Subversive Femme

One green bottle dress – my last project for 2015! (Pauline 51212 c. 1940s)

Happy holidays everyone! I hope you’re keeping well.

Unfortunately my new job is eating up my spare time (meaning not much time time left for knitting and sewing) but I’m still beavering away – just more slowly.

My fingers were really itching to have a crack at one more outfit before 2015 finished… So let me introduce Pauline 51212!

This dress is the bee’s knees!
It has so many details that I adore in 1940’s patterns: gathers, shirring, bell sleeves and why have one button when you can have twelve?

Can I let you in on a little secret? This dress isn’t a woven or even a rayon knit – it’s cotton tshirt jersey from the Spotlight clearance section!

I know!
I was directly inspired by the dress American Duchess made in cotton jersey (she has some great tips too), it’s not really all that different from wool, silk or rayon jersey which was pretty common during the 1930s and 1940s.

I did modify the pattern a little bit, including:

  • Doing a Full Bust Adjustment and then easing the side dart back into the gathered fullness above the bust.
  • Adding width to the hips and waist
  • Adding width to the bicep (yep, even with stretch fabric they had tiny arms back then)
  • Interfacing under the buttons
  • Adding small shoulder pads
  • Turning the extra fullness from the sleeve heads into gathers
The best bit – no seam finishing or zips needed!
I haven’t sewn knits for at least 10 years so this was a learning curve. I did remember to use a ball-point machine needle though!
I didn’t bother with fancy woolly thread – but I did use a narrow faintly zig-zagged stitch on all the seams that would have stress. This will let the seams give a little bit but not snap. I double-stitched the waist as this would have the most stress.
The shirring across the stomach was my only drama – it kept coming loose and I had restitch it a couple of times with more anchor stitches.
The buttons and buckle are all vintage celluloid from my stash.
As for the pattern itself – well, the instructions were minimal (no seam allowance either but that’s standard for Pauline Reliable Patterns). I pretty much just made it up as I went along and it came together quite easily.
The great thing about this was how forgiving the fabric is – you can easily take it in here or there, mess around it with and everything is ok.
Would I make this again? I’m pretty sure I would – but with short sleeves. I’m not sure I’m a bell-sleeve kind of person.
Well, I hope you had an excellent 2015 and I’ll see you shortly in 2016!
Much love,
  • Shoes – Miss L Fire Betty (these go with everything!)
  • Vintage bamboo bag – eBay
  • Bakelite jewellery – Etsy
  • Carved lucite bird brooch – present from Jakk
  • Lipstick – Kat Von D ‘Countess


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No Comments

  • Reply
    December 30, 2015 at 2:31 pm

    Merry Christmas. That is my favorite color, I love the style. I need to make something like this, on my New Year resolution list ????

  • Reply
    Jaime Lynn
    December 30, 2015 at 8:37 pm

    That color with your complexion and red hair is perfect! I would have NEVER guessed this is a tshirt jersey fabric. It looks like a crepe or something, but is probably a heck of a lot more comfortable…
    xo Jaime

  • Reply
    December 30, 2015 at 10:06 pm

    Aw thank you Jaime and DCHartist 🙂

    And yep, the jersey is amazing for comfort… I need more dresses in this 🙂

  • Reply
    December 31, 2015 at 8:09 am

    Oh that is absolutely gorgeous! I never would have guessed it was cotton Jersey. Those 1940's details are simply divine. 🙂

    Have a great New Years!

  • Reply
    Jessica Cangiano
    December 31, 2015 at 2:26 pm

    What a classically gorgeous dress! From the hue to the silhouette to the double row of buttons, I love (!) it all and think it looks sensational on you, dear Bex.

    Happiest New Year's wishes!
    ♥ Jessica

  • Reply
    February 25, 2016 at 8:18 pm

    How fabulous! The dress (and your blog) is wonderful.

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