Re-worked 50s sundress

Me sitting on the lawn wearing my black sundress

Three years ago, I made a black broderie anglaise (aka eyelet) dress for a friend’s wedding using Vogue V8725, view B. I had been hoping to get lots of wear out of it, but it turned out to be a bit low-cut for my strapless bra, plus I decided it made me look fat (!) So I’d only worn it twice altogether, and I spent most of that time hiding it under a jacket.

Close-up of the eyelet fabric.
The broderie anglaise pattern in close up – although it’s actually black, not grey.

This year, I thought I’d see if I could fix it. I’ve learnt a lot about the particular quirks of my figure since then, and I suspected that I’d probably made the wrong size. And indeed I had.

I’d originally cut out a size 16 for the top, using the B-cup pattern piece. Since then I’ve learnt that my high bust measurement is misleading, and I actually need to make a size 14 with a 2-3″ FBA. So this time I used the D-cup bodice front and cut out a 14, grading out to a 16 at the waist.

Then I lengthened the front bodice by 2″ (all added at the bottom, since it’s effectively a strapless dress) and adjusted the back bodice to match. I was a bit short of fabric, so I had to cut the front bodice in two pieces, adding a seam at the centre front. It all went together swimmingly – I ripped out the zip and replaced it with an invisible one  – my first one, because I didn’t have an invisible zip foot for my old machine.

Janet standing up wearing her 1950s sundress
It’s not perfect, but it’s a lot better. And it’s so much fun to have pockets for once.

Then I tried it on again, and it was huge around the top edge because I’d forgotten to do my usual narrow back alteration. There was almost two inches of spare fabric under each armpit, and the dratted thing wouldn’t stay up. I was also worried that the bust darts were too long – making everything look a bit, er, pointy in that area. I like a 50s fit, y’know, but that was going too far. Aaaargh. I couldn’t face taking out my lovely zip work, so I just took it in under the arms and fished around under the lining to try to shorten the darts and fix the other problem. Then I top-stitched the bodice to hold the lining in place and shortened the centre back seam a little to help my sway back before putting it back together again.

Back view of the sundress
I think I could have removed even more from the centre back seam – you can still see a slight swayback droop here.


What I like:

It fits much better on the top now, and I feel I could jump up and down in it without if falling off.

I’m less sure about:

I had some finishing issues at the centre back – despite careful marking and stitching in the same direction my bodice ended up about 2mm higher on one side than the other. And my attempts to neaten it seem to have made it worse, not better. If you know of a great tutorial for finishing little corners like this neatly, I’d love to know where I’m going wrong.

I should probably have closed the hook and eye for this pic, but even then, there’s still a noticeable height difference either side of the zip. Luckily my long hair covers it up 🙂



  • The broderie anglaise was from Rags in Worcester
  • The lining is a fairly stiff (possibly too stiff) acetate from my stash
  • I used a longer zip than the pattern suggests because I’d lengthened both the bodice and the skirt
  • And I swapped the ordinary zip for an invisible one.
  • Vogue classes this pattern as ‘very easy’. I’d say it’s very easy to make, but pretty difficult to fit.

Have you made altered a previous make? Did it turn out as you hoped?


  1. […] Sizing varies, too. While Big 4 Misses patterns all use very similar body measurements on the envelope (although it’s widely thought that Simplicity patterns include a heck of a lot of wearing ease – a sneaky form of vanity sizing, perhaps?), each indie pattern company has its own system. A small selection of Big 4 patterns also come in different cup sizes (usually A, B, C and D like my 50s sundress) […]


  2. […] than turning it up twice and machine stitching it as the instructions recommend. I’ve had problems in the past machine stitching curved hems – they tend to creep sideways on me, creating diagonal wrinkles in the hem. A machined blind hem […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s