trying to FBA a fragile 60+ year old piece of paper! Any ideas? It would be great on me if I could just get enough fabric up top to contain the girls...and I could make it cheaper and in a cute plaid too :)
posted by mippy to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Hmmm. Retro 40's is harder. The 50's look is a lot more popular for whatever reason.

I trolled through Out of the Ashes and didn't really find much - just this one pattern. I think it's not exactly what you want.

Butterick has a couple similar silhouettes.

This one is closeish and looks less . . twee . . .in the live action photograph.

If you find a vintage pattern to alter, I recommend Swedish tracing paper. Trace off your pattern and then make your alterations to the traced bit - much more sturdy. Good luck!
posted by Medieval Maven at 10:11 AM on May 3, 2011

If you do find an old pattern that's right enough to just alter the bust, trace it off onto Swedish tracing paper/Do-Sew (or even freezer paper) instead, leaving LOTS of extra around the bust section. Bonus with the STP/DS: cut full pattern pieces with it, baste it up, and make your corrected darts and seam lines on this combination muslin/pattern.

Another thought: It's totally possible to get a blouse pattern in the right size and separate skirt pattern ditto, and then combine them. Might help in finding the right details if you break the search up like this. Have you seen Decades of Style and Eva Dress? I'm sure there must be others doing repro and re-graded vintage patterns, too.
posted by peachfuzz at 10:12 AM on May 3, 2011

On Facebook there are tons of historic sewing pages. One is Wearing History and another is Historical Sewing. Maybe their corresponding blogs may have info on patterns or pattern drafting. Good Luck!
posted by PJMoore at 10:16 AM on May 3, 2011

I can never ever get blouses to fit me off the peg. The dress is from a shop specializing in reproduction clothing - presumably they scaled up an existing pattern and added a couple of details here and there. I'm not an experienced dressmaker by any means so I think this may be beyond my skills - though I will have a look at the skirt patterns I have.

The shop sells it as a 40s/50s dress, which may or may not be accurate. From what I've seen much 40s clothing is really not designed for an hourglass - it's all drop waists and high necklines...
posted by mippy at 10:16 AM on May 3, 2011

Decades of Style looks great, thank you! The dress they have isn't quite right but would be adaptable - I've bookmarked it for when I'm ready to measure up after a bit more running :)
posted by mippy at 10:17 AM on May 3, 2011

Oh - I should point out that I like the one piece-ness of the bodice. Princess seams are easier to alter, I think, which is fine, but I like the way it's like a shirtwaister without buttoning up. I can probably work my way through a princess seam or standard FBA but anything with sewn in cups will be beyond my ken - I don't think I've ever got a high street version of the style to fit me!
posted by mippy at 10:20 AM on May 3, 2011

Maybe eshakti? They have a few sort of vintagey dresses. Plus, when ordering, it's mandatory to give bra size. They can also customize certain necklines, sleeve types, and overall dress lengths (quite inexpensively).
posted by eunoia at 10:34 AM on May 3, 2011

Eshakti only ship within the USA. I would like a go at making my own, too, as I have a sewing machine and am feeling my way through how to make things!
posted by mippy at 11:53 AM on May 3, 2011

Do not be wary of the FBA. The FBA is your friend. The FBA adds length as well as width, both of which you need. Trace vintage patterns off onto other paper before the FBA (or any pattern manipulation)--much better to screw up a copy while having a pristine original to go back to.

Seriously, embrace the FBA. Modern patterns are (with a few exceptions) drafted for a b cup. You will be amazed at him much better your clothes fit. You are making a muslin, right?

(I have a degree in costume design and construction, and wear a 36F bra. The FBA changed my life.)
posted by mollymayhem at 6:53 PM on May 3, 2011

And feel free to pick my brain via memail.
posted by mollymayhem at 6:54 PM on May 3, 2011

Thanks mollymayhem! I would be making a muslin, yes.

When I buy clothes in shops, I go by the bust measurement, and have to go either too big or too tight. My first attempt at making a dress was done the same way, and it was really big on me - I've been trying to work out how to change and widen the darts so that essentially I'm converting my too-big pattern piece into a smaller one with an FBA, if you see what I mean. It's one-piece with the sleeves which helps.

I'm not going to make a dress at the moment as my size may change now I've taken up exercise, but I think with the FBA essentially you're getting the shape right and then the size can be easily adjusted?
posted by mippy at 1:51 AM on May 4, 2011

(OK, pre-coffee, here we go.)

A full bust adjustment isn't done on a pattern that's too big. With a pattern that is chosen simply for one's out-of-proportion bust*, everything else must be adjusted. Waist, sleeve holes, neckline, style lines, everything!

With a full bust adjustment, we take a pattern that would fit, if not for the bust, and merely adjust the bustline to have more room.

Here are a few links to get you started:


*Out of proportion in the way that patterns are drafted, your proportions are lovely, I'm sure!
posted by mollymayhem at 6:47 AM on May 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

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