Sunday 6 September 2020

Vogue 5215

Well, that didn't go as planned. Mr Tulip would have been 70 on Thursday and, while obviously there have been a number of 'birthdays' since 2014, something about the roundness of this particular number combined with the general strangeness of life at present meant that the week ended up being pretty much a write-off. But I finally have a finished dress to show.

My August dress for the Vintage Sew A Dress A Month was this. However I managed to turn what should have been simple project into a long and complicated one.

Vogue 5215, from 1961

I bought the fabric some years ago from Til The Sun Goes Down. The simple shape of the dress and the strong directional element of the print make the pattern and the fabric ideal for one another, but a couple of things put me off actually making it up, until now.

First of all, I thought that resizing the pattern would be a major undertaking. In fact, it turned out to be easier than expected.

The dress has a side zip and a waist stay, and the stay is marked with the position of the side seams and the centre front and back. The skirt has darts at the back and gathers at the front, and the bodice is slightly gathered front and back. Like Butterick 6582, the gathering is only at the sides. The stay also has marks for where the gathered sections should end, and the position of the darts. By increasing the length of the stay proportionally, I could then work out where the gathers and darts should be on the main pattern pieces. (It's also worth mentioning that the stay has a mere ½" ease added to the waist measurement for the size, not the ridiculous amounts which are added to modern patterns.)

The pattern pieces, with the waist stay in the centre

I made a toile to check my alterations, and to see if horizontal join on bodice needed moving or the sleeves needed widening. Either would have been tricky, as the yoke and sleeves are a single piece, but fortunately the only change required was shortening the bodice by 2".

The other thing which had put me off this project was that the fabric is very thin, so the dress would have to be fully lined. On one of our trips to Watson and Thornton in Shrewsbury Mum spotted a lightweight but firm black cotton which was ideal for the job. I also found the perfect buttons - yellow, with a horizontal black stripe which is created by cutting through a series of yellow and black layers at an angle.

Front and side views of the buttons

The buttons and lining were bought a couple of years ago, and when I took them out to start this project I discovered that in the meantime one of the buttons had got chipped. I contacted Watson and Thornton, and not only did they still have the buttons in stock, but they very kindly arranged to post one out to me! Note to self - always buy a spare button in future!

The picture I emailed to Watson and Thornton explaining the problem

The sensible approach to lining would have been to flat line each piece, and the pattern instructions state to do this if a skirt lining is required. But I decided to make life far more complicated by lining the dress is a way which left no seam allowances visible. This is why an "Easy to Make" dress took me so long to complete.

The toile, as well as being a fitting tool, enabled me to understand the construction of the dress and how to adapt it for lining. I omitted the facings, and instead attached interfacing the size of the facing pieces onto the inside of the lining. I made up the yoke/sleeve section in both fabric and lining, then sewed them together round the neck and opening. The pieces were positioned so that the edge of the fabric would roll slightly to the inside, and I then understitched round the join by hand.

The completed neckline and opening

Next I sandwiched the bottom edge of the yoke back between the bodice back and lining, and sewed the yoke and bodice together. This had to be done in two stages as the seam on the lining could not go all the way to the end. I repeated this step on the front, then machine sewed the side seams of the fabric. The side seams of the lining were turned in and sewn by hand - this was why the lining could not be fully sewn down in the previous step. Finally, I trimmed the lining on the sleeves, folded over the fabric, and slip-stitched it in place.

The completed bodice was then gathered and attached to the waist stay. The skirts were made up and gathered, the bodice sandwiched between them, and the waist seam machine stitched.

The completed bodice attached to the skirt and skirt lining

This, of course, had the effect of burying half of the waist stay inside the skirt. I had planned for this, and once the zip had been sewn in place I carefully cut out the tape I had used for the temporary stay (I had purposely chosen white tape, to make it easy to see) and replaced it with a black grosgrain ribbon, with a skirt hook and bar on the ends.

With the permanent waist stay in place

The lining was machine hemmed, and the main skirt hemmed by hand. Attaching the buttons was the last job, as I wanted to minimize the chances of them knocking against one another. There is also a tiny press stud (snap), sourced from my stash of vintage haberdashery, holding the point above the top right button closed. When I cut the dress out I had carefully placed the front yoke sections to avoid any yellow elements on the area around the buttons.

Allowing the yellow buttons to stand out

All in all it was a lot of work, most of which is invisible, for a simple dress. But oddly, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a real challenge to work out the construction, and there was a lot of hand sewing involved, but it was immensely satisfying to take the time and make the effort to produce something so neatly finished. It also fits perfectly. The skirt back has four darts rather than two and, as I discovered on my first version of Simplicity 1777, this really makes a difference to the way it hangs.

Front view, with purchased belt

Side and back views, showing off the skirt fit

The fabric was one of my choices for my UseNine challenge, which brings me up to four out of nine.

Almost halfway

Unfortunately, I have realized that I made a basic error when I was making my selection back in February. At that point I was thinking about spring and summer dressmaking, and almost all of my choices reflect that. Even though the idea was to select fabrics for projects for March to December, I somehow overlooked the fact that lightweight cottons are not ideal wear for the British winter! I suspect that UseFive may end up being a more accurate description, but I will know for next year.

On a cheerier note, a fully lined dress means twice the fabric use on the Stashometer - although a combination of wide fabric and frugal cutting out meant that I only used 1.8m of each.

Another 3.6m out of the stash


  1. This dress is fantastic--the fit and silhouette are spot-on, and I really love the pattern paired with this print. Well done! I would wear it in cooler weather with heavier tights and a fitted sweater, but that's me. :)

    1. Thanks Juliana. I was lamenting the fact that I wouldn't get much wear out of it this year, but thick tights and a suitable jumper definitely sound the way to go.

  2. You are very thorough in thinking through the placement of the design on the fabric (and buttons) with the placement on the finished dress. I'm in awe!