The “C’eci N’est Pas Une Dress” Sweater

Nest-pas-sweater The Facts
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
Wear again?;Yes.

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. 

image from goldingcraft.com 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.

 Green-sweater

Author

Mena Trott

Mena Trott started The Sew Weekly to document her attempt to sew all of her own clothes in 2010. Since then, she's made over 125 outfits and has way more clothes than she needs.

15 Comments

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  1. I love the shoulder detail!
    Jana

  2. You, my dear, look adorable in this! And I love the decorative gathering. Very well done.

  3. Really cute and I love the shoulder details.

  4. Oh I just love this…it is really a good example of how little details REALLY make something special. The color is nice too!

  5. This is really cool! Thanks for sharing!

  6. I too love the shoulder rosettes!
    My research tells me that a lot of RTW dresses from the 1940s were constructed in knits, not wovens… so I better get cracking on learning to sew knits! This turned out beautifully and looks super comfy to wear, too.

  7. This one turned out great! what a great transition from inspiration to something you can wear ;-)

  8. This was so clever of you and now you have a very Anthropologie-like top!

  9. You look simply adorable! Do you have a serger?

  10. Isn’t that interesting, because a few months back when my SIL and I went shopping (mostly I went for idea’s) we found lots of detailed like garments similar to what you found. Great piece… now what to wear it with?

  11. That’s super cute on you. You do a great job with this blog. I love reading it and how much I learn from it! :)

  12. I think this one is my favorite yet. Amazing job! And I love the story aspect too!

  13. I. Love. That. Sweater!
    you did such an amazing job. it is adorable :)

  14. Love your blouse! I have had bad experiences when sewing with stretchy fabric. Did your pattern allow for that type fabric? Do you sew with it regardless of the pattern allowing knits? Do you just change your needle? Any tips you can give would be greatly appreciated!