1960s Dress (Butterick – B6242)

After a short Christmas-inspired lull in my personal sewing time, I’ve been back to sewing for myself over the past couple of weeks. My mind has been in another world for the past month while I’ve worked my way through sewing gifts for family but, with my new dressform in tow, I was super ready to get back to finishing off my version of B6242. This is a pattern that I got a while ago – free with an issue of Make It Today! Dressmaker magazine – and have been hanging onto it every since while waiting for the perfect fabric to come along. I finally found the right fabric on a trip to Joann’s and a good look at Gertie’s fabric collection! So finally, many months – possibly years – after the fact, I actually have a version of B6242 ready to share…

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I had a number of concerns going into making this pattern. Mostly, I was incredibly worried by the shape of the bodice. I’m very much one for structured and fitted bodices – these tend to accentuate an hourglass figure and, to my eye, help balance out the fullness of a circle skirt. This is the first 1950s/1960s inspired garment I’ve made that doesn’t come with a very fitted top. That said, I decided to place my confidence in the pattern and the fact that the cumberbund/cummerbund (I’m going to go with cumberbund!) would cinch the waist sufficiently to stop the dress looking shapeless.

I’m really pleased that I put my faith in the pattern! As it turned out, the cumberbund did manage to balance the whole dress and give a sort of symmetry to the top and bottom of the garment. The fact that the top isn’t super fitted also means that the pattern is an incredibly simple construction. The cumberbund relies on gathers to give it a wonderful ruched effect. Gathers are also used on the front of the bodice where attached to the cumberbund, while the back of the bodice is tailored with darts. Assuming that you are able to get to grips with these techniques, there is nothing about the pattern that poses any significant challenge.

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The sleeves on B6242 are probably the simplest that I have ever constructed. They come as part of the bodice, so there is no insertion necessary (inserting sleeves is always one of the most annoying parts for me). Once the bodice is attached to the cumberbund, it’s simply a matter of sewing seams up the side of the dress to the end of the sleeve. The only downside of the sleeve design is the way in which they attach to the side zip. Because this kimono sleeve-style curves so dramatically under the arm, the side zip runs quite far up the length of the sleeve – essentially ending parallel to your armpit. This means that the zipper-pull flaps down very obviously when you move your arm up (you can’t see it in this photo since I made sure to photograph the non-zippered sleeve!). Although this genuinely isn’t much of an issue in terms of comfort, it does look a little odd when you see it. The only real solution here would be to move the zipper further down the side of the bodice which I think would be totally doable without impacting the fit.

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This pattern is definitely full of really interesting and unique design choices. Aside from the cumberbund and sleeves, the boatneck structure of the neckline is a perfect fit for the dress. It nicely complements the width and curve of the sleeves and, once again, poses little challenge for someone with basic sewing skills. The pattern includes information on making bias fabric strips to attach to both the neckline and the sleeves (admittedly, I didn’t use them on the sleeves). I was way too lazy to slip-stitch a bias strip to the neckline and instead decided to attach it with my machine. I don’t think the visible stitching detracts from the overall look and, honestly, it saved too much time for me to feel particularly bad about taking the shortcut!

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Size-wise, I can’t say much about the pattern as it came. Since I got the pattern free with a magazine, I was given a pre-selected set of sizes. Although my bust size was included in the pattern (and just on the size cut-off), I had to grade out for both waist and hips by making my own pattern lines. This wasn’t too much of a bother and the final fit of the garment came out perfectly. However, I would suggest making up a muslin of the bodice if you feel concerned by the relative lack of shape. There is plenty of ease to work with if you want to achieve a slightly more tailored fit.

One final word of warning – be careful when you’re cutting this pattern. Almost the entire garment is cut on the cross-wise grain and I ended up needing considerably more fabric than was suggested by the pattern. Partly this was because the fabric I used came in at 43″ wide which seemed to make a big difference to the pattern layout. If you aren’t used to cutting on the cross-wise grain, just be sure to plan your cutting layout beforehand to avoid a last minute run to get extra fabric (totally my experience).

B6242 is an excellent pattern for anyone looking to branch out their vintage style. While the silhouette is relatively conventional for a 50s/60s look, it has a number of design features that really forced me out of my comfort zone. I was so worried that the bodice would look shapeless and unflattering but totally needn’t have been concerned. Ultimately, I really love how the dress turned out and would definitely make it again!

I’ll leave you with some outtakes from this mini-photo shoot when I encountered the real difficulties of attempting to do blog photos with a nosey dog running around…

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It turns out a dog is the must-have accessory for this look! Someone alert the fashion designers!

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7 thoughts on “1960s Dress (Butterick – B6242)

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