Something For The Weekend: a vintage styled sundress pattern.

It is the hottest summer here for 7 years –  sundresses needed fast!

This cotton swimsuit (still my fave) I made from a vintage Butterick pattern a couple of summers ago provided the inspiration. I re-drafted a similar style bodice (bust 35-37ins/89-94cms) and the pattern is now up on the VV Free page for you to download and use with just about any skirt pattern you like or even sew it onto shorts or bloomers for a cute swim/play suit similar to the Butterick one.

Dress #1:  A gathered scoop-neck bodice attached to a simple dirndl skirt –  cut rectangle 28″ long x100″ around/71cm long x 250cm around; gathered evenly and sewn onto the bodice. The dress has a centre back invisible zip and I added two patch pockets. To keep the neck wide I spread out the front neck gathers towards the sides and hand tacked them firmly into place onto the strap otherwise they would keep sliding back down towards the centre.


VVsailboat sundress

Dress #2:  A higher necked bodice with a centre front seam sewn to leave a split at the top and attached this time to a circle skirt.  The midriff has been totally topstitched in rows. The appliquéd skirt is a project based on 50’s souvenir skirts that I recently designed and made for the Augusts issue of Making Magazine.

MM37 Final Cover

The tutorial pdf from the magazine, which you can download by clicking the little Making cover picture, explains how to draft a circle skirt to your own waist measurement, construct it and has a template for the boats which are appliquéd using BondaWeb. To use the circle skirt it with the Sundress bodice you simply need to add a centre back seam into the skirt. Due to the angled edge under the arm  placing the zip centre back  is easier than in the side seam .

Alterations: The bodice patterns fit a bra size 34C/D-36C.  When altering the pattern for my two sizes smaller daughter I simply darted about 8cms of fullness out from the top of the neck to nothing at the under-bust seam on the pattern. I also lowered the front neckline about 3 centimetres. Next, to fit her smaller waist and ribs I took a couple of centimetres off the whole centre front of the pattern and off the centre back too. For a larger bust and waist those alterations could be done in reverse- so do a slash and spread adding fullness at the top neck and over the bust and also add some height rather than subtracting. Then add what you need for your waist/ribs divided evenly between the centre front and centre back. For grading up more than two or three sizes you may be better of spreading the pattern out at the side front and back too, rather than just at the cf. and cb. Have a look at the Threads Grading Guide I’ve got over there in the sidebar for an idea of how to do this.

I started out wearing both dresses with the straps tied behind my neck but finally decided shoulder straps would be more comfortable. Depending on how you choose to wear them you may find a little dart at the side bust is needed- usually not if you wear the top as a halter style but quite possible if worn as shoulder straps. I had to add darts to my blue dress and where I placed them is marked on the pattern. My brown dress is made in a quite soft rayon and even though I don’t wear this one as a halter either it didn’t need side bust darts.  It seems to depend on a combination of your figure shape and the fabric you use.

What about a bra? – I prefer to present a firm front to the world so covered and tacked bra cups onto the lining.   An alternative would be to get one of those multi-way bras and sew ribbon loops on the inside of the bodice that the S-hooks above the bra cups can be hooked onto so you don’t need to use and therefore  see the bra straps. Is it a generational thing… my 19 year old daughter isn’t fussed if her bra straps show or not. I prefer not showing.

The pattern is marked to cut a lining (I simply cut mine from the same fabrics) so in construction all the upper edges are bagged-out. However if you don’t want the double thickness simply bind the edges with straight cut strips. Straight rather than bias because they then will help to keep the edges from stretching. Written on the pattern pdf are only the very basic sewing steps- no more or it would be many more weekends before I finally got this posted!

Please do make a toile to check fit on yourself first what ever you do!!

Off to sew my daughters dress now so she will stop harassing me! Its being made from a red cotton sari. I’ll post a pic when all done.

27 thoughts on “Something For The Weekend: a vintage styled sundress pattern.

  1. These are adorable – the button detail is a lovely vintage touch!

    I have to draft and redraft to accommodate large bust and small frame! Thank you for creating these lovely patterns.

    1. If you do make this bodice to fit I’d love to hear how it works on you. I’ve just made a 1pc swimsuit using this up top for a small but busty friend… (30G,34DDD depending on bra brand) It actually worked without any FBA modification…. just held her all in nicely. We were both pleasantly surprised!

      1. Being busty and small framed is a real nightmare. I went on a bra making course to try and get my head round the mechanics – so I can use the concept in bodices etc. She asked me to check my measurements twice, then checked them again herself when I arrived! lol Will give it a try and let you know. I learned to do the full bust adjustment recently and goodness what a huge difference it made!

  2. I was looking for French Knickers pattern and stumbled across your wonderful blog, an hour a later am still here reading and wishing you gave classes. I would be there in a flash!

    Thanks for sharing your fabulous work.

    One vintage lover to another x

    1. Thanks Alicia! A few people have asked me about giving classes…. you never know!

  3. Thank you so much for posting this pattern and showing your two dresses! I can’t decide which neck line I like more. One question: How many yards did you use to make to make each dress?

    1. Glad you like them 🙂 Honestly now I don’t remember exactly how much fabric they used … I’d estimate 2&½ yards for the brown version. The circle skirt version definitely uses more than a gathered skirt and I think it says the amount in the Making Magazine instructions but am only on my ipad at the moment so can’t check the files myself, sorry!

  4. Can’t believe I missed this post – I love your Sailboat version of this dress! Coming in to Spring Dwon Under this is definitely on my list….

  5. This is just what I have been searching for, thank you for your generosity in sharing this pattern. Being typically pear shaped with a smaller top than bottom half it is very hard to find clothes that fit (and flatter) both halves. This dress is perfect, I can’t wait to get sewing

  6. Oh I have downloaded this, love the bodice and pocket placement on the skirt – gorgeous! Weather is back to its usual here, but I have my hols lined up and this dress would be perfect. Thanks for sharing your wonderful talent.

  7. Thank you so much for sharing this bodice pattern. It is so flattering and I love the potential to make little differences in style each time. I’ll be some time getting round to it but I will be sure to let you know when I have 🙂

  8. Gorgeous dresses as ever.You are so talented and I hope your daughter knows how lucky she is!

  9. What a divine dress… now I know what to do with that fabric in the back of my closet! Now is there any chance you could share the swimsuit pattern? It’s adorable and surely a MUST HAVE in any collection!

  10. What a fantastic pattern. The bodice is a great shape and really suits you. I’m with you on the bra strap thing. Even if I didn’t have a resistance to showing my under garments I don’t want to distract from the garment and ruin the line.

  11. Oh, I saw that skirt in the magazine and thought it was great – didn’t spot that it was yours!! 🙂

  12. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Just what I needed 🙂 And by the way, I’ve also downloaded the french knickers pattern tutorial and sew-along, and they’re amazing. I’ve finished 3 knickers, and have 2 more cut out.

    1. You are very welcome!
      And wow, that’s some knicker production, I’m very pleased you like the tute etc. so much 🙂 Thank you for the encouragement to post more!

      1. I am totally amazed by the french knicker pattern draft. Up until now I have mostly draped patterns, mostly because I’ve been too lazy to sit down and learn how to draft pattern (I own several books on pattern drafting), but it really only took the one draft, no adjustments needed. Not at all like draping patterns which always seemed to require at least 2 mock ups. So I’m really looking forward to trying out this pattern, I reckon I’ll pair the bodice with a half circle skirt 🙂

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