Adventures in vintage sewing: the walkway dress

So, I’ve been wanting to learn how to sew something more complex than the tango shoe bags I made last year:

Sac doré/gold shoe bag

The first one was just an experiment, which turned out rather nicely. Then someone suggested I make a bag for two pairs of shoes, since I always carry more than one pair with me (one with lower heels and one with ridiculously high 3 inch heels):

Sac rose/pink shoe bag

So the pink shoe bag was born, with some handy shoulder straps and pretty ribbons to close up the bag.

But bags are just straight lines and embellishments. There’s no real fitting involved…so I started looking online  for an easy project to start with. That’s when I happened on this:


The envelope drawings looked so deliciously vintage, and yet it looked so easy to make…until of course I read the pattern reviews online. Ugh. Apparently, the Butterick pattern redraft wasn’t fitted quite so well, and quite a few seamstresses had experienced a great deal of frustration with the “modern fit” of the pattern. Boo-urns. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.

Then, I found the sew along at Edelweiss Patterns. Thank the lord. Katrina’s sew along was so clear and easy to follow, that after pouring over it for days on end, I decided to try it out.

The first thing I did was sew the foundation garment: the crinoline.

My crinoline

This part was relatively easy though perhaps I will add some ribbon to the tiers next time, to make sewing through the crinoline smoother, much like Sugardale instructed in her petticoat blog post. A few times, my machine decided it was on a crinoline diet and went to town. Aieeeee!

Next I went to town on fitting the pattern, as Katrina instructed in week 1 of her sew along. I’ll spare you the pictures of me in my undies with my mom helping me pin the tissue paper properly.

What this exercise helped me discover was the fact that though I generally measure close to the standard vintage pattern measurements for the waist and hips (I’m 26 inches in the waist and 35 inches in the hips), my upper body is far more slender. I measure 33 inches in the high bust and my shoulders are super narrow. How narrow? I didn’t think to check at that time. I simply found that there was far too much sleeve hanging off my shoulder, and I needed to widen the bust dart to pinch away all the fabric hanging off my chest. Yeah, dead sexy.

I redrew the armscye a bit, but VERY conservatively. Next time, I think I’ll fork out the money for a French curve and really go to town, because I clearly have a narrow back and shoulders, and very little chest (thank you Asian genes).

Once that was done, I started cutting my fabric, a yellow gingham that I underlined with white broadcloth, as per the instructions I found on the Sewaholic blog. Damn I love the internet. You can find everything there.

Walkway dress in progress

Afterwards, following Katrina’s instructions for week 2 of the sew along, I sewed in my dart on the bodice and back of the dress.

Walkway dress in progress

Things were coming together nicely!!

Finally, I sewed the shoulder seams and as per Katrina’s instructions, I let the dress hang for…a long while. I know you’re supposed to let the dress hang for at least 24 hours before hemming it, but mine’s been there for several days…because I dread having to hem it! I have no dress form and I assume that the process will take quite some time…

Walkway dress in progress 2

And that’s how far my walkway dress has gotten. Having modeled it for my mother who told me she thought the thing was “far too big for you”, I realize that I might need to rework the shoulder seams (because of my darn narrow shoulders!). Beyond that, I consider the experiment VERY educational when it comes to tackling the basics of dress making.

Next blog post: the finished product!


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