Every Fall I hit a bit of a sewing slump. I have to put my light summer projects aside and start making things for the cooler weather. Don’t get me wrong – I love dressing for Fall, but once we hit mid-September I’d much rather be knitting than sewing. While I’d love to fill my days with hours of knitting, I know it’s not possible, so I have to go on busying myself mostly with sewing.
As you may or may not know, I’ve been quite into collecting and sewing with vintage fabrics as of late. I had a beautiful 1950s cotton in my stash that I got from an Instagram auction (@shopmakethislook, who auctions off amazing vintage garment fabric about once a week), but while it was light and more of a summer-weight cotton, the print really screamed fall to me. The background was white, though, and I don’t love white right near my face (with the exception of my wedding dress). I had a gut feeling it would work best as a layering piece, or, if I was lazy, a skirt – but not as a dress with sleeves.
I’d been noticing that there have been a lot of people on Instagram making pinafores lately – many of them the more overalls-style ones, some of them like dresses (or as some people call them, “jumpers”). I really didn’t know if it was a look I could pull off. It was reminiscent of my school uniform in third grade, and I’ve been anti-layering dresses over long-sleeved shirts for a long time now (since I learned how to set-in sleeves) but I wanted to give the look a go. I spent a long time researching patterns, as I felt there were very few styles that would actually suit me. I wanted to go for the kinds of pinafore dresses I saw in vintage patterns from the 40s and 60s – the ones they showed sewn in plaid on the envelope and worn over a fitted turtleneck sweater.
I’ve been telling myself that I’ll try to work more with patterns I already have, and I actually started digging through my small collection of Burda magazines to see if there had been something I missed. I’ve heard of people staying away from them due to their scary pattern layouts that need to be traced. But I’d tried Japanese pattern books, which are pretty similar in terms of layout, and I figured I could handle it if I found the right pattern.
I came across this pattern, from the May 2017 issue, and I realized it could probably work perfectly. After all, they had already styled it layered over a top. It was something I had completely passed by the first several times I flipped through the magazine, because I always disregard sleeveless dresses.
Anyways, I was pretty pleased with myself for finding it. I got to tracing – which, I’ll admit, was a bit more of an endeavour than I had expected. The lines really do a lot of criss-crossing (as did my eyes…) and I had a lot of trouble reading the pattern pieces and missed a few grainlines and notches. Luckily, it was only 6 pieces (including a bodice lining piece) so I survived ok.
I made a muslin, and found that the pieces all needed to be made longer. Burda drafts for 5’4″ women, and I’m 5’9″, so I added 3/4″ to all the bodice pieces and 1 1/2″ to all the skirt pieces to get everything hitting the right places. Otherwise, I was really really impressed with the fit right off the bat. I did also have to add a bit to the back width due to my prominent shoulder blades.
I had been warned about instructions in Burda magazines – and for good reason. They were awful. I pretty much ignored them and used my own knowledge of constructing a dress. The godets in the skirt were very tricky to sew in but intuitive enough to figure out. I do wish the pattern came with more notches as I had trouble matching things up. The hemlines were kind of wonky but I hung the dress and evened them out, so you can’t tell they gave me so many issues!
I also fully lined the dress, so it’ll be easy to slide on over sweaters and tights. I used instructions from my copy of Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Book to figure out lining a sleeveless dress (which I found very satisfying to do).
I really like all the little details in this dress – the princess seams, the v-neck and back, the pleats at the shoulder, and even those frustrating godets. It’s a different shape and style than what I see in the sewing scene typically, which I like! It definitely has me feeling that I should try Burda patterns again more in the future.
Finally, I sewed a tried-and-true Tilly and the Buttons Freya sweater to go underneath (after my plan to buy RTW turtlenecks completely backfired). I’m not sure how I feel about the forest green underneath, so I think I’ll have to make more sweaters to go with it.
I’m still not sure how I feel about pinafore dresses, but there is something nice about layering this time of year. While I hope it gets some wear, this pinafore experiment was enough to get me out of my slump and excited for more Fall sewing.