The “C’eci N’est Pas Une Dress” Sweater
Fabric: Green knit from SCRAP – $1 for ~3 yards
Pattern: Butterick 8360 c. 1939 – $0.60
Notions: Vintage covered button kit – $.005
Year: c. 1939
Time to complete: About 12 hours
First worn: April 2010
About two weeks ago I spotted this adorable, but pricey, dress on Etsy. Of course, my first reaction was to go through my pattern stash and find a contender for a new sewing project inspired by this little mauve number.
I was delighted to find — Butterick 8560 — an almost perfect match! This pattern had been part of a lot from Alameda. It was the first set of patterns I bought after I decided I was going to sew all my clothes (last September). At the time, $45 for a box of about 50 patterns seemed like way too much money to spend, but looking back it was one of my best hauls. Fifteen of the patterns alone were from the 30s and 40s!
Anyone who sews a lot eventually discovers that there are only so many patterns you can by before you’ve attained most of the basic silhouettes. At this point it becomes more about playing with fabrics and embellishments and techniques. Lately, I’ve been at that point. So when I found a book* at an estate sale about decorative smocking and gathering, I was ready to take on the challenge of doing some more intricate sewing by hand.
I knew I wanted to make the bodice of the dress, but, not having a lot of tops and separates, I wasn’t convinced that I needed to make the dress itself. So I simply cut a band for the bottom of the “sweater” from the skirt pieces and constructed it as I would have done a shirt. Luckily since the fabric is a knit, I didn’t have to worry about using a zipper or some sort of fastener — the bottom stretches just fine to go over my head.
The time to complete this dress (12 hours) represents me trying to figure out how to do the decorative gathering just right. Initially I tried to do something that would be an exact reproduction of the embellishments on the mauve dress. That didn’t work so I simply went to the easiest gather I could find in the book. Once that all was complete, the sweater was pretty straight-forward to put together.