I wanted to finish up a sewing project in time for my birthday today! With my megaproject jacket complete, I was able to resume some regularly scheduled sewing. Which right now is all about filling in my spring and summer wardrobe!
I pulled a pattern out of my stash that I’d been wanting to sew forever. It’s a 1962 McCall’s pattern for a wrap dress. But some of you who collect vintage clothing may recognize this as basically a Swirl dress.
It’s okay if you don’t have any idea what a ‘Swirl dress’ is. I didn’t either for a long time! I’d see bloggers referring to Swirl dresses and wondered if it was just a geographic-specific name for a wrap dress. Ha! Instead, Swirl was a brand name that started in the 1940s. By the 50s they were making tons of variations of a wrap house dress. I know that Fleur de Guerre is so well known for loving them that Heyday’s wrap dress is named the Fleur after her (and dag nabbit, I can never seem to manage to get my hands on one when my size is in stock!). Original Swirl dresses are collectible and tend to be pretty expensive for a cotton frock.
Sometime in the last year or so I picked up the pattern above in the hopes of making my own Swirl. It’s such a perfect pattern to jump off from! I’m envisioning different necklines, different pockets, different skirts, all with the signature overlapping back and tie front. Brilliant. Seriously, I think I’ve planned about 5 in my head so far (and have bought fabric for 2 of them already). And all slightly different.
But the first one is my birthday dress!
I only made one major change. I don’t wear many 60s styles, but the pattern definitely transcends decades (especially when worn without a flip hairdo like the envelope, ha ha). To help it along, I drafted skirt pieces from a 1946 dress pattern in my stash with a gathered (instead of pleated) skirt, a feature in a few of my 40s skirt patterns. Especially worn without a full crinoline, the dress definitely has an earlier look, I think.
When all was said and done, I think the left back piece was about 1/3 wider than the right piece, and 1/3 of the gathers fall to the right of the lap and 2/3 to the left (there was math and little sketches to get me to that point). According to the measured pattern pieces I had to add 1″ of ease to the waist of the bodice since a 14 in 1940s McCall patterns has a bigger waist than my 1962 pattern, but it turns out I can cinch this in much tighter anyway (so some of my math was moot).
The fabric is cotton from in my stash, nothing particularly special but I bought it ages ago specifically to test drive this pattern (I knew even when I bought it that once I sewed it, I’d want to again and again). It’s supposed to look like a repro of 1930s floursack fabric.
As I can finally see spring around the corner, the tiny floral print feels perfectly in season (even if the temperatures keep dipping back to winter periodically). After my Alma blouse and pink diamonds skirt I kind of swore off sewing with pink, but with this dress under my belt and pink appearing as an accent color in a future version of this dress, maybe I like pink more than I think I do. Hmmm!
It does go quite nicely with my new rose china, don’t you think? A week ago my mom and step-dad drove across country to visit. They brought me my step-grandmother’s Danish modern hutch and rose china, which you may have seen on Instagram and you’ll definitely be hearing more about soon!
I now know why Swirl dresses were/are so popular. So comfy and cute. This would be pretty easy for a beginner sewist, too! There are facings (which are always a pain in the rump if you ask me), but only one buttonhole, with no other closures, and no sleeves to set in. And with the wrap style, it’s a forgiving fit.
It closes with a simple vintage button at the back of the neck. On future versions, I’ll probably handwork this buttonhole… just because!
The right tie slips through a hole in the left side. I edge stitched it per the pattern, but also reinforced my stitching a couple of times on the seam opening since it’ll see a lot of action.
I lined the inside of the pockets with rayon bemberg leftover from my Sew for Victory jacket. In fact, I used the same lining technique I used on the jacket pockets. I just ordered more in fun colors!
The pockets do tend to stick out a bit (more in person than the photos show). I already made them smaller than the pattern, so I may tweak that even more in future versions. Since the only things I tend to put in pockets are my cell phone, a measuring tape or my hands, they don’t need to be quite so big. But I do like them as-is, too.
(By the way, I did this photoset without my glasses, obviously. I’ve been toying with getting contacts again for the first time in years so I wanted to see what I thought but I don’t know, I think I like glasses best.)
As I’m finally sewing regularly, I’m starting to think more about the things I do and don’t wear in my wardrobe (vintage or handmade). Last summer was so hot that almost anything with a collar was out because the extra fabric on my skin made me crazy. Set-in sleeves weren’t high on my list for the same reason. So the slightly scooped neckline and cut-on sleeves are a great summer match up! Some cut-on sleeves on vintage patterns have turned out too big for my narrow shoulders, but these are just perfect.
Right now it’s definitely too cold to wear this outside, but with a cardigan I think it’ll do just fine until summer!
I must admit: I’m completely smitten with wrap dresses now! And I think this one makes a perfect birthday present to myelf. Speaking of, this weekend Mel is taking me on a road trip to a state park along the Iowa/Illinois border so we can get some hiking in. A perfect gift if you ask me!
But wait, I have a birthday gift for you. The owners of Popina Swimwear are offering my readers 15% off after the giveaway. Use the coupon code ‘tasha’ when you check out!
Anyway, I apologize in advance if all you ever see me wear this summer are variations of this dress. What can I say, I’m in love!