Sunday, 15 February 2015

#VintagePledge - Vogue 9546

Woohoo! I’ve completed my first vintage pattern make for the Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge, and I’m really pleased with the end result. Plus, it’s purple (well, heather), and I read recently that purple is currently an ‘in’ colour, so I am officially On Trend. This happens to me a) rarely and b) always by accident!

My first vintage pattern choice

According to Home Sewing Patterns of the 1940s, Vogue 9546 was published in 1942. This seems to be confirmed by the envelope back, with its references to coupons and the CC41 restrictions.

Vogue patterns save you coupons!

This rather blurry image from Pinterest show the US version of the pattern, printed in colour.

Same drawings, in a different arrangement and in colour

Not only is the British version in black and white, but the instruction sheet is very poor quality paper, and now quite brittle. I scanned it onto the computer, so that I didn’t have to keep referring to the original.

Relatively detailed instructions for a vintage pattern

Unlike some of my vintage patterns, the piece name is stamped into each pattern piece and seam allowances are included.

Pattern piece, with lots of markings

The grainline is indicated by two large perforations, although sometimes you have to refer to the picture diagram to work out which two.

Diagram of the pattern pieces

Because the pattern is the wrong size for me, the first thing I had to do was resize it. I decided just to make the relevant pieces wider rather than regrade the whole thing, as I thought that I would have to shorten the bodice anyway. I did nearly come to regret this decision later!

I made a mockup of the bodice so that I could work out which pieces I needed to shorten, and by how much.

I love this drawing of how to alter the pattern

The pattern was missing the front facing piece, but once I had finished the pattern alterations this was easy to create from the blouse front piece and the picture diagram.

My fabric is a synthetic crepe, bought from one of the many fabric shops in Goldhawk Road on my recent London trip. Originally the dress was going to be blue, but then I saw this fabric and decided that it was the perfect 1940s colour.

The seam allowances at the top of the midsection are pressed under, then the midsection is laid over the blouse and sewn through all three layers, rather than constructed with a conventional seam. The skirt is attached to the midsection the same way. This was clearly a common technique at the time, but I was relieved that I’d already come across it in Vogue re-issues 8686 and 2787, where it was explained in a bit more detail.

The bodice partway through construction

One thing which nearly had me flummoxed was the ties at the centre front. These were attached in a way which left no raw edges, but did leave a gap in the centre front seam between the ties.

? The instructions . . .

. . . and the finished ties

I didn’t like the end result at all, so took them off, sewed up the seam, and decorated it with three small, self-covered buttons instead. "Buttons for the purpose of ornament" contravene the Civilian Clothing Regulations, but I reckoned that any home dressmaker of 1942 who could tackle this pattern could also have made ball buttons from scrap fabric.

The sleeves have pleats at the elbow, and could be full length with a snap fasten at the bottom, or three-quarters. They are very slim-fitting, and this was where I realised that I probably should have regraded the entire pattern, as this would have widened the sleeves. Fortunately I have thin arms, so the sleeves actually fit well!

The dress has a side fasten, which could be either a placket with snaps and a hook and eye, or a zip. I went for a zip, but decided to hand sew it to make it less obvious. This turned out far neater than my previous attempt at a hand-picked zip, so I was very happy. The shoulder pads in the instructions are huge; made from a circle of fabric 25cm / 10” in diameter, with bound edges so no seam allowance to make them any smaller. I used bought pads, but covered them in fabric.

Also large by my standards was the hem; 5cm / 2”. Because it’s a plain fabric, to me the hem is really noticeable, and I may have to redo it. However I came across this article, about weddings in the second world war, complete with photographs of a bride in a very expensive short dress, with a very obvious hem (yes, I do notice things like that - sad but true!). So I’m taking mine to be ‘period accurate’.

The finished dress has a lot less wearing ease than we're used to now; so much so that it's nigh on impossible to get it onto Nancy to photograph it. So I had to model it myself. Thanks to S for letting me use her 1930s porch as the perfect backdrop, and to J for humouring his mum's lunatic friend and acting as photographer!

The finished dress, worn with the just-visible CC41 earrings

One pledge down, two to go.


  1. Oh I love your new dress! The color and shape suit you perfectly! What a fun project. I love making dresses using true vintage patterns. When I do that, I know that it will at least have the total correct shape for the era I am time traveling to! Very well done!