Here is my finished Marian Martin dress for Pattern Review’s Vintage Contest. I like how this dress turned out. I had to make some minor fitting adjustments to the test muslin such as adding to the bust, which is super easy to do on princess seams. I also had to bring in the shoulder width by 1”/2.5cm. Shoulder pads were commonly used in the 1940s and I already have broad shoulders. Additional shoulder padding on me is ludicrous! I just end up looking like a line-backer. One advantage I did discover though is that older vintage patterns are often drafted with a shorter shoulder-to-waist length, which suits my short-waisted torso perfectly.
I chose to replace the short keyhole opening at the back of the neck with a lapped zipper on the center back seam. The fabric is very light-weight, so I did use strips of iron-interfacing to reinforce the seams where the zipper is sewn, but to keep the vintage vibe I used the hand-picked method for the zipper itself. I also eliminated the 12”/30cm long section of snaps at the side seam. I practically have to dislocate my shoulder to get into a dress with the keyhole-neck/side-snaps combination. Plus I really don’t like the look of lumpy side seam snaps.
The sewing instructions are like most from that era; they assume you have a good knowledge of dressmaking skills and can fill in their minimal instructions. They don’t hold your hand step-by-step through the construction sequence. Also, I have found that the older unprinted patterns have problems with markings matching up and wobbly lines where the pattern edge should be straight, like on a belt piece. So a test muslin is highly recommended.
Around the neckline, I did half with a self-drafted facing and the other half with the bias binding method from the instruction sheet. I’m not sure I like the bias strip method because the directions have you hand tack down the inside edges to the garment instead of a top-stitching finish.
I had to use extremely tiny bites with my needle so the stitches aren’t so visible on the right side of the neckline, but I wonder how it will hold up.
And since I don’t own a vintage hand bag, I’m just carrying Miss Sophie instead:What I love about this dress: The unusual gathered details around the elbows of the sleeves, the iconic WWII Sweetheart neckline, the princess seams which are super flattering to most figures, and the super soft, floaty rayon fabric. What I would do differently if I made this dress again? I would fully line it for a cleaner finish around the neckline and eliminate the need to wear a full slip. This fabric is almost sheer!