Pattern: Simplicity 1777, reprint from 1943.
Fabric: Poly/cotton jacquard
I loved this pattern at first sight. I haven’t made a lot of 1940s patters, and I thought it might be a good choice for me. I had a few concerns about the neckline, but I decided to give it a try.
I cut a size 8 on the top, and a 10 on the bottom.
I was expecting the center panel to be irritating to sew together. It wasn’t really that bad, but it does make for a bit of bulk in that area. My fabric is medium weight – in a light weight I’m sure it wouldn’t matter. I opted not to interface the panel, choosing to underline instead. My interior may not be as neat, but it’s less bulky!
Here is the dress sewn as drafted:
My issues: the skirt has too much volume – because of the deep pleats I needn’t have cut a size larger. The dress is also too big around the waist and too tight in the arms. The length is a little long. The neckline is really high, even for vintage, see:
I went back to the machine and made the following alterations: I removed 4 full inches of ease from the skirt and 2 from the bodice. I let out the sleeves slightly. I redrew the neckline. The new one is about 2 inches lower in center front:
The skirt is much better, and I like the neckline. The sleeves were still tight, and I had taken too much from the bodice, so I let the bodice back out a little and let out the sleeves are much as I could.
I sat down to sew the final seams (up until this point it was all basting!) and that’s when tragedy struck! I was finishing a seam allowance on the serger when my serger managed to grab part of the skirt and cut a nig hole in it with the knife before I could stop it!
I know you can repair a hole with interfacing, but I didn’t think it would look good – it was right in the middle of the back, and it was noticeable. I decided to just shorten the skirt. Unfortunately, now it’s too short. I mean, it’s wearable, but I know I wouldn’t feel comfortable in it. I don’t really wear skirts that are shorter than 2 inches above the knee.
The neckline is also finished with a strip of the cotton as a bias binding. I made one New Year’s resolution I didn’t mention, and that’s to stop putting in neck facings unless they are completely sewn down. In cleaning out my closet this year I noticed that the dresses I didn’t wear all had one thing in common – shoddy facings (is there any other kind?) I have a few dresses I want to take the facing off and replace with a better method so I can wear them without fear!
I’m going to call this a learning experience, but I didn’t get a wearable garment in the deal. I doubt I would have gotten one even if the skirt hadn’t gotten eaten. A few things to note about the pattern:
1. The arms are small and short. I have long arms, but not that long. The sleeve length was so short that the sleeve darts ended up in the wrong place, contributing to the tight sleeve issue. I would cut a size up in the sleeves, possibly even two sizes up. Maybe that’s just the nature of long sleeved woven dresses? I’m pretty sure that’s why I don’t make them!
2. There is a lot of bulk at the waist. I would either use a lighter fabric (such as challis) or opt to leave out one of the center panel layers. The pleats are also bulky, so be sure to trim them down!
3. The neckline is higher than you think. Picture the highest neckline you can. Then add an inch. Now you might have an idea! I dislike high necklines because of my irrational belief that it makes you look like your head is on backwards. I redrew the front only, as I had already sewn the zipper, and I would totally redraw if I made it again. I didn’t try the v-neck, because it looked like a pretty high cut one, which isn’t better on me.
I’d rate the difficulty on this pattern as medium. The front piece is a little tricky, and there are a million little darts and pleats. It’s not hard, but it is time consuming. I would recommend either a lighter fabric or a stretch woven. Definitely not a stiff fabric (no idea why the envelope is recommending taffeta!)
Ultimately I think that while I enjoy 40s patterns, they never look as good on me as some other eras. All the pretty draping and ruching never looks right for some reason, and they don’t have the fuller skirts that I love (I know this is due to WWII era fabric restrictions). I feel like gathering around a bodice just adds bulk to my waist, and I don’t have an enormous difference between my bust and waist anyway, so I like to emphasize what I have. This style makes me look a little boxy. I never think of that when I’m sewing, but occasionally I’ll end up with a garment that makes me look that way.
I did make some fun changes to the hem and neckline, choosing to use a hem band and a bias binding:
Is anyone else with me on the facing hatred? I think the above finish looks so much neater, even if it does take longer. I made a 2 inch hem band to finish the bottom, but couldn’t get decent photos. It’s a good option for when you can’t afford to lose anymore length.
Moving on, I’ve been sewing this dress:
It’s nearly finished, and unlike my sad 1940s dress I really love it! I will get photos when I can… right now I can only get them on weekends, as I’m in rehearsal or class most nights.