Cool, comfy, and amazing day dresses for women of the 50's are as classic as a '57 Chevy - both are still oh so dramatic. No wonder their popularity never goes out of style. Who doesn't like a taste of glamor for everyday use?
My 1957 striped cotton dress has been long in coming to completion, and now it is such a joy and relief that I finally get to wear a project visualized 6 years ago. (I had kept my sales receipt tucked in with my striped fabric, so I can see a nearly fading date of February 6, 2007!) Everything about this dress makes me so happy - from the fit to the neat color combo.
FABRIC: 3 yards of orange, red, and coral striped 100% cotton, bought at Wal-Mart for 99 cents a yard. For the lining, I used 3 yards of a light orange 100% cotton broadcloth, recently bought at Hancock Fabrics for $1.79 a yard.
NOTIONS: I only had to buy a matching zipper and a spool of thread for the dress
PATTERN: My dress is a combo of Vintage Vogue 8789 (year 1957) for the bodice, and McCall's 5390 (modern OOP), view A, for the skirt half and waistband. The pattern pictures are below.
TIME TO COMPLETE: This dress was finished on July 1, 2013, with about 20 hours of time to get it done.
THE INSIDES: All my seams, except for the waist and the bottom band "hem", are covered with orange bias tape, which I had on hand. The waistband is covered by the excess fabric from the bodice (I'll explain this later) and the dress/skirt "hem" is covered by the contrast direction strip of fabric which is turned under, encasing any raw edges.
I chose to switch up the original skirt in the Vintage Vogue with the one in my McCall's pattern because I wanted a more structured look, one with a fun play on the stripes, and something with more interest. I think I succeeded. Besides, it's hard for me to resist changing something so as to put my personalization into all my garments!
After checking many reviews (and there are many), all from amazing people who have whipped up their own version of VV8789, I came to the conclusion that the bust needs fitting for smaller sized women, and also has generous ease. To remedy these obstacles, I went down a size for my bodice and marked my bust darts a size smaller than the bodice's size. That type of adjustment is my go to favorite for generous busted patterns and -hot dog- it worked like a charm on my '57 striped dress as well. The bust, bodice, and the shoulders all fit me perfectly. As I say, just know what measurements feel comfy for you, read the finished garment sizes, and decide from there for your own sewing.
The stripes were so fun to match! I am getting to the point where stripes and plaids are no longer an intimidating menace...just a chance to show what I can do with my talent. With all those colors I didn't have to be too exact, just close enough with the main color, bolder stripes.
My dress' skirt portion was easy to sew together (due to being able to match stripes easily), but it ends up being not as easy to keep together. This is THE only thing I have sewn that gets constant ironing. I want the pleats to stay nice and crisp, but, being a cotton, prolonged sitting soon disturbs my pressing job. So, please pardon the wrinkles in this back shot, my back pleats often do look quite nice.
The waistband from the McCall's skirt pattern seemed the only real challenge to completing my striped dress. It's curved to fit nicely around the waist; however, this was sort of a problem when a heavy skirt and the bias of the fabric are involved. The top of my waistband (where it attaches to the bodice) wants to stretch out and hang disproportionately compared to the waistband bottom (where it joins to the skirt). By raising the waistband sides up about 1 1/2 inches higher than where the waistband is at the center (front and back), the hang of the bias seems a bit equalized and the pleats stick out nicely.
Besides the waistband adjustments, it was tricky to figure out where to add on the bottom to the bodice. At first I sewed the two together at the bottom of the bodice. That placement was entirely too long...this Vintage Vogue has a lengthened torso. So, to get the right fit, the waistband was sewn on, lapped seam style, at 5 inches (more at the sides) above the end of the bodice. I took advantage of the excess fabric on the inside to tack the bodice ends down by hand stitching to the bottom of the waistband, creating a smooth feel against my skin and stabilizing the middle of my dress from drooping or stretching out.
Like I did for my 1946 cotton fake-wrap dress, the side zipper for this dress was also lengthened to go all the way up to the end of the underarm seam (see picture above left). It makes vintage dresses so much less of a circus trick to wiggle in and out of when dressing. I also did the same type of bias closure to cover the zip from my skin and keep it in place. I had two very small strips of orange bias tape leftover. I used one to sew a snap onto and use it to end off the zipper under my arm, while the other strip is my marker to make the back of my dress easy to identify (see above right picture of my dress from the inside). By the way, all the inside facing that you see around the neckline and armholes...I sewed all of that to the lining by hand stitching to keep it invisible. Whew! Talk about getting hand cramps!
I find the style of my dress to be flattering and a classic 50's style, especially the wide V neckline paired with the slightly off shoulder sleeves. Without even looking, I have happened to come across a few images and original photographs of other women's dresses from the middle 50's which also have mitered stripes like mine. This makes me realized that my dress is a bit more historically accurate than I expected.
My favorite original photo comes from the June/July 2009 issue of Reminisce Magazine. I noticed it paging through my dad's collection at their house one night. The lady's dress looks so very similar to my own. Just to clarify, this photo was taken in 1956, and is of Jeanette McLain with her two daughters, at Point Loma National Cemetery. There is a magnificent view of San Diego Bay behind them.
This second picture from a 50's advertisement also is similar to my striped dress. The skirt portion here is closer to the original Vintage Vogue pattern than my version.
We did a number of photos of my '57 striped dress, at different locations. Most of the pictures for this post come from our trip a county pumpkin patch. Our other pictures (at right) were taken at a retro ice cream shop, newly renovated, with yummy hand made treats, and - best of all- practically up the street! I thought the vintage gas pumps were the proper spot for my retro dress!
All I needed was a '57 Chevy to pull up next to me!
I can totally see why Vintage Vogue 8789 is still in print for so long - it is certainly a great pattern. Hopefully this blog might inspire or help you to make your own version of a '57 classic!