Hot! 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!





Stephanie mothers, writes, and teaches sewing in Brisbane, Australia. She blogs about sewing, drafting, vintage style and sustainability at 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World.


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  1. Very pretty fabric and pattern. You’re absolutely right about the feminine look of this dress. It looks amazing on you. I love the little bolero and your tip on downsizing a bit if you make it out of knit or jersey. Have a happy mother’s day with your darling daughter.

    • Thank you- when I saw the duvet cover at the op-shop, I KNEW it had to be a 50’s dress. It had been longing to be one since it rolled off the factory floor as a duvet cover.. I just knew it. ;)

      Thanks- She’s a sweet girl. We went to Chinatown South and had a loooovely sushi lunch.

  2. LOVE this dress!

    • Thanks, Liz. I really like her, too. I put her on and she felt like an old friend.

      Not that I’d wear an old friend. That would be too “Silence of the Lambs..” ;)

  3. I loved your post, I adore your dress (and your little one’s stylish outfit) and I want the recipe for the muffins. Perfect celebration of motherhood, and the changes it brings to our lives and bodies. Just perfect.

    • Hey Jenn- thanks! I thought I might post the recipe later this week, I have made them several times since then and they’re DELICIOUS. But it’s a bastardized version of several other recipes so I don’t have just one I can point you to. :)

      The front pleats really really hide my little poochy tummy thing I have going on. I kind of want to make just the skirt a few times. ;)

  4. It’s lovely! And so is your daughters coat.

    • Thanks! She’s a very particular kid, and last year she wanted a “Tiger Coat” for a jungle themed birthday party… I Didn’t want to make some kiddie costume thing, so I took her to the store and she picked out this minky print. I made it into a coat dress instead of a jumpsuit or whatever. She really likes this, wears it a lot in the cold weather. :)

  5. Hi Stephanie, I just love all the photos, they are just precious with your daughter. I love the dress and the bolero really strikes my fancy too. Happy Mother’s Day.

  6. Just seeing that pattern and your dress makes me want a bold striped dress and bolero just like it!! Great job : ) Using a duvet cover is inspiring, I keep looking in our thrift stores for fabrics and linens but ours are sadly picked over and yucky. Have a fabulous Mothers Day with your adorable daughter!

    • Keep trying! Ours are pretty picked over too, but I do occasionally find stuff like these duvet covers. I suggest looking in a smallish one, perhaps connected to a church, the kind of place that is basically an estate sale.. Like when someone shuffles off the mortal coil, all their household stuff ends up there. That’s where I have the best success for finding linens… :)

  7. Gorgeous outfit! Very classy, but comfortable I’m sure. Perfect for any mom, great job!

  8. Steph, I love how creative you are. Your passion always shows in what you create, Your daughter is beautiful just like you. Fabulous dress and bolero.

  9. Perfect cut Steph, love the lines she looks amazing on you and this looks like the perfect picnic to celebrate your new comfy dress in.

  10. Great dress. So flattering on you. Love the way you used the stripes and all the red accents just make it.

    • Thanks! I wanted to use a thin belt, but I couldn’t find it so settled for this throwback belt I found at a skater shop years and years ago… But I think it works ok. :)

  11. Oh my! This looks so great on you! You’re right about the fabric being destined for this dress. And the bolero! Just right.

  12. Love the dress – all the chevrons are fantastic! And I’m so happy to see Lila’s coat making an outing. It’s just adorable on her!