1940s Wrap Dress

New year, millions of half-finished projects of 2015 to be getting in on with and yet I couldn’t keep away from starting something brand new for January! I am going to pootle along to SewOverIt Islington to make the 1940s wrap dress over three evening sessions. Here it is being modelled by Lisa Comfort herself. I am not sure I will be able to achieve such a good look in it even if I manage to make the dress correctly!


According to the website, the 1940’s Wrap Dress is a vintage-inspired wrap dress designed for woven fabrics, designed to suit a multitude of figures and a variety of occasions.

The dress features a cross-over wrap front which gathers into a waistband at the bodice and skirt, closing with invisible poppers at either side. The pretty collar falls down the front from the shoulder seam, which is gathered to create bust shaping. The inside of the dress is finished with an overlocker to create beautifully neat seams.

At the end of the classes (three x 3 hours), I am meant to come away with (i) a finished dress and (ii) a pattern altered to fit me, so I can make more at home.

SewOverIt recommends a crepe, so I picked 3.5mm of a heavy triple crepe in the slightly alarming colour of “chestnut” which looks like a faded maroon. I am hoping that this is (i) work suitable, (ii) slightly more exciting than my go-to colour of navy, and (iii) gives the whole dress a vintage 40s feel.  I purchased this from Minerva Crafts at the slightly exorbitant price of £14.99 per metre. I felt that I not only wanted the dress to be worth the price of the course, but also to invest in something where the drape and feel of the dress was substantial.


This is supposedly a more advanced class, which always concerns me, but having made several dresses by now, I should be able to keep up with some cribbing. There are only 6 to a class, too, so hopefully the scrum of the Clone Your Clothes won’t be repeated.


I turned up at SOI Islington, a lovely, welcoming candy pink store, located near the City University campus, to find that our teacher was to be Dominique Devant whom I had met previously on the Clone Your Clothes day.  And I am relieved to say that few people plus a slightly longer class time definitely meant less pressure.

(i) Step 1 – Cutting out the pattern

The pattern, which was provided for each of us, was on quite bulky paper and available in sizes 8 to 20. SOI tends to size small so I measured at a size 12 on the waist and hips and a size 10 on the bust. A small amount of re-adjustment was required on the bodice panels to taper it out from a 10 to a 12 on the waist seam. The pieces include a 1.5cm seam allowance.

Use more pins rather than less when pinning to the crepe as, being a stretchy, drapey fabric, it tends to move around a fair bit. Try to keep pins and scissors flat to the table and resist the urge to lift the fabric as you pin/cut to avoid unnecessary movement. Similarly, despite having a block colour fabric with little obvious ‘right side’ and grain it is imp0rtant to decide on these two features early and stick to your plan, even if it is tempting to rotate the fabric to conserve it with the cutting process.

12357620_730922663674796_1940393610_n As ever, there was a delicious chocolate cake available as well as an *urn* (yes, you heard me, a bona fide samovar) of tea.

This sewing slogan reminds me of this hilarious late 19th century instructional piece for lady cyclists, telling them not "to cultivate a 'bicycle face'".

This sewing slogan reminds me of this hilarious late 19th century instructional piece for lady cyclists, telling them not “to cultivate a ‘bicycle face'”.

After pinning and cutting, we snipped in the various notches and then began on the darts, tucks and gathers of which there are several.


The second day started as all good days should, with chocolate cake and a cup of tea. I was running late from work, having trouble with my contact lenses and generally feeling fairly harrassed so nearly gave the session a miss, but I am glad that I perservered. The atmosphere was instantly calming…


The homework had been to sew together the outside curved edges of the lapel. I had done that at about 1 am the night before so it wasn’t the most even but a bit of pressing got everything loosely into the right shape.

If I have nothing else to take away from this session (which I do) then it is the purpose of understitching! Now all the seams on my collar and the lapes lie beautifully flat and finished. I think when I had previously attempted to understitch I did the whole thing painstakingly by eye, trying to keep a couple of millimeters away from my original stitch line. However, Dom pointed out that it is far faster and more accurate to just move the needle! Of course, that only works on the snazzy digital machines they have. My old Janome is a poor manual so I will need to work out how to adjust it by an equal amount so as to ensure a uniform double stitch.

12568949_447617178766167_291415909_nThe dress features plenty of gathers, which makes sense given the overall wrappy and drapey nature of the cut and the fabric. there are gathers on the sleeves, at the top and bottom of the waistband, at the back and the front. I opted to gather more at the back waist but have nearly flat sleeves and quite light gathering at the front (preferring it to sit flat). The sleeves, although they looked as though they would be milk-maid levels of puff, actually managed to settle down a fair amount as I smoothed the gathers enough for it to essentially be an ease stitch.

Slipstiching is the bane of my life; I really lack the patience and the precision to make it look good. However, I obediently ironed and slip-stitched the collar facing and it doesn’t look too desperate. Helpfully the heavy crepe has a very obvious thick weave so “picking up” threads from one side of the fabric without going through wasn’t too hard. That said, I stopped to check every two centimetres or so!

In the last session I was running very late and didn’t manage to take any work in progress photos. I had forgotten to do the darts on the back of the skirt so shoved them in at high speed.

We overlocked the edges of the skirt, the sleeve edges and the armpit seam to keep all the gathers in place. We also sewed the bodice and the skirt onto either edge of the waist band. The other side of the waist band was then introduced to some thin iron-on interfacing and had the seam allowances ironed inwards. This is then going to be top stiched into place. I am pretty nervous about keeping the corners neat, I am not going to lie…

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