Vintage Sheath Dress
Posted on Tuesday the 18th February 2020 by Pretty Handsome Everyday
This dress was such a lovely, simple project and the finished dress has a really polished and elegant feel, which I’m really thrilled with.
The fabric for this make is an absolutely gorgeous, soft cotton. It’s a dusky pink colour with little floral and paisley-esq fan motifs all over. Paisley is one of my favourite designs and my favourite colour is of course pink so as soon as I saw this combo I knew it was going to be in next project!
The pattern I chose to use with this fabric was a 1950s re print, Simplicity 8980, which is a sheath dress design with sleeves in one and added bow and belt details. However, I made a schoolgirl error and didn’t take into account the directional print when ordering my fabric, so I was slightly short! I had my heart set on this sheath style dress with sleek lines and little bow so I searched through my patterns for a similar style and came across New Look 6261. Version B of this New Look pattern is a slightly boat necked, pencil dress style. Both patterns have got one pattern piece for the front and back therefore not separating the bodice and skirt which I really wanted to do as I regularly sew bodice and skirt pieces separately so was interested in a change.
There were only a few alterations I needed to make for the New Look pencil dress to resemble a more vintage sheath dress - I lengthened the pattern to just under the knee as it was designed to finish above the knee, and I swapped the recommended invisible zip for a lapped zip. When finished I intended to add the little bow at the neck and a self belt the belt from the Simplicity pattern.
Sewing the dress – New Look 6261
Even if I’ve sewn a pattern brand before I always double check my measurements on the envelope and the pattern itself because the size I need to sew is often dependent on the style of the dress. With this dress, I wanted a semi-fitted look but also bearing in mind I was also intending to wear it as an everyday dress therefore didn’t want it as strictly fitted and restricting as I might make a evening dress. Also, given the time of year, I wanted to be able to wear it layered with tights and a polo neck underneath (or at least a thick vest!) so I needed to allow enough ease for that.
The dress pattern itself was a great, straight-forward sew – it has one pattern piece for the front (cut on the fold) and one of the back (separately). The darts in the bust, front midriff, and back all gently shape the dress, and the neckline and armholes are finished with facings. I added a lapsed zip, although an invisible zip would also make a crisp, modern finish.
The Gutermann thread I was using was a superb match for the fabric colour – nearly invisible against it, so I did consider machine stitching my hem, but decided for the true vintage feel I should hand stitch it. I turned the hem up once and pressed it, then turned it up again so the raw edge was encased and slip stitched the fold in place.
Adding the details – Simplicity 8980
When the main dress was finished I turned to my 1950s re print pattern and cut out the little bow to attach to the neckline. I considered adding this in a different fabric as a contrast however in the end I didn’t want to restrict myself to one matching colour as the dress has a couple of different hues that I might want to coordinate accessories with it in future.
The bow is a simple enough design – a long, narrow rectangle stitched right sides together and then turned out. It is easily attached to the dress by machine stitching down the centre of the folded bow. I also included the layer of front neckline facing in my stitching so the bow is held with extra strength and this also keep the facing down at the front.
My only recommendation would be to leave your opening gap for turning the bow right side out quite near the end of the edge rather than the centre because where I have slip stitched the edges together you can see it at the front, whereas you could have it hidden toward the back of the bow and so less visible when finished and attached to the dress.
I then used the belt pattern to cut my fabric. I also added interfacing to my belt, although it wasn’t instructed on the pattern, but I wanted it have that extra structure. I chose a buckle from my collection (easier said than done! Co-ordinating or contrasting? Prong or pull-through?). I eventually chose a small, pronged buckle in a matching bronze colour, which is reflected in the colours of the paisley print. For the belt holes I used my sewing machine to sew little circular holes. You could use metal eyelets but I just felt the sewn variety suited this style and era of dress.
The finishing touch was to add my Kylie and the Machine woven label inside.
I’ve struggled with getting a sleek fit with this style of dress before but I think I’ve concurred that issue with this dress. I’m so happy with how it’s turned out - the style and fabric are both as fabulous sewn up as I hoped they would be. I’m already thinking of making this dress again in a dark cotton or scuba fabric for work.
Thanks for reading and happy sewing!