Butterick 2704: vintage shift dress

There’s another challenge happening on Instagram at the moment and it’s the sewover50 so50vintage, so I thought I’d make this dress which has been on my list for some time.

As can be seen from the line drawing it’s a simple shift with gorgeous French darts. It has darts in the back neck, a short back neck opening, and can be made with small side splits. The pattern is from 1963 and there are no instructions in the packet. I think I got this from an op shop at some point.


Examination of the envelope shows that this pattern is a size 12, which in the 1960s meant a bust of 32″. Yes, well, I do remember having a bust that size – when I was 15 or 16, but I’ve expanded slightly! I note with interest that there are four sizes listed at the bottom of the pattern and I think that this is the entire size range, which probably means that the pattern doesn’t go beyond a 38″ bust.

I set about trying to grade the pattern up – after all, how hard can it be? I used my block and was interested to see that I really only needed to add 1cm all round. I added slightly more as I thought I’d rather have the dress too big than too small, and of course it’s too big! Here is an initial fit photo. It’s especially big in the hips.


I didn’t include the back split at the neck, or the side splits.

I made this first version from some gorgeous vintage cotton gauze that had been donated to my stash. I had a lot so doubled it so that it wouldn’t be quite as diaphanous, thereby creating double gauze? I respected the vintage origins of the pattern and fabric by using vintage Sylko thread for the handsewing and vintage bias binding – cotton of course! In the photo above I’m also wearing a vintage French necklace that I bought many years ago.

I decided to take the sides in to see if I could improve the fit, and it seemed to work well.


I feel happier with the dress now, it still is roomy over the hips but I don’t feel as though it’s swimming on me.


The darts are pretty spot on too. For these photos I teamed it with a strand of pink pearls. I always think of Mary Tyler Moore in the 1960s film “Thoroughly Modern Millie” where her necklace didn’t hang straight because of her bust – I have the same problem obviously!dsc02596-e1563184824904.jpg

Having now got an idea of the sizing, I decided to try with some “good fabric”. This is a lovely printed cotton panel that I bought in New York in 2015. I could not work out what to do with this fabric until this dress presented itself. I’m wearing it with yet another vintage French necklace. This one is actually very beautiful and exquisitely made.


I’m looking up all the time because I’m watching the birds in our tree – they are making a huge mess!

I wondered if I’d taken too much out of the pattern as this dress is much more fitted than the pink one. I checked them together and they are the same size, so I’m not sure why this one appears to be tighter.


I am so pleased to have used this panel and cannot wait for warm weather so I can wear it without freezing. dsc02587.jpg

I am delighted with these two dresses, and love the fact that this fabric is no longer in my stash. I am now playing around with the other pattern pieces to make them fit as I really like the coat and the trousers.


17 thoughts on “Butterick 2704: vintage shift dress

  1. I love the patterned dress, you lucked out when you found that fabric! I suspect the fit difference has more to do with the weave of the fabric, if the patterned one is a tighter weave it won’t be as relaxed and will therefore feel a bit tighter, even if it’s exactly the same size.

    1. Thank you. The weave is much tighter, but this fabric has a small amount of stretch and I think I assumed that it would fit the same. I like it though!

  2. Someone wrote on the envelope that these slacks are good. Since you had so much success with the dress, you can see it as a good indication. The use of the panel is brilliant on your second iteration.

  3. Great work on getting the vintage pattern to work for you. I often admire the artwork of vintage patterns, but haven’t actually used them as I am worried about the fit. I like the A-line shape and it is perfect for your New York fabric.

    1. I think it’s imperative to toile a vintage pattern! I used my block to help me grade up as there’s no way of knowing where to draw the lines otherwise.

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