Sunday, December 20, 2015

1957 Christmas Party Dress

I have been inspired by Katrina of Edelweiss Patterns because every year she sews 2 vintage Christmas dresses, one for her and one for her mother. 

One of the items on my dream list has been a 1950's Christmas party dress. I settled on this Vintage Vogue pattern from 1957. I did a bit of quick last minute shopping at JoAnn where the options led me to a red satin. As I pulled that from the shelf, I noticed tucked behind it a changeable red/black silk taffeta called Iridescent Red Tango. All 5 yards of 60" fabric and required notions came to a mere $25! 

Laying out the pattern was not as easy as the directions implied. After playing around with various arrangements I settled with these layouts, done in 3 sets, based on how I had to lay out the selvages.

In this photo the fold is on the right and selvage is on the left.
Here I brought the selvages to the middle which left the folds on each side.
Finally I put the fold at the top with the selvages on each side. 101_1417
Bodice before the facing was added...
Bodice done...
Now for the various interesting skirt pieces.
One corner had to overlap with another (in the third layout shown above) so I pieced the missing part which is now mostly hidden by the hem.
As I sewed my dress, I matched the directions from the Vogue pattern to my Couture Sewing Techniques book. Since it is my goal to improve my sewing skills and to do more couture type work, I tried to apply every technique I could.


Edges of the seams were often overcast by hand in couture houses, however the author admitted that in these days of modern  machinery, couture houses often save time (for a cheaper price) by overcasting them by machine. Thus I did what I've always done since I started sewing in the 5th grade. I overcast with a simple machine zig zag stitch. I had no idea that was a couture technique I've been doing.
Finally the skirt is done and ready to be attached to the bodice...
I had difficulty keeping the points of the gore, so I sewed those sections by hand, which is how a couture house would have done it. Couture houses do more hand sewing than machine sewing so they have more control for fine detail. It certainly works better for me too! I admire those who can do everything so beautifully by machine. However I am happy to do hand work and am glad to find that the couture book gives me "permission" and moral support to do so! I feel like I am with kindred spirits!
Another couture technique is to hand pick a zipper, which I did here. I learned how to do this years ago when my mom shared the technique that she had just learned from her Aunt Laura, the one I've mentioned before who used to sew her own clothes and work as an executive secretary in Manhattan years ago. I can't help but conjure up couture  images of her in New York City!
Only a bit of hand work is left.
After finishing the edge of the hem, I sewed a basting stitch to guide me to place an even hem. Since I am tall, and had to shorten some of the length because somehow my skirt pieces were of different lengths when I sewed them together, I lost a bit of length. Therefore I preferred to keep as much length as possible, so I made a smaller hem than was recommended by both my pattern and couture book. I hemmed my skirt by hand with a blind hem stitch.
Hem from the outside while in the process of hand sewing...
Finished hem from the inside...
Finished hem from the outside...
I was hemming miles of this skirt all day long. Thankfully it was finally ready in time for me to get ready for the party! I tried it on with my 1950's petticoat but it was horribly bulky. No matter. I decided to go with a more contemporary look for my 1957 dress. Later I'll work on my petticoat to refine the silhouette. That will be one of my sewing goals for 2016!


At the Country Club...


Pattern: Vintage Vogue 1172

Fabric-Red/Black Changeable Silk Taffeta from JoAnn

Notions-Thread, Zipper

How Long did it Take to Make?-1 week

Cost-$25 (all items were on half price)


  1. This is gorgeous, the perfect Christmas frock. Yay for hand-sewing as well - it's always fun to add that 'couture' feel to a project.

  2. Love it! I'm going to have to look for that book. I have that pattern in my stash somewhere and now am inspired.

  3. What a lovely color for you. You really pop in the dress! :) It looks great!