Easy Summer Dress - The Instructions

First, I'd like to apologize my English. I'm not a native speaker and translating from old Finnish proved to be bit of a challenge. ;)

And now, as I promised: The instructions for that easy breezy late 50's summer dresses I wrote about earlier...

The instructions tell that this dress is not only good for a sundress, but it can also be used as a jumper with blouses, and if a fancy fabric is used, it may even be suitable for evening wear... I don't know if I'd go that far, though. ;) They also mention that this dress could perhaps be used as maternity dress. So versatile! ;)

So, you'll need 2 1/2 meters (2,735 yards) of fabric 120 cm (48") wide. The article says that the original dress in the TV-show was made from silk lining fabric. As far as I know, this probably wasn't actually silk, but some other fabric (of man-made fibres). I'd say that light weight fabrics (with good draping properties) work better than heavier ones for a dress like this (like that sheer cotton versus thicker linen that I've used for this dress so far).

One word of warning… The end result will be much nicer if you take the time and preshrink your fabric before cutting. Warp and weft tend to shrink in different ways due to the tension differences in fabrication process. If the fabric is not prepared the hem will most likely turn uneven in the first wash, which is very usual problem with circle skirts and like.

Part 1: Cutting

Spread the fabric on a flat surface right side up (Picture 1) and fold along the center line E-F bringing the corner A to B and C to D. (A and C stay on the top.)

Then fold the fabric crosswise bringing the corner CD to E (Picture 2). After this you should have the triangular shape seen in Picture 3 and four layers of fabric.

Measure 20 cm (8”) from the corner AB along both sides of the triangle (AB-ECD and AB-F), marking X and Y. Cut away the corner along the curved line (I recommend pinning the fabric layers together before cutting) drawn between these two points (X, Y). This curved line will be the neckline of the dress (Picture 3).

Now decide the desired length of the dress and then add some for the hem…

Measure the added length from the point X to point P (and mark the point) and then from Y to Q. Carefully draw the hemline measuring from the curved line X-Y so that every point on hemline has an equal distance to the neckline. Now cut along the line (once again pinning the layers together might be a good choice) from P to Q.

Now open the last fold leaving the fabric only twofold. Voila! You’ve got your two dress pieces (front and back) now (Picture 4).

Baste the sides together starting from the hem. On both sides of the bodice leave c. 37 cm (c. 15”) open until you’ve tried to fit the garment to see how much room is needed for arm holes. Then baste the rest as needed to fit your own measurements.

From the leftover fabric cut two strips for shoulder straps. The width is optional, cut as wide or narrow as you like, but remember to leave some extra fabric so you can finish the edges... and cut the strips long enough, you can trim the excess lenght later.

The dress in the picture has a soft gathered sash cut on the bias. The width is 25 cm (10”) and it closes on the back side with hook and eye closure. The instructions suggest that self fabric belt is another possibility. (Purchased belt works just as fine...)

Part 2: Fitting

When fitting the dress you’ll need another person to help you (the shoulder straps haven’t bee attached to the dress yet). Turn the dress right side out and try it on. Attach the dress to the straps of your petticoat (!) using pins. See how far the side seams should go and baste them a bit further up if necessary.

The shoulder straps are first pinned to front of the dress. If the straps are wide, you can gather them a bit before attaching them to the bodice (see picture 5). Shorten the straps as needed and pin them to the back part too.

If you are making the wide gathered sash, try it on also now. Pull it tight to the back and pin it together in the middle of the back. Cut excess fabric away leaving enough to turn the raw edges in. If you are using self-fabric or purchased belt, the instructions suggest trying also these on at this point.

Take the dress off and remove the straps.

Part 3: Sewing

You’ll need a facing for the neckline… This can be either the same fabric or some other, whatever you decide. First, spread the top on a piece of paper (see picture 6) and draw the outline of the neckline and armholes on the paper (it needs to continue 2,5 cm or 1”, past the ending point of the future side seam). Remove the dress and draw the facing about 5cm (2”) wide (picture 7). Using this paper pattern cut two facings (front and back) on the bias (picture 8).

Machine stitch the side seams (picture 9), iron them open and finish the raw edges.

Turn in the raw edges of the shoulder straps and stitch (picture 10), you can also line them if you want.

Baste the shoulder straps to bodice front right sides together (see picture 11), the other ends of straps hanging towards the hemline.

Finish the bottom edge of the facing as needed. Put the facing on top of the bodice front and the shoulder straps right sides together with the dress (picture 12). Baste and then machine stitch. Turn the right side out and iron.

The instructions tell that the back facing should be attached in the same way, but leaving the straps away. The straps should then be hand stitched to the backside. (I just did it in the same way that the bodice front was supposed to do. I think it looks nicer that way…)

Blind stich the facings to the dress on the wrong side as seen in Picture 13.

Then just hem the dress and you're done!

I hope these instructions can be of use to you! If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask. :) And if you would like to have the instructions in Finnish (pdf), just ask!


Lizzy said...

tHANKS for sharing! In fact I have made the skirt of a dress like that, I mean folding the fabric, but of course I would like to do the complete dress like this one. GOOD JOB!!

Una said...

Thank you! :) I've also made many circle skirts using the same method, it's so easy!

orata said...

thanks for posting this! I really want to try it.

Psycho Sue- Sew Misunderstood said...

Wow these are FANTASTIC! I nominated you for THE STYLISH BLOGGER AWARD! Check out the details at this blog post http://sew-misunderstood.blogspot.com/2011/01/blog-awards-and-stuff-you-never-wanted.html

Melony at Whimsy Daisy! said...

Love your blog! I can't wait to try this. Thank you for posting it.

Melony at Whimsy Daisy! said...

Love your blog! Can't wait to try this and I plan on coming back to your blog again and spending some time enjoying and reading.

Una said...

Thank you ladies! I guess it's time to jump back in to the wonderful world of bloggin'... ;)