FO: Vintage floral sheath dress

Pattern: Vintage vogue 1137

Fabric: Cotton satin print from Elliot Berman textiles, 2 yards,   gray bemberg rayon lining, 2 yards.

Notes: Making this dress was a bit of a risk for me, as I neither buy nor wear sheath dresses on a regular basis.  I don’t like the feeling of tight fabric on my hips, and I’m always afraid I’ll look a little unbalanced from top to bottom.  But I was really attracted to the art on the envelope, and I like the idea of these vintage sheaths.  When I saw this cotton on sale I knew it would be just perfect for a summertime dress!  The fabric was actually a tiny bit thin, but that was easily fixed by lining the entire thing with rayon.  The pattern called for only a half lining, but I cut a skirt lining from the skirt pattern pieces.  I don’t understand a bodice lining only – it just seems pointless, and it involved hand sewing down the lining at the waist – no thanks to that!

I actually did not use the instructions at all – they involved a lot of handsewing, and I while don’t mind handsewing if it has a purpose, it seemed a little much.  I first shortened the dress by about 6 inches, taking half my alteration from the body of the skirt, and half from the side vents.  I then turned the side vents into side slits – there was just no point that I could see to them at this length.  The dress is 2 sizes larger in the waist and hips than in the bust.  I actually made it one size larger in the hips, but after I tried it on I decided I needed another inch of room, so I let the side seams out.

I lined the bodice using the technique here.  I love the seamless look – it gives a very professional finish.   If I make the dress again I will make an alteration for my narrow back – there is a little extra room in that area.  I replaced the regular zipper with an invisible zipper, which is my preference now.  I love the smooth look, as well as how easy they are to insert.

Setting decorum aside for a moment, let’s talk about undergarments with vintage clothes.    The bust darts on this dress are pretty high, as in all 50s era dresses – they may have been lowered a little for the reissue, but it is not like a modern dress.  Now, I’ve already said I’m not wearing a girdle, thus the reason why I had to make so much extra room in the waist, but I do like to wear a bra that is similar to bras of the era.  No, not a bullet bra – I do have limits!  I’m wearing this bra, from Wacoal (I love Wacoal bras!)  It doesn’t have any underwire, and is higher cut than other bras.  It does not lift and separate like most modern bras – I tried this dress with a modern bra, and it looked a bit off to me.    I also have this one, and it is  nice.  If you are more well endowed than I am, I understand the Playtex 18 hour bra is excellent for this purpose (it doesn’t come under a C cup.)

I actually made the self-fabric belt, but in the end I didn’t like how it looked.  I prefer the gentle waist shaping of the dress, rather than cinching in tightly (which does produce the out of proportion look I was afraid of.)  But at least now I know how to make my own belts!  I just have belt issues… I am trying to work through them, but so far I only really like a belt at the empire waist, not the natural one.

I highly recommend this pattern – in spite of some operator error it was really simple to sew, and the silhouette is really a classic!

(I love how my legs are so white that they actually glow… yes, I am a big time avoider of the sun!)

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30 thoughts on “FO: Vintage floral sheath dress

  1. It looks fabulous. I love it. You have put sheath dresses back on my radar – I have a similar body shape to you and prefer a swingy skirt on a dress. You look amazing in it.

  2. The dress is beautiful, and it looks great on you! I just love the style and fabric together. Also, thanks for the discussion of undergarments. I think they are often overlooked when styling a garment, but can make a big difference!

  3. i’ve been following and admiring your dressmaking skills. you’ve inspired me to take up sewing of all things! i like to visit your blog to see what i can learn and what patterns you buy because i love your taste. just taking this opportunity to say a quick thank you and that you look stunning in this style of dress, no hesitation whatsoever.

  4. Very pretty dress. I hope that after seeing how great you look in this style, you will reconsider and make another one or two. I think it is very flattering on you.

  5. everything is so beautiful! the dress is so well-made, i wish i can do such wonderful sewing for myself. so much thought goes into your dress-making. i love the colours and photography as well. i am a sun-avoider too. <3 your glowing legs. :D

  6. That is a gorgeous dress – it turned out beautifully. I used to have a vintage dress in my store in the exact same satin cotton print, just slightly different colors. A lady bought it to wear for her wedding dress!

  7. Emma says:

    I think your legs look lovely. I am a lily white sun avoider (or at least was until I gave birth to an olive skinned boy who loves to play in the sun) and it is the healthiest most beautiful option. I love the dress too.

  8. Eliza says:

    LOVE the fabric, love the dress. Great work, your blog has inspired me to unearth an old sewing machine I got years ago and try to figure out how to use it!

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