When I was browsing the Minerva Crafts website a while ago, my eye got caught by this fabric. Believe it or not, it’s a Liberty lawn! One that isn’t super floral!! I’ve always wanted to try sewing with a Liberty fabric – it’s not something you tend to come across over here in New Zealand, and after reading so many posts by overseas bloggers who rave about it, my curiousity was well and truly piqued. But sadly, I’m just not that into busy floral prints, and most of the designs, while lovely on others, weren’t “me”.
Until this one. Ain’t it fantastic?!? It’s called “Hidden Floral” – yep, there are flowers in it, but they’re all hidden in the print. Pinks and greens and blues and oranges, what a fantastic riot of colour, while at the same time appearing almost subdued. (Not too sure how that works, but hey.)
So thanks to Minerva, who enabled my Liberty curiousity to be fulfilled.😉
When I spotted this print, I knew exactly what I wanted to make it into as well. I’ve had this vintage 1950’s halter neck dress pattern in my stash for a while, waiting to be made up. It features a button-front, side zip, and dramatically pointed collar. As well as pockets. And oh my gosh, what epic pockets they are! Check out the hugeness of them!! And the pocket flaps!!! They’re pockets perfectly designed for swanning around on a summers day, concealing all manner of lip balms and cell phones and entire blocks of chocolate where no kids can see you’re carrying candy and sneakily eating it when their backs are turned. (Not that I do that. Ever. *ahem*)
The pattern is Butterick 5949, from around 1951. As stated on the back, it’s a “Halter Necked Day or Evening Dress. (A) The tailored look in a quick & easy evening or at-home gown. Halter neck, bare back bodice buttons down the front, has a perky collar. The full, dirndlish skirt flaunts two huge patch pockets. (B) Day length version.”
Anyways – this fabric, that pattern. Perfect!
(Or maybe not perfect – in hindsight, a lawn is probably a little bit too lightweight for a halter neck dress like this. Although anything much heavier would result in a rather bulky waist, with the semi-circle skirt that is then gathered in…. Hmmm…. Perhaps a poplin? No matter, lawn it was, and as lawn it shall be worn!)
The pattern needed a few modifications. First up, it’s a couple of sizes too small, at a 32″ bust. So I got my tracing game on, and made the following changes before cutting out the final fabric:
- Graded up to a size 36″ bust / 42″ waist
- Did a 1″ SBA (small bust adjustment) (so 1/2″ on the half bodice, to bring it to a total of 1″)
- Lowered dart points
- Lengthened the bodice by 3cm (possibly too long in hindsight, but I’ll get to that soon)
- Narrowed the skirt a bit so it fit on the width of the fabric
- Removed the side zipper and instead extended the front button placket (I have dreams of one day getting back to pre-baby-size, so all dresses are currently made in a way that side seams are easy to take in at some mythical point in the future)
Changes made, and dress cut out, I got to sewing.
And let me just tell you – this Liberty lawn was all it was rumoured to be. Absolutely delicious to sew with – light and airy, presses well, doesn’t crease easily (except when you want it to), and holds it’s shape nicely while being sewn up. Gorgeous. *mini swoon*
The pattern, well, it’s a classic 1950’s pattern. Unprinted pattern pieces (they’re marked with punched holes instead, which are interpreted by a key. Which I find pretty easy to work with actually – it’s super easy to mark things with tailors chalk when there are conveninetly cut holes already in the pattern tissue!). And the usual sparse instructions. The instructions for the collar/neck facing confused me a little, so I just ignored them and did things my own way.😉
The way the collar is shaped on this is very pretty – it’s narrow at the back, and swoops into a strong point in the front.
I made a few changes as I went through the sewing fun as well, as follows:
- Stitched the side seams last to make it easy to adjust them in the future
- Put interfacing onto the self-facing of the front bodice, rather than directly onto the front bodice itself (it looks a bit softer that way)
- Added extra button holes below the waist to compensate for having removed the side zip, and then stitched the remainder of the placket closed from the last button to the hem
- Understitched the neck facing
- Got lazy and didn’t slip-sitch the opening that the pocket was turned through closed. The pocket got top-stitched onto the skirt anyway, so I figured it wouldn’t make a difference
I finished the inside seams and the hem with pink Hug Snug rayon seam binding. Those little bursts of colour on the inside of garments just make me happy, it’s true.
Annoyingly enough, despite doing a quick-and-dirty muslin (the joy of using fabric for tracing onto – these days I just sew up my tracings of the pattern pieces as a muslin and then unpick them again to get the pattern back. So fast! So easy!), and trying the dress on a few times during construction, once it was finished I realised I needed to adjust the side seams. By quite a lot.
11cm, to be precise. Grading down to nothing at the waist.
Heck knows how that happened. Because that puts them back at a size 32″ bust, which I most certainly am not, and never have been. Oh well, such is life! Although with an adjustment that big on a halter neck, it does mess around with the curve of the neckline under the arm – somewhat annoying. But not insurmountable, so after a fair bit of unpicking and cutting and restitching, I now have a halter dress, all ready to wear this summer!
(Now, where are you, summer?!? Hurry up already!!)
Looks rather ideal for lounging around eating ice cream in, don’t you think?😉
Summary / Details:
Pattern used: Butterick 5949 from around 1951
Fabric: Hidden Floral Liberty lawn, from Minerva Crafts (sadly now sold out, so I can’t link you to it)
Changes made: Lots! All listed above
What I’d change next time: Take in the side seams by 11cm in total (so 2.75cm at front and back side seams on the pattern) before cutting out the fabric; possibly raise the waistline by 1cm. I’m not 100% sure about this yet – the volume of the skirt pulls the waist down a bit lower than it should be, but I also have pretty much no waist definition at all at the moment (thanks, little babies. Yeah.), so it may be in part due to that. Will revisit in a few months. Hopefully.
Would I make it again? Hopefully! I’m loving this pattern, and especially those pockets and the as-described “perky” collar! Love the idea of the evening dress length – such a fascinating combination – a semi-structured halter neck with huge pockets as an evening maxi. Must be done, sometime soon….
So saying though, I’m not 100% sold on the fit of this on me just yet. Not sure how much of that is the softness of the lawn with this style, how much is that the fit just isn’t right, and how much of it is that my body is still changing size and shape quite a lot post-pregnancies. The littliest guy is finally starting to sleep a bit better (only getting woken up about 3 times a night now – a massive improvement!!) so I’m feeling hugely better as far as sleep deprivation goes – fingers crossed I start feeling healthier soon too, and all those crazy changes settle down. Either way, I’ll see how I’m feeling about the fit of this in another couple of months.
Big thanks to my lil’ sis’, who took these photos at the rugby field near her house. We saw ducks with ducklings (ducklings!! So cute!!!), the Little Guy ran around pretending to chase off robots (as one does when one is three), and one of the groundskeepers came over to ask what on earth we were doing and make jokes about being on New Zealand’s Next Top Model. Yep.