I’m drawn at a cellular level to reproduction patterns. I can’t get enough of them. Even though my pattern drawers are overflowing, and I’ve had to start stashing my purchases in MAC makeup bags in the closet (which, incidentally, are the perfect size for patterns), I still buy them before I can stop myself. I’ll be at Jo-Ann Fabrics minding my own business, “Just a zipper today,” I tell myself. And then I see that 5 for $5 sign and immediately find 5 I don’t own, and some fabric to go with them.
Have I sewn up any of them? No. Why? Mainly because I’ve been having babies and my size keeps changing, and I’ve been waiting until my waist gets back to a proportion that I feel suits the silhouette best. Which is lame. I’m calling shenanigans on myself, and starting to make them up, enough so that I have a closetful of pretty everyday dresses. Hopefully enough to avoid ever wearing dreaded shorts and feel my skin rip off a swing when I stand up, or hear my legs squeak as I get stuck going down a slide.
A lot of bloggers have been sewing these up the last few years. So many of them do an amazing job of keeping to period and wearing them with a waist cincher, a petticoat, heels, lipstick, the whole nine yards. And I adore that look. I really do. I want to be Betty Draper in Season 1 of Mad Men so badly. But I know that if I truly want these to be worn as daily dresses in my life, I’m not going to be wearing them with out of the ordinary undergarments and pumps that would sink in the mud and woodchips at the playground. I need them washable, shortened to a length that also looks good with ballet flats, and necklines that allow for a normal bra.
I started with one that has lines so simple, I really am ashamed I didn’t start with my own sloper and just draft a circle skirt myself. Butterick 5748 is a reproduction of pattern from 1960. If you’ve always adored these patterns from afar, this is seriously one of the easiest patterns to jump in and make yourself. The fitting couldn’t be more simple, just a few bodice darts. You may want a helper to check to see if the waist and shoulders are sitting where they should, but really, that’s it. I had a few yards of lightweight denim I had intended for pants, but once it was prewashed, it was clearly too lightweight to be used that way. I tweaked the dart location for my own fitting quirks, making sure my bust point landed where the cross hatch indicates on the pattern, raised the back neckline to allow for a normal bra, and cut away.
A side rant about the cutting that you can definitely skip reading if you want to: The pattern lists an insane amount of yardage, and an incredibly stupid cutting layout. I have a friend who has a conspiracy theory that the marker makers diagramming the layouts are in cahoots with the fabric manufacturers to make sure that you use as much fabric as possible to sell you more. I’ve always thought that was taking things a bit far until I saw this layout. For one thing, why lay out the pieces sideways? You couldn’t use the majority of prints or napped fabrics, which are always done down the length of the fabric (unless you’re doing upholstery). The only reason I can fathom is that maybe it also was laid out this way originally for much narrower fabric, as was typical back then. Using 60″ fabric has you losing almost half your width down the entire yardage. Maybe they wanted to avoid a center front seam, since the skirt length was long enough to not be able to get it out in one piece across 45″. Maybe they wanted the straight grain down the side seam to be able to set the zipper down a stable grain. (I can also not see the reason for the center back seam on either the skirt if using their sideways layout, or the bodice at all since it has a side closure; but I didn’t realize that until after I cut.) I can’t say for certain what they were thinking. Using a denim that had no nap or directional print, I went ahead and folded up the extra inches I didn’t want, nested the skirt pieces and cut like this:
Which enabled me to cut the whole dress out of just under 2 yards instead of 3.5-4. Literally using half their suggested yardage.
And to the sewing: If you’re a beginner, sew it up as is and you’ll be fine. I wanted a bit of finessing, so I drafted and cut a facing front and back so you wouldn’t see a lining at the notches or around the armsceyes. I also interfaced my facing pieces so it would keep these areas from stretching out of shape, and make them sit nice and flat on the body. I added stay tape on the bodice pieces as well to ease in the neckline a bit and make it hug, and added interfacing around the notches on the face fabrics to keep the points crisp. I stole a pocket pattern from a different dress and added on seam side pockets, because duh. Pockets. And faced them with a strip of my face fabric so again you wouldn’t see the lining fabric the rest of the pocket is made from. I topstitched all the edges for fun and to keep everything neatly in place during washing and wearing, as I intend to wear this as literally the “jeans” version of a dress.
About the zipper: I debated invisible or single lapped zipper in the side seam, and lapped won. For one, I hate trying to zip an invisible through a waist seam. They hesitate, you pull at the bottom and suck in and pull with all your might, and half the time end up zipping your side fat into the teeth and scream. And then they sometimes break and pull apart and you have to replace it anyways. I also looked at the box of my grandma Betty’s vintage zippers, and went to the fabric store to buy a new one instead. As much as my sentimental heart wanted to add something of hers into a vintage dress, the only thing I can imagine worse than catching your side fat into an invisible zipper is catching your side fat into a metal zipper. So a plain modern plastic zipper with a single lap it was. Easy enough to install and very easy to wear.
Yes, I did end up putting on lipstick and red heels for photos. Because it’s just fun. But I also test drove the length, and it easily works with my collection of ballet flats on days when I want to take the kids to the zoo or the park. Which is exactly how I want to be able to spend my spring and summer. Lets just ignore the meteorologists that are predicting snow for this afternoon, and pretend it’ll stay this warm, mmkay?
Love from Wisco in the springtime,