In Sewing Vintage: The Flirty Day Dress class you make a lovely 1950’s day dress; a fitted lined bodice with cute trim, gathered short sleeves and a gathered flared skirt with patch pockets and hand finish the hem. A petticoat finishes off the dress.
With retro looks becoming more fashionable this class was a must for me to take and review.
Lesson 1 – Meet Laura Nash
Laura makes modern patterns in a vintage style, using both vintage and modern notions. The project is the Tia dress – a modern pattern available from the Sew Chic website and included in the price of the class. During the class you will learn some techniques that will not only give you a vintage look dress on the outside, it’ll look vintage on the inside as well. These details include:
- Side zipper with a privacy panel
- Waist stay
- Wide hemmed flared skirt
- Petticoat (without a pattern)
In this lesson Laura talks about the chose of fabric for the dress and trims. Should you use a contrast or not? So many choices – it just means you will have to make more! Interfacing is optional as it wasn’t commonly used in vintage clothes being that it was expensive. Thankfully, Laura goes through the alternatives. The PDF that comes with the class notes the supplies and resources.
Lesson 2 – Pattern Preparation
You need to measure your bust at apex, natural waist, hip at fullest part and back waist. You can then select a size. This is sometimes determined by the amount of ease allowance you want in the finished garment. This is important if you are using traditional fabrics as they often don’t stretch. You need at least 2.5” of ease at the bust so you can move and breathe easily. The hip is usually 1.5”of ease, though this doesn’t matter for this pattern as the dress is full.
Laura explains how to change the bodice for larger bust. If your bust is larger than a B cup, chose a size based on the high bust and adjust the pattern. Tracing the pattern on to a separate piece of tracing paper, Laura draws the seam allowance and explains where and how to expand the pattern piece. A curved ruler makes drafting the changes to the pattern easier, marking both the seam sewing line and the seam allowance. You have to adjust both the side piece and centre front.
Laura explains how to mark the pattern to lengthen or shorten the skirt which can be done any where from under the hip but leaving the hem circumference as it is. This is shown step by step as is the resulting trueing of the skirt length.
Next you make additional pattern pieces – making our own bias for the trim and the underlay for the zipper.
Lesson 3 – Cutting
It’s always important to make sure that your fabric is straight to the grain. Laura shows how to do this with a patterned fabric. After Laura has pinned the pattern to the fabric, she shows us her collection of electric shears and how to pick a good pair.
To mark her fabric, Laura uses a waxed tracing paper. Make sure you mark the wrong side when marking the waist dart. If using waxed tracing paper, you may need to go over the lines several times. Also clip the legs of each dart in the seam allowance and use tailor tacks to mark the corners of the pockets.
Stay stitch the bodice before hand basting the seams. Finger press the seams open, then try on. Laura places it on a dummy to adjust the fitting however I adjusted on myself. At this point you could try the waist stay (see lesson 5) and check the fit of that.
Lesson 4 – Preassembly and Bodice
Laura shows us her vintage sewing machine as well as explaining Edna Bishop’s method of sewing in units.
Applying the interface is first. Laura demonstrates how she sews in her interfacing. Sewing the darts is next.
The trim for the pocket is measured and the raw edge trimmed so as to get the correct width. It is then sewn to the pocket. Press the trim on the right side and cut the trim fabric to match the pocket sides. Press the pocket seam allowances down.
The sleeves are now prepared by stay stitching and basting the head and hem of the sleeve. Laura explains why you sew right side up and how to sew this on your machine. She then explains how to gather the edges.
Laura uses pinking shears to finish her seams.
Press the seam allowance on the sleeve band and sew the seam. The band and gathered sleeve bottom are sewn together, Laura uses an awl to assist. Trim the seam and fold over the trim then sew the top stitch for the band a scant distance from the top of the band edge.
Joining the bodice pieces together is next. Laura explains how to do this and how to reduce bulk if you have used sewn in interfacing.
The trim is applied to each side of the bodice front. Laura demonstrates step by step, so it is easy to follow. The yoke is then attached to the bodice. Seams are trimmed and seams pressed.
The bodice back is now finished. Sew all the darts, then sew the back shoulder seams and press them open. Pin the back to the front at the shoulders and check the fit.
Lesson 5 – Bodice Finishing and Skirt
The lining of the bodice front is now sewn the same way as the bodice front but without the trim and the interfacing. You should sew the back lining and bodice back together (right sides facing) at the neck line, turn and understitch. Baste the shoulder of the back.
Pin the back to the front at the shoulder, then pin the bodice lining to the bodice front. Sew together starting at the centre front. Trim, clip and press before under stitching on the lining side of the seam. Press the finished seam.
Sew the side seams, sewing the fashion fabric and the lining separately. Laura then shows how to prepare the bodice side for the zipper. The bodice “hem“ is then basted together.
The pockets are then attached to the skirt. Laura uses triangle stitching at the top of each pocket edge to strengthen the top corners. Once the pockets are attached sew the skirt panels together, finish and press open not forgetting to leave an opening for the zipper.
Laura prepares the top of the skirt for gathering and then shows how to gather the top evenly. After stitching all around the waist, Laura adds a waist stay. She explains how to determine how big to make the stay, especially if you want your skirt tight. She also explains how to make sure that the skirt is even distributed around the body before sewing the waist stay in.
Lesson 6 – Lapped Zipper
Inserting the lapped zipper is rather hard to explain, but suffice to say Laura explains and demonstrates the process well. The modesty panel is great. Don’t be daunted. The advantage of craftsy courses is that you can watch the video as many times as you want and pause it as you follow along.
Lesson 7 – Sleeves and Hem
You will have already prepared the sleeve head in lesson 4. In this lesson you learn how to place the sleeves into the lined bodice. Don’t forget to use a ham to press the seam towards the sleeve.
The hem is next. Laura demonstrates the tool she uses – a hemmer or skirt marker. In vintage sewing, you usually have a wider hem and use bias.
Before you start to measure the hem, you need to decide whether you are going to wear the petticoat while you mark the hem or make the petticoat to match the hem. Mark you hemline with pins while you are wearing the dress. You’re going to need help to do this!
Laura uses a bishop ruler to assist pressing up the hem and gives us advice on how to cope with the excess fabric created by the full skirt being pressed upwards. Her advice on how to use the bias hem tape on the raw edge is invaluable. I really don’t like hand sewing and avoid it if I can but I can see its use here.
Lesson 8 – Petticoat
A petticoat finishes the dress and holds the skirt out nicely. To make the petticoat you need to have your waist measurement and the distance from your waistline to the hem of the skirt. The worksheet that comes with the class explains how to determine the radius of the yoke. The fullness of the petticoat is determined by the number of ruffles and the amount of gathering. Laura explains the difference between tulle, netting and crinoline or petticoat netting. You need the crinoline (petticoat netting). Laura takes you step by step through how to determine the waist yoke and how to determine the length of the petticoat when you have two ruffles.
The petticoat is finished at the waist line with bias binding. Laura shows you how to cut the skirt yoke and as well as the long strips of netting to form the ruffles. She then uses a ruffling foot to sew the ruffle to the yoke. It’s rather complex to explain how the ruffle foot works so I’m not even going to attempt it. If, like me you don’t have this notion, you will have to gather the ruffle first then sew it to the petticoat.
The back seam is next. Add bias binding around the waist, leaving some length on the bias binding so that you can tie it up. Laura then shows how to attach the bias binding to the skirt.
As the crinoline can be uncomfortable to wear, you may want to line the petticoat with a softer fabric.
Laura gives clear step-by-step instructions which I found easy to follow. Her knowledge of vintage techniques was good and I loved her collection of vintage equipment, which she able shows us how to use.
I was a little concerned about the fitted bodice as I have a fuller bust. It can be so hard to find a fitted pattern that fits me around the bust properly. Laura’s explanation on the adjustments were easy to follow.
I loved the fact that Laura uses a vintage sewing machine with no fancy widgets. Oh except for the ruffler foot. I want one; it looks so easy to ruffle with that foot.
It is assumed you know the basics of sewing – you need to know how to sew darts for instance. Although Laura explains how to insert a zipper, a beginner might be a bit overwhelmed if this project is their first zipper.
Having said that Laura easy explanations will give you confidence, so why have a go using a cheaper cotton – it’s a great dress to make.
Laura emphasises that the effort put into preparation pays off with a better overall garment. Doing the preparation up front also makes the dress quicker to sew up.
This is a lovely dress to make. Laura explanations make it easy and a pleasure to sew.
I honestly quite enjoyed Sewing Vintage: The Flirty Day Dress by Laura Nash and would recommend it to anyone wanting to sew more vintage style clothing.