Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sewing in my Time Machine: Retro Racer-back Dress

It is official, I have more vintage patterns in my stash than I do current patterns. I love the styles, the one size patterning, durability of the pattern paper and abbreviated instructions. When looking for a new sewing pattern, more often than not, I gravitate toward the retro. PR is hosting a Vintage Pattern Contest and I am thinking of entering it.

I have the iconic DVF Vogue 1549 wrap dress in my stash. I know, how fortunate am I? I have seen it selling for $150+ and I wanted to give it a try. I began working on a muslin (ack I never do muslins!) in hopes of perfecting it.

The muslin is working in that it is clearly showing me what does not work. The neckline is too low and deep for my taste. After failed attempts to correct it, I have converted it into a maxi wrap skirt, (read hacked the top off in frustration and left the skirt in a pile on the floor). I still have a few days to revisit it, so I hope to get it together and make it the way I want in my fabric of choice.

In the meantime, I needed a project to clear my mind. I reached for another retro pattern. This time I decided to switch up Simplicity 5308, a racer-back dress ideal for hand-sewing. It is a very simple dress that I jazzed up with a bit of light beading.

Here is a review of the pattern with the photos of me wearing it.

What year is your pattern from? (Or decade if you can't date it precisely)

Why did you choose this pattern?
I thought the simple silhouette and lines made it a good candidate for hand-sewing. The four seams and racer back are perfect for top stitching.

If you used any vintage techniques or fabrics please tell us about them.
I used the vintage technique of hand-sewing.

What made this pattern different/more difficult/easier or more interesting than a modern pattern?
I am not sure about the dart placement on this pattern. They are more like arrows pointing down to the breast. It didn’t seem to add to the structure of the dress. It is a short dart and did not take away from the dress, so I kept it in.

Pattern Description:
Misses’ Jiffy Knit Dress or Jumper in two lengths. The top-stitched short or long jumper or dress with “cut-in” armholes has “u” shaped neckline, pockets in side seams and button trimmed, snap fastened shoulder extensions.

Pattern Sizing:
My pattern is a size 12 bust 34. I made a single layer dress looser fit, I was happy with the fit of this dress. For a double layer jersey dress, that would be embellished and more fitted, this would have been too loose. My rule of thumb for close-fitting, hand-sewn jersey dresses. Is go up 1 from your RTW size.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?
In the shape yes.

Were the instructions easy to follow?
I did not use them but, for the sake of answering this question, I looked at them. They are wonderfully clear.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
If you look at my Retro pattern reviews, you will likely see the same elements in them.

*Maxi length



*Interesting necklines.

My dislike is the snap closures at the shoulders. It is unnecessary in a dress with a deep scoop neckline and constructed in a knit.
Fabric Used:
A single layer of cranberry colored cotton jersey. 

Suggested fabric types:Stretchable double knits of polyester, wool or blends.
Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
*I hand-stitched the dress in a running stitch and using Navy blue button and craft thread. I top-stitched the seams and felled them to the inside.

* I omitted the need for the shoulder closures by sewing them together.

*I omitted the facings and chose instead to finish the neckline with bias bindings. The arm openings were secured using a simple parallel stitch. For the neckline, I added black glass beads to my parallel stitches.

*I did not add the pockets. I prefer floating side seam pockets on my jersey dresses and I thought they would add bulk at hip level.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
I made the short version to mix things up in my wardrobe. I will likely make it in a double layer maxi length with embellishments. This is a really great project to wet your whistle in hand-sewing. It is sewn with a basic running stitch and the parallel stitch on the bindings is the easiest to learn. 

Dress front.

Dress with racer back detail 

Stitch and bead detail.

Back stitch detail.

As you know I have made many elaborately stitched pieces. I entered one of them in the SewStylish Spring Fashion Challenge and am 1 of the 5 semi-finalists. The voting closes June 6 and if you feel like sharing some love my way, you can do so by voting here.

Happy Sewing!


  1. I started a DFW sew along....

    Got so busy with proms...I haven't started mine yet! Lucky you have the original pattern. I drafted mine using my Wildginger software.

    1. What is the Fb information for the sew along?


  3. It is so lovely dress - I like the colour of it and all your hand stitching.

  4. Way too cute. You really got the AC style down. You look fab in red. Can't wait to see the DVF done your way.

    1. Thanks Maureen! I have a few days to get it right! :)

  5. You and your new dress are gorgeous. (Also love your girlie's princess dress too). I am always delighted and excited to see what you will come up with next!