20th Century, What I wear

The ‘True Love Story’ dress

Yesterday I told you the story of Grandma’s $4.50 blue hat, and Butterick 8044, and how I had always wanted to make it up in blue wool.

Butterick 8044

Sewing it up was a dream.  I had to size the pattern up a bit because I don’t have a 30″ bust, but everything went together perfectly and fit beautifully.  A made View A with short sleeves, because it looked like that was the version Grandma had made (though she might have made both bodices – there were no obvious alterations on the bodice pieces).

Butterick 8044, back

The only alteration I made to the top was getting rid of the side button placket, as I could pull the bodice over my head without it.  With the skirt, I finished the yoke by cutting a second set of yoke pieces and bag lining it, so all the raw edges will be finished on the inside.  The pattern had it finished with only a waist stay, and I was afraid that wouldn’t lend enough stability to the yoke in my thin, draping wool.

I have a dreadful habit of mixing up the front and back of garments like skirts and tap pants and pyjama pants.  I usually mark the back with a little bow, but I didn’t want the lump at the back in this skirt, so instead I machine stitched a little bow motif in the back in light blue thread.  I’m quite enamored of it.

Little blue bow on the waist yoke

Inspired by the bow, I finished all the insides of the dress with pale blue bias tape hong kong seams and pale blue hem tape.

Pale blue hong kong seams and bias-turned hems

So here is my blue dress.  I’m afraid it’s not quite done in the photos: I hadn’t let the bias skirt hang long enough to feel safe hemming it, so it’s unhemmed.  It’s done properly now, and  I’m madly in love with the outfit and the pattern: you’re going to see so many more versions of this (in fact, I’m working on one right now!).

For the photoshoot we went to the Old Museum Building at Massey University, which is my standard go-to photoshoot location when it is raining in Wellington.  It’s also where I teach, so I got to pose in front of some of my students textile designs (while hoping that none of my students came along to wonder about how crazy I am).  Also, it’s just a fabulous building.

Shell excelled herself at catching the light perfectly, and I was really happy with the garment, adding up to a fabulous photoshoot.

And, lest you think that all I did was pose glamorously without smiling, we had some fun too:
For every serious photo:
There is a counterpart non-serious photo:
From super glam:
To perfect Marilyn moment when a well-timed gust of wind came along:

Just the facts, Ma’am:

Fabric:  2.5 metres of dress weight wool, thrifted ($3.00)

Pattern:  Butterick 8044

Year:  early 1940s

Notions:  Metal skirt zip, thread, buckle, jet buttons, all inherited from Grandma (and, of course, the all-important hat)

And the insides?  Finished with bias-binding in ocean blue, for extra blue goodness.

Hours:  5.5  I hand-sewed the hem and sleeves, which took a while, but was worth it.

First worn?:  Wed 26 Sep for the photoshoot, and then again Oct 2nd for swing dancing

Wear again?:  Oh yes!  I love it!  Best dancing outfit ever!

Make again?:  Yes!

Total cost:  $3


  1. Lynne says

    What a lovely dress that really suits you! And the fabric is an excellent match for the hat.
    I think the little machine-embroidered bow is delightful – a nice thing to make a habit of doing in the backs of things.

    Were there pin-holes in both versions of the bodice? This would show if your grandmother had made up both.

    Love the impromptu Marilyn shot!

    • Thank you! I was so excited when I found the fabric – I knew it was exactly what I was looking for (and such an amazing deal!). I’m definitely going to be doing the bow in back – or a variant.

      There weren’t pin holes in either of the bodice versions. I guess Grandma was a seamstress like me and used fabric weights instead of pins to hold her patterns down!

      The Marilyn shot makes me so happy. I was being very posy, and then a gust of wind came, I grabbed at my skirt, Shell snapped the photo, and there it is! Pity the exposure was off, but I still love it!

  2. It has a lovely story behind it, and it’s lovely on its own. (Just the kind of thing I would love to make for the clasp I got from my grandma. 🙂 ) This wool was definitely a great find – it’s not just your grandma’s colour, it’s your colour, too!
    I love the cut of the skirt, too – did you use your grandma’s alterations?

    • Thank you! I do hope you use your Grandma’s clasp. The nice thing about a clasp is you could put it on something and then take it off again.

      I didn’t use Grandma’s alterations. The pins were really rusty, and the pattern was so crumpled that I really needed to take them out to iron it in order to use it, so it was just much easier to use the original pattern. I traced all the pattern pieces onto patterning fabric so I can make it again and again without having to use the fragile original pattern pieces.

  3. A lovely dress to go with a lovely story. Even though circumstances meant that you didn’t have the opportunity to spend a lot of time with your grandparents, it must be very special to have that link to your grandma that is still going strong.

    • Exactly. You really got it. Sewing with Grandma’s stuff and wearing her items and the things made from her patterns is like spending time with Grandma. 🙂

  4. LadyD says

    A very stylish ensamble. 🙂 the kind of pattern that they should re-release.

    • Thank you! I’d be afraid if they re-released it the sizing would be all weird and crazy, they’d get rid of the best bits, and the instructions would be completely un-period. That’s what usually happens!

  5. I love it!! The pattern and hat alone are wonderful. But having the story to go with them, priceless!!

    • Thank you! I’ve never been a dark cobalt person before, but I think this colour is going to become a wardrobe staple.

  6. Zach says

    Oh! how neat! The blue really does look great on you, especially with the hat (which is so awsome in every way on its own!), and the pattern is to-die-for! I can’t wait to see the next version!

    • Thank you! You won’t have to wait long for the next version – the only thing that keeps me from making one daily is that the circle skirt needs to hang.

  7. Claire Payne says

    Absolutely gorgeous. Thank you so much for sharing this lovely story and photos with us.

  8. Oh. My. Gracious. It might just be the most gorgeous dress I’ve ever seen, and the Marilyn photo of you is my absolute favorite!! Your smile is simply stunning, and this dress is just gorgeous and has a fantastic bsck story. Lovely color, lovely bow, lovely photo shoot!

  9. Oh I love this! And these photos are just fantastic!!

    I wish I had found your blog a year ago before I was in Wellington for the AAANZ conference! Do let me know if you’re ever in Sydney!

  10. Annie says

    Loved this outfit it looked so easy to wear and smart the 1940’s great period.

  11. Pamlin says

    Fantastic! I love it!
    Regarding the seaming, can you recommend a tutorial on how to do it? I’d love to give it a try.

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