Butterick 5747 Vintage Dress: Channelling my inner 1950s housewife

Er…Mer…Gerd… I am soooooo ridiculously excited to be sharing this post with you today – I hope you’re feeling it!! 

My gorgeous girlfriend is getting married next weekend so on Saturday we threw her a 50s housewife themed hen’s do.  What, dear readers, could be more 50s housewife than sewing my own dress?!

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Seriously, if you can’t feel my excitement at being able to share this dress with you then you aren’t staring at the screen hard enough!  It should be jumping out and slapping you in the face!!!!!!!!!  I am so FREAKING proud of myself – and frankly a little shocked – at how unbelievably awesome this dress turned out!

The timing also worked out PERFECTLY for me to enter this into Julia Bobbin’s Mad Men Challenge.  I seriously LOVE this girl and everything she makes!!! (in a purely non-stalker, heterosexual kind of way).  I have this secret ambition to make a copy of everything on her blog because it’s all so gorgeous.  If you haven’t checked out her blog – stop – and do it right now!

Ok, so Mad Men… if you have no idea what I’m talking about and haven’t seen the show, it’s coming up for it’s final season on SBS.  If you’re not into the story – just watch it for the clothes, seriously, they are GORGEOUS!


I like to think I was channelling the inner Betty Draper in me with my dress.  Perhaps it’s the matching blonde hair but I did feel like the quintessential housewife.

betty draper

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The headscarf was a free download from Blue Ginger Doll – yay!

Here’s the scoop on the dress…  It’s the Butterick 5747 Retro pattern – the very first dress I’ve ever made from a  paper pattern (challenge 1).  The pattern was actually released in 1960 so I cheated a little with the whole 1950s theme, who’s to know?

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Ooo!  I love those pleats!

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In my wisdom (or by mistake…), I bought the pattern in the larger sizes (16-24).  So, challenge 2 was grading it down a size to a 14.  This actually ended up being a lot simpler than I thought it would be.

As for the paper pattern itself, yes, I nearly ripped it up and gave in on the dress a couple of times but there were a few great things about it.  I was so happy with the fit which I determined from my bust and waist measurements.  I’m normally a size 10-12 in RTW so I was a bit miffed when the packet told me I needed a 14 but it was spot on.  The pieces actually aligned and matched up perfectly, which doesn’t always seem to happen for me with PDF patterns so I was super happy with that (especially given the grading I did).

As for the instructions,  some were brilliant, others completely useless.  To save yourself the head scratching, cursing and a dose of paracetamol, here are my instruction tips if you decide to give this pattern a go:

1) Step 19 (Waistband): The picture that accompanies this step is, in my opinion, useless.  Don’t bother looking at it, it will only confuse you.  Here’s my reworded version of this step: “Pin interfaced waistband to lower edge of bodice with the right sides together, matching squares to side seams.  Baste”.  That’s it.  Simple.  Don’t spend 2 hours trying to decipher the picture like I did and end up ripping it out and doing it the way that made sense to you in the first place!

2) Following that in step 21…”Pin the right side of uninterfaced waistband so the right side of the waistband faces the wrong side of the bodice.”  (see my photo below).  It makes complete sense – unlike that nasty black and white picture.

step 2

3) In steps 23 and 25, I recommend finishing (i.e. zig zag or overlock) the inner edge as well as the outer edge of the skirt.  There is no further prompt to do this so if you don’t you’ll end up with some finished and some unfinished seams (why don’t they include this in the instructions?!)  Actually, it’s the same with the bodice, there are no prompts to finish your seams so best to do this early before attaching it all together.

4) Again, a bit more head scratching in step 28.  Really all you have to do after clipping the seam allowance, is to fold back the right facing so that the skirt sits as it will when it’s complete.  (Why don’t they just say that??)

5) Thanks Julia for helping out in Step 32.  In her post on this dress, she mentioned that there was a step missing from the instructions, so this is where you need to sew the ends of your waistbands together, before attaching the skirt.

Apart from that, the instructions were ok.  Don’t bother reading them before you start, if you’re like me, you’ll only get overwhelmed.

I was running out of time at the end so I just used Velcro for the dickey attachment (cheater!!).

velcro dickey

dress hem

And see that beautiful hem?  No?  That because I did it using this blind hem technique – no hand stitching for me!!

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Check out the pretty cushions!  I made those too – more about them in a later post.

So, there you have it!  My most ambitious sewing project yet and it was a success!!! WOOOOOO!!!!

I’d love to hear what you think – do you love it as much as me??!


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