Vintage Sewing: 1940s Fabric Meets 1950s Pattern

I’m always interested in reading how other people approach sewing projects.  Most of the sewing blogs I read have an element of the past to them.  Some people sew perfect reproductions of an era which interests them.  Others use modern fabrics with vintage patterns or vintage fabrics with modern patterns.

My sewing is a bit more eclectic.  I have no problem taking a fabric from one era and pairing it with a pattern from another.  I pretty much know what I like, and which fabrics and styles fit in with my casual lifestyle.  I live in the South so my summer clothes have to be cool and preferably, loose without being sloppy.

I’ve finally found a use for Facebook.  I “belong” to a group called Novelty and Border Print B/S/T (buy/sale/trade).  Most of the active members are 1950s border print fanatics, and so there is always a “new” print to be seen there.  They also post pages from vintage magazines which show border print skirts and fabrics.  If someone spots an interesting novelty print for sale on the web, she will post the link to the sales page. It is really useful the way that group operates.

And that is how I found this great print.  It is from the late 1940s, and it is made of a textured but cool rayon.  The beachy scenes and the two shades of blue were an added attraction.  Quite remarkably, this fabric was for sale on eBay for a $3 buy-it-now.

The downsides were that there were age spots scattered about and that there was barely one yard of it.  Even though I rarely buy fabric over the internet, I could not resist, and so a few clicks later it was mine.  The spots washed out, the dyes did not run, and the fabric did not shrink.  I mention these things because one never knows when using a fabric that is seventy years old.

I know that many sewers buy their fabric with a project in mind.   I seldom have that sort of advanced planning in place.  I see a fabric I like and later I worry about what should be made from it, especially if it is a vintage fabric with the amount of yardage available already determined for me.

Because there was so little fabric, I was limited in what I could do with it.  I decided that I really wanted a casual top, but there was not enough fabric for sleeves.  The solution was to pick a pattern in which the sleeves are cut with the bodice.  I came up with McCall’s 4093, a pattern from 1957 which I had used several years ago.

Several changes were in order.  I did not want the drawstring at the waist, and the fabric was just too busy for details like the tab under the v-neck and the sleeve cuffs.   One solution would have been to make them from a solid, but I decided to just eliminate them.  I also changed the cut of the sleeve somewhat.  The illustration is misleading about how the sleeve cuffs lie.  They look as if they are cut straight across the arm, but in fact they are cut on a diagonal.  I lowered the top of the sleeve cuff to straighten it a bit.

I lengthened the bodice as much as possible, but my skimpy little piece did not allow for much of that, so I put as small a hem as possible, using bias tape to bind the edge.  I left just a peek of it showing on the outside, just because I could.

I used the scraps of a former project to make the collar and facing.  I always save my scraps, as I never know when I’ll find a use for them.  I made shorts from the blue cotton several years ago.  And yes, I do love my bias tape bindings.

The result is nothing fancy, but I’ll wear this a lot.


Filed under Sewing

25 responses to “Vintage Sewing: 1940s Fabric Meets 1950s Pattern

  1. This is absolutely darling! I would wear it in a heartbeat. I sew this sort of garment a lot and they always get a lot of wear.


  2. Lizzie, this looks great! Love the print & that its rayon. What else would one wear in the South in the summer?!


  3. Honestly, Lizzie, you make me wish I could sew more than a straight seam. I know I’m not the only one who loves your sewing projects. I also love how fresh and modern older patterns can be with a little bit of know-how.


  4. Ruth

    Those match very well together! I don’t know how much Rayon you wear, but it’s something I love for summer blouses. I discovered it quite by accident when I was a teenager and growing up in Oklahoma. You know, hot muggy summers and uncomfortably warm at night? It’s a great fabric for that kind of weather. Not sticky or clingy when you sweat, and it stands up nicely to washing if you only have a few pieces to wear! That was the era of polyester, which was miserable in summer, so Rayon was wonderful to me.


  5. Well you look fabulous!


  6. Lizzie i hope you dont mind that i shared this in rhe Novelty group you mentioned, the group will be thrilled!


  7. It may be “nothing fancy” but it sure is wonderful! I love the solid collar with this print! I think you made the right choice about leaving off the tab and cuffs – your version is all about the print yet draws the eye up to your face. All the little details are perfect!


  8. Love it, Lizzie! What a great print. I’m going to check out that Facebook page. Have you seen the “We Sew Retro Sew and Tell” and the “We Sew Retro Buy Sell and Trade” Facebook pages? They’re worth a look.


  9. Your top turned out very nice, and the vintage fabric coupled with a vintage pattern are are a bonus. I still have patterns from the 1960s that I used to sew for myself – unfortunately, I can’t wear that size any longer. Sighs! I suppose I keep the patterns for nostalgia.


  10. That’s just so perfect….and I hope you don’t mind me saying…as another lady over the age of 45…how nice it is to see someone making and modelling something who doesn’t try to do the pin-up look….I make everyday wear as well, your blog is very refreshing, thank you x


  11. This is so adorable, and it’s even better because you made it with so little fabric!

    I’m also in that novelty print group, and I love it! I’ve learned so much!


  12. The blouse is such a darling! I love the fabric, and I have a similar Mexican style material right now on my desk.


  13. Christine

    This is another fascinating post: a good use for the ubiquitous and usually annoying Facebook, the cool but skimpy material, the pattern and your modifications, the scraps finding their true purpose, the photo of you wearing the shirt — so informative on so many levels. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and talent.


  14. What a fun print and a perfect choice for that style of top!


  15. it’s very sporty and cute! Thanks for sharing what you did, I love seeing what you come up with! 🙂


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