1940’s Dress-Part 3 (the photos)

I lost a little sleep this weekend, but I finished my 1940’s Du Barry 5947 dress for the Sew for Victory sewalong.

I’m pleased with the way the dress turned out. The fabric is light and comfortable.


I did a fair amount of hand stitching, which I hadn’t counted on. Mainly, the hem. I wanted a blind hem, and because the skirt is curved, I didn’t want to mess with a blind hem on the machine. I haven’t had success with easing and blind hemming at the same time. So I stitched it by hand while catching up on Mad Men.


I successfully raised the armscye and reduced the sleeve cap ease. The original sleeve had 5″ of ease–no wonder I had trouble setting it! I reduced it to a little over 2″ of ease, which took the poof out of the sleeve cap, but I don’t miss it one bit. I was able to set the sleeves without any gathering stitches. And my range of motion is much improved.

Scout leader Qui.

I thought this lovely silk scarf matched the dress beautifully, but I really don’t know how to style it! I feel like a scout leader and at the same time over-dressed.

Maybe the hardest part of this whole project was taking the photos of myself–it isn’t so easy. First I went to the park, but it was quite crowded and I chickened out. I settled on this vista overlooking the Capitola village. It’s a pretty view, but I’m not sure it’s really the best spot for photographing a dress. I made the best of it, and I practiced with some different settings on my camera.


Now that it’s all said and done, I’m so glad I joined the 40’s sewalong!  Working with the vintage pattern turned out to be not so scary at all.  In fact, I’m really pleased with the drafting of the pattern.  It went together nicely and fits great.  I like the pleated skirt now that it’s hemmed–it lays nice and flat around my midsection, but it flares out to a comfortable size.

I think I’ll probably avoid patterns with vestees in the future.  I didn’t really like putting in the vestee–I think I’d prefer a regular button up shirt dress with a collar.  I topstitched in dark green to accentuate the green-ness of the fabric, but it’s hardly noticeable in the photos, so I’m not sure it matters all that much.  Up close I guess it’s a nice detail, and it does help to outline some of the pattern design.

The sewalong motivated me to finish this detailed project, and also to try new techniques.  I’ve decided I love pinking seams!  Thanks Rochelle for organizing this event–I hope to join more sewalongs in the future and try more 40’s patterns too.

The Past Due Button Down

Just over a year ago, I gave my husband a semi-selfish gift for Christmas: the Negroni Colette pattern along with some green fabric and buttons.  It was the promise of a shirt, and it took a year for me to keep my promise.
chris in shirt2

In September I traced the XXL Negroni pieces, and set out to alter the pattern to match the measurements of his favorite button down shirt.  I sewed up the muslin, finishing one sleeve and the collar and facings before asking him to try it on.  The collar was hanging down, at least two inches too big.  Where had I gone wrong?  I set out to revise the pattern, but I couldn’t figure out why the collar was too long.  I decided to give-up on the pattern–I didn’t really like the facings anyway.

For round two, I cut up his favorite shirt (the elbows had torn quite badly), and I traced each piece of she shirt, making my own pattern.  It worked wonderfully.  The completed shirt has a collar stand rather than the casual camp collar of the Negroni.

Over the course of a couple months, reading through multiple blogs, I think I found where I went wrong in altering the Negroni. Maddie’s post on collar roll height helped me recognize the sizing difference between the camp collar and a collar with a stand.  I also read through many of Peter’s blog posts on men’s shirts, which expanded my understanding of the different styles of men’s shirts.

So here are some of the details I included in my man’s shirt:

The collar buttons down.  You can see in the top photo that the collar is flipping out quite badly (It took me a couple weeks to get the small buttons and fix it).  My husband is quite particular about his shirt collars.  I never knew (till after getting married) that men’s shirts have an opening on the underside of the collar for plastic points to be inserted, to reinforce the collars.  I saw these little plastic pieces sitting on my husband’s dresser–I guess the dry cleaner puts them in to keep the collar nice and straight–and he explained to me how they worked.  I suggested just tacking the collar points down permanently, but husband explained he couldn’t get a tie on that way.  Button down is his preferred collar style.

The buttonhole placket was cut on the bias for pattern contrast, a detail I picked up from looking at my brother-in-law’s many Ben Sherman shirts.

The yoke is also cut on the bias.  I followed the Colette Negroni directions for inserting the lined yoke.  There is a center back pleat, a detail that I copied directly from the original “favorite” shirt.

The cuff was cut on the bias as well, and the sleeve has two tucks to gather in the fabric.

I used the Negroni pattern piece and directions for the sleeve placket.  This pattern piece looks intimidating, but the Colette directions make it pretty easy, and it is especially satisfying to finish.  It’s like fine architecture.  Seriously, who designed the sleeve placket??  I’m in awe.  It’s so cool the way the fabric folds up and finishes the sleeve opening.

I’m not completely satisfied with the buttons.  I don’t like the black buttons, but I had a difficult time finding buttons that looked masculine enough for a men’s shirt.  I also think I may have sewn them down too tightly–anyone have tips for keeping the buttons a little looser??  The buttons at the collar are pulling the shirt a little as well–I don’t know if I need to use some fusible interfacing here to stabilize the body of the shirt?  Or just loosen the buttons a little?

Despite my button problems, I’m really proud of this shirt and can’t wait to make more shirts for my husband.  He’s a big guy, and it’s really hard to find RTW shirts that fit him, so I hope to be his tailor for his future shirt needs.

Have you made a men’s shirt?  Does your man have collar preferences??