A 70s-inspired Summer Dress

A modified Butterick B5209

vintage B5209 me front view

Right, first of all, I apologise for not being very active (especially after my promise to post more…) I have this tendency to be a little bit overwhelmed when I have lots of time to be creative, but I think I’ve sorted it out now and actually accomplished something I am quite proud of. Which brings me to this project. I think Butterick’s B5209 is one of the easiest and quickest patterns to sew. It’s very straightforward and lends itself to making summer dresses like nothing else.

When I think of the summer, it always brings up images of flowy gowns and, for some reason, the Seventies. I absolutely love the dresses of that time, or as I should specify, of the early Seventies. I would have very much liked to live in that time period, although there are certainly things I would have missed. Above all, with HTID in the Sun coming up, I am glad to be alive in a time with raves. I don’t think I could live without electronic music, although as my husband pointed out, you can’t miss what you don’t know and it would have also been cool to dance around to Jefferson Airplane.

Now, this is not a flowy gown by any definition. If I could have, I probably would have made it into a maxi dress, but I sadly had to think of the practicalities of a long cotton dress in the heat. Not only am I going to wear it in Spain, Switzerland also gets really hot in the summer, so a short dress is preferable. Plus, I don’t think I would have had enough fabric. I bought this Rose & Hubble print cotton over a year ago and then could never decide what to do with it.

B5209 is a vintage 40s dress, which lends itself incredibly well to being remodified into a 70s dress. To achieve this, I made the following alterations:

  • I shortened the midsection of the dress. I kind of need to do this anyway, as I have a very high, very short waist (I am only 5’5”). The inverted V-shape of the lower bodice is certainly something this dress has in common with the dresses of the 70s, and their waist usually sat a bit higher than in the 40s.
  • I changed the skirt. I don’t think I have ever used the gathered skirt pattern that comes with this dress. I usually make my own skirt. It’s so easy to make a skirt that I know fits my proportions, rather than trying to adapt one that comes with the pattern.
  • The other major alteration I did was to add puff sleeves. Personally, I love these. In fact, I was thinking the other day that with my love of puff sleeves, maxi dresses and princess seams, maybe there is some suppressed wish somewhere in my head to be a princess. Well, let’s say I just like a certain elegance. 😉

I made a little tutorial on how I modified a normal sleeve pattern to a puff sleeve pattern here.

The sleeves and midsections are made of black Duchesse Satin. To be honest, I just wanted them to be a contrasting colour and this scrap of satin seemed fine for it. Ideally, I might have used a black cotton, but it works quite well as it is, I think.

Now, without further shenanigans, here is the dress in all its glory.

vintage b5209 front view

 

vintage b5209 side view

 

vintage B5209 back view

 

vintage B5209 me front view2

 

 

 

The beautiful 70s GDR sewing magazine

... and how I tried to make sense of it.

A little while ago, I was looking for some patterns for a 70s dress (which I still want to make, but I will cover that in another post). It seems that most modern patterns don't have the style that I want for this, so I turned to ebay to find some vintage patterns or magazines from the time.

I only saw the cover of this 1970s magazine, but I instantly loved it. Admittedly, it being a GDR sewing magazine might have played a role in this decision. It is a lovely glimpse into the past, and (so I thought) I could ask relatives and work colleagues, who had inevitably made their own clothes at that time, to help me.

However, not being able to see inside, I didn't know what I was in for. First, I loved the look of it, even though it was already falling apart in my hands. The cover came off pretty much as soon as I opened it, but I didn't really expect anything else. It is a very thin magazine, but there are a number of patterns to be found.

On the few pages, one can find (very wide) trousers, lots of blouses, some jackets and skirts, and most importantly, a lot of dresses.

 Here are some examples

Since printing a whole magazine in colour was expensive and therefore unusual, some of the pictures are in black and white. I don't think this is a problem, as it's the cuts I'm interested in. However, describing something as having red binding to make it stand out and then showing a black-and-white picture seems somewhat crazy.

I had looked up GDR sizing before, but the pattern actually gives the indicated measurements. I will explain it here:

size  m76 m82 m88  m94
bust (in cm/in)  84/33  90/35  96/38 102/40
waist (in cm/in)  58/23 70/28 76/30 82/32
hips (in cm/in)  90/35 96/38 102/40 108/43

 There are bigger sizes, as well as short and tall sizes, but the ones above are the standard that seems to be used for most of the patterns.

My initial thought was to just use the patterns in m94, which is closest to my measurements, and adjust it slightly in the hip and bust area.

Little did I know that the items in this magazine were only meant to be sewn in the size they were displayed in. Therefore, the pattern for each piece of clothing is only in one size. That size is mostly m82. I'm going to have to adjust them dramatically to fit me.

Now, let me give you a glimpse of the beautiful maze that is the pattern pieces:

 

My current method for copying the things I actually want to sew consists of taking the pattern, pinning swedish tracing paper on top, copying the lines onto that with a marker, then cutting them out. I know I should really invest in some copying paper and a tracing wheel...

The swedish tracing paper has the massive advantage of me being able to see what the patterns look like, sew them together as a very rough mock-up and manipulate them however I want.

For this maze of patterns, I am going to mark the patterns I want with colour pencils and then try and trace them. It's going to be really hard not to destroy the brittle paper (which is newspaper quality).