For the love of checks

Aloha! I have a new dress to show off today! And technically a new cardigan too, but I’ll save that for another post as I plan to yammer on a bit about this dress. πŸ˜‰


This dress has two things that make it special to me: first, some super dedicated pattern matching that I’m proud of, and second, a muslin that led me to a fantastic “aha!” fitting moment that will forever change how I approach a certain fitting issue with bodices.

The pattern is Simplicity 4002, from 1952 and another Vintage Pledge item! The pattern has a great wing collar (view 2), cut-on sleeves, and double bust darts. You can’t tell from the envelope but I found it interesting that the skirt is pleated in the front, but plain in the back.

Simplicity 4002 pattern (1961)

Let’s talk about the muslin “aha”, shall we? Man oh man, I am sooo glad I muslined this bodice. Because I tried it on, and this is what the back looked like. Basically a hot mess. Well more specifically a hump back mess.


It didn’t look really bad from the front, so I was surprised when I turned around in the mirror and looked at that gigantic balloon of fabric on my upper back. Yeahhhh, that was so bad. And I was really frustrated, because this has actually happened to me before! I’ve tried to fix it on a few other bodices with similar issues, with mixed (and never anywhere near ideal) results.

But this time, I tried something. I yanked the bodice down, and looked at the back again. No hunch back! And suddenly it all clicked into place: the bodice was too long. Why hadn’t this occurred to me before? I’m short-waisted, and I often have to take length off bodices, but for some reason it never dawned on me that when I have a bodice with excess fabric at the upper back, it could be that the whole thing is still just too long for meβ€”way too long. I took 1.5″ off the bodice length at the bottom, extended the dart another 1″ up the back for good measure, and the issue was resolved! So I fixed the top almost entirely from the bottom. Big “aha” for me!

checked dress back

I’m really excited to apply this to at least two other vintage patterns I’ve sewn up that had some variation on this same issue! The pattern I used for my Nancy Drew wrap dress, and a couple of blouses I sewed in the fall that never made it onto the blog (shame on me!). I’m hoping I can nail down the fit better on both of those patterns in future versions.

checked dress

So the thing I love the most about this dressβ€”other than the fact that it doesn’t make me look like I have a hunch backβ€”is the pattern matching. I honestly don’t typically care too much about matching prints at seams. But this fabric (a Moda print from their Gardenvale collection, which I think looks so mid-century!) features diagonal rows of checks, and a lot of seams, so I had to go full on matching crazy. My favorite tutorial on this is an old one from Sewaholic, on matching prints at seams, and that’s the technique I use.

dress pattern matching

The print is matched along the center front seam, and the center back seam, with the seam being between the blue and red diamond checks, and falling inside the chartreuse ones (I mostly ignored the leafy design that ran throughout, focusing on the more important checks instead). It’s also matched from the bodice to the skirt on the left and right of the junction between the waist seam and the center front and center back seams. I also paid close attention to where the V at the base of the collar started in comparison to the last check on the bodice at the waist, so that the print was in a nice position in both spots.

Last but not least, it’s matched on the collar seam (I’d have done something on the bias but the print doesn’t allow for that since it’s already all diagonal-y). I also started the collar where it met the bodice center front as the same spot, so the roll line would be approximately on the same place on both left and right sides.

It was just… a lot. of. planning. I definitely spent more time planning it all than sewing it!




The back zipper caused some cursing. I moved it from the side to the center back but didn’t take the collar into consideration when I was planning, whoops! I made it all work, but it was a bit awkward, although it looked great in the end, so I was pleased.

And then… I had to make it all work a second time, when I accidentally had a complete dumb-out moment. You see, I’d cut the excess zipper length off from the top instead of the bottom (which is what I’d do on a skirt that had a waistband), and when I zipped my zipper up after finishing the entire dress, I (obviously) pulled the stop right off.

So this zipper was 22″ and hand picked. Twice. Less well the second time, but hey, it’s in, and I never have to think about it again!


There are some minor other details about the dress construction. When I shortened the bodice I also took the side seams all the way from the underarm to the waist in by about 1/2″ per side, so I expected the skirt pleats might need to be fudged a bit to fit the smaller size. Strangely, the skirt has to be eased like crazy into the bodice, as it was too small… even though the bodice was more than an inch smaller than it started off. That was odd, though it was not first time I’ve had a total head scratcher with mid-matched bodice and skirt sizes in vintage patterns. But I really like the shape of that skirt, and it’ll definitely go into my skirt Frankensewing arsenal.


I ended up cutting nearly 2″ off the sleeve length as it was just a weird length, and I like this length a lot better. I finished them off with bias tape in the same fabric. You can’t really see the double bust dart in the busy print, but I do think they’re quite a neat touch!


Did I mention it was windy when I took these photos? About half of the photos turned out like the below, ha ha!


That’s the tale today, from a hunch back muslin to a vintage checked dress. I don’t typically go for collared dresses as for some reason, they often make me feel a bit dowdy (for no apparent reason), but I’m enjoying this one. Now, bets on how long until I hack this bodice into a different neckline? πŸ˜‰

If you’re curious about the cardigan, I’ll tell you about that in another post soon!


outfit details

dress – made by me
cardigan – made by me (blogged soon!)
Bakelite and lucite bangles – misc.
vintage confetti lucite earrings – Christmas gift from Mel
shoes – Swedish Hasbeens heart sandals

Filed: Sewing, Vintage Wardrobe

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