Monday, June 29, 2009

Channeling Joan Holloway

I am a huge Mad Men fan. When I first saw this emerald green wool crepe at Paron Fabrics, I thought "Joan would look fantastic in that color!" Alas, Joan is a fictional character, so I had to buy it for myself instead. I think she'd approve though.

I made this little sheath dress from a vintage reissue pattern from Simplicity.

This was my first time using a reissued vintage pattern, and I have to say it was a little disappointing. I made my usual size (14), and when I put it on, it looked like a sack. Perhaps I should have gone down a size, but then the fit probably would have been off in the hips. I really had to do a lot of finessing to get the hourglass look of the original pattern illustration. I took it in about three inches at the waist, and reduced the hem circumference by four inches (to get that nipped in look at the knee).

It seems like one of the major things pattern companies do to modernize a vintage pattern is to give it much more ease for a "contemporary" look. This seems kind of counterproductive to me. If I wanted a contemporary fit, I'd just buy a contemporary pattern design. The envelope photographs probably should have clued me in. Look how baggy the gray version is in the skirt!

But anyway, once I got the fit I wanted, I was pretty happy with this pattern. I especially like how the bodice is lined to the edges rather than using facings. I like the full-skirted view as well, so I might give that a go at some point.

What have your experiences been with reissued patterns? I'd love to hear about them in the comments!


  1. I also made this pattern and was disappointed with the fitting--though I made the A-line version instead of the fitted version. The bodice was WAY too roomy (something to do with the gathering method and spacing maybe) and the waist had to be taken in as well.

    As far as these reissue patterns go, I'm not impressed with Simplicity. But I've had very few problems with the Vogue reissues. They seem to only change the dart positions to be slightly lower to accommodate our non-bullet bras.

    Your dress turned out lovely anyway!

  2. I have had my eye on that pattern but the dress on the pattern envelope is so dowdy with the fabric they chose. Yours, however, is AWESOME!!! I am so happy I found your blog.

  3. I keep buying reissues but haven't made any yet! Your dress looks great--you really got the fit right. And the color is perfect!

    Have you ever used Kwik sew? I just bought 3 which were not vintage reissues but definitely had 50-60's day dress look to them--shirtdress, sweet heart halter top/ dress, and a pattern like your green polka dot dress--I am too lazy to get the numbers, but if you are interested let me know ! I rather curious about them!

  4. How funny! I *just* cut out the pieces for this pattern not 2 weeks ago. But, I got distracted by the Colette Eclair dress. Looking at your dress, I had no idea it was the same pattern I cut out. Your dress looks great. I'm happy to hear this patter runs a bit big as I was afraid my usual sewing size wouldn't fit.

    I'll let you know how mine turns out.

  5. Thanks everyone! I'm already thinking of more alterations I would make to the pattern. I wore it today, and noticed that the bodice was a bit roomier than I would like--just like you said, Amanda.

    Cindy, I've never used Kwik Sew, but from what I've heard, they're good patterns. They have lots of lingerie and pj patterns too!

    Jenna, please do let us know how yours goes! And also the Eclair! I don't have that pattern yet, but I know I'll be ordering it soon.

  6. So often I look at the photo on the front of reissued patterns and think, "WHAT was the stylist DOING?!" The model is always wearing a couple of sizes too big. I think that's the case with the pic on your pattern here - it looks like a sack around her hips, not bombshell tight. I've heard it attributed to us all wearing looser clothes (and fewer support garments) but also that modern patterns are just built with more ease so they're less tricky to fit. Summerset of Pins and Needles ( has done a few 'inside the envelope' comparisons of old patterns and their reissue - maybe she has some more specific insights!

    Love the emerald green, by the way.

  7. Fabulous dress, very 'Joan' indeed! It looks wonderful on you!
    I always look for the 'finished garment measurements' printed on the tissue in modern patterns. It shows the amount of ease for bust, waist and hip. One fitted looking dress pattern I checked had over 8 inches of bust ease! Eeek! Only trouble is you have to buy the pattern to find out! I wish they'd print the finished measurement on the outside of the envelope!

  8. I have found the Simplicity reissue vintage patterns to be disappointing, weirdly off in proportions just like you say, but the Vogue ones I have been pretty happy with. I still prefer to work off the actual vintage pattern because I feel that my body shape is more "vintage" (more hourglass-y and hippy than contemporary patterns usually design for) and I'm not quite skilled enough to do all the pattern modifications on my own.

  9. I have that exact pattern in my absolutely-the-next-dress-I-make pile of patterns - interesting to hear your thoughts on fit.

    Your dress looks beautiful - a lovely colour and I like what you've done with the fit. I can just imagine Joan taking a similar approach to get it just right!

  10. Thanks everyone for your insights! I wore the dress again today, and I've found myself a bit obsessed with perfecting the fit on it. The skirt is good now, but the neckline and armholes are gaping something awful. I've been making some changes to the flat pattern, which I'll share with you soon. I'm going to make the dress again (in blue) to see how it compares. Wish me luck!

  11. Va, va, and voom! Very nice. I am another person who has bought, but not yet actually made any vintage reissues.... when I do I'll have to keep in mind what you warned about with the extra ease.

  12. Oh I have this one but haven't made it yet! Your version looks exactly like a vintage wiggle dress I have that um, doesn't fit over my hips anymore. Now I'm excited to use this pattern and make a new one.

  13. I have tried one Butterick and one Simplicity reissue and they both turned out too big. While I can understand that they add some ease for safety's sake, it just doesn't work with fitted styles. I have found vintage patterns to be much truer when it comes to fit in relation to my body measurements, although they are not as tight in the waist as the drawings suggest.

  14. Thank you, thank you! This pattern is next on my list of dresses to make and while I usually use authentic vintage patterns, I couldn't find the original and bought the reissue. I think I'm going to do the old "paper-pattern-try-on! before I start cutting.

  15. Eek! I had no idea they modernize them; that defeats the purpose completely! Especially if Butterwick does this as well; their envelope pictures are the originals.
    In my opinion, if you want to wear vintage them homesewn from a pattern, or bought in the store, you need to wear the proper undergarments to make them fit nicely, especially if you are not 'fit and trim'. You can't wear a fifties dress with a super emphasized waist if you don't HAVE a waist. Its not going to look nice, and its not going to fit well. I see alot of larger girls wearing rockabilly style at carshows, in sheath dresses like this but skintight with their rolls showing through and bulging the seams. Its horrendous!
    Hopefully when I actually get around to sewing the patterns, I can make them work.

  16. Ugh, good to know that the modernized version is all wonkety! (Of course I own it...)
    What a lovely color!

  17. Oh goody! I've got this re-issue too (and an actual vintage one that may or may not be the original). I decided a few months ago to ALWAYS make a muslin first from now on, got two 35m bolts of muslin from IKEA (60" wide @ $2/m, how could I not?) and am so glad I did. However, it's still really great to get someone's fit perspective first. Now I'll know what to look for even before the muslin!

    You did a fantastic job on your dress, it's just gorgeous. I might have to move this pattern up the queue thanks to your inspiration.

    I just found your blog (burdastyle works!), and decided to start at the beginning. I love the idea of your project, and actually wanted to do something similar myself, but had nothing like as fine as your project plan.

    I can already tell I'm in for some 'inspiration overload' here!

  18. I just bought this pattern today and happened to see your version. I hope mine can look as good as yours in the end. :)

  19. So glad I reread this post before I started cutting this pattern out-- I looked at the finished measurements and there are 3 1/2" to 4 1/2" of ease all over! Yikes... thanks for the heads up :-)

  20. Pattern reissues are a big problem for me. One of the reasons I love vintage patterns is because they fit my vintage figure so well. When they reprint the patterns they do alter them to fit the 'modern' woman. It is a disaster and I've learned the importance of doing a practice dress in muslin first when working with a reprint pattern!

  21. I've recently marked this pattern as a must buy, for the full skirt option. I love that I stumbled on your blog. I'm very addicted to the vintage style. You can be sexy as hell, and classy at the same time. I've made a pledge to myself that I'm going to try and make as much of my familys clothing as possible. I'm hoping to purchase your book when it comes out. I can't wait.
    Amanda in BC Canada


Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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