The “Tribute to Mommies” Dress
• The Facts : Mommy’s Tribute Dress
⁃ Fabric: Cotton Woven
⁃ Pattern: Simplicity 4110 A
⁃ Year: 1952
⁃ Notions: Invisible zipper
⁃ Time to complete: 4-5 hours
⁃ First worn: May 6, 2012
⁃ Wear again? Yes! I didn’t take it off after photos, I love it that much.
⁃ Total price: $2 for the duvet cover, $3 for the zipper, $7 for the sweater knit, $12 total.
-Challenge: Family Inspiration (Mother’s Day Tie-in): Inspired by an old family photo.
Now, when I saw this challenge I thought I might sit it out. I don’t have many old family photos, and the clothes in the ones I have are either wedding clothes or simply not worth re-creating in any form.
But then last week, this gorgeous dress and bolero pattern showed up in my mailbox as part of a pattern swap. I love it- the early 50’s are my favorite era for dress patterns. I always think about what was going on in the era when I handle vintage patterns. When I close my eyes and picture the early 50’s I see men returning from war, settling into peace and building industry while women were carrying, birthing and raising the Baby Boomer generation. The clothes seem to accept and even celebrate motherhood- while Dior trotted out the New Look on heavily corseted and padded figures, patterns like this are a little more realistic about a woman’ body. The illustrations don’t usually show it, but I find patterns from this time to be very forgiving and flattering to a less than perfect figure. This era is all about young motherhood, so I thought I’d make this dress as a Tribute to the Mommies.
Check out the shape of the front and back skirt pieces- the back is a half-circle skirt while the front is much more capacious. (And the duvet cover was so cool! I loved all the stripes and KNEW it was destined to be a 50’s dress.)
The front pleats would easily help camouflage a pregnancy tummy (and also a post-partum tummy). The midriff section helps create the illusion of something approaching a waist, and would whether or not I was girdled and regardless the state of the rest of my figure.
And finally, the top is simple- no darts, easy to fit, just a few underbust gathers and a surplice. I *bet* I could breastfeed in this dress (I mean, if I had a baby) or very easily alter it for that purpose. Everything about the cut of this dress celebrates motherhood and a softly changing body. I like that. Its very much of its era.
At the same time, it’s pretty and interesting and feminine. I don’t feel “mumsy” in this dress at all, I feel like a lady. The cut is very comfortable, I can wear this around the house as easily as I could while I’m working an event or “out and about.”
My little girl is named Lila. I told her if she let mommy finish this dress, we could bake some spinach and egg muffins and have a picnic outside. We had a great time, a neighbor dropped by to pinch a muffin and the weather was soft and clear. I didn’t expect to become a mother, but I’m glad I did. She’s the best, and now that she is a little older than a toddler we have great conversations. And picnics.
Don’t forget the bolero- it’s really easy to overlook little garments like this in old patterns, but they’re beyond useful. I have a habit of making them up in jerseys and sweater knits- it works like a charm, especially if you go down a size from what you would wear in a woven. Sometimes I “sub in” my own knit techniques- this time I finished the sleeve and lower edge hems with a wide knit binding. I couldn’t find a stashed button to match so I used a trouser hook and bar as a closure. It worked really well, and I like the minimalist look to the finished bolero. The 3/4 sleeves will stay out of whatever I have to put my hands into (dishwater, washing machine, the garden) and there’s no extra flapping pieces to get in my way. This is a bolero for a lady who is chilly, busy, but who still retains a sense of style.
Once I read a description by another sewist about the dresses of this time: “They say “I’m a breeder, what?”” That’s always stuck with me. Happy Mother’s Day, vintage style lovers!