The Sew for Victory Dress that wasn’t…………and the seduction of vintage pattern art.

I get seduced by vintage pattern art.

The women are always so elegant, so well put together.  The outfits are always perfectly styled and everything fits them to a tee.

I forget they are not real.

They do not have real bodies to fit.  I’m also sure they never had to bother reading and following vintage pattern instructions because they wouldn’t look so darn sumg  calm, so pleased with themselves.  They stare back at me from the pattern envelope.  Watching.  Judging……..

……because I can’t for the life of me figure out or follow vintage pattern instructions!!

I know this, but as a very enthusiastic beginner sewist, I jump in head first every time and try to plow through the detailed instructions and drawings.  This leads to mistakes, ripped seams and disastrous results EVERY TIME.

This time, I was inspired by Lucky Lucille’s Sew For Victory 2.0 challenge and choose to make this wonderful raglan-sleeved 1940’s-style shirtwaist dress pattern.


I cut, sewed, then angrily  stumbled my way through the pattern only to discover that what I had made had to be the most unflattering, frumpy wadder of a dress ever.

There were signs along the way, of course.

  • The vintage-inspired mustard colour poodle fabric that was all wrong for me and made me look like I had mild jaundice.  Ew.
  • The “blouse” style bodice that I knew would add about 40 extra pounds that I just don’t need.
  • The fact that I sewed the bodice with the poodles UPSIDE DOWN because in my haste to begin the project I had mistake a clearly one-direction print for a multi-directional one.
  • The dowdy skirt length that made me look like I had “cankles”.
  • The fact that it took me 4 hours to figure out how to apply the collar and facings.  Eventually I gave up and improvised.  It looked like crap.

When will I learn that I should just stick to vintage-inspired modern patterns with modern instructions and video tutorials to help me??

Coming off of the Sew Dolly Clackett challenge where I made 14 dresses from tried-and true indie patterns that I loved, I had built up a false sense of confidence in my sewing prowess.  After trying on the poodle dress, I burst into tears.  I felt burnt out, frustrated by my own impatience and lack of basic sewing fundamentals and ready to give up  the dress to the fire pit in the backyard.

Then my daughter walked by me.

I realized that having a darker skin tone and much darker hair than me, the poodle fabric in all its mustard-hued glory really should have been for her in the first place. I hurried downstairs to my sewing lair and spread the dress out on my cutting table.  I grabbed my go-to blank-slate girls dress pattern and measured the pieces against the dress and they fit!  I created a super cute little sleeveless dress with a sweet little collar (salvaged from my dress) and a pleated skirt (she says that pleats are always more flattering that gathers.  She’s 10.  Everything is flattering on her!).

Dress fabric saved.  Fire pit avoided.

My newest recipe for gluten–free dairy-free brownies were baked to celebrate! Find the recipe here.

While the finished product is not 1940’s and therefore not eligible for entry in Sew For Victory, at least I’m back on the sewing band wagon again. So not Sew for Victory, but rather a sewing victory!

And my daughter is happy.



twirl, girl!


And I’m so happy that my bluebird dress from the Sew Dolly Clackett challenge was featured in Fiona’s newest blog post!  I love her blog, Diary of a Chain Stitcher and was completely surprised and thrilled to see my dress pop up in her indie pattern inspiration round up.  Thanks Fiona! 🙂

So, do you have the same problem with vintage patterns?  Do you get sucked in by the serene faces and tiny waists on the cover art? Have you ever had a project that turned out so badly you just wanted to stop sewing altogether for awhile?  Tell me it’s not just me.

Up next in the sewing lair, a tried and true pattern mash-up in a pretty wicked fabric.

French Baguette Bakery dress, here I come!




15 thoughts on “The Sew for Victory Dress that wasn’t…………and the seduction of vintage pattern art.

  1. I totally agree that vintage patterns suck you in but are HARD to make. I actually also have the same trouble with modern pattern instructions (or lack thereof) so after banging my head and getting frustrated, I basically sew only indie patterns. Not only are there more and more available lately, the end result is typically more flattering!

    • I know what you mean about the modern, “big 4” patterns as well. I’m often left scratching my head with those too. Indie patterns are by far my best bet. I love all the sew alongs and online support too!

  2. So happy to hear that you were able to make lemonade out of lemons! The dress is adorable on your daughter…I totally love the print!! In time, you’ll have the skills for any kind of pattern! Just keep at it Jenny! I do prefer patterns that have an actual photograph of a completed garment. The drawn ones never seem to be to scale…they seem more Barbie-like! But, having said that, if you like to wear vintage, there’s nothing quite like sewing from a vintage pattern. So, maybe put this one aside, but just for the time being! Congrats on your feature!!!

    • Thank you, Sue! She wore it to school today and got lots of compliments 🙂
      I’ll keep trying my luck with vintage patterns. I know there’s one out there that will work for me!!

  3. Your daughters dress is perfect! Your comments about vintage patterns are interesting, because despite buying a whole wardrobe of vintage patterns since this time last year, I have just started sewing the first one I bought! And yes the model on the pattern front appears to be
    twice my height and half my weight. The skirt length is totally ridiculous on me. I am managing with the instructions because I am keeping the desired end result in my head, rather than following the instructions. I am not sure I will end up with something that I will wear very often. I have decided that I will probably only ever make up a handful of my vintage collection and that’s fine. I will keep them because of the art work and because they are a piece of history. You have done amazingly with your sewing, and I am sure you can get to grips with vintage patterns.

    • Hi Ruth! I have decided to frame my collection of vintage patterns and use them as art in my sewing lair for the time being and revisit the whole sewing vintage thing after a few more dress successes. I like your comment about following the instructions to a point and just keeping the end result in mind, no matter how I get there!

      • This conversation has inspired me to put my vintage dress to one side, and make a couple of other quick items first. I try to focus on one item at a time usually, and not have multiple projects on the go, but I think I need to finish my vintage dress when I can take it slowly. The next stage is a side zip, which I have never attempted before!

  4. I totally feel you! I still have an unfinished dress hanging in my closet made of absolutely beautiful fabric and fully lined that when I finally put it on after all that work, the empire seam line between the upper bodice and waistband hit me right in the middle of the boobs. I look like a fat sack of poo in that dress. I stopped there, knowing I had to unpick the ENTIRE DRESS (I capitalize this because it’s not an exaggeration, lol), cut a longer bodice front and lining and do it all over again. It’s been there for about 2 years, lol. I just haven’t had the heart to undo all that work. Maybe someday. But at least I learned something from it. I’ve had to tell myself that a lot with sewing and I think it’s the only thing that keeps me trying 🙂

    • Oh no! I HATE unpicking. I feel so defeated when I have to do it, it makes me hate the dress!! And it makes me so sad when it’s a fabric I really like too. Keep it in your closet a while longer, I’m sure you’ll want to come back to it sometime and make your best dress ever! 🙂

  5. Hi Jenny, I’m paying my Liebster Award forward to you and your blog! I so relate to your love of vintage and frustration sewing it! Hop over to my blog to find out the rules etc for the award.. I hope you enjoy it!

  6. Love this dress on your girl! I’m so glad poodle fabric didn’t have to go to waste! And you are very welcome, that dress is gorgeous!

  7. A sewing victory indeed! I think we’ve all been there in those despairing moments. It’s so great that you could turn it around! I’ve got some amazing inherited vintage patterns but haven’t had the guts to tackle them yet… One day soon…

    • Hi Ree! It’s been nice to know that I’m not the only one who struggles with vintage patterns- they are so lovely though! I just think I’ve been spoiled by the amazingly clear and simple indie pattern instructions. One of these days, I hope to find a vintage pattern that works for me 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s