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Re-vamped retro-repro

A couple of weeks ago, I featured a dress made from the first pattern I ever drafted.

For a refresher, this is what it looks like:

It had some issues. The neckline wasn’t quite right. The collar didn’t sit properly. The waistline was too high. The skirt didn’t hang evenly. But there were enough good points to this old pattern that I felt it was worth my while to re-draw it and try again.

A good general-purpose shirtwaister pattern
Here’s the updated version. I cut it with a little more generous ease. I lengthened the bodice by almost 2″. I cut the cuffs in two pieces instead of four. Likewise the collar is shaped to the neckline and cut in two pieces. Most of what I did to change up the pattern has to do with re-contouring the neckline and lengthening the bodice.
side view (no side zip)
It’s a very typical post-war shirtwaister, with the longer skirt that marked acceptance of the New Look influence, but a pared-down silhouette that owed much to the wartime fabric shortages. Still, a certain softness in the fabric and styling proclaimed that the wartime boxiness was a thing of the past.

One of the best things about this pattern, now that it has been updated and corrected for beginner’s errors, is that this bodice could potentially be used with different style skirts for an entirely different look. One could use a full gathered or pleated skirt for that full-blown New Look look, or a pencil skirt for the other predominant silhouette of the era, a figure-conscious shift dress. One could re-draft on these contours for a back-zipping dress, and different collars, cuffs, waistbands, yokes, or pockets could be applied for a pretty broad range of effects. It’s now a good, basic bodice upon which many styles could be based.
1950s Singer 328 page 2
Very similar dresses show up in this little illustration in an early-1950s Singer sewing machine owner’s manual.
1950s Singer demo

One thing that I will be adding to this specific dress is a matching gingham belt. I cut a piece of scrap and some heavyweight interfacing, and I have a nice little fabric-covered ring buckle that came to me already in the right shade of red. I think a belt will be the perfect finishing touch on this dress.

Speaking of postwar, I finally finished this dress:
1948 McCall 6961 front 2
I’ve had this pattern for probably 8 years; I remember buying it at a junk shop not very long after I moved to Kansas City, and figured I’d eventually try it out.

1948 repro front1948 repro back
It also took a little bit of help from:
1946 Advance 3001 front
1946 Advance 3004
Since the fabric was so sheer, a full slip was imperative. I also had some pretty crepe-backed satin and any quantity of “nude” lingerie lace that made up beautifully.
Mitred lace detail
1948 McCall's 6961
bodice detail
I’m overall pretty happy with how this dress turned out, though it would have been better in a solid fabric. The structure of the dress is busy enough that a print comes out a little fussy and takes away some of the design impact of the cut of the dress itself. Also, I think this nylon chiffon was a little too stiff and simultaneously slippery. It doesn’t drape quite as nicely as one might wish. I have a length of rust-colored rayon crepe that I will use this pattern on another time, and I think that will be just about perfect.

5 Responses to “Re-vamped retro-repro”

  1. planetmort says:


  2. Gayle says:

    These are both great, but the second one looks utterly fantastic on you.. and you have the right shoes too!

  3. meetzorp says:

    Thank you!

    Unfortunately, I can’t actually wear those shoes. I wore ’em long enough to model the dress, but I can’t walk in them, and they make my feet hurt really, really badly after only a little while. I have a pair of flats that are about the same color that will look pretty good with it.

    The other shoes, the black ones, are decommissioned tap shoes, and they’re actually not too bad to wear, though they are almost worn out. I’ll probably get a new pair one of these days and get half-soles and heel caps put on them to extend their wearability.

  4. SewDucky says:

    LOL okay then, I’ll come over and steal the brown shoes for you.

    Love the dresses, and I think I will go hate you for being so skinny now. But fantastic job on the dresses, I love the red one and I think a belt would be perfect.

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