Stretch woven · Vintage patterns

A dress from 1952

My first make from the 1951/1952 vintage pattern collection from the German Praktikus Modenblatt! After a lot of dithering, I’m doing it! No more procrastinating making alledgedly urgently needed jersey tops! No longer impersonating that donkey who starved facing two stacks of hay not being able to decide where to start eating! Huzzah!

Fabric and cutting out

15 August 2017

My dithering was abruptly brought to an end when I wondered into our local Fabric Land to get a wool needle, and saw this delicious stretch cotton sateen:


It shouts “Vintage!” – just picture a dress with a wide flared skirt and a big white collar. Belt, gloves and poodle optional.

So, I figured, 2.5m should be plenty, at 150cm width. Grab it. At home, having draped the lovely fabric in front of me, I set out picking a pattern for it from the magazines. Ah, there it is! Perfect.

This dress has clipped kimono sleeves with an under-arm insert – that’s much more comfortable to wear than ordinary kimono sleeves of this length. ​

But what does it say about fabric requirements? 5.35m at 90cm width. Will that translate into 2.5m at 150cm width? Hmmm. But in the worst case I could always pop into Fabric Land for a top-up, provided I don’t wait too long…​

Laying out the pieces on fabric, I realise that the extra 60cm in width has only one effect: it leaves me with a 60cm wide off-cut… 😐 This pattern has only three small pieces that can benefit from it: the under-arm triangle insert (32) and the front insert and facing (30, two patterns in one), while the white collar (35) being cut of a different cloth.​ So, I’m 2.5m short… quick – back to Fabric Land for more!

Ok, with that disaster averted, I am now left with a lot of large off-cuts, enough for a whole long-sleeved top, I reckon.

Just like that one. πŸ™‚ Kimono sleeves again (early 1950s have gone completely kimono, it seems!), but now cut off-shoulder, so the pieces will fit with my off-cuts. And a cute double peplum at the front! :-)​

This is actually a suit, or rather a two-piece dress outfit, but I’m just using the top. It’s one size too small for me, so some sizing is in order. They suggest a very simple method for doing it:​

​Simply cut your pattern as shown and lay it out or overlay it as necessary. I only need to change the width, because for some reason I failed to gain height as I was gaining weight*…

*Have you noticed how commercial patterns are sized? As the bust and waist circumferences increase with each following size, the back length also increases proportinally. These patterns are basically made for one and the same body type, only varying in overall size: petite, regular or tall. There are no sizes for short stout women like yours truly. I’m not sure about these vintage patterns yet, it’s difficult to compare different designs. But I intend to investigate it later.

The new top fitted easily onto the off-cuts. This was a real puzzle with pattern matching though! But fun. πŸ™‚

So now I thought – hang on, wouldn’t it be better to make the first dress as a two-piece outfit as well, so that I would get two tops to go with the matching skirt? Of course it would be better! And since both tops are cut at the waist, I can simply copy the lovely peplum onto the other top, and make the skirt on its own by just adding a waistband. Done! I’m going with it.

All the pieces have been cut (18 in total). All the pattern matching done (cut in single layer, so 36). The kettle is on. Let the sewing begin! πŸ˜€

The skirt

21 August 2017

First I made the skirt, as this is the simplest of the three pieces. I had to be creative with the pattern because it didn’t add up.

The pattern shows clearly that it is supposed to be cut on the fold (dashed line), and indeed we would not want to have a seam right at the front centre. ​However, the hem is 109cm long, making the skirt panel about 90cm wide, so unless your fabric is 190cm wide, you cannot cut this on the fold. So, you either have to switch to curtain material, or come up with an alternative idea. The authors must have noticed the problem: the write-up says to cut with a front centre seam. πŸ˜› I don’t think so.

This skirt has remarkable double pleats making it fall really well.

The two pleats are folded at an angle so that they start in one point and then diverge. They are stitched 10cm and then left to fold softly without pressing.


The open seam on the right is the centre seam. So the logical place to put a seam would be on the fold of the pleat nearest the centre. That aligns nicely with the wrap edge of the top, so great. Except that now that I decided to make two tops, it doesn’t align with the other one. Ok then, I’ll make a seam on the other side too, so that the central panel stands out. Hmmm, I better make it prominent, otherwise it will look like a mistake in the pattern (which, of course, it is!). But the flowers must still match up!


A bit of white piping does it. πŸ™‚ I finished the hem with piping too.


Of course this means there’s going to be piping all over the tops as well!

The original top

This is the top that was designed to be a part of the dress, so I had to add facing to the pattern, now that I decided to make it into a jacket. I also added peplum very much like on the other top, but a little shorter and just single. The back one is pretty much a copy of the other (I did make sure that the waist length was the same in both tops), but the front one needed to be extended a little in width because this top is double-breasted whereas the other one is single-breasted. Still, all easily done.

The complications started with the collar.


This top has a lovely double collar, but the pattern wasn’t cut correctly for it – there was no way to actually attach the upper collar to the lower one… And I quite like my collars attached!

So, after a bit of fumbling about, I figured there would be two ways to do it: either make the top without the upper collar, make a separate completely finished collar and hand-sew it onto the dress; or cut the lower collar (which is a reverse) along the breaking line, attach the upper collar in between and sew the rest shut matching up the flowers

I decided for method 2. I still had some sizable off-cuts and was able to cut new tips for the reverse collars with the right flowers. And this is how it fits together:

Oh yes, and there’s that piping again. The sewing of this collar very much reminded me of being back in college with our teachers coming up with more and more complex details for us to sew, for the sole purpose of torturing the students – we were sure of it! πŸ™‚ The patterns in this magazine don’t have difficulty ratings, but I would mark this one as “Advanced++”, especially since pattern corrections were required.

But back to the collar. Now that I had split it in two, I had to make sure the seam lay absolutely flat, also after it’s been through the wash. So I’ve blind-stitched it making sure to only catch a single thread of the fabric.​



And here it is on the right side:

Can you see the tucks? Look closely, it’s under magnification! I say that’s close to invisible. If someone comes up to you asking to examine your dress under magnification, well, you’ll know what to tell him, won’t you? πŸ˜‰

With the collar done, next were the sleeves with that triangular insert for under the arm.

How is that supposed to fit together? Well, the corner marked “front” goes into the sharp cut-out in the front, the corner marked “back” into the one on the back, and the third unmarked corner meets up both sides of the sleeve in the underarm seam. Clear? πŸ˜‰ β€‹

It’s very fiddly sewing because you have very small seam allowances inside that sharp cut-out – that space you see in the pattern is your entire allowance for both sides, and you will need to cut it right into the corner in order to make a turn. But once mastered, it does make for comfortable kimono sleeves.

So now the top is assembled! Minus the peplum, that is. That’s for tomorrow – peplum and buttons.

22 August 2017

It’s done! The first top is done, and with it the first outfit. The second top is for the following weekend!​​​

The second top

19 October 2017

The second top was done a while ago, then it hung for a few weeks waiting for buttons… Then it took a couple more weeks to get it photographed, but now it’s done!


This top has a double peplum at the front but not at the back. The sleeves are dropped shoulder kimono. I think I prefer clipped full kimono sleeves like in the first top – they fit nicer. That triangle under the arm really helps the comfort! I think for my next top, I would combine the two patterns: the body from No.2 and the sleeves from No.1, but full length like in No.2. I also quite like the slits on the inside of the sleeve – really comfortable fit without making too much of a “feature” out of it. And that double peplum is really sweet. πŸ™‚


I gave it a white collar with a braid design done with the underbraider. What fun!


21 thoughts on “A dress from 1952

  1. I can’t wait to see the skirt and tops!! They’re going to be so beautiful! I bet they’ll look absolutely stunning on you. πŸ˜€


  2. *GASP*!!!!!!! The finished first outfit is so lovely!! And it looks so good on you! WOW!!!!!!!!! So so pretty!!! And the amount of skill that went into all the problem solving is just amazing! The piping looks so good, everything turned out so well!!!!! Beautiful, absolutely beautiful, and you look so happy and adorable in it!!


    1. Thank you! πŸ˜€ I do like it. It fits well, and I did not alter the pattern at all. Also, this cotton sateen feels really soft, but quite warm, so haven’t worn it yet. But never mind – we are going into Autumn! Having looked through the other patterns in those magazines again, I can say that most of them are quite involved, with complicated details like this one. Not for beginners! I think it shows the level of skill at sewing that was common back then, because this was “every woman’s” magazine! I believe sewing as a skill died in 1980s, but it seems we are seeing a slow revival these days. But it skipped a generation.

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      1. You’re welcome! That cotton sateen must feel lovely! It’ll be great once Autumn rolls around, you’re right! And I think you’re also right about sewing as a skill dying out around the 1980’s. My mother taught my sisters and I some very basic hand sewing when we were children in the early 1990’s, and I’m really glad she did because it fueled my love of sewing and is a huge part of what made me want to start sewing again as an adult. I’d love to have the level of skill so many women seemed to have had back in the day! I’ll have to keep plugging at it and being patient. How long have you been sewing? I’m always so in awe of what you can do, both with sewing itself and sewing machines! How did you begin learning?


      2. I started needlework at the age of 2 or possibly earlier (I don’t remember it, obviously, but I’ve got a photo of me embroidering at the age of 2). My both grandmothers and my mother could sew, knit, crochet, embroider, you name it, they did it. So I learned from all of them. Later I went to college to learn tailoring – making my own patterns and sewing complicated details which my mum didn’t do but the grandma who did, had already died.


      3. Wow!!! That’s amazing!

        I’m sorry to hear about your grandma, by the way. *hug*


      4. That is a good long life! I have a great aunt (I believe) who is turning 100 next month, it’s mind boggling to imagine living that long, but it’s my personal goal. πŸ˜‰ There just isn’t enough time to get everything I want to do in life done otherwise! I think age/longevity can be a wonderful thing, wrinkles and all! Especially if you’re lucky enough to live a good long life, as you said, like your grandma did. Being able to experience so much of life and history and live to tell the tale is really a gift, in my mind! That said, being born in 1982, it still rattles me when I hear “young” people referring to clothing, music, etc, from the 80’s and 90’s as retro or vintage!


      5. I know, it’s weird. I’m from 1969, so “retro” 80s clothes is what I used to wear to uni, huge shoulder pads, punk chains and all the rest of it. (I didn’t stick to any particular style, I wanted them all! Searching for my own, I guess.) Mind you, a life like my grandma’s wasn’t easy: two world wars, hunger and depression in 1930s, then more hunger and hard work after the war… They got a tough piece of history to live in.

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      6. I’ve been the same fashion wise – not sticking to any particular style, just trying anything I could get my hands on that struck a chord with me. πŸ™‚

        You’re definitely right about that, it certainly was a tough piece of history to live in! All those wars, the depression, the almost non-stop struggle. As much as I love the fashions and films and books and all sorts of other things from those time periods, I wouldn’t want to have lived through them myself. They truly were difficult, harrowing times to say the least!


  3. The second top looks amazing!!! You did such a great job with it, I absolutely love it!


      1. You should be! Both tops look amazing, the skirt is gorgeous, you’ve done such a wonderful job and I can’t wait to see what you do next!!


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