I have a huge love for vintage style dresses, but the price tag and smell on true vintage clothing is not a love of mine. Instead I gather inspiration from actual vintage clothing styles or high quality pin-up style clothing. I have to say my favorite decades are the 40s and 50s. I especially love the big dresses and skirts.
When I saw wide stretch mesh, I knew it would be perfect to recreate a dress that I fell in love with many years ago, if I paired it with Phee’s supplex. I had a hard time trying to decide between the plum and navy since I usually gravitate toward navy dresses, but I opted for the plum supplex because I knew it would go great with my mustard heels and blend perfectly with the black wide stretch mesh.
My next task was to find a pattern that would work for my dress. There were a few that I had in mind, then I realized that I already had the Manhattan Peplum & Dress pattern by New Horizon Designs. I realized that the cap sleeve version would then be perfect!
Disclaimer: Please note that my images are not in the order that I’m telling you to do this. From my own trial and error, I have written this to make things easier for you. I followed the same process for this post as I do when I write projects/hacks for sewing magazines, although I have not taken time to illustrate pictures. If you have questions, please comment and ask.
- ½ yard wide stretch mesh
- 2-2 ½ yards supplex (dependent on size)
- I made a size 8/10/10, forgetting to account for a strapless bra, and should have sized up through the bust, but that’s an entirely different issue. I had enough fabric (it was the required amount for my size), and was also able to also lengthen my skirt by 2”.
- ½ yard circular knit or knit lining (bodice lining)
- ¼” clear elastic – This is not something that I measured, I wouldn’t start unless you have 2 yards minimum. Phee’s ¼” clear elastic is perfect in every way. I’m glad I don’t have to cut down 3/8” clear elastic anymore.
- New Horizon Designs Manhattan Peplum & Dress or similar pattern.
- Pattern/tracing paper, tape
- Thread, scissors
Hack the Manhattan Bodice
Start by tracing out the bodice front and back pattern piece in your size, using the cap sleeve and the both of the underarm lines.
Around the lower part of the armscye on the front and back, add the seam allowance from the pattern in, so that you can begin to draw your style lines in. Since we began with the upper underarm line, even though this one isn’t the one that is intended for the cap sleeve, it gives a great starting point for the style lines.
On the bodice back, draw straight across, perpendicular from the center back fold to the point in the armscye.
On the bodice front, I wanted my mesh to be about 2 ½” down from the neckline (including the binding), as I didn’t want to worry about bending over and having my girls be seen by the world. So I measured 2 ½” down from the top along the center front fold, and made a 90 degree angle. I then created a curve that angled down toward the lower armscye, meeting with the seam allowance curve.
Cut the top and bottom pieces apart, make sure to mark the front and back top pieces. Add paper to where they were cut apart at, and add your seam allowance back in so that you can sew the top to the bottom.
Now is when you want to use the bottom underarm curve, I have marked this line in my pictures with a red line to point it out.
- Wide Stretch Mesh:
- Bodice Front Top – Cut 1 on Fold
- Bodice Back Top – Cut 1 on Fold
- Bodice Front Bottom – Cut 1 on Fold
- Bodice Back Bottom – Cut 1 on Fold
- Bodice Front Bottom – Cut 1 on Fold
- Bodice Back Bottom – Cut 1 on Fold
- Skirt – Cut 2 on Fold
- 2 ½” Neckband – Cut 1 on Fold
- Use the neckband pattern piece provided, but cut at 2 ½” wide.
- 2 ½” Armbands – Cut 2
- This length will be determined by the length of your cap sleeves plus an additional inch to tuck into the bodice. You can cut these when you get to this point with extra fabric.
Sew the top mesh front and back pieces together. In my post earlier this month, I mention how I did this on my fishnet tights.
The neck and arm bindings will be added to the bodice top before attaching the bottom bodice pieces (this is different than my images). It doesn’t matter which is first.
Add your arm bindings, making sure to mark ½” on both ends of the binding to keep these free so they are easier to tuck down into the underarm seam. When measuring for how long your binding needs to be, make sure your mesh is fully open and not skewed in any direction.
Attach 1 long strip of the binding to the arm sleeve right sides together. This is easiest with a serger, as it helps to hold everything in place, but a wide narrow stitch zig zag on your sewing machine would work as well.
Once your binding is attached, fold the other edge in, for me it was easiest to clip this edge before moving on. Fold this edge over one more time, bringing the side into the fold that is attached to the mesh to conceal all raw edges. Pin or clip in place. Topstitch with a stretch stitch through all layers near the mesh edge, I used the triple stretch stitch on my sewing machine.
For the neckline, sew the two short ends with right sides together in the same way that the armbands are sewn. Evenly space out your neckline band around the bodice top neckline.
Attach the bottom bodice to the top. The process is the same for both the front and the back:
Sandwich the layers of the bodice (front or back), matching the seam that you created before cutting out the fabric:
- Bodice (Front or Back) Bottom – Supplex – Right side up
- Bodice (Front or Back) Top – Mesh – Right side down
- Bodice (Front or Back) Bottom – Circular Knit or Lining – Right side down
Stitch together, using the seam allowance you created if it was different from that of the pattern. Do not stitch arm bindings down yet. Repeat to the other side.
Stitch side seams of bodice front to back, supplex to supplex and lining to lining. Baste the outer bottom to the lining bottom bodice at the side seam along the seam allowance. Turn right side out. Adjust the arm bindings so that they lay in the proper shape, and pin to the seam allowance by reaching under the exterior fabric to pin.
Once all the arm bindings are pinned, flip open the hidden seam attaching everything, and sew the under arms. Reinforce the corners with stitches from a machine if serged. Add clear elastic to all seams, holding taunt, possibly even pulling a little on the front seam line so that it hugs your curves (this is something I did not do, and need to fix it after looking at my pictures and my ill-fitting bra). I chose to leave my corners free of the clear elastic to reduce bulk. After this picture was taken, I then trimmed the corners to make the seams lay flatter.
Turn bodice right side out, and press the seams with your iron on a nylon setting.
Slightly trim 1/8” to ¼” off the bodice lining to help pull it to the inside of the garment and not show through the mesh.
Complete the skirt per the pattern’s instructions.
Attach the bodice and bodice lining as one piece to the skirt, following the remaining instructions in the pattern.
I am seriously in love with this dress, and the fact that it’s a full circle skirt so I can wear a petticoat with it. Now my next task is to start figuring out this bra thing so I can maybe make a strapless bra that actually fits me.
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