Hi guys! I’m back today with a recent sewing project. Our friends’ wedding on Catalina Island gave me the perfect reason to make a few new dresses to wear. I decided to make a new dress for each of the three days we were there and make them all in an ocean/nautical theme.
I got my inspiration from the photos of this vintage dress from Cheshire Vintage (it sold awhile back). I loved the scalloped trim and the two rows of fish. I looked online for fish appliques but couldn’t find anything I liked, so I decided to make my own. That’s when I had the idea to make seahorses instead of fish, to move them to the skirt instead of the bodice, and to make them two different colors. I also decided to make my dress in more ocean-y colors, though I do love the contrast of the maroon and white of the inspiration dress!
I’d been really wanting to try out this vintage Advance 6672 pattern and I thought the scallops on the bodice would be perfect to go with the wave scallops on the skirt.Â I started the somewhat laborious process of grading the pattern up to my size when I realized that the re-issue McCall’s 7599 was really similar, and had a full circle skirt (which I was going to substitute anyway). So in the interest of time I decided to just used the McCall’s pattern but add scallops to the bodice band.
This project was definitely one of those fussy ones that takes a bit of trial and error. I had a lot of trouble getting the bodice to fit my bust properly. Fitting is one of those things I still struggle with and I really want to learn more about (especially since I have kind of a hard-to-fit body). I was thinking I needed to do a full bust adjustment, but I ended up just lowering the darts by a couple of inches, making the darts bigger and adding some length to the bodice front. It took me quite a few tries to get that right and I had to just throw out my first dress altogether (it was a wholly unflattering mess). At that point I almost scrapped the whole project, but decided to order some new fabric and start over after I had some time to regroup. Luckily I got it to work this time and I learned something about fitting my body that should help me next time around.
I chose this Robert Kaufman cotton Manchester. I absolutely love the look of textured cottons like this one! They’re perfect for vintage-style dresses and look similar to a lot of fabrics you see from the 1940s-60s. The only thing I didn’t like was the amount of pilling that appeared after I washed and dried the fabric.
I decided at the last minute to add a contrasting belt to kind of finish the outfit. When I say last minute, I really mean it- I was finishing the belt in the car on the way down to Long Beach! I think the addition of the belt helps give it the right vintage look as well as making my waist look smaller.
Â I also added some round patch pockets which I trimmed with rick rack as well. They ended up a bit crooked somehow so I need to remove one and try to sew it on better!
The seahorse appliques were somewhat time-consuming (but then again they’re kind of the focal point of the dress!). I experimented a bit to figure out the best way to make these and had to throw away a couple of the first iterations. I ended up using wonder-under on one side of the fabric, then tracing the seahorse design onto a piece of interfacing which I then ironed to the wonder-under. Then I trimmedÂ around the shape, leaving about a 1/4 inch allowance. I cut lots of notches, and then carefully folded over and ironed the fabric onto the interfacing, bit-by-bit (the wonder-under is key to getting it to stay).
After I had the seahorse shapes made, I hand-sewed the silver trim and beads on. I found the decorative grommets in a bunch of stuff I inherited from my grandma, and they were perfect for the eyes. I then measured up from the hem where I wanted the “waves” to be and drew lines with a fabric marker. I then drew the scallops on. To get even scallops I used the plastic lid of a coffee can. I then hand-sewed the baby rick rack onto the lines I drew and hand-sewed the seahorse appliques onto the skirt. This was definitely the most tedious part of this project and my fingers hurt like crazy after I was done! The only thing I realized I forgot was to add some sequin “bubbles”- I’ll try to put some on before I wear it again.
I wore it the day after the wedding to a beach excursion we all went on.Â Here we are at the Two Harbors beach in the beach palapa our group rented. It was a lot of fun!
Here’s Phillip and I by the fountain in Avalon. I think it was all worth it in the end!
Â Size: 16
Â Alterations: Lowered bust darts, added scallops to bodice band. I also didn’t bother making the crinoline from the pattern.
Skill Level: Intermediate
See you next time!