Too old for school vintage dress

When I think of gingham, I think of school dresses.  Luckily, or unluckily depending on your perspective, I never went to a school where gingham dresses were summer uniform.  At junior school girls wore what they wanted (I think!) and at secondary school my only “official” school summer dress was in some special print fabric that probably cost my Mum an arm & a leg when she made me my summer dresses in that naiive first year.  And then, after a certain age it was far cooler (in a teenage sense) to carry on wearing shirt (no doubt hanging out), tie & skirt (with rolled up waistband to shorten it) than the “regulation” summer dress.  So I missed out on gingham.  And when I was asking for guidance last week & you earliest commenters commended the vintage pattern, it never occurred to me that my Walthamstow “cheesecloth” gingham might end up looking like a school dress.  I mean it isn’t really gingham.  No, not at all until I was nearly at the end.  I was thinking of doing some silly photos with white socks & sandals, but be grateful you have been spared.  In fact, it was so gorgeous when I put it on, that I could only wear it at its best, as opposed to ridiculing it.

So, here is my first attempt at sewing a proper vintage pattern.  McCalls 5694, procured from Ebay last year some time in my proper size, so no scary adjustments needed (in theory at least!)

Vintage McCalls 5694

Luckily for me this pattern is printed- I didn’t have to navigate my way around punched holes (phew).  It came (size 34) with three different bodice pieces for different heights- I naturally missed this at first & sailed away cutting out the one that had already been used, only having to get the short*rses’ version to recut.  And without any kind of bat of my eyelid, I adjusted for a sway back (oooo er!  look at me!).  The fabric was a real pain to cut out- I think after much more familiarisation that it isn’t synthetic mix afterall, but a type of cheesecloth & boy did it stretch all over the place when I was cutting, it was also pretty heavy (significant when cutting on a table & some of it hangs over the side & edges).  I tried to line up rows, but did not succeed in all cases.   The skirt, heavily pleated, was made up of 4 separate squares, which in the end I just measured & cut as opposed to pinning pattern pieces onto.


The bodice was lovely to make, nice kimono sleeves that were faced, & as in the Sencha blouse, handstitched inside.  I did need to take in the side seams though, so the whole facing/sleeve thing needed some adjusting also.  I’d say I just about followed the instructions for the bodice, but for the skirt, I winged it.

Vintage check dress

Imagine stretchy pretty weighty fabric x4 different pieces on my knee in the conservatory where I was trying to sew.  Yep, I should have gone elsewhere with more space, but I was on a mission – that would have been cause for delay.  Attempting to repin pattern pieces on my knee has worked in the past, but not this time.  There are lots of pleats, suiting this fabric down to the ground, because the lines make it easy! & when it was finished it really hangs beautifully.

Twirling vintage dress



I kind of ignored the instructions, knowing my objective was to make the skirt fit the bodice (not exactly rocket science!) but the checks eliminated any kind of fiddly measurement to get the pleats the same size/ distance apart.  So whilst I was doing this, I was beginning to realise that I was taking a more than slapdash approach.    It seemed that the pleats in the pattern were positioned to hide all of the skirt seams, so I tried to keep to that ideal.  The centre front also hid under a pleat, & having not followed the instructions up to that point meant that I also had to feel my way for the skirt front opening.

Swirling vintage dress

And I was making this dress on the day of the Royal Wedding – would I be able to wear it to the street party?  I was sitting in my PJs until 4pm ( I think I already mentioned this) but was unable to complete it in time.  I got everything bar the handsewing done, but with all of that hem, it needed a bit more time & space & TV without subtitles (we’ve graduated onto the French Spiral, being hooked on the Saturday night foreign thrillers the BBC are screening.  Sorry, digression, but it is important to understand that handsewing doesn’t get done when subtitles are on.  Just like knitting.)

Swirling vintage dress


No matter, it hung around all week.  I’d even sewn the self belt with a vintage buckle that I’d scooped at a charity shop.

Self made belt

SO, as you can see from the photos, luckily I had no gardening commitments (this afternoon was showery+ no plan), so I was able to watch a silly film on TV & stitch.

Vintage check dress

It was only when I finally put it on though that I realised how much I love its weight, the comfortable, practical & stylish sleeves, & its mega swirl-factor.  I apologise for posting so many photos – blame the self timer on the camera & my swirl love!

So thank you dear commenters for encouraging me to “go vintage” – it really suited me having someone tell me what to do!  I know a second wave of you also suggested sewing another Crepe, which I could also have done if I hadn’t got straight into action !

Does anyone else like to “ask the audience” & then do you follow it?

32 thoughts on “Too old for school vintage dress

  1. Nicky Passmore

    Oh Winnie, that’s gorgeous! You’ve obviously been on a bit of a sewing success train recently!

    My efforts are stalled – my machine is kaput, and is at the shop for the second time – they’ve had it for 4 weeks in the last 5 and I am rapidly losing faith! So, no more tentative sewing steps for me at the moment. Will be sat hand sewing a roman blind this evening instead. Surely life is too short!?

    Anyhoo, just wanted to say I love the dress – especially the buckle and red buttons – it looks wonderful with those red shoes, and really suits you. In fact, anyone would think it was made for you……..;-)

    Nicky P x

    1. scruffybadgertime

      Hi Nicky,
      Bad news about your machine – not fair! You were on such a roll too- but hand sewing a roman blind takes patience – well done – I need to get my behind into gear & do some home sewing …. but it keeps falling off my list. Thank you for the lovely comment 🙂 Let’s hope the weather stays warm enough for it to get some use!! Good luck with getting your machine fixed!!


  2. Roisin

    Oh, Winnie – the beauty of this dress has made me gasp! You look so gorgeous and happy in it. I’m going to have to find myself this pattern.

  3. karen

    Oh my goooodddddd!!!! I barely know where to begin. The dress is unbelievably fabulous. You must be so proud. I AM so proud that the fabric came from Walthamstow. You did it justice. Look at those killer runner’s legs. You look so pretty and happy. Yay, for outside sunshine shots. This makes me SO happy. Oh, and I love the touches of red.

    1. scruffybadgertime

      He he he Karen, I wasn’t worried about flashing a bit of thigh, can’t hide much in lycra running capris or running shorts! Yay for Walthamstow!! Thank you for the praise & Tanit Isis it was fun !

      Sarah, those buttons are cheapest ever in my button jar – I was thinking they needed replacing with some posher red ones. Thank you !

  4. Magpie Mimi

    That’s such a gorgeous dress and the shoes! Ooooh! Love the highlights of red! I’ve made a top and nearly finished a skirt and am going to cut out a jacket for next weekend and not too many hiccups so finger’s crossed I’ll have an outfit!

  5. Jane

    Oh Winnie it’s absolutely BEAUTIFUL, one of the prettiest dresses I’ve seen for ages. I really love it and you look fabulous in it! Hoorah for giving vintage patterns a go, you’ve surpassed yourself. x

  6. scruffybadgertime

    Hi Louise, Debi, Magpie Mimi & Jane, Thank you – you are all so sweet, & it’s so encouraging to get lovely comments 🙂
    Magpie Mimi – sounds like you’ll be going non stop this week – will hopefully see you (with shiny outfit) on Saturday, & Debi, maybe I’ll even be wearing this dress!! (Not the shoes though – they are not up to much walking around unfortunately!)

  7. Roobeedoo

    WOW! That is not even slightly like a school dress. It is so very very vintajjjjjj dahlink, I think you would give Audrey the Hepcat a run for her money! Love it. Especially the swirliness and the pairs of red buttons – PAIRS of buttons! What a great trick! So I see I will be doing battle with you on eebaay from now on for all those fab 50’s patterns. Dagnabbit. ; )

    1. scruffybadgertime

      “Dagnabbit” – love the resurrection of this word!! Don’t worry about eBay battles, Roobeedoo – I try not to look as I know that particular search is my paypal account’s worst enemy!
      Miss Twitchy & Law, thank you too for lovely comments, I really never expected the pattern to turn out so well – what do I know?! 🙂

  8. Law

    I love this dress!!! I really want to make a shirt waist dress one day and this is pretty much the perfect example. Gingham has never looked so gorgeous!!! You look lovely in it too. I love it

  9. Sigrid

    WOW. I have a feeling that school uniform dresses didn’t look so good. I love how the darts in the bodice bend the plaid, so the gingham looks much more grown up. And the red touches are just amazing. (Love the shoes too!)

  10. Shivani

    Winnie, this is so beautiful!! I gasped out loud so in awe am I! It’s a lovely make, and it suits you so well!! Fab photos too! x

  11. Tamsin W-P

    Hi Winnie, just thought I’d pop by to say hello and that it was lovely to meet you on Saturday, and I look forward to seeing your fabrics on here! I thought your dress looked wonderful.

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