Saturday, June 15, 2013

Anne Adams 4799: 1940s dress

Once upon a time, there was a girl who spent far too much time looking at vintage patterns on Etsy. You see, there was this one, unobtainable pattern and she wanted it! It was perfect. A slim, 40s shirtwaister with a beautiful scalloped neckline and sleeves. From time to time, it would appear, always in the wrong size. Then one day, she heard about a pattern sale at Vintage Martini, and there it was. And only a size too large. Our intrepid heroine pounced.
And so it was fate, that brought Anne Adams 4799 back to life. The fabric is a rayon challis (from FabricMart) that felt to me like it had a 40s vibe.
I wish I could tell you precisely her age, but alas her envelope has been lost through the ravages of time and couldn't find another just like her. A tiny pencilled notation "post-45" provides a little clue. Also the clearly 1940s style and the slim, economical skirt.
The pattern is unprinted - the first I've ever made. I'll not be afraid of them again though. It took a little puzzling to decipher the meaning of all the little holes, but it was no more challenging than reading a modern pattern, once you knew what they meant. The pattern provided a very clear key in the printed instructions.
What really drew me to this pattern was the gently scalloped neckline. It's so graceful and pretty. I think we can all use more pretty in our lives. The scalloped sleeves are lovely as well, although the drape of my fabric obscures them a little. You can also (barely) see the buttons I chose in this picture. I had the hardest time choosing buttons for this dress! Thanks so much to the collective wisdom of Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. I finally decided to go with fabric covered buttons like the pattern envelope, but I used bits of the fabric that were heavy on the mauve-y pink component of the print, so as to bring that out a little.
I mentioned the slim, economical skirt, and you can see, it is. If the pencilled note on the pattern envelope is to be believed, this is a post-war pattern, but it was still extremely sparing of fabric. The skirt is beautiful - gored in back and box pleated in front, but it is not at all full. I was frankly amazed at how little fabric this dress took, considering the fullness of the bodice and the length. The pattern pieces fit together quite exactly and there was very little waste.
The pattern is unlined, with facing finishing the neckline and sleeve hem. The dress closes with buttons in front as well as a "slide fastener" or snap placket at the side seam. I elected to insert an invisible zip. I finished the inside seams by serging them, but used the clean-finish facing technique to finish the facing edges.
I really love the length, although I think the pattern is intended to be a tiny bit shorter. When I tried it on to pin my hem, I loved how it looked unhemmed, so I just turned and stitched a narrow hem, but the pattern calls for a fairly generous hem allowance. Or maybe I'm taller than the average woman in the 40s? My only regret is that I got so caught up in stitching this up, that I forgot to add pockets! Hopefully that won't doom this dress to the back of the closet, because other than that, I really love it.

Today's Tip

I mentioned the clean finish facing technique and I wanted to show those of you who may not be familiar with it (or haven't tried it yet) how easy and beautiful it is. I've seen this techniques on several other blogs (The Slapdash Sewist and Sunny Gal Studios come immediately to mind.), so I'm not inventing anything new here, but I did want to show you how I do it. I'm going to be applying the interfacing to the sleeve hem facing, which is in the round, just for reference.
First, stitch any seams on your facing itself and press the seams open. Don't finish the seam allowances at all. You want to minimize bulk. In this case, this is the underarm seam, but for a neckline facing, assemble the facing by stitching the shoulder seams.
Now sew the same seams in your interfacing. You'll sew with the non-adhesive (right) sides together. Just seam it like you would fabric. It seems odd, but it works just fine.

Trim the seam on the interfacing only to about 1/8 inch and finger press it open. Don't use the iron! You'll prematurely melt the adhesive and have a big mess.
Now pin your interfacing to the facing, right sides together (that is, the right side of the fabric to the non-adhesive side of the interfacing) and sew with a very small seam allowance (1/8-1/4) along the outer edge of the facing. This is the edge that you will NOT be attaching to the garment edge, that is, the edge that is hidden inside your garment.
Here is my sleeve facing, immediately after sewing that seam. You can see the right side of the fabric and non-adhesive side of the interfacing are seamed together at the edge of the facing. Now we have to press it and make it pretty. This is the fussy part, since you have to be careful with the iron. Don't want to fuse interfacing to the wrong spot!
The first thing that I do is press just the seamline flat onto the interfacing. With the fabric/interfacing unit right side down on the pressing surface, gently glide just the tip of your iron along the seamline, lightly adhering the interfacing to the seam allowance. This is sort of a fusible understitching and helps your interfacing side roll to the inside and stay invisible.
Now fold your interfacing down onto the wrong side of the fabric right along the seamline. Favor the fabric side slightly so that the seam rolls to the interfacing side and is hidden in the final garment. I always like to press along the seam first all the way around, then fuse the body of the interfacing to the fashion fabric in sections. You may find that your interfacing hangs off the edge a little. Just trim it away when you are finished fusing.
See how nicely the seams are enclosed? That's my favorite thing about this method! Since you seam the fabric and interfacing separately, the seams are sandwiched and fused between them in the final garment.
And here is how it looks in the finished garment! Smooth and clean, with  no unsightly lumps from a turned under hem or a serged edge.


  1. I have been meaning to say, I'm really interested in trying your technique for hems using fusible thread. Thanks for taking the time to write about that technique!!

  2. I love it! I remember seeing that pattern on Vintage Martini for months and liking it. Glad you got it and even more excited that it was one you had been searching for! =) You look beautiful in it!

    I'm working on my shirtwaist dress too - a 1939 pattern also from Vintage Martini. =) Mine also has the side zipper with the center front buttons on the bodice. The way vintage dresses closed are so interesting! Instead of a scalloped neckline, mine has a detachable revers (a second collar) that's really fascinating. They just don't make 'em like they used to!

  3. So pretty! I love that scalloped neckline. I can see why you stalked this pattern.

  4. I love it Katie - and I'm going to investigate this technique more -I'm sewing a day dress this weekend and the clean finish technique may be exactly what I need! Thanks!! BTW, Fantastic Job on your dress - the result is fab! And, I do think the fabric reminds me of vintage.

    P.S. I've had trouble commenting on some blogs since I switched to bloglovin but finally figured it out. . . I'm an avid reader of yours.

  5. Katie,

    I'm loving this new dress. It's so pretty on you and I love the covered buttons. Beautiful dress!

  6. Super cute dress. Love the scalloped edges.

  7. you and the dress look lovely and i love how you've done your hair to match. :)

  8. gorgeous Katie! and thanks for the tute!

  9. I'm so glad you found this pattern near your size cause I LOVE this dress. The scalloped neckline really is a show stopper.

  10. Lovely vintagey dress. The scallops are so feminine and pretty.

  11. Really lovely. I especially like the scallops, but I also think I prefer the slimmer skirt to the fuller.

  12. I love this, it is so pretty.

  13. That's a lovely vintage looking dress. Very pretty.

  14. I love the dress and it looks beautiful on you! It sure is great finally getting the pattern you've been coveting, isn't it? :)

  15. Oh My!! This is gorgeous and a real winner! I just love those sleeves and that fabric and the neckline! I may have to find myself this pattern.

  16. My goodness it's adorable. Love the neckline. I've used that method on my facings for years. It just lays so much nicer.

  17. A very pretty dress. Love the print.

  18. Beautiful vintage dress. You look great.