Mad Men Dress Challenge #2: Seemingly endless pattern adjustments!


I should probably mention the fact that even though I’m organizing these blog posts sequentially as well as thematically, I had already finished my Mad Men dress by the time I started writing. I was on a deadline for Tango Social Club’s Mad Men Costume Party, slated for Saturday, March 30th.

After spending hours online looking at sewing blogs, I was forced to admit I’d have to make a muslin for this dress, as instructed on the Sewaholic’s blog. Even though the whole process looked lengthy, I knew I’d need to go through it because though my measurements are close to the hourglass figures depicted in vintage pattern art, I am definitely NOT a perfect match. Some modifications would definitely be required…

The Simplicity pattern I used (Paris Fashion 4950) was a size 14 Misses; the measurements for that size are as follows:

  • Bust: 34″
  • Waist: 26″
  • Hips: 36″

Having read all about vintage patterns before, I knew I’d have to make some adjustments, but how many, I simply had no idea!  My measurements, as previously mentioned, are close but not quite a match to this pattern’s size 14:

  • Bust: 33″
  • Waist: 26″
  • Hips: 35″

Looking at those numbers and at my rather complete collection of padded and push-up bras, I thought I’d simply be doing a small bust adjustment (as opposed to the standard full bust adjustment which is documented all over the place online), because, uh, when God was handing out goodies, I was short-changed in the bust area. Yes indeed, Marilyn Monroe, I am not. Thankfully, I found Moonbeam’s detailed tutorial explaining the slash and pivot technique:

small bust adjustment

Using this technique, I modified the original bodice pattern piece quite a bit:


I shifted the side piece inwards 1.5″ and removed 5/8″ off the center seam. I ended up keeping the bust dart even though it was narrower after the small bust adjustment. I also redrew the waist dart, as per the instructions in the tutorial. Then I lengthened the waist by an half an inch, to make sure my bodice wasn’t too short. And *finally*, I also had to redraw the armscythe, both to accommodate the pattern modifications I’d made and to make the shoulders narrower…can I just say how much of a challenge it was without a French curve on hand (which I eventually went to buy out of total frustration). Here’s what my redrawn pattern looks like now:


Thinking I was out of the woods, I made the muslin for the bodice and found that I had tons of “poof” in the back, which also happened when I made my Walkway dress.  After doing some research, I discovered that I needed to measure my back to see if it matched up remotely with my back bodice piece. I found a few pages from the “Perfect Fit” book that were quite enlightening.back measurement

When I had my back measured, I discovered my shoulders aren’t the only narrow part of my body. Turns out the pattern measured 15.5″ across the back, while I measure 13″. Oops. Obviously, I needed to make an important adjustment to the back bodice pattern piece as well! The Perfect Fit book gave me some hints as to how to do make such an adjustment.

Narrow back adjustment

I followed these instructions exactly and slid the middle section inwards for a maximum recommended amount of 1″ (on each side). This narrowed the back bodice piece to 13.5″ from arm crease to arm crease. I figured the extra 0.5″ inch would be required for some ease in the fabric. I lengthened the bodice the same amount as for the front bodice (0.5″). And then, with my trusty new French curve (love.that.thing) I redrew the armscythe as well to match up with the front bodice pattern piece. So I went from this:


To this:


I ended up with a muslin that looked like this:




Overall, I was satisfied with the fit of the bodice in the front, but when I looked at the back, I realized that the shoulder are looked too wide for my body, so I narrowed the shoulders a little more by redrawing the armscythe again but kept the shoulder darts intact in the back..

Phew! Did you manage to keep up with my endless fiddling? I barely did! By the time I had the modified pattern pieces for the bodice, I needed to take a break from the dress!


2 thoughts on “Mad Men Dress Challenge #2: Seemingly endless pattern adjustments!

  1. Pingback: Completed: The Emery Dress | LLADYBIRD

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