Vintage May guest: I’m Thinking…

 Today’s Vintage May guest is a friend from real life (yes I have those), Jessie, from I’m Thinking…
Yes we have the same name…and she’s married to Cory….(I’m married to Rory in case any of you forgot or didn’t know) She has some adorable girls that she loves to sew for…sound familiar? hehe yeah we get along really well since we’re so much alike! When we met, it was at a party for a mutual friend, and I was giving the Lucky dress to the birthday girl. Jessie commented that she’d seen that dress on a blog, and I was like, yeah that’s my blog! So ever since then we’ve bonded over sewing and craft blogs. She has made some amazing stuff, like these flower girl dresses…(take a closer look here). She is also a circle quilt lover and re-used the insides of the circle skirts from those dresses…smart! She has a really fun backpack tutorial, and I’ve got to make one of these for the new baby! Ok, and one more…check out this amazing robot costume she made her youngest last year! Awesome, right? Alright, I’ll let Jessie take over now!
So when Jessica asked me a while back if I would be at all interested in doing a guest post for her Vintage May series, I don’t think I could say “YES!” fast enough.  In fact, I’m pretty sure I said it before she even finished asking me.  Whoops.  🙂  I’ve been an admirer of her blog for a long while now, and am so thankful for the chance we’ve had to become real life friends, too.  She’s pretty darn awesome.
That being said, when she told me this was a vintage inspired theme, I was far from sure about what I wanted to make.  I love vintage-y stuff, but my own personal sewing style doesn’t reflect that very often.  So, of course, I did what any normal crafty person does–searched “vintage” on Pinterest.  
This beautiful dress was one of the first results that caught my eye, and the more I looked at it, the more I loved it.  
(I’d give you the source for it, but it was a dress for sale on Etsy, and the post has since been taken down, as it was sold).  

After a bit more searching, I decided that this was the dress I wanted to recreate for my daughter(s).  
Not too terrible an attempt, right?  I decided to go with a silk fabric I found at JoAnn’s (it’s cheater silk, though–the kind that can be washed!  Score!), and a more youthful lace for the overlay–this is for my 2, 4, and 6 year olds, after all.  I also added a small lace flutter sleeve for the same reason.  
Want to make one?  I don’t have pattern pieces for you (I’m not that tech-savvy yet), but I can show you my basic techniques.  
See below for the tutorial!

To get started, you need to create a pattern piece for the bodice–I used a shirt that fits my daughter fairly well, and then adjusted the neckline to be a little wider, and added an extra inch to each piece on the back (to accommodate for the zipper).

You’ll want to cut one of each lace piece (front, each back side), and two of everything in silk (two fronts, two of each back piece), so you have a lining/facing to give you a nice smooth neckline.
One of my favorite parts about this dress (and all the dresses I found from the 50’s, let’s be honest) was the circle skirt.  I’ve sewn them for my girls many times before, always using Dana’s tutorial to help with the measurements.  Just be sure to measure the length from where you want the skirt to start, which is a little higher up than their natural waist.  
You’ll also want some flutter sleeves–I used the circle I cut out of the middle of the skirt to make mine–I just cut it in half, and shaped them a little bit.  
Because I couldn’t see the back of the dress, I decided to use an invisible zipper as the closure.  These are actually really easy to put in (promise!!), and I prefer them to buttons, as my machine is a vintage piece itself, and doesn’t have a buttonhole feature.  🙂
So this should be all your pieces at this point.  You should also cut out a sash, which I forgot to photograph.  Mine was 8″ wide, by 2x the length of the fabric. 
Now, you’re ready to piece it all together.  I started with my skirt.  Since I knew I wanted the lace to be a little longer than the silk underneath it, I just serged the edge of my silk about an inch shorter than the lace.  The serged edge is hidden in the white of the lace.  You could also do a regular hem or a rolled hem if you’re less lazy than me.  🙂  For the lace, I cheated again, and just left it unhemmed, as this particular one doesn’t fray.  Again, feel free to hem how you’d like.  Then I just serged the two skirts together at the waist.  You could also zig-zag, if you don’t have a serger.  Skirts: done!
Next up comes the bodice.  Start by sewing your pieces at the shoulder seams.  Just sandwich your lace on top of the coordinating silk pieces, and treat as one piece of fabric.  They may slide around a little bit, adjust as necessary.  Be sure to iron the seams after they’re sewn.

Add your flutter sleeves here.  My grandma has told me many many times that the key to beautiful hand sewn items is basting (vintage advice!), so that’s what I did here–I just pinned the sleeves to the outer fabric, then basted them in place.

Next, when you’re ready to add the lining, you just need to pin the sleeve out of the way, as you can see here:
Then stack your lining on top of your outer fabric (right sides together), pin like crazy, and sew them together, making sure not to catch your sleeves in your neckline.  You just want to sew your armholes, and your neckline.  Don’t sew the side-seams, or the back closure.  
Turn it all right side out (turn it through the shoulder area, if that makes sense? it’s a little tricky because it’s a small area, but thankfully the silk is slippery), and iron it all flat.  You should now have a pretty little not-quite-finished bodice, like this:

Now for the invisible zipper.  Your back pieces may have slipped around enough to be uneven, like mine:

Feel free to trim off the excess now, if you’d like.  Time for putting in the zipper.  You do this basically like the packaging for it says, but you have to adjust for the lining.  This is how I do this–I am no pro, and it may not be perfect, or at all the right way, but it has worked on at least 8 dresses I’ve made now, so I thought I’d pass it on to you.  
Start by pinning the zipper to just your outer fabric (again, we’re treating the lace and silk as the same fabric, so just don’t pin it to the lining, and you’re good).  You’ll note that my zipper is insanely longer than my bodice–that’s ok, we’ll just cut it at the end.  No worries.  Also, I am not putting the zip into the skirt–I haven’t worked out how to do that in my head yet.  I’ve found just sewing it into the bodice gives my girls plenty of room to wiggle out, though, so I don’t worry about that.

Sew that in place (nope, no zipper foot here.  I live on the edge… or, I’m too cheap to buy a Bernina zipper foot.  Maybe someday?).  Do this for both sides, and then check to make sure it’s even, so you don’t end up with a wonky top of the zipper.  We want it all to match up here.

Now, the slightly tricky party, you’re going to turn your bodice back–just the back–inside out.  This is why the side-seams aren’t finished yet–it makes this step much easier.  So when it is inside out, you should be able to stack the lining back on top of your outer piece, right sides together.  Then you just sew down that same zipper line you sewed before (the white stitching under my hand), only this time you catch the lining as well.  

Again, do this on both sides.  

Turn it back right-side out, and your zipper is done!  Good job!
The last part of assembling the bodice is sewing up the side seams.  Jess gave a great description of how to do this here, but here’s my brief version of how to do it–you’re going to open up the side seams on both the front and the back of the bodice, then put them right sides together (so the front bodice piece will be right sides together with the back, and the outer fabric should be sandwiched against outer fabric, the lining against the lining), and then simply sew straight down the edge.  Seriously, if you don’t understand at all what I just said, go look at Jess’s explanation.  So much better.  🙂
And your bodice is done!
Next step is adding the sash.  For this, like I said, I just used 2x the width of the fabric by 8 inches.  I joined the two strips together, folded them in half longways, and sewed down the edge, tapering the ends to a gentle point.  I then turned it right side out, and wallah, a sash!  I would recommend leaving your turning hole right in the middle of the sash, so you can cover it without having to handsew it in the next step.  
To add the sash to your bodice, you just pin it along the front of the dress (NOT the back!) like so:

This will allow your sash to be pretty and straight in the front, and enable you to pull it as tight as you like in the back.  Sew it on, again, only to the front of the dress.

Last step!! You are finally going to join your skirt to your bodice and sash.  I shoved my bodice and sash down inside the skirt, and pinned it all together.  Make sure your sash pieces hang out away from the edge here, so you don’t accidentally catch them in the seam.  If you look closely, you can see that I ended up with a little extra room in my bodice, which I turned into two matching pleats on the back, because I knew I wanted the dress to be the width of the skirt.  It’s barely noticeable in real life.  After it’s all pinned and pretty, sew that thing together!  I serged the edge at the end, just to make the inside look pretty.  Again, you could also zig zag that.  Once you’ve sewn across the zipper (I go over it a couple times just to be safe), you can cut it off.  Don’t be afraid to sew on it or cut it, because it’s a soft plastic.  You can do it!
And now, your dress is done!  Now, go make 2 more for your other daughters who want beautiful twirly dresses!  (Oh wait, that’s just me?  Well… lucky me.  :))

Now take your girls out in the bright sunlight, and take some pictures.

They twirl up so nicely, no?

A dress any little girly-girl is sure to love.  I know mine do.  🙂
Thanks so much for having me, Jess!  Feel free to shoot any questions you have my way.  🙂
Thanks Jessie! Can you believe she did three of those? I love them in the different colors. If this next one’s a girl I’m definitely doing a color theme next year!
Don’t miss Sophie from Cirque du Bebe‘s project today over on Skirt as Top!


  1. OMG these dresses are marvelous! Thank you for sharing all of the steps – it’s really helpful 🙂

  2. Nice work Jessie! I love these dresses, the lace on them is so great. And maybe one day you’ll inspire me to do an invisible zipper. HA!

  3. UAU!!Que trabalho bonito e bem feito,a primeira olhada parece impossível para mim mas,lendo e olhando os detalhes acho que posso me aventura e fazer um de boneca primeiro e depois …Para neta.Obrigado as duas.Amigo é coisa para se guardar no lado esquerdo do peito,sejam felizes,beijos.

  4. Thanks so much for having me, Jess!

  5. WOW! Awesome work there! love this dress. You are very gifted. Hugs and blessings, Cindy

  6. if you sew for one, you gotta sew for ’em all, right? so sweet… love the purpley one 🙂


  8. These are just adorable!

  9. such a cute dress! I love the twirl and your girls look like they love them!

  10. Beautiful! And wow, you sewed one for each of your girlies?! Super impressive.

  11. Those dresses are lovely……hmmm I know if I’d start making one, I’ll end up making three too: one for each daughter! The colours tou used are great 🙂

  12. I love them! And the other dresses you made…. I’ve only made a few accesseries on my sewing machine but been wanting to make a dress for my girl for a long long time… I really love the vintage look you are going for! I just have to go for it I think!
    I do have soms patternbooks with vintage knitting… do you knit?
    Keep on the good work! I love reading your blog!

    Best wishes,
    Eveline (from Holland, so that explains the poor english writing…)

  13. adorable!

  14. Wow, those are so amazing! You did a lot of work! I bet the girls just loved twirling their heads off!

  15. that is so adorable! love the step by step…makes me think i could do it;)

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  20. Great job! I love the vintage style of dresses!

  21. Hi jess, i am getting married next june i am crazy!!!! About the 50’s u have on your website t mint colour!!! Do u make these dresses our is there anywhere i could by a dress just like this? ??
    Look forward to hearing from you!!
    Thanks maeve

  22. Hi Jess! I love this dress and your renditions of them. Thank you so much for this fabulous tutorial. My one question, so far, is about an adult version. I can see on the “big girl” version what appear to be two-point ed darts in the bust area.Would I add those to my pattern after making the lining pattern? And do you have any suggestions on how to add and sew the darts?
    I’m planning on making three dresses for Easter. Two for girls and one for an adult. Any direction would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much again!

    • Hey! I’d look around for a pattern that is similar…I don’t have a lot of experience making patterns for adults 🙂

  23. Do you have any idea how I could contact the person that made the original dress on etsy, I just love it and think that I might want something like that for my prom dress. Thanks very much,

  24. I just have to say love the dress what to make for my granddaughter I have a question on the sash if using a serger should I put this as a little higher? It looks like you have it right at edge.

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