My Very 40s, Embroidered Dress

Hey peeps!

It was hard only giving you the smallest sneak peek at my new dress yesterday; I wanted to post up all of my pics immediately but I always have to wait until my post is up over on Sew Weekly first since I made it for their weekly theme.

My dress got posted up on Sew Weekly yesterday in one of their feature spots for the 1940’s theme!  I never want to boast, but I get tickled & excited whenever this happens.

 In general, I have a completely different write-up on my blog vs. the one over at Sew Weekly.  I like to give you all something fresh and different to read than what goes up on SW.  It is double the work, but what’s good is that I find I never run short on things to say.  But I have to say, my other post is worth the read for the back story alone.

The construction of this dress was quite disjointed; I did work on the bulk of it very recently but also did some work on it 8 months prior.

I did the muslin last fall in a double-knit fabric (which was a mistake!) and when I tried on my constructed skirt piece last year it was too tight.  I had mistakenly thought that wool crepe was stretchy which was a very *duh* moment for me.  The bodice still worked on me today, although it is a bit short.  

I started around Wednesday last week dismantling the skirt drape & front skirt from the skirt back at the side seams.  I then re-cut the skirt back piece with my newly acquired fabric and lots of extra ease just in case.  (Read the back story here.)  After a bit of modifications I rejoined it to the front skirt for a superb fit.

On Thursday/Friday I cut and assembled all of the lining pieces and on Saturday I started in on the embroidery.

After having this project sit for over 1/2 a year on one of my dining room chairs, it didn’t have that *wow* factor for me anymore.  This is when I began devising of ways to embellish it and asked for your help with embroidery.  I ended up using the resource that Lladybird Lauren recommended, the Hoop Love flickr group.

Having a super long weekend, thanks to NATO being in town, I had a full 4 days to work on my dress, and nothing else.  Without this extra time I don’t think I would have been able to finish it up in time with all of the hand stitching that went into the bodice.

I used this transfer pattern from hoop love which is perfect for a beginner like me.  I only used three different stitches on it; I used a basic running stitch for the cream lines, did a daisy stitch for the flowers, and did french knots for the flower stamens.  In order to create a bit of dimension for the embroidery I used 4 different shades of yellow, keeping in the mustard family for that vintage quality it has.

I honestly love how it turned out.  I’m a sucker for multimedia projects; where more than one skill is combined to create a piece.  I’ve had it on my to-do list for quite a while: to combine knitting with sewing, but it seems that embroidery fit the bill here.  :)

As you saw in my preview yesterday, I added a hint of embroidery to the back of the belt.

It’s just a hint of design on the belt but the back was so plain vs. the front I thought it needed a bit more visual interest.

If I were to embellish a sewing project again (which I hope to do), I’m still not sure which would be better: 1.) Doing the Embroidery first on the flat piece of fabric and cutting the bodice around it or 2.) Doing the embroidery on the (nearly) constructed bodice.  Anyone have any thoughts on this front to share?

Random Thoughts & Details:

I lined the dress in a coordinating shade of rayon bemberg.  The wool crepe is a bit to sheer for my liking and really benefits from the silky smooth layer underneath.  Sadly this makes it a fall/winter dress, but I’m looking forward to wearing it again in the fall with some fun mustard colored tights.

I stitched in some (Liz-made) shoulder pads.  Normally I hate shoulder pads since they look so 80’s, plus I’m on the petite side and I don’t want to look like a football player.  But this dress without shoulder pads looks horrible!  It looks as if my shoulders are melting away from my neck.  heh  I knew this going in after making my muslin.

The pattern came with pattern pieces to make your own shoulder pads.  I sewed them together and realized that the depth of pad that they anticipated would have made me look like a football player.  I ended up scrapping them and decided instead to recover the shoulder pads I took out of my refashioned polka dot dress.  (That refashion really has gone full circle now since nothing was wasted.)  I took off the white cover to the shoulder pads and used it as a pattern to cut out new covers with my navy bemberg so they wouldn’t show through.

One thing I did was a side seam lapped zipper using instructions from one of my 40’s sewing reference books.  And I have to say… I will never insert a zipper that was ever again.  It was crazy impossible and don’t wish to burden any of you with that pain.  I’ve done it other ways before without nearly so much trouble… So it can be done painlessly, but this was not one of the ways.  :|


I have no idea how but I got my automatic buttonholer to work on one of my sewing machines!  I still don’t know how…  But this dress now has beautiful, perfect buttonholes and it was a cinch, kinda.

The one issue I ran into was that the foot on the buttonholer was shredding my wool fabric.  So in order to slide in my fabric to the buttonholer foot plate guy, I held some plastic wrap firmly over the fabric and then slid out the plastic wrap once it was in place.

Between you and me, the top buttonhole got a bit wonky or askew.  But when buttoned up no one is the wiser, so I won’t tell if you don’t.  :)


True to form, I stabilized both sides of the button band (via the neckline facing piece) along with both sides of the zipper with a black silk organza.

Bow Belt:

For my bow belt, I went off on a tangent from the pattern directions.  The pattern wanted me to double knot the belt at the front to create the bow, but this added tons of bulk and resulted in a shoddy looking bow.

Taking charge with my new buttonholer, I decided to add in a buttonhole near the base of one of the bows on the belt.  This coupled with a belt loop made for the perfect bow belt that was shown on the pattern envelope.

In essence, the buttonhole is acting like a buckle would; it keeps the fabric taught.  The right-hand bow feeds through the buttonhole and then the belt loop is scooched over to sit right on top of the buttonhole.  I really like the easy construction of this belt and no tools are needed what so ever.  I think I may make a few more in different colors now.  :)

All in all, I’m terribly thrilled that I was actually able to finish this dress.  I had given it up as a *fail* project but never had the heart to discard it nor could I think of what to do with it.  I’m already pondering tackling another one of my *failed* projects to see if I can make it work, namely a 30’s purple wool 10-gore skirt using the Dubarry 1884b pattern.  Who knew that gores and me just don’t mix?!  heh

In: Sewing

Blogger for 6 years and counting, I am a passionate creator who loves to tinker.

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