Hi! I’m so excited to share my latest post with you all today!
Lately I’ve been browsing here and there on the internet and on the socials (IG/FB) for sewing inspiration. I’ve been itching to make another Gunne Sax repro (that’s another post in the near future!), and have already begun the process of gathering materials for it. However, in my search for a perfect Gunne style to copy, I happened to stumble upon an absolutely gorgeous dress that I knew I needed for myself, whether purchased as vintage, or replicated in some way.
This is the dress that I saw while browsing fellow WP blogs one day (tap/click image caption for original source):
Morgana of Magicvintagespy dates this dress to be around late 60’s era. With the bell sleeves and silhouette, I would agree. It’s so beautiful! Through image search I’ve managed to find a few of these selling on vintage boutiques and on Ebay (Maybe it’s the same dress??), and purchasing this as vintage and RTW is out of the question for me as it is too small/too expensive/unavailable. Didn’t surprise me, I was ready for this.
I love this dress so much that I was willing to replicate it as best I could through sewing. I mentally sorted through my vintage patterns and knew I had something similar to the silhouette–empire waist, square neckline, long flowy sleeves, maxi length–I got it! Vintage McCalls 3131.
View B, maxi length skirt, and exchange poof sleeve for a bell sleeve. Lace insertion & trimming at the bodice, skirt, and sleeves. Vintage dress replicated.
Fabric & Trim
For fabric, the vintage version is made in cotton eyelet and looks to be lined underneath. This is a close up version of the same dress being sold on Ebay (tap/click image caption for direct source):
It is accented throughout with white lace ribbon as a trim and as an insertion. In other photos the back has a low square neckline and a lapped zipper. Finding eyelet fabric and lace trim is not a difficult task. Both are widely available through several sources in stores and online. The difficulty lies in finding the SAME fabric and lace trim in order to replicate this vintage dress. I searched around my local fabric stores (very few places, unfortunately) and found some contenders, but I was not sold on price. Etsy, as usual, yielded much more options and price ranges, but while I was sold on prices, I was NOT sold on shipping charges. Yowza!
I kept on searching Etsy though and finally found some eyelet that, while not an exact match, was still very nice and pretty looking. The best part was that it came from a US seller, was reasonably priced, and even offered free shipping! SCORE! The print has some striped detail that I wasn’t liking at first glance, but when I saw a photo someone posted in the reviews of a dress made in the same fabric, I was hooked. I needed some lining fabric as well and ended up buying a few yards of white cotton lawn from the same storefront.
Finding the exact lace used in the vintage dress was definitely a challenge. It took a while for me to search for it, and I was resigned to using a different trim altogether, but lo and behold, I found it! Actually, I found two listings, but the listing for the EXACT same trim was sold out and unavailable. Boo! The other listing was for a NEAR MATCH of the same trim (it only had the straight edge running along the length of one end and not the other.) Nonetheless, I was happy to find the same design and there was plenty of yardage on sale. I ended up purchasing 15 yards at a very low price–way more than needed, but I like knowing I have some extra for future projects. I found my lace trim at Amore Lace & Fabrics.
What I love about the M3131 is that I made it once already (my floral version) and was familiar with the fit, so no muslin this time around. I still made some changes to the skirt however. Nothing drastic. Just added a few more inches to the bottom to make up for omitting the ruffle. I also had to change out the sleeve because I wanted to make a bell sleeve like the vintage version. McCalls M7809 version C, D, & E works perfectly. I just needed to change the armscye to match it to the one on the M3131.
Since my dress is going to be all white eyelet, I needed to fully line the bodice as opposed to following M3131 directions for facings. I used a very nice cotton lawn. After constructing it, I lined the front and back bodice with lace:
I did lace insertion for the first time. When you see it done on a finished garment, it looks as if it is complicated to do, but the process was actually quite easy for me. I will admit that it can be a little scary, especially when it’s time to cut your fabric to expose the lace. I actually did manage to cut my lace when working on the sleeve. It was a heartbreaking experience, but knowing I still had extra fabric and lace made it a little less traumatic.
If you haven’t done lace insertion before, here is a little mini tutorial for the sleeve and skirt parts:
- Before beginning, I would suggest using fabric that is sturdy enough to hold the lace, and also doesn’t fray easily. Usually with lace insertion, the raw edges on the seams that expose the lace don’t get finished. They are usually anchored by a zigzag stitch, trimmed down, and left as is to reduce bulk. However, there are cases where I’ve seen these raw edges get finished somehow, but I guess it depends on your fabric and your preference. Just a heads up.
- When doing lace insertion, it’s wise to do it all while your fabric pattern is laying flat and not sewn together at the seams yet. That way you can treat it as a regular piece and sew as follows.
- For the lace insertion on my sleeve, I needed to put the trim on the edge where the elbow hits. I started by pinning the straight edge of my lace along the line of the hem where the two sleeve parts join. For extra measure, I also pinned the trim down the middle. You can do a straight baste stitch along the bottom of the lace to anchor it. I went ahead and did a regular straight stitch. Do what you please. After stitching the bottom, do the same to the top part of the lace.
- Turn the garment over and with a sharp pair of scissors, hold your breath and carefully cut through the middle of the stitched area of the MAIN FABRIC ONLY. DO NOT CUT YOUR LACE! Proceed to start breathing normally again and wipe the sweat of your brow.
So, because I placed the lace along the joined seam of the sleeve, this part posed a little bit of a conundrum because it is going to be seen when the lace gets exposed. It’s not a huge deal. All you need to do is make sure you trim that seam as closely and neatly as possible. (I stress CAREFULLY as possible too. This part is where I accidently cut my lace and had to construct a whole new sleeve!). After cutting, fold back and iron the cut seams to expose the lace. In this case, I folded back just the top part, and trimmed off the excess fabric on the joined seam to maybe 1/4″ or less.
- After the seams are ironed back/trimmed down, I anchored the seams down with a zigzag stitch along the edge, and then further trimmed down the exposed seam to about 1/4″ (1/8″ is ideal, but whatever floats your boat.) Since my fabric is eyelet and doesn’t fray much, I didn’t worry about finishing the raw edges. Here is how the lace looks after finishing. I didn’t place the lace on the edge of the sleeves yet because I needed to make sure the length was going to hit right on my arm after it was sewn on, so I saved that part for last (not pictured, sorry).
- The lace on the skirt pieces was much easier to construct. The insertion process is the same as the sleeve, except you have the two edges this time to work on and no joined seam to worry about.
- After lacing the skirt, I made a cotton lawn lining and attached that to the top of the main skirt before doing the gathering stitches. The lining is just a copy of the skirt, and cropped an inch or two shorter than the actual length. It’s a free-standing lining (what is this called BTW? A skirt lining that is not sewn down onto the main skirt? I could not find a correct term for it??) I’m hoping the lawn will be opaque enough in the light when wearing the dress out. If not, a slip will suffice, no biggie.
- I didn’t highlight lace insertion on the waistband because it’s the same process as the sleeve, basically. I completely made the bodice and skirt pieces, and then sewed them together first before inserting the lace at the joined seam of the skirt and bodice.
- I did a standard back zip as opposed to a lapped one like in the vintage version. I’m lazy.
I realize the M3131 is a quick and easy sew for me. The lace insertion was definitely the hardest part of recreating this vintage beauty, but even that process is surprisingly simple once you get a feel for it. I kept ooh-ing & ahh-ing the dress on my mannequin during construction, but finally being able to try on the finished garment was the icing on the cake!
The total nerd in me is feeling a bit of an Arwen/Princess Bride vibe going on here…No shame, I’ll take it!
Can you tell I’m loving all the bell sleeve action?
Some close up lace and eyelet details
I have to say that I am very proud of my remake. I think I was able to capture the essence of the original vintage dress well. Even though my version isn’t charmingly “old & original”, I was still able to make something “new & original” to me. And the best part of it is that it fits my body perfectly, and I can wear it for a long time to come!
Maybe I should get married to the Hubs again in this dress. When he saw me his eyes lit up like it was Christmas morning.