Saturday, 9 June 2012

1950's Dress using Free pdf pattern from V&A

1950's style dress with bold print
The finished article.

It all started on the Saturday when I looked in my wardrobe and found that I didn't have either a red, white and blue costume or a 1950's outfit for our 1950's themed Jubilee Party on the Tuesday.
So I turn to the internet and search for free 1950's dress patterns. After searching through a few I come across the Victoria and Albert Museum page 'The Golden Age of Couture, Paris and London 1947 - 1957' and more specifically the link to 'Create a Couture Inspired Dress'.
This page contains links to download the pattern pdf and instructions either in A4 or full size.

My first step was to print out the instructions (Saturday evening) and read through them checking that there were no complicated bits.


Secondly I went to Dunelm Mill in Clydebank to buy fabric, thread and a zip. Not the best place for dress fabric, but the closest to me and most importantly open on a Sunday afternoon. After much pacing of the fabric isles, I chose a pale blue fabric with large brown flowers that were reminiscent of the 50's. 
Sunday evening I print out the pattern pieces, all 56 A4 pages, checking that I've set the printer to 100%, not scale to fit, and wonder how long it will take me to piece together.


Body pattern pieces laid out ready to stick together
I've promised the kids swimming! So off we go, no dress making for me until after lunch.
I finally get down to piecing the pattern together.
I start with the body part. It goes together quite easily once I get the hang of it. I'm missing a tiny sliver of pattern on the long edges, but once I know, it's easy enough to compensate.

I've measured myself to discover that although I normally wear size 12 clothes, I'm actually a 14 in this pattern. Slightly disappointing, but not as much as if I'd made it without taking the measurements first. I'd never have been able to get in it!

pattern for 50's dress
Starting to cut body pattern pieces 

skirt pattern 50's
Skirt Pattern pieces ready for cutting out.
I had a  few problems getting the skirt pattern pieces to line up. I had to cut out the two small skirt patterns as they didn't line up properly, particularly piece 13. Looking closely at the pattern i found that the dots and crosses that help with lining up were closer together than they should have been on pages  29 & 30. I cut the pattern at this point and used some spare dots and crosses from the top to line them up correctly.

Cutting the fabric for 50's style dress
Cutting the fabric

The next step was to lay the pattern out on the fabric. as I had such a bold print I decided that each of the large skirt sections should have a large flower in the centre. As you can see from the picture I have cut two and am lining up the rest to ensure I have enough fabric. I bought 4m, the pattern suggests only 3.5m are needed, but it depends on the pattern repeat.
I also decide that the bust should have a large central flower and have cut this.

One thing to remember when cutting the fabric is that body pieces 2, 3, 4 and 7 need to be cut twice with the second piece mirroring the first.

Time to sew

I decided to start with the body. The instructions are pretty straight forward. Sewing the armholes up was particularly tricky as I've not put together a dress in this way before.
By bed time I had completed the upper part of the body and remembered to take a photo of it hanging over a chair in my kitchen. I've even managed to try on this part with my husband pinching the back together to check the fit.


Party time is looming, 2pm, I've got lots still to do, and cupcakes to bake. I set to work and get the body finished off quite quickly. I get so completely absorbed in it that I forget to take any more photos.
The skirt is quite simple to make up. I found that my hem did not line up too well in places so I just took a measuring tape and marked a 31" length all round to give me my hemline. Once ironed I machine stitched in place before attaching the skirt to the body. The last part in the instructions is to hand sew in the zip - unfortunately I didn't have the time for that so I pinned and machined the zip in place. The stitching is visible, but i don't think anyone would really notice.
The instructions also include a bow on the back. I didn't bother adding this, but if the fabric was plain it might be nice to add this detail.
Dress complete 12.10pm.
Cupcakes made 13.30pm
Dress on and go 2.00pm

One last photo to end the day of my husband and I at the party.
Hope you enjoyed this little encounter.