Friday, May 6, 2022

Shirtdress w/ Smocked Bodice | McCalls 6503

While going through my fabric bins recently, I found an unfinished project that I had started 10 years ago! 

*Note that in the photos here, my dress is lacking buttons along the placket - I'm waiting on a covered button kit to arrive so that I can make some matching fabric buttons.


This was one of my first sewing projects, and it shows... The fabric is fairly lightweight poly cotton blend in purple. Nice color, but a bit thin for a dress -- I'll have to wear a slip underneath. Realizing the sheerness of the fabric was one of the reasons why I chucked this dress into the "ignore" bin!

The side seams are bound with bias tape made from a (way too thick!) vintage brown floral print cotton. This dress was made with good intentions, and unsuitable materials đŸ˜…

Pattern Review

For this dress, I made View D of McCalls 6503. The cover art of this pattern isn't inspiring, but the line art is great. This pattern has configurable options for a cute shirtdress with a vintage vibe. This pattern includes two skirt variations (pleated and gathered), two bodice variations (front button placket and wrap front w/ self faced collar), and fastens with a side zipper.

This is one of the few patterns where I don't need to remove several inches in length from the hem (although in a future iteration I may try shortening the bodice a bit above the bust gathers).

Pattern Adjustments

I found the bust gathers sat way too low for my body shape - they created an unflattering "pooching" of fabric below my small bust. To resolve this, I changed the bust gathers to a few rows of honeycomb smocking. I think this adds a unique touch to an otherwise forgettable dress!

Final Thoughts

I think I will make this pattern again, especially View D - I have a navy blue cotton sateen in my stash that seems suitable. 

I think this pattern has a lot of options for a classic/vintage-y design. The pleated skirt in particular is really flattering on my proportions and I've already used the skirt pattern pieces to make a few other garments.

You can see more details about this dress in the video below!

Friday, March 25, 2022

Satin Bias Cut Slip Dress | Folkwear 219

Here's another wearable mockup! I've been wanting to make the bias cut slip from Folkwear 219 Intimacies for years, but I've been too scared to cut into my nice silk charmeuse that I saved up for. I discovered this bright blue crepe back satin (from Joanns' Casa Collection, in color Indigo) in my stash, and decided it would be great for experimenting with this pattern.

I made this slip dress in about 3 days and learned quite a bit from the process!

I really liked how this pattern has you top stitch the bust pieces to the body piece. Pinning the satin pieces right sides together is a nightmare, because it slips around so much, but this technique seemed to mitigate that.

While I cut all my pieces on the bias, I don't think I cut them all in the same direction, so there's some weird shading on the fabric - oops!

The front and back of the slip (which are identical pieces) are sewn together with French seams. The finished slip was a bit long on me, so I cut off 2 inches from the hem before hand-sewing a 1/4 inch wide hem. 

The most difficult part of this project was the neckline facing. The satin fabric squirmed and twisted, and I think the natural "bounciness" of the fabric prevents this facing from laying flat, even after pressing. Next time, I think I'll use some rayon seam binding for a light weight facing. I also want to try finishing off the top edge with lace, which would negate the need for a facing altogether.

The instructions called for topstitching along the neckline after the facing was attached, but I found it tricky to press this fabric, so instead I understitched the facing to the slip neckline seam allowance where possible.

I ended up shortening the straps by about 4 inches - after trying on the finished slip, I think I shortened them too much, oh well. I'm petite, so I'm used to shortening the straps and shoulder areas on garments. 

I also found that after finishing this slip, there was a bit of excess fabric under my arm - in a future iteration, I'll add a dart there to adjust the fullness. The bias cut of this slip does make it lay nicely on my body, although not snugly - it looks best when belted at the waist.

Folkwear 219 is an easy-to-follow and versatile pattern. I think I'll be making a few more variations of this slip and the tap pants, as I prefer wearing these under dresses than modern bike shorts. 

Friday, March 18, 2022

Cotton Pinafore Dress + Pattern Mashup

I've been really inspired lately to build out my everyday office-appropriate wardrobe. I'd like to refine some of my "modern" dressmaking skills (it's been a while since I've made clothing suitable for this century LOL) as well. I started with assessing what pieces I gravitate towards wearing to the office: flowy dresses, button-down shirts, and layer-able pinafore dresses!

For pinafore dresses, I like a fitted bodice and a-line skirt, in fabrics that transition easily across seasons with layering. A "neutral" print and full back bodice area are important elements for me - some pinafore dresses I've seen online seem more like aprons, with an open back - definitely not appropriate for an office job setting.  

One of the hardest things for me about sewing historical clothes is the anxiety of cutting into expensive fabrics. I'm approaching my next few "modern" sewing projects as "wearable mockups" in fabrics I like (but don't love) so that I can work on getting over my fabric cutting fears!

For this dress, I used a printed quilting cotton from Joann's. Unfortunately, after I washed the fabric, I saw that it had fold/wear lines across the fabric - presumably from it being displayed on a bolt for so long - but that made this fabric a great candidate for a wearable mockup.

I think the pleats of the finished dress hide the faded fabric lines well. I should've cut out the skirt pieces so that these lines were oriented along the hem...but oh well! That learning experience is part of making a wearable mockup.

Patterns Used

I've been wanting to try the dress in Simplicity 6243 (with a display envelope that says it's New Look S0537) because of the clean, classic lines of the straps and bodice.

I also really like the pleated a-line skirt in McCalls 6503, and felt it would work better with the print of my fabric than the half circle skirt in S6243.

Pattern Adjustments

Simplicity 6243/New Look S0537

I usually cut out a size 10 or 12, but looking at the finished garment measurements on this pattern, I decided to cut a size 8 (the smallest in the pattern). This pattern has an alleged 4 inches of ease, but that size 8, which was less than my body measurements, was massively too big. When I tried on the bodice, it couldn't even stay on my body! The straps needed to be shorted by nearly 2 inches, the center back seam needed to be taken in 0.5 inches on each side, and I needed to add a center front seam to the bodice and waistband so that the princess seam was in the right spot on my body. Thankfully, the print hides that impromptu center front seam well. The finished fit is just right - about an inch of ease in the bodice, perfect for layering.

McCalls 6503

Because M6503 is designed for a side zipper, but S6243 has a back zipper, I had to cut the back skirt in 2 pieces and remember to add seam allowance. Easy peasy alteration. I ignored the pattern's instructions for where to place the skirt pleats, and instead lined up the pleats with the side front and side back seams on the bodice.

For maximum practicality, I added pockets to the side seams of the skirt. I ended up using the pocket pattern piece from Laughing Moon 114, shortened by a few inches, for nice, roomy pockets! Even my modern sewing projects get a Victorian touch!

The pattern called for an invisible zip, but because this quilting cotton was on the thicker side, I decided to top stitch the (invisible) zipper. This zip application worked really well for this dress. 

Oddly, S6243 has you fold in the fashion fabric and lining, then sew in the zip, which in my opinion would leave a lot of raw edges - why add a lining if there are shredding raw edges along the zipper? I ended up adding a waistband facing to the lining (again, why leave the interfacing and waistband raw edges exposed?). I sewed the zip to the fashion fabric, then hand stitched the lining to the inside of the zip. This was an easy and fast detail, and I think it really improves how the dress fits and feels. This bodice has a lot of seams, so it was great to conceal them all with a lining. 

Final Thoughts

I absolutely love how this dress turned out! It went from "wearable mockup" to "I want to wear it every week" very quickly. Though the fabric quality isn't great, the print fits in perfectly with my existing wardrobe. This dress is practical, comfy, and cute! 

I really love the skirt of McCalls 6503. The hem is at the perfect height, the fullness is flattering - I think I'm going to make a few stand alone skirts from this pattern in the future.

Friday, February 11, 2022

How to Make an Edwardian Corset Cover Without a Sewing Pattern

Here is a simple tutorial on how to make an easy Edwardian corset cover without a sewing pattern! This style of corset cover is made of embroidered fabric, with a ribbon run through the embroidery along the neckline. I've sometimes seen this style of garment also called a camisole. The American System of Dressmaking, published in 1909, says that simple corset covers are especially designed for embroidery flouncing like this. 

You can watch my Youtube video for an in-depth look tutorial for making this corset cover.

From the American System of Dressmaking, published in 1912

The simple corset cover that involves little labor in the making is the one that appeals to the majority of women. The one illustrated in Fig. 332 is just full enough to be pretty under the fashionable blouses, and is especially designed for embroidery flouncing. Some make them to extend straight around the form below the arms, but as this is so low it does not afford sufficient protection. To allow it to come higher, place the front and back drafts on the embroidery and cut out the armholes large enough to permit the cover to come up well under the arms.

It proved impossible to find embroidered fabric that was wide enough to extend to my shoulders, so instead I took the construction concepts from the book and made one of those corset covers that doesn't "afford sufficient protection."

My corset cover is simple enough to be sewn up in a few hours, yet full enough to add the right amount of pigeon-breast "floof" under my Edwardian shirtwaists.


For this project, I repurposed a broderie anglaise curtain valance. You could also attach a strip of wide lace or broderie anglaise to a strip of white cotton fabric - I found several examples of this style of corset that were made that way. The width of your embroidered fabric (or fabric + embroidery/lace) should equal the distance between your overbust to your waist, with ease included. For me, this was 10 inches.

You'll also need:

  • 1/4" or 1/8" wide ribbon for threading through the neckline
  • 4 buttons
  • lace trim, ribbon, or fabric, for making the straps
  • matching fabric (white cotton if you're going after historical accuracy) for creating the button placket and waistband


Step 1: Cut a length of embroidered fabric that equals your bust measurement + 5" (or more, if you'd like additional ease.

Step 2: Wrap that length of fabric around your body and mark the placement of the side seams and waistline. I like to use a loop of elastic around my waist to help me get a straight line for fitting.

Step 3: Cut your long strip of fabric into 3 pieces, cutting along the side seam placement line. Each front panel of my corset cover ended up being 11 inches wide. Ideally, these front panel should've been a smidge wider, but I had limited fabric. 

Step 4: Pin together the 3 pieces of fabric, wrong sides together (the corset cover will be assembled with French seams). To create the side seams, mark a spot 1.5 inches at the waistline and another spot 0.25 inch at the top. Connect both spots with a chalk line to create a tapered, triangular seam. The depth of this seam will vary based on the shape of your body, so try out different measurements before making your seams. Stitch along this chalk line with a 0.25 inch seam allowance, then trim the seam allowance, fold the fabric to enclose the seam allowance, press, and sew another line of stitches.

Step 5: Trim the bottom of the corset cover following the waistline marking your made in Step 2, leaving about 0.5 inch seam allowance. Sew a line of gathering stitches along the bottom of the corset cover.

Step 6: Finish off the front edges of the corset cover with a button placket.  For my placket, I cut out 2 rectangles that measured 2 inches wide and 10 inches long, which included a quarter inch of seam allowance on all sides. Topstitch around the placket. Leave the bottom edges of the placket unfinished, because these will be covered by the waistband.

Step 7: Cut a strip of fabric to become the waistband. This strip should be 2 inches long and wide enough to wrap around your waist with some overlap, and seam allowances.

Step 8: Pull on the gathering threads at the bottom of the corset cover to fit the waistband (minus the overlap and seam allowances). Stitch on the waistband.

Step 9: Mark the placement for buttons and corresponding buttonholes. I used small, antique white porcelain buttons, which were generally used for undergarments. The overlap of the waistband is to accommodate the staggered placement of the button on my waistband, so that I wouldn't have a button/buttonhole snagging on my corset busk. Sew the buttonholes and buttons.

Step 10: Mark the placement and length of the shoulder straps - I used some lace for my shoulder straps, and securely sewed them to the inside top edge of the corset cover.

Step 11: Thread a narrow ribbon through the holes in the embroidery to cinch in the top of the corset cover. 

Video Tutorial

You'll find detailed, step-by-step instructions on how to make this simple corset cover in my YouTube video below:

As always, I welcome you to reach out to me if you have any questions! I also love seeing what you make from my tutorials - feel free to tag me on Instagram @pour_la_victoire 

Thursday, February 3, 2022

1864 Bodice Decorated with Beaded Swags | La Mode Illustree

While reading through the 1864 edition of La Mode Illustrée, I came across this charming bodice, decorated with swags of trim, on page 12. The text implies that there is a pattern somewhere in the book, but I think it would be easier to drape or draft a pattern (or my favorite method: alter an existing pattern like a Truly Victorian or Laughing Moon) to replicate this look. The trim can be recreated with gimp braid and small beaded tassels.

Original Text:
Corsage montant
Votei un patron tres-simple, et, par cela meme, tres-utile; on pourra l'executer en toute etoffe, changer, ou meme supprimer les ornements, et le porter, entre autres, avec la garniture de mignardise publiee dans le number 6.

Chacun des morceaux composant le corsage est coupe en etoffe et doublure; la figure 53 (dos) est tailee d'un seul morceau ; pour chaque manche on coupera deux morceaux d'apres la figure 51/4 ; celui de dessous sera enchancre sur la ligne fine. Apres avoir assemble, en les fawflant, dessus et doublure, on coud les deux pinces indiques sur la figure 31, point avec point jusqu'a la croix - etoile avec etoile jusqu'au double point, puis on execute les boutonnieres sur le devant de droite, et l'on pose les boutons sur le devant de gauche ; on assemble les lettres pareilles ; on pose des baleines sous les pinces et sous les coutures. Les deux morceaux des manches sont cousus ensemble depouis e jusqu'a "w" - depuis "x" jusqu'a "y" ; en placant la manche dans l'entournure, le "v" doit se trouver avec lo "v" de la figure 31 (devant). 

Translation from Google Translate:
High bodice
Vote for a very simple and therefore very useful boss; it can be executed in any fabric, change or even remove the ornaments, and wear it, among other things, with the mignardise trim published in number 6.

Each of the pieces making up the bodice is cut out of fabric and lining; Figure 53 (back) is cut in one piece; for each sleeve, we will cut two pieces according to figure 51/4; the one below will be delighted on the fine line. After having assembled, by folding them down, the top and the lining, we sew the two pliers indicated in figure 31, point to point to the cross star with star to the double point, then we execute the buttonholes 'front right, and the buttons are placed on the front left; we assemble such letters; we place the whales under the clips and under the seams. The two pieces of the sleeves are sewn together from e to "w" - from "x" to "y"; placing the sleeve in the middle, the "v" should be with lo "v" in figure 31 (front).