Completed: cake and vinegar dress

Hello everyone! Well let me just say a big humble thank you to everyone who enjoyed my back roll with a scarf tutorial. I’m so glad it’s proved to be easy for others, and it’s been fun seeing it crop up on so many heads. I forgot to mention another time it’s a useful hairstyle: hiding when you try out a new setting pattern and you don’t love the result. (I don’t think you need to ask me to know how I found that one out.)

By the way, I’ve been drawn out of my Instagram hermit status by two lovely ladies, Land Girl 1980 and Fiercest Lilliputian, so feel free to add me @bygumbygolly. 🙂

Tonight I’m happy to share my latest finished sewing project. This is the dress that prompted my pressing dilemma and subsequent pressing gratitude posts. Hence the “vinegar” part of the name, as that was the secret to pressing crisp lines in my fabric and saved this dress from the garbage heap early on.

The pattern is Simplicity 4992, from the 1940s. I liked the slim gored skirt and shirtwaist style, and thought it would make a good closet staple if I made it in a basic, solid color.

In other words, I wanted a “cake” dress! (Cake and vinegar dress, get it?) Those of you who sew may be familiar with the concept of cake vs. frosting in sewing (see Tasia’s post here on the subject if not). Frosting refers to the fun and fancy stuff, while cake refers to the basics that we live in most days and need more of. I’m trying to round out my wardrobe, so I picked a sort of tan/beige/grayish wool-blend gabardine from my stash and went to it.

Of course, I had no idea that gabardine would be such a pain in the rear to press, or that I would never really be able to figure out how to attach the collar facing and the yoke (any words of advice, other than to be thankful it’s hidden inside the facing and under the collar?). Pretty much right from the start I thought this dress was doomed.

But the problem is that I actually really like the final dress, even though it’s not perfect.

Why is that a problem? Because that means at some point I’ll want to make it again and then I’ll have to figure out that yoke/collar thing and work out some other issues, most of which I didn’t document well because I thought this was going to be a one-shot deal early on. So in the meantime, I’ll just enjoy this one.

(You’ll have to pardon the wonky lighting, the sun kept coming and going. And speaking of pardons, I clearly need to go back and re-press most of the skirt seams. I love the things you learn only after you photograph something…)

While taking photos, I noticed berries on a plant that didn’t do anything all summer except be green. Exciting!

Like I said, the dress does have some issues. The back bodice could stand to be about 2″ shorter and the collar isn’t quite long enough in the back. I’m tempted to tack it down like Bex asked if I would.

I also think I may have set in the sleeves in reverse as I had to re-draft the them beause I cut about 2″ off the bodice sides and shoulder, and I did it rather on the fly since I thought it would all turn out to be crappy, anyway. I know I’m my own worst critic though and would never notice it on something ready-to-wear. On the positive side, it features a great lapped zipper with my first time using a vintage metal zipper (I know, I know) and it was my first project using my new serger! I can only do one thing on it so far but I already don’t how I lived without it.

Back to the bodice. This dress has me starting to wonder if, even though I’m a 36″ bust and usually sew 34″ bust vintage patterns, if I should instead be sewing 32″ bust patterns and grading up the skirts, as they are often far too blousy on me up top. Short waist, big bust and vintage patterns with lots of gathers doesn’t always add up well.

I love the buttons and buckle, which came from a vintage set still on the card. They’re kind of a maroony-brown color that I thought would go with almost anything.

The belt was almost the end of me. I didn’t have belting that was the appropriate width, so I first started by interfacing it to give it a bit of body, and then tried to turn it right side out. It was having none of that. About 45 minutes of my life later I threw it across the basement floor and started over. I ended up just hand-sewing it closed on the side that faces my body. I couldn’t come up with anything else and I was so over this belt at that point that I’m lucky I finished it at all.


The fabric is a bit heavy and drapes well, and I think it’ll be warm in winter but cool enough for spring and fall. It flows nicely in the breeze…

Frankly, it was a struggle for me to sew such a boring colored dress. If you’re a fan of Retro Renovation, you might even think of it as “greige” in dress form. But I knew in the end it would be worth it, because it could easily be spruced up. I even had something in mind.

I have to say, it was worth the yawn-inducing color as I now have a dress that can go with virtually anything, most especially colorful knitwear.

In the end it was a project with lots of frustrations, but I learned some things along the way and it sparked a few ideas for the future. I’m pretty pleased with the final dress and I’m sure it’ll get a lot of wear this winter!

Filed: Sewing, Vintage Wardrobe

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