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Topic: Retro Pink Dress (1950s-style) - Pattern with Pictures!  (Read 3675 times)
Tags for this thread: dress , pattern , sleeveless , retro , 1950s , featured_project  Add new tag
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« on: August 29, 2018 08:36:25 AM »

Last summer, my grandmother gave my sisters and I an old dress of hers, pink and retro and pleated and very pretty.  I’m going to guess she purchased it in the 1950s or 1960s; she described it as one of her favorite dresses.

We were all very much surprised to discover that not only did it fit all three of us (quite a feat, if you think that we’re 4” different in height and with three different bust sizes), but it conformed to make any of the three of us look quite pretty and modern-retro!

After we had all worn the dress, and loved it, we went down to my favorite craft thrift shop to get fabric and other supplies.  And I made my sisters dresses of their own, constructed from a pattern I drafted from that pink dress.  I think they turned out pretty well (despite the fact that I mixed up one measurement and made the front 1” wider than it should have been – yikes!)

The pattern is sized for a bust size of 33”-36”, though I expect the larger size would fit up to 40”.  For 33” to 36” (depending on how tight you want it), use the black measurements; for 36” to 40”, use the red measurements on the front bodice.  Otherwise, the pattern is the same for all sizes.  Oh, and if you’re more than 5’5”, you will probably want to lengthen the skirt.

I’m not going to show pictures from the making of the dresses (I finished it just before dinner on Christmas eve, so glad just to have made it before Christmas!), but I’ll try to describe in words what I did.  You might want to have some sewing experience before you make this – and if you think you’ll whip it up in an afternoon, think again because those pleats take time! :-)

Fabric – lightweight cotton; I used quilting cotton.  I used about 2.5 yards.
Lining fabric – lightweight cotton; I used white quilting cotton.  I used about 1 yard; you might be able to get away with ½ yard or a little more.
1 zipper, about 21”, in color coordinating with your fabric
Piping in coordinating color to the fabric – one package (you probably won’t use quite the entire package)
Thread (to coordinate with the fabric)
Hook-and-eye fastener (optional – since 90% of the time I forget to hook the one on the original dress, I didn’t bother on the new ones)

You’ll also need:
Pattern (see below to draft it yourself)
Scissors (and rotary cutter, if desired, with mat)
Measuring tape or ruler
Sewing Machine
Iron with ironing board.

I’m not going to go through this step by step; just say what I did, in order.  Don’t forget to iron seams after you sew them, etc.  Seams are not included in the bodice pattern pieces; I used a 0.5” seam unless indicated.

Cut bodice pieces from your fabric.  (Note: I accidentally folded the pattern for the bigger size.  It worked out ok for the brown one as she’s a 36” bust; the white one I ended up taking in some extra pleats (really just extending the front waist pleats) to make it look ok on her since she’s about a 33” bust.)

Sew pleats – every 7/8th in. starting at 8.5” down from the middle of back neckline on back and 5 1/8” down from center of neckline on front.  In other words, iron the fold every 7/8th in., then sew an 1/8” seam along each fold.  You will make 12 pleats on the back and 12 on the front.  Make sure that you are folding and sewing the fabric wrong sides together – the pleats will show on the outside of the fabric!

Iron the pleats down, toward waistline.

Sew darts:
Back: 1” darts (2” total), 7.75” tall, the seam is 4.25” from armhole side of piece.  (Dart is in the waistline.  There are no darts in the side seam.)  Repeat on second back piece.
Front: Waistline Darts: 2 darts, each 1” (2” total), 7” tall, the seam is 5” from each side seam.  Side Seam Darts: One on each side seam, each 1.25” (2.5” total), 6.5” long, the seam is 2.5” down from armhole.  Side seam darts are folded so the raw edges are even.

Press back darts toward back zipper seam.  Press front waistline darts toward center; side seam darts, down.

Stay stitch neckline & armholes (very important!)

Sew shoulder seams.

Sew on piping (to exterior pieces)

Cut lining.  The pieces are the same as for the bodice, only 4”-4.5” shorter at the waistline (it doesn’t matter a lot; depends on how long you want your lining).

Sew Darts in lining pieces:
          Back (waistline): ½ in. dart (1 inch total) and 3.25” tall.  Seam 5” from zipper side
          Front (waistline): ¾ in. dart (1.5” total) and 2.25” tall, seam 5.5” from side
          Front (side darts): 1.25” dart (2.5” total) and 5” long, seam 2.75” down from armhole

Press darts: back, toward zipper edge; front (waistline), toward center; front (sides) up (toward armhole).

Hem bottom of lining pieces as narrowly as possible.

Pin & sew lining shoulder seams.

Pin & sew neckline of lining to bodice (be careful to stitch in such a way that the piping shows nicely!)

Pin & sew armholes of lining to bodice (again being mindful of piping).

Clip curves, grading if necessary; turn right side out.

Sew side seams, lining pieces right sides together and exterior pieces right sides together.  (It is not important that exterior pleats line up on the front vs. back – it is also not important if the lining pieces don’t quite line up as the same length, though that is always the goal.)

Cut out skirt (0.5” seams and hem included in measurements)
Front: 43.5” wide by 26.5” long.  Pin and baste 0.5” pleats.  (My fabric is only 41” wide, so that’s what I did.  I used 1cm pleats… I don’t believe I’ve done pleats before, but it worked here!)
Back (cut 2): 22” wide by 26.5” long.  Pin and baste 0.5” pleats. (Again, my fabric is only 41” wide, so they were only 20.5” wide.  Again, I used 1cm pleats…).

Pin and sew skirt side seams.

Pin and sew the skirt to the bodice, matching side seams.  (You may have to mess around with the pleats a bit to make it fit, but it will be close – we hope!)

Tack lining to exterior at side seams.

Install the zipper at the top (neck edge) of back seam (be sure to catch both the bodice and the lining!)

To install the zipper, press under left back a generous 0.5” and the right side 0.25”.  The zipper will be partially covered by the left back.  The zipper goes between the lining and exterior pieces on the right side.  On the left side, the exterior piece needs to cover the zipper completely – you may find yourself pressing and then sewing the lining piece at more than 0.5 inches to keep it out the way.

Sew remaining back seam, below the zipper, closed.

Hem with a 2.5” hem.  Sew the hook and eye fastener to the top of the back seam, above the zipper, if desired.

And you’re done!  If you try this, please post a picture – I’d love to see your finished creation!

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« Reply #1 on: August 29, 2018 10:53:33 AM »

well done! That's gorgeous!

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« Reply #2 on: August 29, 2018 11:58:19 AM »


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« Reply #3 on: August 29, 2018 12:03:06 PM »

Those are beautiful!!
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« Reply #4 on: August 29, 2018 12:19:57 PM »

I can totally see where this dress would be a favorite...It's lovely! You did an excellent job recreating it too. Thanks for posting all the details (no small feat) and the tips!
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« Reply #5 on: August 29, 2018 01:50:27 PM »

Your recreations are gorgeous! You are very talented.
« Reply #6 on: August 29, 2018 05:38:07 PM »

I can totally see where this dress would be a favorite...It's lovely! You did an excellent job recreating it too. Thanks for posting all the details (no small feat) and the tips!

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And you fabric manipulation is spot on.


I just went back to re-read to see if I could potentially do this. But...nope. Kudos to you!
« Last Edit: August 29, 2018 05:40:57 PM by JoyfulClover » THIS ROCKS   Logged
« Reply #7 on: August 31, 2018 09:51:54 AM »

I'm so impressed! Great job. Smiley

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« Reply #8 on: September 06, 2018 07:10:44 AM »

Congrats! This has been chosen as a Featured Project! Smiley

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« Reply #9 on: September 06, 2018 09:13:21 AM »

Congrats! This has been chosen as a Featured Project! Smiley


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