Monday, 5 January 2015

Christmas dress and Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge

As it's Twelfth Night, I better get a post up for my Christmas dress. I'd intended to use this fabric for a dress last year, but ran out of fitting time (so ended up making a dress in knit velour), so thought this year I could use the retro inspired print in combination with a vintage pattern to tick off another item for my Vintage Pattern Pledge. It's seen in these photos with a new Luxulite brooch, which was a present from my husband (he found amusing that I'd pointed out to him what I wanted, but had genuinely managed to forget about it!). Also all the photos feature the essential accessory of a champagne glass, what could be more Christmassy...

Pattern description

Advance 6338: dress with dropped waist, V-neck, cut-on cap sleeves and four-gore semi-circular skirt.

Pattern sizing

Size 17 (half-sizing), bust 35", hip 38". Having just looked up this sizing to write the blog post, it explains why this was so small on me when I made a muslin - I think I must have been at the pre-Christmas Bailey's as I'd misread the sizing as 38" bust.

Fabric used

Novelty-print quilting cotton, plus white poly-cotton batiste for bodice lining and red poly/acetate for skirt lining (can't remember fibre content as I bought it ages ago).

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope when you were done?

Fairly similar, although it isn't as close-fitting between bust and shoulder as the envelope drawings indicate, or as low-cut.

Were the instructions easy to follow?

I didn't honestly do more than glance at them as the original dress is unlined with facings, whilst I was making it fully lined. It's a fairly basic dress so not particularly hard to construct, although the one unusual feature with this pattern is that the seam allowances were given as 1/2" (1.25cm) rather than the more usual 5/8" (1.5cm).

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?

I really like the shape the drop-waist gives, especially on me. Since putting on a bit of weight, my natural waist has moved up a bit, due to what is euphemistically described in fitting books as a full high hip at the back. This throws off my proportions, especially with a fit and flare type silhouette which I find generally most flatting on me with dresses. However, the drop waist seems to visually lengthen my narrowest part, although I think in a less patterned fabric only a slight drop would be most flattering.

I didn't like the drafting of the neckline - it is a straight line from shoulder seam to lowest point, which always looks a bit odd on the body. I changed this on the back neckline, but for some reason didn't for the front neckline, I don't really know why! The drafting of the cut-on sleeves seemed a bit odd too - very narrow at the back compared to the front. However, this was exaggerated by fit issues, which I didn't really work on, plus fudging the alterations to un-petite the bodice as I was making it in a rush. The pattern is also unprinted, which I always find tend to be a little less accurate with the markings of darts and notches.

Pattern and fit alterations or any design changes you made

The bodice fit was pretty good in terms of shape, it was just too small. Whilst muslining it, I found that it fitted pretty much perfectly just by adding width at the side seams, although I also needed to lower the armscyes and the side bust darts (i.e. fudging the de-petiting as mentioned above). I reshaped the waist darts front and back to fit closer to my waist, and lowered the dart tip on the front (although it's still a little high). I also added a little at the shoulder point on the back bodice, moved the zip to the CB as I prefer this to a side zip, and shortened the skirt (at the hem) by about 10cm.

Construction details

The skirt portion was made first so that it could hang for the bias portions to drop before hemming, and I used Trena's method for lining the bodice. I actually hand-picked my zip, as the only one of a suitable colour wasn't invisible, and I was concerned a lapped zip would look a bit odd at the top where it met the point of the V. However, I hate the lines of stitching with a machine-inserted centred zip, and also fortunately find handsewing rather therapeutic. I'd intended to put a hook and eye at the top of the zip (which is why it starts a little low), but ran out of time.

Seam allowances were pinked on enclosed seams in the bodice, and serged on the skirt. The darts and side seam allowances were clipped several times at the waistline to stop any pulling.

I'd always intended to add trim at the neckline, and settled on plain satin ribbon, which I applied by hand with a pick stitch. Whilst the skirt had been hanging I rather liked the peek of red lining at the bottom, so added the satin ribbon at the hem too.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?

To be honest I probably won't sew this pattern again, certainly not in the near future, as it needs a lot of fiddling with the fit in the upper bodice. However, I will try a dropped waist again, plus it reminded me how much I like half-circle skirts.


I really enjoyed wearing this dress on Christmas Day - it was comfortable enough to eat and drink (lots of that was done)), plus was pleasantly swishy whilst moving around (not so much of that though), and certainly more comfortable to wear than last year's red velour number. However, it is extremely Christmassy, and therefore not versatile AT ALL, despite two or three days' of work going into it. Next year I'll still make a "festive" dress, but either make it a bit more simple (I really do love my novelty Christmas dresses - my favourite was an Elvis Christmas card print... Which I wore to work...), or try and keep it a bit more versatile - I'm loving the idea of a sparkly dress or something glamorous in green velvet.

I'm giving myself a pass mark on the Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge. I said I wanted to sew three patterns, and I did make (nearly) five dresses from three patterns, although three of those were from the same pattern, and one is languishing in UFO limbo.

Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge

I made three versions of Simplicity 5237: the original blue version, the Sew Dolly Clackett version, and the yellow wedding guest version. The blue version, embarrassingly, has never been worn. I find the sleeves a bit awkward. They make it too warm for a summer dress, but I can't wear a cardie or jacket over them for cooler days. Ooh, I've just thought - I can try it with long sleeves underneath. Need to check if it still fits first... The Dolly Clackett version hasn't been worn much, but mostly because it was a pretty crappy summer here so none of my summer dresses have been worn much! Before next summer I need to reverse engineer a lining (or possibly a sort of underlining) for the skirt as the quilting cotton I used is not the best quality so catches on itself and sort of rides up my legs when I walk. I also need to adjust the fit of the bodice, in the same way as for the yellow version, to shape the front waist darts (and seaming) closer to my shape, plus lowering the armscyes.

The vintage pattern that hasn't been seen yet is Simplicity 7981, which I've semi-made up in doubleknit - the photo below shows the bodice just basted, but I've since attached the long sleeves (all kinds of ugh) and skirt (which is rather nice). I didn't make a muslin, which means it needs some serious fitting adjustments (exacerbated by making it up in a stretch fabric rather than a woven), mostly in the armscyes/shoulders (I think a lot of the problems are also from weird 1960s drafting too). I will come back to this in the next couple of months though as it will be a nice cosy dress for the winter, if a bit Trekkie (not that there's anything wrong with that).

A photo posted by Dilly (@dibulous) on

As always, the "pressure" of it being a "challenge" has meant I've dithered about choices too much, but it's reminded me of the lovely patterns I own. I think this year I will make up some of the separates and jackets, as these are more versatile than dresses most of the time.

I'll leave you with this lovely view from our flat of the sunset on Christmas Eve, featuring the traditional Firmenich building Christmas tree!


  1. Oooh, I somehow missed your red and yellow #vinatgepledge dresses but have now added them to Pinterest

    You've made some beautiful dresses...I hope you'll take part again this year! I'll be announcing details on my blog this Friday :o)

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