The “All Buttoned Up” Dress

The Theme
Last week on Sew Weekly, it was all about the buttons! (Does anyone else get a bit nervous when buttons are involved??)

The Facts

  • Fabric: Around 3 metres of brown floral craft cotton, $4 per metre from Spotlight
  • Pattern: Simplicity 3407
  • Year: 1940
  • Notions: 11 self-covered 14mm buttons (half a gift from a friend, the other half around 20c from an op shop) and a vintage hook and eye
  • Time to complete: 11 hours (lots of handsewing plus a good hour covering those there pesky buttons!)
  • Will I wear it? Definitely!
  • Total price: $12.20

The Story
Late last year, a group of girls from the Sew Weekly’s sewing circle online community got together and held a pattern swap, where we each sent someone else a mystery pattern. I was lucky enough to receive a gorgeous package from the amazing Debi over in Scotland. (Thanks, Debi!) In it, amoungst other things, was Simplicity 3407, from Debi’s favourite fashion era (and one I’ve become increasingly more fond of over the past year), the 1940’s. Check it out:

I mean seriously, how adorable is this pattern? Pockets, sash waist, insets, shirt dress, gathers – everything about it is adorable, and I’ve been wanting to make it ever since I laid eyes on it.

As soon as I heard this week’s theme was buttons, I made a bee-line for this pattern, determined to make an amalgamation of versions 1 and 2. I used the button front and the darted sleeve head from version 2, and the pockets, short sleeve length, sash belt and cuffs from version 1.

This fabric was a find over the Christmas holidays, when my mother and I headed into Spotlight down in Dunedin during their sale. It was down to $5 a metre, then another 30% off that. Score! Clearly, it had to go home with me, so I bought the last of the bolt. (I also bought the last of about 4 other different fabric bolts. I suspect I made their sales staff happy, as they didn’t have to put things back on the shelves. Hah.) Yep, I had myself a little spending spree. And then two days later, I made a New Year’s Resolution not to buy any new fabric (second-hand is ok) in 2012. Perhaps I made that resolution as a kind of penance….

Anyway, it was a toss up between this brown vintage floral craft cotton, or a pink craft cotton with icons of cars and trains all over it for this dress. A quick wander into the kitchen to ask the boy and his friend which one they thought I should use, and the brown floral was a hands-down winner. (I like to get external input when making decisions, just for the added fun of it. :-) )

Since it was a button challenge, I decided to push myself a bit and attempt something I’ve been slightly scared of trying for a while – self-covered buttons. I buy these things whenever I see them in op shops, and have been amassing a bit of a collection, but I’ve never been brave enough to try them. This was clearly the challenge for it! 11 of the dratted things, even. Some a gift from a friend, some from an op shop. Yes, it took ages, but you know what? It wasn’t that bad, and I was getting the hang of it by a few buttons in. In fact, I’m gonna do it again sometime soon. I’ve decided I quite like the look of fabric-covered buttons, after all that.

The Pattern
The pattern itself was nice and easy to make up. Aside from doing a frankenstein of the two variations, I didn’t really make any adjustments to it at all. I didn’t even bother with my usual small bust adjustment, figuring (correctly) that the gathers at the bottom of the bodice would be fine even with a small bust. The only thing I did differently was move the buttons in towards the centre a bit more – I used smaller ones than the pattern called for, and if I’d left them with their original placements there would have been an oddly wide gap between the centre front edge and the buttons.

But, if it was easy to make up, why on earth did it take 11 hours to make?!?

Well, firstly, those covered buttons. That took me an hour, by the time I cut out all the little circles of fabric, decided the template was slightly too small and recut them all larger, then did the gather-tie-cover thing. An hour, but a worthy hour, I reckon.

Then there was the hand sewing. I was a good little seamstress this time – I hand-stitched the inside collar to the dress, and did a hand-stitched blind hem as well. I also invisibly stitched the cuffs to the sleeve to keep them upright. I’m not the fastest hand sewer in the world, so this all took a wee while to do. Time versus feeling virtuous. This was one of the rare occasions where virtue won out – maybe I’ve been influenced by Debi a bit much?!?

The Verdict
I really like this dress. It feels a bit demure, but that’s almost part of the fun, in it’s way. I figure it’s a year-round type one as well – light enough for summer (or what’s passing for summer this year), but with the colours I can wear it with tights, a merino top and a cardigan or jacket for winter.

As for the pattern – I’m a fan! I’m planning on making it up again, possibly in some sort of lightweight wool in version 2 for winter. One of these days I’m going to try version 1 as well, just as soon as I get my hands on a zip that’s long enough……

The Photos
We were a bit late for the photos this time, so they’re taken at dusk out back of the house. That’s Steve’s car beside me – we named it Moon Unit, just like one of Frank Zappa’s kids. (Why on earth would you name your child Moon Unit?!? That I’ve never understood. Unless too much LSD was involved.)

Just for the fun of it, here’s a few photos of some of the details of the dress.

Pointed sleeve cuff


Insets at front bodice waistline, with gathers above them


Self-covered buttons! Turns out they blend in so well, you can barely see them

17 responses to “The “All Buttoned Up” Dress

  1. I ABSOLUTELY ADORE this dress! The fabric is perfect…I love the details of this pattern too (the tie waist with the neat side insets, the pointed sleeve cuff, the gathered buttons!!! YAY! You look fabulous and i love how well your shoes match too!

  2. I really love this one too and I think it really suits you. I am so jealous that you have perfectly matching shoes too! :)

  3. Gorgeous! I think Moon Unit got off easy compared to Dweezil….

  4. I love the detail on the dress, it just makes it even more perfect! The 11 hours were very well spent!

  5. It’s so lovely!! It suits you very well, and I adore your self covered buttons!

  6. Wow, I love it – pretty details. I am dying to try a 40’s pattern. Great buttons too.

  7. You are getting seriously good at your sewing now Kat!!!! I am very impressed!

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