Custom Style

Sewing that's Retro, Geek, and Chic

My Forties Dress Revisited

Happy Memorial Day, everyone!

In honor of all the brave Americans who have died in service to our country to pay the high price of freedom, I wore my navy 1940s style dress to church yesterday. It’s perfectly patriotic and I wanted to get some detail shots for the blog that I didn’t get before.

I decided to pair it with the same red heels and self-made fabric belt as I did the first time, but instead of the retro style felt hat, I wore a red headband.

I’m surprised how much use I’ve gotten out of this dress that I originally made as a quick costume in the matter of a couple of day’s time. Nothing about its construction is really couture – I just stitched it up straight from Butterick 5281 and amazingly didn’t need any alterations!

Shoulder pleat detail.

It would be simple to change the look with different accessories, yet I find myself wearing it most often with the red heels, belt, and headband. I love the navy & red combination because it is subtly patriotic yet easy to wear at anytime.

(Everything looks pretty and green because we had rain the night before the photos were taken.)

Fabric belt. I only put one hole in the belt because, well, it’s custom and doesn’t need to be adjustable. =)

As usual, my sensitivity to the bright outdoor light (even with an overcast sky!) resulted in most of the photos including closed eyes or squinty-angry-glare expressions. But a couple of the outtakes weren’t completely bad:


So there’s how I make my retro dress work without being too costumey for modern day.

May all my fellow Americans enjoy the day of grilling out and family time while remembering those who have sacrificed to make the holiday possible! And a big THANK YOU to all our men and women currently serving in the Armed Forces!

Related posts:

A Fashionable Forties Look


27 responses to “My Forties Dress Revisited

  1. prttynpnk May 27, 2013 at 7:22 am

    This is on my wishlist- I’ve admired yours for so long- thats it! I need to cut one out NOW!

  2. Barbara May 27, 2013 at 7:29 am

    It’s a great dress. I loved seeing it up close yesterday.

  3. Ellen May 27, 2013 at 7:54 am

    I love your dress! I made one from this pattern, and it didn’t work for me, but you’ve inspired me to try again. Thanks for sharing.

    • Brooke May 27, 2013 at 8:50 pm

      Thanks! I got really lucky with this pattern – I usually have all kinds of alterations the first time I use a pattern. I hope you do try it again!

  4. Chuck May 27, 2013 at 8:25 am

    Very lovely. You look so pretty in your period dresses.

  5. thevintagetraveler May 27, 2013 at 9:25 am

    So pretty! Did you draft the pattern, use a vintage one, a modern one???

  6. Karen May 27, 2013 at 9:53 am

    Very lovely, Brooke – both the dress and you! What a fitting way to honor the holiday and all those who have given so much to our country.

    • Brooke May 27, 2013 at 8:56 pm

      Thanks! I enjoy a little classic patriotic style – too often the patriotic outfits border on cheesy or t-shirt casual. I love the red, white, and blue pairings they did back in the ’40s!

  7. Thimble & Cork May 27, 2013 at 10:21 am

    Gosh I love love love this dress. Those shoulder pleats are stunning. I love that this is so retro, but also so wearable. It doesn’t look like a 40’s costume at all, and that’s hard to pull-off. Beautiful!

    • Brooke May 27, 2013 at 8:57 pm

      Oh, thanks! Yeah, it’s all about not overdoing the accessories – that’s what will take something into costume territory faster than anything!

  8. Gjeometry May 27, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    Your dress is just beautiful! I also love navy and red. I really like the shoulder tucks on it.

    • Brooke May 27, 2013 at 9:02 pm

      Thanks! It was definitely the details of the pattern that made me want to buy it in the first place – the shoulder pleats were interesting and I’m a sucker for point-sewing like the inset piece on the skirt (it’s a little hard to see in the photos but it’s really noticeable in person because of the shiny satin)!

  9. sewbusylizzy May 28, 2013 at 3:21 am

    I love this. I’ve got the pattern but had trouble imagining it made up. Love the colour & the belt!

  10. sewlittletime May 28, 2013 at 10:42 am

    really lovely brooke! i love the pleated/ asymmetric shoulder!

  11. sweary sewer June 9, 2013 at 5:12 pm

    this dress is really nice. it’s simple and elegant. ❤

  12. EvelynVivien March 5, 2014 at 11:00 pm

    Greetings, i’m currently using this pattern in my sewing class for a project, my body is somewhat similar to yours and i will like to know what size you used. I made the mistake of getting the pattern and not checking the sizes in front of the packet which says “14-16- & so on, but in the back it said it had sizes from 6-8-10 &i wa nted to make one size 8.So i’m wondering if you got the same one as me and did size 14 or you got the right one and made it a size 8…

    • Brooke March 6, 2014 at 10:13 pm

      I am almost exactly the same measurements as the size 6 listed on that sewing pattern and I made it in the size 6. You will definitely save yourself time and frustration if you buy the correct size – that’s a lot to try to size down!

  13. EvelynVivien March 29, 2014 at 3:41 pm

    Ahw thank you so much for replying to my last message,but now i have a question about the sleeves. I’ve only had 1 1/2 years of sewing so please excuse my lack of knowledge, i looked up a few videos of slip stitching since i didn’t know what it was and basically its hand sewing, and i want to make sure thats what you did because i forgot the sleeves in school and i am about to connect the skirt with the top and i’m thinking of doing the sleeves later on. And is the zipper invisible?

    • Brooke March 29, 2014 at 9:10 pm

      I hand-stitched the skirt hem, but I hemmed the sleeves by cutting out four sleeves and using the second pair to line the sleeves. You stitch all 4 underarm seams (the straight lines on the sleeve) creating tubes. Then you insert (fabric right sides together) the matching sleeve into the lining sleeve, pin and stitch around the hem edge (the straight side of the tube), understitch the seam allowance to the lining side, turn the completed sleeve right side out, and baste the shoulder/curved unfinished edges together. Then you can set the sleeves at the very end (I just serged off the armseye seam allowance once the sleeves were in). So yes, you can put the sleeves in last.

      I handpicked my zipper (I did a lapped zipper) but you could do an invisible one if you wanted to – I just used a regular one I had in my stash because I didn’t have an invisible that matched at the time.

      Hope this helps! =)

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