A Pin-Up Party Dress

Hi everyone! This August my little sewing blog will have been going for a whole year. Wow that has gone by so quickly! Because I started towards the end of the Summer there were quite a few summery garments like this party dress which I made last year that I never shared with you guys; so I thought I would blog a few of them over the next couple of months in amongst my current projects.

Rosa Liberty Print Dress

As you all know by now I am a huge lover of vintage fashion- particularly of the styles from the 1930s to the 1960s. As well as loving the everyday garment styles from these eras I am also a huge fan of their lingerie and swimwear styles, which I think are so iconic. Unfortunately I have never managed to dedicate any time to properly making any of either- I learnt to pattern draft bras, knickers and slips on a lingerie course that I took but the ever pressing need to produce yet another dress or jacket seems to override knicker production. I plan to remedy this in the very near future as my lingerie drawer is screaming out for some serious attention.

That being said, I have never even considered the idea of making a swimsuit as I don’t live near the beach (which in the UK is only really operational for a few weeks in terms of bathing suits anyway!) and so I am very contented with my What Katie Did vintage inspired one. For those of you who feel differently have you seen the bombshell swimsuit pattern that Paunnet and Lladybird have made up recently? Be sure to check it out if not- it is to die for!

So the bathing suit images below held a firm spot on my big inspiration board for two summers straight not because I intended to stitch one up but because I wanted to use the style lines as dress inspiration. Ahh the sweetheart- halterneck combi: who could be upset about that? The first image is of an actual vintage piece and the second (my favourite) is actually a beer advert of all things!

bombshell style swimsuit advert

vintage swimsuit

I decided to use this inspiration to design a party dress for an event we held at our house last summer. In order to really emphasise the sweetheart neckline style I chose to draft the pattern with a band all the way around the top. I think these bands also create a nice balance in the design- preventing the centre front seam and the princess seams from running the entire length of the bodice. I wanted the bodice to be really contoured so I removed the cleavage suppression which is done by pinching out a dart between the boobs (sorry, hard to phrase that one delicately). This creates a curved centre front line- hence the centre front seam rather than a centre front fold. Doing this gives the garment a nice sculpted shape without adding any fullness to the bust.

Liberty Print Pin UP Party Dress

Now, I would normally have attempted to line up the pattern on my two centre front pieces and as you clearly can see from the pictures I haven’t. This was due to a yardage calculation error on my part and not enough time to head back over to Liberty to buy more fabric before the party- oh the pit falls of last minute seamstressing! Luckily the print is a fairly hap hazard one as these things go so I managed to make my peace with it.

The skirt is a semi- circular one as I felt that was full enough for this dress. The straps are spaced as wide as possible on the neckline and sandwiched between the layers of the top band.

I underlined my liberty fabric with a fine silk/ cotton lawn and then lined the skirt. Underlining the bodice stopped the seam allowances showing through the main fabric which they do slightly on tana lawns that feature a lot of pale background like this one.

I made a cute little self- covered belt to wear with this dress which as you can see is unfortunately missing from most of the photos. I didn’t take any blog photos of this dress last summer and when I came to photograph it this year the belt was nowhere to be found…oops! You can see it in the one photo I got pre- party last year though and I do love these vintage style self covered belts so I think I will recreate it at some point.

Liberty Rosa Dress with Cardigan

I am wearing the dress here with a Boden tie front cardigan, I got the knotted cardi bug after watching Rachel Khoo rock several over her gorgeous vintage dresses in Little Paris Kitchen,

Liberty Rosa Dress Back

I also made a simple cotton lawn petticoat with a fuller tier around the hem to help emphasise the shape of the skirt- as you can see in the photo I trimmed this with some lace. This was some vintage cotton lace that I got from Etsy, I love vintage lace!

I am wearing the dress with my What Katie Did fully fashioned stockings– for those of you who are unacquainted with What Katie Did have a look at their website. They have a great collection of vintage inspired lingerie, hosiery and swimwear. Unfortunately I think it is pretty clear from this picture that my pin up career would have been a very short lived one! Hehe

Rosa Party Dress With Stockings

I taught my sister-in-law to sew earlier this year and the first dress she completed was Vogue 8725 in the same Liberty Rosa print but in the bright pink colour way. This is a lovely simple pattern that is very similar in shape to my dress so for anyone looking to sew a dress of this style I would highly recommend it.

Thanks for reading!


EDIT: This is photo from ‘Patternmaking for fashion design‘ Fourth edition by Helen Joseph Armstrong. It shows the countour guidelines I used when drafting my dress, including the cleavage  dart (marked 5 in the diagram) that helps the princess seam bodice to dip slightly between the bust rather than to sit flat across. Hope this is helpful for those of you who asked about it below 🙂

56 responses to “A Pin-Up Party Dress”

  1. What a beautiful dress! It looks so elegant and really suits you. I love the fit round the bodice area, and the colour matching. 🙂

  2. It looks just lovely Amy 🙂 Liberty prints are always a hit! Where do you manage to find supplies to make your own belt?
    Looking forwards to seeing some lingerie! I’ve been toying with getting Oh Luulu’s patterns as my bras are really on their last legs 🙁

    • Ah lovely- yep you definitely should try them- I LOVE her patterns! I think lingerie would be such a great thing to make yourself! Once you have the fit right I think it would be quite straightforward too- esp the less structured styles. Plus lingerie is soooo expensive and it would be lovely to be able to create it in any fabric you wanted!
      I actually got myself cover belt buckle from A fashionable Stitch but when I went to paste a link in this post she doesn’t seem to have them anymore- not sure if she will be getting more in? I couldn’t find them anywhere else at the time! My belt backing was from Minerva crafts on eBay, they have all different widths 🙂

      • Thank you Amy 🙂 I’m so reassured that I’m not completely blind and incompetent! I spent *ages* searching online for self-cover belt buckles. A Fashionable Stitch says on their contact form that belt making supplies are getting harder to come by and may be discontinued – I guess that’s what has happened 🙁 I figure I may try Harlequin instead and have one made (they do eyelet buttons too!).
        As for lingerie – I guess the fit for me will be the issue. Sarah’s patterns don’t quite go small enough. I’m going to start out with my SBA on Colette’s Hawthorn and take it from there I think 🙂 Oh and maybe get a few more books 🙂

  3. Love that dress. Sweetheart/halter is so flattering on you and the print is to die for! Love the little petticoat, too! Would love to see some detail shots of it, though… I’ve been wanting to make one myself. 🙂

    PS, You should definitely make yourself a bombshell! I’m almost finished with mine. 🙂

    • I popped over and have seen the fantastic fabric you are making your bombshell swimsuit in! Stunning! Can’t wait to see that made up! I think I am partly just lacking inspiration due to lack of fabric choice as I love all the versions I have seen. I am going to start searching online for some that inspires me!
      I am going to add a petticoat tutorial soon so will add some detail pics to it! Such handy things to have in your wardrobe! 🙂

  4. The perfect neckline for the Sewing World’s sweetheart!! It looks lovely,so beautifully fitted. You are a genius to have drafted that yourself. Hope you find that belt, because it really sets the dress off well. X

  5. Such a pretty dress and I love the material. I would love you to do a tutorial on petticoats, I’ve got a couple of skirts that would definitely benefit with a petticoat underneath them x

    • Thank you! Yep Liberty fabric is so lovely isn’t it?
      I have added a petticoat tutorial (or two) to my list! 🙂 I will do one for a full slip and one for a skirt petticoat I think- both are sooo handy to have if you wear lots of vintage styles! 🙂

  6. What a gorgeous dress! I actually have a meter of this same Liberty print, a souvenir from my trip to London two years ago that I’ve been hoarding ever since! I think I’ve finally reached a skill level where I could do this print justice, so maybe it’s time to bring it out!

  7. This dress is just delightful. Love how you have created the bustier style top. The skirt is just full enough for a vintage look and the petticoat adds that extra fullness for a special occasion. The cardi teams so well with this too. Another winner. Just love it. Ann x

  8. So beautiful! You are very talented. Love the fabric and style. I am about to sew a Liberty lawn dress myself, just wondering what kind of thread and needle size you find work best? Thanks so much!

    • Thanks Janice! I tend to try and use a 70 if I have one- if not then an 80 works fine too. I just use my regular Coats machine thread, sometimes cotton and sometimes Coats Duet but I do use silk pins on the tana lawn rather than my regular dressmaking pins as they are so much more delicate.
      Happy sewing! 🙂

  9. I love this pin up dress, great for summer parties with the perfect amount of body in the skirt! I wondered if you could tell me why you had to put a seam down the front of the bodice. Does this have additional shaping or is it just a straight seam?

    • Hi Katie! Yep of course- it’s because I wanted the bodice to be really contoured.
      One of the things you can do to create a more fitted bodice is to remove a dart between the bust- known as a cleavage dart. This makes the bodice dip slightly rather than sit flat across the bust. But it stops the centre front line from being a straight line anymore so that’s why you need a seam there.
      Really tricky thing to describe without pictures but I hope that helps explain slightly! 🙂

      • Thanks, this is an interesting technique, I have never seen it on any of the patterns I have made or in any of my books. I would love to try it out on my next project. Does the dart go vertically or horizontally between the boobs? Please let me know if there is a book or tutorial showing this technique with diagrams. Love your blog, great inspiration!

        • Hi Katie! I am so sorry it has taken me so long but I have added a diagram of the dart to the post! It’s from ‘Patternmaking For Fashion Design’- a big beast of a pattern cutting book that I would highly highly recommend if you like drafting or modifying your own patterns- it is like a bible! A little expensive but covers pretty much anything one would ever want to know in this area! I have referred to mine so much it is in a terrible state- pages falling out and everything…sign of true love! Hehe!
          Hope the diagram helps clarify the dart position- it is a nice one for strapless bodices or ones like mine above where the straps are mainly decorative! 🙂

          • Thanks Ami, the diagram helps hugely and with that recommendation I am going to have to add that pattern making book to my wishlist! Love your blog and all your styling, great inspiration for all us fellow sewers. Looking forward to seeing your next creation!

  10. Wow you seem so talented!
    This dress is lovely, I love the lining for the skirt part, it is gorgeous!
    I’ve been looking for a pattern for a top like the top part of this dress. I have a beautiful yellow fabric that it being saved just for this top. Where is the pattern from?
    Thank you, Amelia

  11. Hello, Ami!
    I am so glad I found your blog occasionally 🙂 You are doing the great job! I am enjoying reading your posts! It is really inspiring! I love sewing too but I have to admit not so often now… I will definitely be coming back to your lovely blog again and again! 🙂

  12. Wow, this is gorgeous and you look STUNNING in it! I love to sew, but have not ventured into making an item of clothing yet. I have a pattern and some fabric ready though. Just plucking up the courage to make it!

  13. love this!!! I want my sister to wear something very similar to greet her husband when he comes home from deployment. THESE SHOES though!!! So cute!! I love that cut with this dress. What would you call this style and where did you get them??

    Great blog and you’re too cute! Thanks for sharing!! 😉

  14. I love this dress! I found your site via Pinterest. I really want to buy this pattern from you 🙂 Please put it for sale on your site!

  15. You career would have been over??!!!… I think not, everything about that picture of you in the dress and stockings is absolutely awesome. Sexy, hint of naughtiness…Very, very pretty….and you even wear them at the right height. Please show more .

  16. Hi – what a fantastic dress, you look absolutely beautiful!! I would love to make this dress, please tell me where I can get the pattern.

  17. Wow!You should really sell clothes that you design and sew yourself.. I believe this will sell itself. I’d like one myself.

  18. This is amazing! Stunning. What pattern did you use/base this on? I’ve been looking for one exactly like it.

  19. Hi, Love this dress. I have some cotton poplin fabric similar to this design and would love to make this dress. Is this pattern for sale ?
    How did you work out measurements for semi circular skirt ?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *