Sunday, 28 May 2017

Simplicity 1587, aka The Dress of Frump

Simplicity 1587 is probably the least flattering garment I have ever made. This is a bold claim, as there’s been some stiff competition over the years (late 1980s/early 1990s fashion, I’m looking at you), but still it - well my version at least - takes the biscuit.

If only

What makes this especially annoying is that it's a pattern I've wanted to make for a while. I've seen lots of great versions of it, such as this one by Kaitlyn of Simply Vintage. Esther of Dolly Creates loves it so much that she's made it five times! So when I found a poly charmeuse with a suitably retro floral print, it seemed like the perfect reason to step away from the craft cottons and try something different.

I made my standard bodice length alterations, which had worked perfectly on Simplicity 1777, and lengthened the skirt. Because the fabric was 150cm / 54" wide, I cut the skirt back as a single piece rather than have a centre back seam (the dress has a side opening). I forgot to make any alterations for shoulder pads, but I've noticed that a lot of my 1950s patterns have optional shoulder pads and no alterations to accommodate them, so decided that this wouldn't matter.

The front yoke has three pleats in each side, and getting them remotely symmetrical was a challenge. It didn't help that the fabric wasn't on the straight grain, an no amount of washing, stretching and pressing would fix this.

The pleats in progress

The bodice front and back are made up and joined at the shoulders, the skirt front and back are attached to their respective yokes, and then the bodice and skirts are put together. As with Simplicity 1777, I top-stitched the yokes in place, rather than use the modern method of placing right sides together, matching the raw edges and sewing the seam. This may not have helped.

The instructions are to sew the side seams and then set in the sleeves, but I decided to attach the sleeves first.

All made up apart from the side seams and zip

At this point, it wasn't looking promising. I hoped that it was one of those dresses which looks like a limp rag on the hanger, but fabulous when worn. So I sewed up the sides and tried it on - and it still looked like a limp rag. The front yoke lies weirdly and the pleats stick out, possibly due to the off-grain problem. There seem to be gathers in all sorts of odd and unflattering places, and the skirt yoke looks dreadful. The skirt is quite full, so there's a lot of hem, and I was tempted not to even bother. I did hem it in the end, but I can't say that I bothered too much about getting it level.

All in all it is so bad that I almost didn’t photograph the end result. Then I remembered the various discussions I've read in posts and forums over the years about the false image we all give online by only showing our successes and not our failures. So here it is in all its, ahem, 'glory'.

This is the best shot - it's downhill from here!

I think that part of the problem is that the bodice yoke should be shorter; the join to the main bodice is too low, which makes the gathered sections look peculiar.

All sorts of unflattering things going on round the bust!

Even though I lengthened the skirt pieces, there was still only enough fabric for a tiny hem.

There is so much wrong here, I can't even begin to say

Part of me really wants to redraft this and Get It Right, but part of me feels that life's too short. It's definitely one just to wear around the house. Ah well.


  1. Thanks for the shout out! Funnily enough I've had number of problems with this pattern too, and I don't wear my version any more. I really don't like how the skirt sits, Esther often used different skirt pieces on hers, and looking back I should have done the same. However, there's still something not right with the bodice. I probably used fabric that was too stiff, plus there's something odd with the armhole/sleeve. I have made myself quite a nice blouse from the pattern, but its one I'm retiring from now on.

    1. Thanks for the comment Kaitlyn, it's good to know that I'm not the only one! For me at least the skirt shape is beyond fixing, but I think that the bodice could look quite nice with a few alterations to the pattern. I really like your idea of adapting it into a blouse pattern.

  2. I have also planned to make this into a blouse! I actually have one cut out and partially sewn together. And I agree with the skirt issues... although I think your method of top-stitching the yokes would make it easier to deal with. I do want to make this one again.

    I think your version turned out kinda cute, actually! It's not terrible, at any rate, and your shoes are to die for!

    1. Aww, thank you Chelsea! The shoes are a Miss L Fire pair which I've had for ages - I love them, but they're a bit too wild to wear out much.

      A blouse definitely sounds like the way to go with this pattern. Because I had a lot to do round the house, I've spent most of today in my 1930s wrap-around pinny (, and even that looks less frumpy than the dress! It was super-comfy and practical too.

  3. Thanks for sharing this; I have this pattern at home and have been meaning to have a go at it. Looking at the others you've linked, the difference seems to be in the fabric. Also, I'm guessing they've sized up a bit, as they have more room and the pleats etc aren't dragging. How frustrating! I seem to remember that the envelope photo shows the dress made in what looks like a drapy, shiny fabric. Definitely one for crisp cotton!

    1. I've seen several versions of this online recently, and they seem to have turned out fine! I'd like to see yours too, if you make it.

      Annoyingly, I made this in the same size as Simplicity 1777, another 1940s reissue, and that fits perfectly. I think that part of the problem is that the yoke is too long on me - I have a short torso so always have to shorten bodices, and in this case I did all my alterations on the lower part of the bodice. I have an original 1940s pattern of a similar design, and at some point I want to try making that, rather than revisit the trauma of this one!