crafts · finished objects · Sewing

Simplicity 1777: why 40s patterns aren’t for me.

Pattern: Simplicity 1777, reprint from 1943.

Fabric: Poly/cotton jacquard


I loved this pattern at first sight.  I haven’t made a lot of 1940s patters, and I thought it might be a good choice for me.  I had a few concerns about the  neckline, but I decided to give it a try.

I cut a size 8 on the top, and a 10 on the bottom.

I was expecting the center panel to be irritating to sew together.   It wasn’t really that bad, but it does make for a bit of bulk in that area.  My fabric is medium weight – in a light weight I’m sure it wouldn’t matter.  I opted not to interface the panel, choosing to underline instead.  My interior may not be as neat, but it’s less bulky!

Here is the dress sewn as drafted:

Picture 880

My issues: the skirt has too much volume – because of the deep pleats I needn’t have cut a size larger.  The dress is also too big around the waist and too tight in the arms.  The length is a little long.  The neckline is really high, even for vintage, see:Picture 885

I went back to the machine and made the following alterations: I removed 4 full inches of ease from the skirt and 2 from the bodice.  I let out the sleeves slightly.  I redrew the neckline.  The new one is about 2 inches lower in center front:

Picture 892

The skirt is much better, and I like the neckline.  The sleeves were still tight, and I had taken too much from the bodice, so I let the bodice back out a little  and let out the sleeves are much as I could.

I sat down to sew the final seams (up until this point it was all basting!) and that’s when tragedy struck!  I was finishing a seam allowance on the serger when my serger managed to grab part of the skirt and cut a nig hole in it with the knife before I could stop it!

I know you can repair a hole with interfacing, but I didn’t think it would look good – it was right in the middle of the back, and it was noticeable.  I decided to just shorten the skirt.  Unfortunately, now it’s too short.  I mean, it’s wearable, but I know I wouldn’t feel comfortable in it.  I don’t really wear skirts that are shorter than 2 inches above the knee.

The neckline is also finished with a strip of the cotton as a bias binding.  I made one New Year’s resolution I didn’t mention, and that’s to stop putting in neck facings unless they are completely sewn down.  In cleaning out my closet this year I noticed that the dresses I didn’t wear all had one thing in common – shoddy facings (is there any other kind?)  I have a few dresses I want to take the facing off and replace with a better method so I can wear them without fear!

I’m going to call this a learning experience, but I didn’t get a wearable garment in the deal.  I doubt I would have gotten one even if the skirt hadn’t gotten eaten.  A few things to note about the pattern:

1. The arms are small and short.  I have long arms, but not that long.  The sleeve length was so short that the sleeve darts ended up in the wrong place, contributing to the tight sleeve issue.  I would cut a size up in the sleeves, possibly even two sizes up.   Maybe that’s just the nature of long sleeved woven dresses?  I’m pretty sure that’s why I don’t make them!

2. There is a lot of bulk at the waist. I would either use a lighter fabric (such as challis) or opt to leave out one of the center panel layers.  The pleats are also bulky, so be sure to trim them down!

3.  The neckline is higher than you think.  Picture the highest neckline you can.  Then add an inch.  Now you might have an idea!  I dislike high necklines because of my irrational belief that it makes you look like your head is on backwards.  I redrew the front only, as I had already sewn the zipper, and I would totally redraw if I made it again.  I didn’t try the v-neck, because it looked like a pretty high cut one, which isn’t better on me.

I’d rate the difficulty on this pattern as medium.  The front piece is a little tricky, and there are a million little darts and pleats.  It’s not hard, but it is time consuming.  I would recommend either a lighter fabric or a stretch woven.  Definitely not a stiff fabric (no idea why the envelope is recommending taffeta!)

Ultimately I think that while I enjoy 40s patterns, they never look as good on me as some other eras.  All the pretty draping and ruching never looks right for some reason, and they don’t have the fuller skirts that I love (I know this is due to WWII era fabric restrictions).   I feel like gathering around a bodice just adds bulk to my waist, and I don’t have an enormous difference between my bust and waist anyway, so I like to emphasize what I have.  This style makes me look a little boxy.  I never think of that when I’m sewing, but occasionally I’ll end up with a garment that makes me look that way.

I did make some fun changes to the hem and neckline, choosing to use a hem band and a bias binding:


Is anyone else with me on the facing hatred?  I think the above finish looks so much neater, even if it does take longer.    I made a 2 inch hem band to finish the bottom, but couldn’t get decent photos.  It’s a good option for when you can’t afford to lose anymore length.

Moving on, I’ve been sewing this dress:

It’s nearly finished, and unlike my sad 1940s dress I really love it!  I will get photos when I can… right now I can only get them on weekends, as I’m in rehearsal or class most nights.

17 thoughts on “Simplicity 1777: why 40s patterns aren’t for me.

  1. Oh no! The curse of the serger blade strikes again! I have had this happen before and sometimes the damage just can’t be interfaced away. Good to know some feedback on this pattern as I bought it the other day and it is next up on my sewing table. I was thinking of a ponte but now I’m thinking I may need to go a thinner fabric. Loving the Vogue one for next time!

  2. Oh no I’m always afraid of the blade cutting the wrong part! I’m with you on the facing hatred, don’t get them, whats the point of them, hate them! Bias binding all the way for me!

  3. Wow, the changes you made really made the dress so much more flattering on you. It stinks you did all that for a wadder, but nice to know for sure what type of pattern not to pick again. Can’t wait to see the next dress!

  4. Despite your reservations, I think the 1777 looks really good on you! I am totally with you about facings – I usually opt for a lining when possible. I’m also curious to try the method of stitching the facings to the lining. It seems like a very attractive (but time-consuming) option.

    The 8787 looks right up your alley, however! Peacock ponte sounds dreamy, do you have a source for it?

  5. such a bummer about the dress, i hate it when our best efforts still don’t turn out a wearable garment! i know i’m in the minority, but i really love facings! i find them really quick and when tacked down in a few places, i never have problems with them showing. i do use bias facings when i don’t mind topstitching at the neckline and for blouses.

    can’t wait to see the vogue dress, that peacock color is just dreamy!

  6. I’m definitely with you on the hatred of facings. A bias binding finish looks so much neater and more professional in my opinion.

    I’m sorry this dress didn’t work out, but I’m loving the look of the Vogue one, and you’re making it in one of my favourite colours as well.

  7. Ihave the same issues with 1940s and 1970s. I think it will look cute until I put it on! And facings are generally evil. I also do bias binding for the most part.

  8. I can’t see the pics yet cos I’m at work but oh how I hate neck facings…I had a rant about them on my own blog a week or two ago – ugh every time I try they make the shoulders or neck look bulky and ugly!

  9. Awww, man, this is such a fun style– so sorry about the serger mishap! That’s always so disheartening. 😦 I’m with you on hating neck facings. I just can’t get them to lie nice and flat, and it’s such a pain in the but to blind hem them down all the way around. Ugh!

  10. I would have made the neckline a boat neck, and the sleeves short and pleated to give a still 40’s but slightly ruffled effect. I think your skirt pleating etc is superb. I think you could still save this dress if you shortened the sleeves to mid-upper arm level, and wear it with a statement necklace that distracts the eye from the slightly unusually placed current neckline. Alternatively you could be brave and sew a 3″ contrast hem band in a bright solid colour (like jade green) or a solid black, to get the length back again. If you then ran a 3/4″ strip of the dress fabric in the middle or the bottom of the new band it would tie it in further. I think you could get away with it. It’s a lovely effort – shame to waste it.

  11. Hi there, enjoying your blog! I read your comment about ‘shoddy’ facings and wasn’t sure what you meant, did you mean you don’t like the tatty look of the serged or zigzag free edges? I found a great technique recently which I’ve just taken some action shots and posted about it on my blog if this helps! It’s super neat and tidy. If that’s not what you meant never mind! Cheers, Sarah

  12. Hi there excellent blog! Does running a blog like this take a large amount of work?
    I have very little knowledge of coding however
    I had been hoping to start my own blog soon. Anyway, if you have any suggestions or tips for new blog owners please
    share. I know this is off topic but I just wanted to ask.

    Thanks a lot!

  13. Not a fan of facings always put in a lining
    When using the serger always put blade up so it can’t do any damage
    Have this pattern for my wife will be checking all measurements before I cut

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s