Sunday, 12 April 2015

Horrockses DIY

Although the challenge I’ve set myself for the Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge this year is to make up three of my vintage patterns, I also have a lot of pattern re-issues from the Big Four in my stash. For some of them I even have fabric as well! Vogue 8789, from 1957, was one such pattern.

Pattern illustration, view A

When I visited the Horrockses exhibition a few years ago, I was really taken with the dress on the exhibition poster, and especially its bias-cut bodice.

So when Vogue 8789 was reissued, I knew that I wanted to make it. I bought this perfect striped Rose and Hubble cotton in Over the Moon in Glastonbury a couple of years ago, and then did nothing with it.

Got fabric, got pattern, ready to go (in theory)

A year ago I redrafted the bodice pieces to include my standard Vogue alterations and cut out the bodice pieces and then . . . did nothing with it.

Redrafted bodice front

Then a couple of weeks ago, having got sick of having to move the cut-out pieces every time I needed something which was underneath them (which seemed to be frequently), I decided that it was time to finally Do Something.

The bodice pieces are cut with a self facing at the neckline, and it’s really important to make sure that the stripes 1) run parallel with the neckline and 2) match at the centre front and back seams. Once the pieces are cut out, the bodice is easy to construct. All the shaping comes from darts at the waist, and the pieces are shaped so that the stripes match on the curved shoulder seam as well as at the centre.

Completed bodice, inside out

I didn’t use the pattern pieces to cut out the skirt, as it is just four identical rectangles of fabric. However I did hit a problem, namely; which direction to have the stripes?

The Vogue pattern illustration shows the skirt with the stripes running vertically (and as I found here, Vogue re-issues do seem to stick quite closely to the original artwork). However nearly all of the examples of Horrockses dresses that I’ve found have the skirt stripes running horizontally, including this one in an advertisement for the Liverpool department store apparently known locally as “The Bonmarsh”.

Pattern matching perfection

Eventually after extensive research / drooling over pictures of pretty dresses on the internet, I managed to find a couple of examples with vertical stripes, which was enough for me.

From the apparently now defunct

In the process I also found two images which I just had to share.

First up, in the unlikely event that I ever find some fabric with bunches of bananas printed on it, I really want to recreate this dress. Because who doesn't want a dress with a banana-encrusted bust?

Yes, we have some bananas

Secondly, this fabulous picture of the Horrockses float in a Preston Guild procession in the 1950s, courtesy of the Harris Museum and Art Gallery.

Coming soon to a screen near you

Anyway, back to the dress. The skirt is very, very full. This picture shows the four panels sewn together (so the fabric is double thickness), and draped over Nancy, who is set to my height.

That's a lot of skirt . . .

It had to be tightly gathered to fit it to the bodice.

. . . and a lot of gathering

The dress is finished off with a petersham ribbon waist stay; I suspect partly to give some structure to the bias-cut bodice, and partly to stop the weight of the skirt from stretching the bodice. It fastens with a side zip, which I hand-picked although it wasn’t really necessary as side zips don’t show much. On the other side I added a pocket, because what dress isn’t improved by the addition of a pocket?

Such a full skirt looked a bit droopy on its own, so I made a net petticoat to go under it. The same as my pink one, but a far more sensible white.

I added a final touch to my Horrockses homage. Nearly all the Horrockses dresses I have seen have a matching fabric belt with a fabric-covered buckle, so when I came across an advert for Harlequin, who offer just such a belt-making service, I decided to splash out. The service was quick and the result is just perfect, even the loop carrier matches exactly.

The fabric belt

In true Horrockses style, I think that this will be a ‘best dress’ rather than a ‘everyday’ or even ‘work’ dress. Everything I have read about Horrockses suggests that their dresses weren’t cheap, something which my mum confirms. According to this website, the four guinea dress advertised above would cost about £118 / $172 today. However cost isn’t really the issue here; I just can’t face ironing that massive skirt on a regular basis!

So here is the end result. Unfortunately, although it was sunny the day I took the picture it was also very windy, so my attempts at Barbara Goalen-esque poise and elegance were scuppered by the need to keep my hat on, my hair from sticking to my lippy, and my skirt from blowing over my head! Oh well.


  1. How lovely, and the covered belt is the perfect touch.

  2. Very nice! I just learned about Horrockes last week and found some appropriate fabric in the store but I don't have the pattern...yet.

    1. Ooh, I look forward to seeing your version!

  3. This is a great dress! It looks so pretty, and so well made. I love the fabric print, and the matching belt adds the nicest touch. Great job! ❤

    bonita of Lavender & Twill

    1. Oh, and I meant to say ~ yes to the pocket! I have to make sure any dress/skirt I make has pockets these days. I even went back and added a patch pocket to an old dress project of mine because I just can't live without them! ;) xox

    2. Thank you! And it's always good to meet another pocket enthusiast!