The “Lovebirds” Dress


The Facts

Pattern: McCalls 4185
Year: 1953
Fabric: craft cotton, gift from my mother
Notions: 8 buttons and a snap fastener, all from my stash
First worn: to my grandparents 60th wedding anniversary celebration
Wear again: yes, after I make a couple of adjustments
Verdict on the pattern: Reasonably easy and fast to put together. Pleats at the skirt waistline do tend to make one look a bit bigger around the hips, sadly.
Adjustments made: Extended the front button placket and removed the side zipper.
Anything I’d do differently next time? Probably convert those waistline pleats into darts to reduce some of the volume.


Back in early February, we had a pretty fabulous excuse to travel down South for a big family get-together. It was my grandparents 60th wedding anniversaary! Seriously, how gorgeous is that?!?

Last year, my grandfather told me about when he met my grandmother. They both attended a community dance – my grandmother was on holiday with her friends, and my grandfather had traveled there with his friends, so neither of them were from the town where the dance was held. My grandfather spotted my grandmother from across the room, wearing “a pretty lemon dress” and the rest, as they say, was history! (I love that my grandfather has such fond memories of a yellow dress, over 60 years after seeing it.)

Naturally, I had to indulge myself and make a dress to wear to their Diamond anniversary dinner

And since my grandmother was wearing a yellow dress when they met, I made a yellow dress to wear. My lovely mother bought this fabric for me as a surprise, especially to use to make a dress for the anniversary dinner. (Thanks, mum!)

They got married in 1953, so I went hunting through my pattern stash for a dress pattern from 1953. (And can I just say how incredibly useful it was at this point, having a lot of my patterns recorded? All I had to do was search for ‘1953’ and I immediately discovered which patterns I had and could choose which one to use. Brilliant!)

McCalls 4185

My original plan was to make the full skirted style, but there wasn’t enough fabric, so I deviated from my usual style (eek!) and went with the straight skirt version. It’s odd, but I feel so much more ‘formal’ in a straight skirt! (Who would have thought a bright-yellow-dress-with-pink-birds would be considered ‘formal’?!?) As a result, I’m struggling a bit with trying to figure out where to wear this one – I love it, but it doesn’t seem casual enough for a weekend dress, and I’m worried this may even be a little bit too OTT for the office…. (Not that that’s stopped me before, but hey.) Anyone got any suggestions for how to style it/wear it??

Please ‘scuse the slightly damp-looking top of the button placket. It got chewed on by the Little Man during the speeches. Hey, whatever keeps him quiet, right?!


The pattern itself was reasonably easy to put together. I graded it while cutting to my current measurements and just went for it. I was, however, very short on time (I may have sewn this up the morning of the anniversary dinner. In fact, it’s entirely possible that those buttons got sewn on after I was meant to be out there with the rest of the family. Oops.), and as a result I didn’t get a chance to make a couple of alterations before wearing it. The main issue? There’s just too much volume at the hips. The skirt is tuck-fitted rather than dart-fitted, so it poofs out a bit around that area (heck knows why you’d do that intentionally as part of the design?!), plus I added a bit more ease than I think I needed. But that’s easy enough to fix, and it’s now in my ‘to adjust’ pile. (I also need to finish them hem. Due to time constraints, I managed to overlock it and that was it. Yep, I wore an unfinished dress to a Diamond anniversary dinner. *sigh*)

Even though it’s not my usual colour or style, straight skirt and all, I rather like this dress. It’s bright and cheerful, and the little pink birds make me smile. πŸ™‚

(Now I just need to figure out if I can get away with it for work…. Hmmm…. Maybe I’m just out of practice at wearing bright dresses since I haven’t been able to fit into mine for ages…?!?!)


46 responses to “The “Lovebirds” Dress

  1. Pingback: McCall’s 4185 | Patterns patterns patterns

  2. You look wonderful in the straight skirt! It makes me want to try a straight skirt rather than one with pleats like I usually make. Fabulous hair style as well. What an amazing milestone your grandparents have reached. πŸ™‚

  3. bramblerosenat

    Love this dress! Love the fabric, love the story. I think it’s perfect for work, just team it with a cardi and your sweet!

    • Thanks darlin’! (I think I’m just out of practice with the whole work-wardrobe thing, haha! Guess I’ll have to figure that one out by next week….!!)

  4. It’s cute. Maybe a pink cardigan or jacket would make it seem more like a work outfit.

  5. i agree with the others above – it is fine for work especailly with a cardi. I love the straight look and am inspired to try a straight view of a dress in the works instead of the full skirt.

    • Thanks Sandra. You should definitely try a straight skirt version! Far more practical for the Wellington winds. πŸ˜‰

  6. I love this dress on you – the straight skirt is great! I also think it looks quite office appropriate as is!

  7. This is lovely. The colours are fab, I don’t often see that pinky with yellow….and it really suits you, love that it matches your hair. And how lovely you chose a pattern from 1953. Lovely.

    • Thanks Tempest. πŸ™‚ I must admit that I don’t usually go for yellow, but when matched with pink, well, that’s a different story altogether! πŸ˜‰

  8. Congrats to your grandparents! I love that dress on you; you look gorgeous. And your hair is so beautiful like that!

    • Thanks Donna! πŸ™‚ (Best thing about this hairstyle – it’s super fast and easy to do, and looks far more complicated than it is. It’s my new go-to style when I need to “dress up” and have no time, haha!)

  9. I think it looks perfect for work – I always feel a little but “overdressed” if I wear anything below the knee. Not sure if shortening it would help it feel less formal?

    • I have been considering shortening it…. Probably not to above the knee, but maybe just by 3 inches…. Hmmm….

  10. I’d say out of practice, it’s very sassy! But I totally get what you mean about slim skirts not feeling ‘weekendy’, I have the same issue!

    • Thanks lady! Yeah, I think my issue is this fabric is totally ‘weekend’ for me, but the style is ‘office’. Genre clash! Eek!!

      I may have to try wearing it to both the office and around-and-about one weekend, and see if I can make it work for both….

  11. It’s not too formal at all! You could wear that to the supermarket, the movies, play group, and definitely to work. I think it screams versatile!

    And I LOVE your hair do!

  12. This is just lovely on you!!!!

  13. this number is very flattering on you! the pleats look great, too. i think you’ve got a good balance of a more formal style with a less formal fabric, so it is work-appropriate and party-appropriate. well done – you may have created the perfect dress!!

  14. Cute! What a fun dress! And it’s so very sweet that your grandfather can remember the first dress he saw your grandma in! Happy 60th!

    • I know, isn’t that the most adorable thing?!? Just goes to show how much of an impression clothing can leave at times…. His whole face lights up when he talks about that dress of my grandmothers, it’s so adorable. πŸ™‚

  15. That’s a really sweet story, and it’s really great that you were able to construct a dress with so much meaning in your family history built in!

  16. I love this! The pleats work really well, IMO. I think it could totally be work appropriate – maybe with a black/other neutral cardigan to break up the OMG color? Or maybe I’m just biased by the fact that I do actually wear a lot of things like this to work. I feel like the colored hair already sort of pushes me to a “more is more” kind of look and just piling on more color fits with that. My rule of thumb for professional clothes is not so much that it has to be a particular style, but I do require that whatever combination I’m wearing look like it was more or less intentional and well thought out.

    • Haha, I’m the same – many many days will go by before I find myself wearing anything that’s a ‘neutral’ colour. πŸ˜‰ I like to think of it as adding a bit of colour and fun to the office.

      I suspect it’s largely because this is yellow that I’m having issues. I’m not really a yellow person. if it was bright pink, or purple, or red, or…..

      Oh well, everything can be toned down with a pink or purple cardigan, right?! πŸ˜‰

      • Bright pink can totally be a neutral! I’m partial to teal for that as well. It might go well with the yellow and magenta print – you’d have the full CMY triumvirate!

        I do think there’s something to the idea of certain colors just not looking great next to one’s face, and yellow is definitely one of those for me. It does weird things with a lot of complexions. I have a bright orange dress with similar problems – it’s a great dress, but neon orange next to my face isn’t necessarily flattering so I usually layer something over the top bit.

  17. I love the story behind the dress and it looks great on you – so elegant.

  18. Awesome dress Kat! And I love your hair, so, so well done.

  19. Your dress is gorgeous, really cheerful. And I am heading over to that hair tutorial now, thankyou.

  20. Pingback: Tiramisu! Finally | heteronormative lovefest

  21. Oh love!! I collect vintage patterns but have yet to sew from one. I haven’t found one that will fit my rear!!! Looks wonderful and love the modern fabrics.

    • Oh, thank you! πŸ™‚ (The full skirted 1950’s patterns are very forgiving for those of us with larger back halves, haha! πŸ˜‰

  22. I thought I’d commented on this dress, but clearly not! Its amazing Kat. The whole styling too. Love that you kept the length. Looks fabulous on you x

    • Aww, thank you! πŸ™‚ I must admit to still summoning up the nerve to wear it to work…. I think next week will be the week!

  23. I love this and definitely wear it to work. Its wonderful and the colour works so well with you and your colouring. Lucky thing.

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