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!

Project Updates!

After the super momentum that I achieved with my Cocktail Hour dress, I’ve been feeling seriously motivated to work my way through some new projects. So I thought that I would give you an update on my works in progress and everything coming to Sew for Victory over the next few weeks!

At the moment, I’m working with some seriously fabulous fabric picked up from Joann’s. It’s part of Gertie’s collection, and I had visions of 1960s dresses the moment I laid eyes on it.

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At $16.99 a yard, it’s definitely expensive. I love Joann’s for the MANY discount vouchers on their app and I exploit these every time I visit but, unless I’m working with a 50% off coupon, $16.99 is pretty steep (especially given that any 1950s/60s-style dress is going to take 4+ yards, which will leave you over $50 out of pocket for one dress). Fortunately, I hit Joann’s when they were having a sale specifically on Gertie’s fabric line and I think I ended up getting the fabric for around $6 a yard. Far more reasonable.

The only issue I have with this fabric (other than cost) is the 43″ width. This is something I’ve come across time and again, particularly at Joann’s. Am I the only person losing it with the fact that fabric manufacturers don’t account for the fact that EVERY pattern gives cutting layouts and fabric requirements for 45″ and 60″ fabrics as standard? Why on earth would you make a 43″ fabric? Please do enlighten me if you know. Normally it isn’t too much of an issue but it caused me such problems with this pattern. Every piece of the pattern, except for the two cumberbund/cummerbund pieces, had to be cut on the crosswise grain. Manipulating the fabric to account for this, plus cutting on the fold where I had to, I ended up dramatically short on fabric – despite the fact that I had originally purchased 1/2 yard extra than required to account for any issues. I had to go back and buy an extra yard (not on sale) which obviously cost me an additional $16.99. Since I’m working with the circle skirt version of the pattern, every inch of fabric is absolutely necessary. I was finding that I couldn’t follow the cutting layout on the pattern because two pattern pieces wouldn’t fit on the width of the fabric – being 2″ shorter than the standard 45″. I recognise that this has turned into a massive rant but I’m seriously baffled as to why fabric that sells in a nation-wide chain wouldn’t be standard size?

Anyway, moving on from that outburst. I really am seriously in love with the fabric itself. The blue is so gorgeous – the photo doesn’t do it justice. I’m about half-way through the make and it looks so wonderful. I think that this is going to be a truly fabulous dress! The pattern is one that I got free with a magazine ages ago. I wanted to go with a 1960s pattern that offered the standard silhouette but also looked different from anything I’ve made before. The bodice and sleeves are definitely a departure from my previous makes, so we’ll see how it turns out!

Aside from the 1960s dress, I also have plans for a couple of other fabrics that I’ve picked up over the past few weeks. Although obviously not keeping with the vintage theme, I couldn’t resist this Beauty and the Beast stained glass fabric. I’ve seen it floating around on Instagram for a while and have been desperately in love with it. So I picked up a few yards for myself and am still debating on what to do with it.

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Isn’t it sweet? I’m thinking potentially another Sew Over It Betty dress? But I’m worried that it would look too busy. My default with any heavily patterned or busy fabric is to set it aside to become a circle skirt. But I have about 4 yards of this fabric and I’m really not sure what to do with it. I want to stick to vintage-style patterns so, if you have any suggestions, let me know!

I’m also planning another 1960s make for the brocade fabric that I picked up as a back-up for my Cocktail Hour dress. It’s super cute!

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As much as I love it, I might wait a while to grapple with this one. If you read about my Cocktail Hour adventures, you’ll know that working with the brocade was a total nightmare. It frayed like nothing else. This 1960s-style fabric is beautiful but already fraying all over the place. I think I need to get a couple of other (nice and east cotton-based) projects out of the way before I decide to brave the brocade again!

So that’s most of the news regarding my ongoing/upcoming projects. I am also working on a big super-secret side project that I’ll be chatting to you about within the next month or so. In the meantime, I have a variety of plans for Sew for Victory. As well as the usual posts on my makes (as they occur) and some new My Vintage Life posts, I’ll be publishing another Sewing for Self-Care post. My last post seemed to create a lot of interest and I’ve been spending the past couple of weeks reflecting on your comments. Since it’s a topic that’s very close to my heart, I have a lot more to say about it. So watch out for that. I’ll be back on Friday with a new installment of My Vintage Life.

Until then, have a fabulous week. And Happy Thanksgiving to all of my American readers!