Category Archives: 1940s

Buzzy Bees in the summer time

I had a very exciting moment over the weekend. I tried on one of my old dresses, and…. it fit!!!

And then I tried on some more. And they fit, too! I could get the zips done up and everything!!! For the first time in over four years (i.e. pre-babies). Very happy times!! Because I’ll admit it – I’ve been missing my wardrobe…!

Which meant I also got to drag one of my all-time favourite dresses out of the wardrobe to see the light of day for the first time in over four years. My Buzzy Bee 1940’s dress. Yippie! ๐Ÿ˜€

Buzzy Bees dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

I made this dress way waaaaay back when. Finished it on 27 January, 2009 in fact. Which was before I started blogging, so it’s never been posted on here. So here you go – a not-new-but-not-seen-before-on-the-blog dress.

This dress was my very first forey into vintage patterns. It’s made using Butterick 5214, a reproduction pattern from 1947 (now out of print).

The dress features an unusual front neckline, a halter neck (meant to fasten with a button but I stitched it closed as I could get it over my head easily anyway), and double angled darts on the bodice front. The bodice is lined (in my case, in a yellow poplin).

Buzzy Bees dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

The skirt has four gores, and a side seam-pocket on one side only. The dress fastens with a zip on the other side seam.

Buzzy Bees dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

I loved making this dress, and I love wearing it too! I always meant to make another one (in fact, I got part-way through making a second years ago, before realising the fabric just wasn’t quite right for me). Maybe now I’ll finally get around to it. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Buzzy Bees dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

Confession time: this was before I learnt to start paying attention to pattern placement. And I must admit that I wince a little at the bodice placement these days. (But not enough to not wear the dress, hah! My tolerance is quite high for that sort of thing I suspect.)

Buzzy Bees dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

Also – despite how it looks in a couple of photos, it does actually sit level. I think I may have accidentally tugged it down when putting my hand in the pocket. Or maybe it was a result of my little photobomber and his Minions pajamas… ๐Ÿ˜‰

Buzzy Bees dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

(For those non-Kiwis out there, the Buzzy Bee is a bit of a national icon for us. It’s a very popular and common childhood toy – it’s a pull-along toy made of wood, with wings that go around when you pull it. There’s a little metal thing in the base that runs over a cog to make clicking sounds so it sounds a bit like a bee buzzing when it’s pulled along. The faster you pull it, the more like buzzing it is! So much fun. ๐Ÿ™‚

Forties Foxes

Oh yeah, it’s been a while, but finally, here’s a make from a vintage pattern!

Well, sort of a vintage pattern. A vintage reproduction, to be precise. (And it’s been a long time since I’ve used one of those, too!)

Meet the Forties Foxes blouse:

Forties Foxes blouse | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

Made using Simplicity 1590, a reproduction of a 1940’s pattern.

Forties Foxes blouse | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

I used view B, with the collar. I decided not to include the optional waist tie, as I felt there’s enough going on with this top without it. (Peplum. Collar. Foxes. Yeah, that’s enough for one top, right?!?) I debated about making the little neck tie that goes with it, but once I tried it on I realised I was never going to wear it fully buttoned up so didn’t bother.

(By the way, if you’re wondering what the two snap fasteners/poppa domes are for in the notions, they’re for attaching that little neck tie to the shirt. Cute, eh?! You could make several in different colours, and play mix-and-match.)

Forties Foxes blouse | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

This was my first time using a reproduction Simplicity pattern, and I must say, it was a rather enjoyable experience! There was the usual over-abundance of ease, so I chose my size based on the finished measurements table instead, which fits well (and also meant I made one size smaller than I would have otherwise). Everything came together nicely, the instructions were easy to follow, and there were a couple of fun bits too, such as when the front waist dart and the seam joining the front panel to the side of the peplum are sewn in one go as a nice, continous seam. Check out how it looks on the outside – the vertical seam here is the dart being stitched and the peplum attached at the same time:

Forties Foxes blouse | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

There’s also a nice little intro at the start of the instructions, talking about how fashions changed due to WWII and how sports wear was invented as a result. I’m a fan of thoughtful little touches like that. ๐Ÿ™‚

Forties Foxes blouse | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

I love the peplum on this blouse – it’s smooth at the centre front (as the front just extends to the hem, with the peplum being joined on about 10cm away from the centre front), and flares out nicely, dipping down lower at the back.

Forties Foxes blouse | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

(Turns out it catches the wind rather nicely, too, in the cliched Wellington autumn weather.)

Forties Foxes blouse | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

The collar is quite narrow, especially at the back, but I’m fine with that.

Forties Foxes blouse | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

The sleeves are simply an extended shoulder, angling down to the side seam.

Forties Foxes blouse | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

The fabric is a quilting cotton, with a super cute fox print, from the Frolicking Forest collection by Camelot. It’s the first time I’ve used a Camelot quilting cotton, and it was lovely to work with – soft to touch and with great colours.

And, you know. It’s got foxes on it. And that’s all kinds of win.

Since it’s a wildlife themed top, I picked these cute little yellow buttons with flowers on them.

Forties Foxes blouse | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

And because I love it, I used Hug Snug to bind some of the seams on the inside. Next time (and there will be a next time, as I love this pattern!) I’ll bind some more seams, in particular the seam where the peplum joins the bodice, and the hem of the sleeves.

Forties Foxes blouse | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

With the exception of the Hug Snug, all of the fabric and notions (and the pattern, too!) came from Minerva Crafts, as part of their blogger network. (Thanks, Minerva!)

Here’s how it all looks on the inside – far easier to get a good idea of the pattern itself this way as you can see the seam lines.

Forties Foxes blouse | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

Forties Foxes blouse | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

And finished off with a label, just because. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Forties Foxes blouse | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

The only asjustment I made to the pattern was to the bust darts. I moved the dart points a couple of cm lower, and also did a small bust adjustment and took out about 2/3 of the width of the side bust dart.

There’s also a couple of small things I noticed in the instructions, in case they’re of use for anyone else making this:

  • When pinning on the collar, align the collar edge with the centre front marking (i.e. the straight line a couple of cm in from the pattern piece edge)
  • When basting on the collar, baste just within the seam allowance so the basting stitches don’t show on the right side when you’ve done your final stitching
  • If you’re finishing the long edge of the facing with a zig-zag or overlocked edge, trim 6mm off the shoulder edge so it lines up with the shoulder seam nicely (as there’s a 6mm seam allowance for doing a turned-under edge)

Forties Foxes blouse | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

I’m really happy with how this turned out. And I’m particularly happy that I feel it’s marked a turning point in my wardrobe – while I’ve still got a bit to lose around the waist to get back to pre-baby-size (and fit back into my vintage style dresses which, let’s face it, is my key motivation to get back into shape, haha!), I can now fit into some of them and as a result I feel I can start making things with my much-loved vintage patterns again. Yay!

(Of course, this means I now want to go and make all the things. All The Things!!!)

The Debi dress

I seem to be on a bit of a ‘squeezing in at the last minute’ roll with sewalongs at the moment!

But, better nearly-late than never, right?

D’you remember back in, oh, February (eep!) there was a vote on my blog for which of three pattern-and-fabric combinations I should make up during March? Well, I was a good girl and started on the winning combination at the beginning of March. And then it didn’t go so well, and had a bunch of fitting issues, and I got grumpy with it and put it in the naughty corner and proceeded to make other things to cheer myself up. While in the back of my mind planning on getting it finished for the Sew for Victory sew-along.

It was a close call which dress was voted in, but in the end it was McCall 5676, a dress pattern from 1944, made up in a pretty, lightweight and silky-feeling floral cotton.

McCall 5676

Finally, that dress has seen the light of day, just in time for the end of Sew for Victory! Yippee! And after all the pain of making it, I even like it!!

Debi dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

Both the pattern and the fabric came from Debi, and since I discovered the gorgeousness of 1940’s designs and got inspired to sew 1940’s patterns through seeing all of her lovely creations, this dress seems to be quite fittingly named after her.

I chose to make view A in the dress, sans lace. Instead, I left the little cap sleeves plain.

Debi dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

The pattern itself was reasonably easy to make up. Gathers at the front waist and front neckline, a band to finish the neckline, and button placket down the back (to which I added interfacing, even though the instructions didn’t call for it. Did they have interfacing or some equilivent back in the 1940’s?). I used some vintage self-covered buttons for down the back.

Debi dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

The problems came with the fit. I usually (somehow?!) fit 1940’s dresses more-or-less out of the envelope, with only a slight grading to a bigger size at the waist and a small bust adjustment. So I was rather surprised when, even with trying it on at points in the construction, I finished attaching the buttons and discovered the waist sat far too low. Heck knows how that happened, since it seemed to be fine when I was trying it on earlier! Anyway, I’d been all nice and tidy and taking care with my finishing, so not only was there a gathered seam on lightweight delicate fabric to unpick, I’d also top stitched it down right close to the seam itself. Ugh.

(This was the point where the dress made it’s way to the naughty corner for over a month. Yep.)

Debi dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

Then one day, it dawned on me. I needed to take the waist up by a couple of centimeters, so why not just cut the skirt off, and then when I reattach it it’ll be in the right place! Far, far easier, and sure enough, it worked well. ๐Ÿ™‚

(Although yes, I’m aware it doesn’t look like it’s sitting quite right in a bunch of these photos. That’s coz there’s a baby bump in the way that’s pushing the belt up higher.)

Debi dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

The other fitting issue was in the back. There was a big gape at the centre back, again not discovered until I could actually do the dress up properly, by which point the buttons and button holes had been done. Ugh once more. (Admittedly, it would have been fine and sat flat if the neckline had been worn wider, but it just wasn’t sitting as wide as it was meant to on me and staying put, so that just wasn’t going to work.)

Time for another hack. I just moved the buttons, and folded the interfaced button placket under enough for the new button placements to be stitched on through the interfacing. (Ssh, don’t tell anyone!) Naughty maybe, but it worked, and got this dress off the UFO pile, so I’m calling that a good hack. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Debi dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

Now that it’s all done, I think I quite like it. The gathers are pretty, and while I debate whether cap sleeves ever look any good on me, they’ll be good for keeping direct sun off my shoulders while still being nice and cool next time summer rolls around.

Debi dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

Plus, bonus hidden in-seam pockets in the front of the skirt! I think this is officially my favourite feature of this pattern. Because, pockets! Functional ones!! In an unexpected (yet still logical) place!!!

Debi dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

My mother is in town visiting this weekend, so my sister and I took her out for a one-week-early Mothers Day surprise High Tea at Sweet Pea cafe in Petone. (More about the High Tea in a later blog post.) Petone is one of the oldest Wellington suburbs, and has lots of cute late-1800 and early-1900s houses and buildings. We took photos outside the historic police station. In use during the first half of the 1900’s, this teeny tiny building was both police station and jail for the area. Ain’t it cute? It’s now a Historic Places Trust building, sitting set back a few meters from the main shopping street in Petone. I’m hoping that one day I’ll get to have a look inside coz I bet it’s super-cute on the inside as well. ๐Ÿ™‚

Debi dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

Debi dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

Birds of a Feather Dress

1940s dress

The Facts

Fabric: a couple of meters of some pretty, shiny, floaty something-or-other that I got for $3 per meter in the Global Fabrics sale a couple of years back


  • set of 6 pearl snap fasteners (~$7 from Made Marion)
  • a couple of vintage small snap fasteners
  • about 1.5 meters of piping (bought from the Trelise Cooper fabric store a few years back – maybe around $5 per meter?)
  • about 1.5 meters of pink ribbon for hem binding (about $1.50? Been in my stash for years)
  • some iron-on interfacing (bought hurriedly from Made Marion yesterday when I couldn’t find my stash of it – eek!)

Pantone Challenge colors: Acai (purple) and Carafe (brown) (plus some green piping that’s not quite Emerald but about as close as I could get!)

Patterns: bodice from Bestway C.493 (gift from Bea in the pattern and notion swap), skirt from Simplicity 4649


Year: 1941 for the Simplicity pattern; sometime in the 1940’s for the Bestway pattern

Time to complete: about 7 hours I think – hard to say for sure, since time was snatched in little bits and pieces around a baby’s nap time

First worn: today, for these photos!

Wear again? Oh yes. To work tomorrow, probably.

Total Cost: about $22 (most of which was notions!)

1940s dress

I’m guessing a lot of you will have heard of The Sew Weekly before. It was a weekly sewing challenge, run by Mena Trott, with a community of people who sewed along with a weekly theme for two years. As well as being a lot of fun, it was also what got my sew-jo kicked off again – I sewed along with every theme during 2011 (and as many as I could in 2012 what with having a new baby and all the time challenges associated with that), and the challenge of sewing along with a community meant that as well as making 50 garments in one year (while the year before I’d made maybe 6 in total), I also got my blog properly underway (as I finally had a focus for it and things to write about!). So yeah. I kinda credit the Sew Weekly with getting me into the amazing and super-supportive and wonderfully creative sewing blogging world, and “meeting” a whole bunch of amazing lovely people (several of whom I’ve now met in real life).

1940s dress

Anyway, sadly the Sew Weekly vanished this year. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ (Since it hasn’t come back, Mel, Juliet and I have started up The Monthly Stitch coz we were missing the challenges and the community.)

But now, the lovely ladies who were a part of the 2011 Sew Weekly have put on a reunion! Yay!! ๐Ÿ˜€

And like all good Sew Weekly related things, it has a theme and a deadline. The theme was the Pantone Fall 2013 colour palette.

I went digging through my stash and unearthed this gorgeous fabric, all soft and silky and floaty, with feathers printed on it in brown (‘Carafe’) and purple (‘Acai’). Perfect!

1940s dress

The Bestway pattern was a gift from Bea as part of the Sew Weekly Reunion pattern and notions swap. (Thanks Bea!) I used the bodice from the Bestway pattern, and the skirt from the Simplicity pattern (as I had to adjust it at the waist and couldn’t quite be bothered figuring out the adjustments needed to keep a pleated skirt even all the way around. Hah! Laziness, yes indeed).

I must admit that the Bestway pattern confused me no end to begin with. On the outside it says it’s in five sizes, but only one size is actually given, and there are no markings anywhere that say what size it is. I hunted out a pattern that I’d made before that had darts in similar places and laid it out over the Bestway one to figure it out. (Conveniently, it happened to be the exact right size. Win!)


I decided to add contrast piping to the seams down the front bodice and around the waist, just for fun and to break the colour up a bit. I cut the fabric for the centre bodice panel out with the leaves going across instead of down for contrast as well.

The Bestway pattern called for snap fasteners as closures, so I went with that and used a set of 6 pearl snap fasteners down the front, with a couple of small vintage silver ones hidden between some of them to keep everything nicely closed.


I used a pale pink ribbon for hem binding on the inside, and hand stitched both the hem and the sleeve cuffs. (Not as invisibly as I wanted it to be, but the fabric was so light I had to pick up a bit more of it than usual when stitching.)


I’m pretty happy with how it all turned out – it’s fun to wear, and I reckon it’ll work both in summer (since it’s nice and lightweight) and in winter with a merino top underneath (just like in the photos!).


The “Melissa” Dress

Check it out – I made another 1940’s garment for Sew For Victory!


(And yes, I did actually finish it in time. Just. But then I didn’t get a chance to post about it. Oh well.)


Anyway, I now have another 1940’s dress in my wardrobe, which makes me happy. I do love me some 1940’s style.

This one is Hollywood 805, from 1942. I love Hollywood patterns – the images of movie stars, the styling. Something about it appeals to me a lot. I’m slowing building up a collection of Hollywood patterns, although this is the first one I’ve gotten around to making. (Of the grand total of four that I own so far…. I did say I was building up a collection s l o w l y…!)

Hollywood 805

So, one thing about Hollywood patterns. Or at least this one. The instructions are really rather sparse. Looking for guidance on which way to press darts or tucks? You won’t find it here.

The details, on the other hand, are lovely, in that 1940s way. The shoulders are interesting – the back extends over to the front, and joins as though it’s a yoke, so there is no shoulder seam. The neckline in particular is interesting, with it’s points. The sleeves are dart-fitted at the sleeve head. The bodice is gathered into the waistline at front and back so it’s fitted around the waist, yet gives a blousey effect. The pockets have notched details at the top and are sewn so they jut out at the top. (And the inset belt is lovely, although I omitted it so I could ‘future proof’ the dress with the side seams.)


There are a couple of things I’d change next time. I forgot to lengthen the bodice as part of the grading up in sizes, so the waist sits a bit high at the back. A belt disguises it, but I’d rather it was about another inch lower at the back. (The front, however, is fine.) The sleeves are a bit tight as well – I didn’t bother grading them, but next time I will. They’re not too tight to be uncomfortable at all, but a little bit more ease wouldn’t go amiss. Oh, and I’d lengthen the shoulders by about 3/4″ as they’re a little bit narrow, which results in the neckline pulling a bit.


But none of those are stopping me from wearing this dress, and enjoying it!


(According to Steve, I look “like a cross between a punk and a granny”. I have no issues whatsoever with this description.)

The Facts

Pattern: Hollywood 805
Year: 1942
Fabric: blue Ikea cotton, acquired from Mel at a Wellington bloggers meet-up swap (thanks Mel!)
Notions: 8 vintage white buttons from my great-aunt’s stash
Alterations made:

  • Graded up to my current size
  • Future-proofed by attaching the skirt to the bodice on the flat, and sewing the side seams last
  • Removed the inset belt (in order for it to be future-proof-able) and added 1 inch at the top of the skirt and bottom of bodice at the back so back waist seam matched front waist seam
  • Added interfacing to the button placket and the inner necklineK
  • Rounded the corners of the inner neckline (because the pattern had already been altered that way. Next time I’ll re-alter it back to pointy corners)
  • Drafted a new back neck facing as that pattern piece is missing
  • Moved the top corners of the pockets out by 1 inch on each side so they don’t stick as far out from the dress

First worn: for a walk around the zoo on Monday 1 April
Wear again? Already have. ๐Ÿ™‚ It got worn to work this week, and got a couple of compliments from people who didn’t know I’d made it. Yay!!
Make again? Yep, I likes this pattern.


The photos were taken on a walk around the zoo. This gorgeous lady came up to say ‘hello’:


The “Johanna” Shirt

My poor little blog, it’s been suffering a bit from neglect lately. Why is that? Well, I started back at work two weeks ago, full time. Turns out that juggling a six-month baby and a full-time job doesn’t leave much time for, well, anything else, really!

I have been managing to eek out a little bit of sewing time here and there though, although finding time to blog about things is proving harder! But hey, it’s only week two – I’m sure we’ll get this whole finding-time-for-life thing sorted out sooner or later. ๐Ÿ˜‰

close front one

In the meantime, here, finally, is a shirt I made a couple of weeks ago! I finished it off just in time for the last Wellington sewing bloggers meet-up on 17 March. (And yes, I do mean “just in time” – it got finished the morning of the meet-up. This seems to be becoming a habit of mine. Must try and break that for the next meet-up….) (If you want to read more about our latest meet-up, here’s a lovely post that Nikki wrote about it. As per usual, I forgot to take photos, so go look at her lovely ones instead. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Every bloggers meet-up I go to, I seem to walk away with a new sewing goodie or two. And then I resolve to make something using one of them for the next meet-up! This month, it was the turn of this lovely black floral cotton/(something?) fabric, which I got from Jo back in January. My original plan for this was to turn it into a shirt. And since there’s a 1940’s Sew For Victory sew-along happening, a 1940’s blouse it ended up becoming!

full front two

Since I’m still working on losing weight around my waist, I did some rough on-the-fly alterations and added a bit to the waist on both side seams. (Hoping that one day, preferably not too far in the future, I can take those seams in once again. Hopefully….. Must stop drinking so much hot chocolate, then that day may come around a bit earlier….. Oh who am I kidding – hot chocolate is just far too tasty to give up!)



This pattern was interesting to make up. The instructions left quite a bit to be desired – no call for interfacing, no indication of overlap on the front, general randomness. But I got there in the end eventually, with only a couple of seams needing unpicked due to a misinterpretation of the vague directions. And I do like this pattern once it’s made up – there are a couple of lovely small folds either side of the button placket, released tucks for shaping at front and back, gathers at the front yoke, and top-stitching detail on the collar. (Sadly though, most of these details are hidden in the busy-ness of the fabric. But hey, they make me smile, even if no one else can see them.)

(Something about released tucks for waist shaping really appeals to me….. I’m not sure why, but it makes me happier than standard darts. Hmmm….)

Academy 2842

Just for the fun of it (and because I was running of out time to get this finished <- shameful confession, folks), I used snap fasteners as closures instead of buttons. Nice, shiny black ones. Which means I feel like Superman whenever I take this shirt off. Oh yeah! Let's face it – snap fasteners are fun! (Even if they are completely not 1940s in style.)

(Plus, you get to sew with a hammer, which is always a good time.)

back cropped

The Facts

Pattern: Academy 2842
Year: unknown, circa 1940s
Fabric: unknown blend, from Johanna in the first Wellington bloggers meet-up swap (thanks, Johanna! And look – I named a shirt after you in appreciation! ๐Ÿ˜‰ )
Notions: completely period-inaccurate hammer-on snap fasteners in black
First worn: to the latest Wellington sewing bloggers meet-up on 17 March
Wear again? Already have!
Make again? Yep, next time in a plainer fabric so the details stand out more

side cropped