Cotton may not be the first fabric that comes to mind for a formal dress, but it can be a wonderful choice for making a very wearable garment with a more formal silhouette. This pattern is actually designed as a bridal gown, but I actually prefer the shorter length.
My favorite vintage decades are definitely the 1940s and 1950s, but I was very drawn to this decidedly 1960s shape - and sometimes something different is just the thing to get me out of a creative rut.
Step 1: The Muslin
For fabric, I chose a floral quilting cotton. This particular textile is quite lovely and the weight is nicely suited to a 1960s silhouette like this design.
While it is not something I do for every dress I sew, I decided to make a muslin of this pattern. And, quite frankly, the result does not look anywhere near as cute as the illustration. Instead, it looks just like any other basic bodice and full skirt. Since the cut-up sheet I used to construct the muslin is a similar weight to the quilting cotton, clearly something had to be fixed . . .
Step 2: The Silhouette
Vintage silhouettes are certainly helped by the addition of special undergarments like petticoats, but I thought I would try something a bit different for this dress.
My muslin made it clear that a bit of oomph was needed to make this dress resemble the pattern envelope.
I decided to use a technique I came across in another vintage pattern, Vogue 8433.
Using a shortened version of my skirt pieces, a piece of interfacing is layered on the upper portion of the skirt pieces, basted in place, and treated as a single layer. This helps to give more body to the hip area that is later pleated, gathered, or tucked into the waist measurement.
As a bit of an experiment, I used a sew-in Pellon. After all, this silhouette is supposed to look exaggerated!
[I had the pleasure of examining the insides of a Ceil Chapman dress in person. The entire skirt is underlined in Pellon, and was my original inspiration. It also uses a shorten internal skirt to help the hip look exaggerated.]
For a nicer finish, I layered cotton over the Pellon, and finished the lower edge with seam binding.
This particular skirt is pleated and also gathered, so I basted the pleat lines to keep the interfaced Pellon yoke from shifting during construction.
All in all, I would have to call this experiment a success. And I have discovered yet another way to achieve an extreme vintage silhouette without the added layers of a petticoat - great for warmer climates, I think!
Step 3: Construction
The rest of the garment construction was fairly basic.
For added body, I underlined the bodice with cotton. With the Pellon that I added to the skirt, I did not need to underline the skirt pieces, which saved on fabric!
The raw edges were finished with rayon seam binding (one of my favorite finishing techniques!).
I also like to have a very deep hem when the shape of the hemline allows. This adds a bit of weight to the skirt and looks so much nicer than the skimpy hems that are found in most ready-to-wear garments.
And a hand picked zipper is a nice vintage technique.
Step 4: Piping
Another special detail included with this pattern is the addition of piping along the waist seam and neckline.
To make my own, I use lengths of yarn remnants that are encased in a bias strip of fabric (just make sure to pre-shrink if you are planning on laundering your garment!). Depending on the thickness of the yarn, it may be necessary to use a zipper foot to stitch the seamlines which include the piping.
This technique also works quite well without the addition of cording or yarn depending on the look you are going for.
Step 5: Bound Buttonholes
This pattern includes a common bound buttonhole technique I see in vintage pattern instruction sheets, but it is slightly different than the way I usually construct them. I decided to try something new, and I rather like this variation.
Step 6: A Petticoat
And even with the Pellon structure added directly to the skirt, I made a petticoat for this dress.
This one is a bit different than a standard petticoat made from nylon or netting. To keep the scratchy stuff away from my skin, I encased layers of tulle and netting between layers of cotton. The shape is also slightly different, with the silhouette exaggerated at the hip rather than the hemline.
Step 7: The Finished Dress
This has turned out to be one of my favorite dresses. And now that I have the petticoat, I just may have to make myself another version . . . perhaps with a different sleeve or neckline! The 1960s silhouette is really beginning to grow on me!