Monday, June 17, 2013

Fruity Floral 40s Chiffon Dress

I found this amazing fabric last week, and immediately bought 15 yards for the shop. Of course, 3 of those yards were for me, ALL ME, readers. Because this has to be one of the best retro prints I've found in a while.  It's a fruit and floral print that veers far away from kitschy.

It has rose bouquets, baskets of cherries and strawberries, lemons, daisies, and basically all of my favorite novelty print motifs in one fabric. To top it off, the chiffon has an open weave mesh pattern running through it, forming a plaid on top of the print. (It's very subtle, one of those little things that makes a fabric special.)

I used Butterick 5744 as a starting point, because I liked the faux-wrap skirt and the neckline flounce. Plus the waistline seam is elasticized, so I knew it would be comfy for summer.

I made a few changes, as you can probably see. First, I added two inches to the hem length. It is super short right out of the envelope, and Gertie don't play that. Second, I omitted the lining because I wanted to play up the sheer nature of the chiffon. I'm wearing a light pink slip to cover up my unmentionables. Third, sleeves! I wanted a more 40s-inspired design, and also to show off the fabric a bit more. I borrowed the sleeve from New Look 6069, eliminating a couple inches of length. It's a puff sleeve so I didn't have to worry too much about pattern compatibility, and it fit right into the armscye of the dress. Also, I made the neckline a bit lower and wider because of the way I attached the flounce--I decided on a french seam at the last moment, which ate up a bit more seam allowance.

A few other construction things: I used the narrow hem on my serger for all the raw edges, in a contrasting ivory color. I like how it plays up the details of the dress, like the flounce.

I used french seams on the inside. I had a brilliant idea (if I may say so myself) about the waistline seam. The pattern calls for you to stitch the waistline seam, then stitch again 1/4" away--making a channel for the elastic. You insert the elastic with the old safety pin trick. I tried it, and was unhappy with how messy the raw edge of the chiffon was. I found myself wishing I could bind the seam allowances. And then it came to me--fold over elastic! I took out the elastic from the casing, and used the fold over elastic to cinch in the waist fullness and finish the raw edges of the waistline seam. (I am so weirdly proud of myself for thinking of this.)

Fold over elastic is basically an elastic binding that can be used to enclose edges of lingerie and other knits. It worked perfectly for this purpose too. I cut the elastic to fit snugly around my waist, folded it over the raw edge of the waistline seam allowances, and stitched it in place with a multi-step zigzag--aka serpentine stitch (though a regular zigzag is fine), stretching the elastic as I sewed it on. I had to first make sure the elastic was evenly distributed by dividing it into halves and matching it to the dress's side seams. Once it was sewn on, I steamed the elastic to shrink it back to size. It worked like a charm, and is so pretty on the inside.

Oh, one other pattern change: the directions called for a small snap to hold the wrap bodice in place, but I just tacked the layers together instead. The snap seemed unnecessary, plus I have an irrational hatred of sewing on snaps.

Perfect with red pumps!

This was a fast project, and the chiffon has a bit of body and was easy to sew. (I have 6 more yards of it for sale, if you're interested. Use coupon code HAPPYWEEKEND for 10% off until tomorrow.)

Hey, speaking of sales! Miss L-Fire shoes have been on sale several places and it's my civic duty to pass the info on to you. I found the Lola mules in navy for almost half off. (The rest of Sole Addiction's Miss L-Fire stock is on sale as well.)

At Anthro, the Casablanca slingbacks in black and red are half off. I picked up the black and white dot. (A very sick part of my mind thinks I should get the red as well, since I saved 50%. I mean, right?)

I resisted the Tease wedges, but they are very cute in navy and also on sale.



  1. Love it, gorgeous print.. the shoes look awesome with ur hair/dress :)

  2. Wonderful dress, extraordinary fabric... I think it's amazing how you turn a non-vinatge pattern in a completely retro-looking dress!
    I also had a closer look at the print, I had the impression that these are not basket of eggs as you write in your shop, but baskets of mushrooms... :-)

    Kind regards from Switzerland, Doris

  3. There is nothing irrational about you hatred for sewing on snaps. They are the devil's work and I look for every possible way to avoid using them, normally!

    Beautiful dress and such a lovely fabric. I've really enjoyed your sewing posts recently- you always produce such pretty things. It's nice to see them on your blog again, we miss them!

  4. The print is fabulous! All you need is some Carmen Miranda style fruity slingback heels! But no Banana hat - that might be taking it too far...

    I love mixing up sewing patterns to get it exactly how i like it. Good idea with the elastic as well - i usually leave it out and just rely on a belt to cinch the waist for me - although not many 60s type clothing needs belts.

    1. I say the banana hat idea is a must! Or at least a banana fascinator. And an accompanying uke video of a Carmen Miranda number.

  5. So cute! I wish I wasn't scared to sew with chiffon!

  6. Thank you for sharing the trick of finishing the waist seam with fold over elastic. That's brilliant! I'm saving this post for future reference. Oh, and your dress is lovely!

  7. Such a cute outfit and gorgeous fabric! I love the serged edges(makes me want a serger now...).

  8. What a neat fabric! The muted colors really make the kitschy print more wearable. It looks perfect as that dress!

  9. I love this dress (and the fabric)!

  10. Great looking dress. Love that print!

  11. GASP!!!! That fabric is amazing!!! I also find myself adding inches to hemlines, which is part of the reason why I love sewing vintage 40's patterns. They all hit right below the knee, right where I like it lol. This is definitely one of my favorite dresses you've made :)

  12. Gertie. Your hair color just keeps looking better and better. Foxy Lady!

  13. I looks great Gertie! Where do you find this material?

  14. The fabric and pattern work so well together. The outcome is beautiful.


  15. Wauw...lovely fabric, and lovely dress...:-)

  16. I just love your creations...;)

  17. Great Dress!! and nice heels... complete matching with dress... I love the softness . It's like wearing a pajama top. Very soft and comfortable and you just can't beat the price!!!

  18. i must say i love all of your creations, i don´t want to comment on everything because all the messages would drive you crazy;) but really i adore your work as i´m sewing and designing my own stuff as well! fabulous fabric! on that dress i especially love the sleeves and ruffles, super fabulous and i´m a big miss l fire shoes fan as well;)
    wish you a great week!

  19. Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you for the FOE tip.. I'm just about to sew up a couple of elastic-waisted crossover dresses for summer and this tip came at EXACTLY the right time. Love your work!!


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

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