By George, I have finally finished my 1940s dress!

This 1940s Marian Martin dress has been gestating for a long time – at least 9 months since I acquired the pattern.


The pattern is for a size 31″ bust, and I have to say that it’s been a goodly while since I was that size. So, I decided to have a go at grading, which everyone says is easy. Hah! They lie!

After a very misshapen muslin, I enrolled myself in a previously mentioned pattern making class at Workspace FADS and began by creating a bodice block. Then we started on this pattern. It was quite interesting in that Sarah, from Workspace FADS, showed me that the pattern wouldn’t have worked terribly well even if had fitted me. The marks were misaligned, seams were the wrong length and darts were at strange angles (and note that on the pattern it states “sure to fit – each pattern has been tested for accuracy). We redrafted the entire pattern and after a couple of attempts I have a dress, which is pretty true to the original design.


The original pattern has a sash belt, which is very sweet, but I just couldn’t face making it, so used a leather belt I made from scraps a while back. The thing that really strikes me about many vintage patterns, and especially this one, is how contemporary they are when made up in modern fabrics. This pattern could easily be mistaken for a modern pattern, and this suits me just fine.


I used some striped cotton sheeting from Spotlight, and the strobing nearly caused me to lose my mind, but I wanted the variation in direction of the pattern pieces to be visible.

I’m not sure I’ve got the pattern absolutely perfect yet. The bust dart (there’s only one) seems high, as does the waist, but these are minor tweaks. I also left the dress a little longer than I would normally wear as I wanted to give a nod to the era, but couldn’t countenance calf length. I did use bias binding on the neckline, which caused me all sorts of issues because I wanted a chevron effect at the front, which is impossible with bias. Next time I will roll the binding to the inside and have a clean neckline.


Overall though, I’m really happy with the way this dress turned out, and even happier that I got to wear it once before the warm weather finally disappears, which it is forecast to do this afternoon. I am going to make a winter version of this dress with long sleeves, but need to source some appropriate fabric from my stash.

In a nutshell: Marian Martin 1940s dress made from striped cotton sheeting from Spotlight. Belt is two scraps of leather sewn together and the shoes are by Jeffery Campbell, from Zomp and I’m wearing them because they have a vague (very vague!) 1940s feel.


23 thoughts on “By George, I have finally finished my 1940s dress!

  1. I think you got the length okay! Hems were more around the knees in the forties and didn’t get to calf length til after the war from what I recall. Just below the knee is super flattering too. And Jeffrey Campbell have some great vintage looking styles.

    1. Thank you. I will invest in more of the Jeffrey Campbell shoes. I am glad I got the length right – should have done some research on this, so thank you!

  2. Love the dress, lurrve the shoes. It’s amazing that you managed to redraft it from a 31″ and keep to the feel of the original. I agree you maybe need to add a bit to the upper shoulder and neck to bring the dart down a bit. But it looks really good. It would look stunning in a wool/polyester crepe for winter! Regards, Trish

  3. Oh it is gorgeous! I especially love the variations in stripe direction. I’ve just made a Vogue top with many confusing odd-shaped panels that I tried to do in a horizontal striped cotton, and unintentionally ended up with variations in stripe direction(!) You’re so clever, I am envious!

  4. My grandmother was taught how to draft her own sewing patterns when she was learning how to be a seamstress. Perhaps the dress patterns weren’t really made as well as they should have been and the professionals just didn’t bother with them. They were taught the exacting methods. The patterns might have been for the amateurs who just wanted to give it a try but didn’t know where to start. You did a good job grading up. I only attempt to make a pattern fit if it’s a size or two off. I like your choice of fabric. It really shows off the design of the dress!

    1. You might be right about the patterns being for amateurs. My mother could make her own sewing and knitting patterns – she just seemed to pull them out of her head!

  5. Great work. I love the visual effect of the stripes. For a winter version, I would suggest to go with very vivid stripes for a more dramatic look. You would be stunning.

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