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1946 Wool Dress

Added Feb 11, 2011

by lauramae

Novato, Californ...






BUTTERICK 5281, MISSES’ DRESS AND BELT: Semi-fitted, lined, below mid-knee length dresses A, B have waistline seam, left shoulder yoke, right shoulder pleats, back bodice with darts, slightly flared, side zipper closing and shoulder pads. A: button trim and long sleeves with hook and eye closing. B: cap sleeves and belt.

The instructions are quite easy to follow. They include a lot more description and diagrams than any vintage pattern I have ever come across, so this is a great pattern for anyone who is fearful of true vintage patterns.

I am always fascinated by the construction on vintage garments. Dresses from the 1940s (pre New Look) often have very narrow neck openings. To accommodate getting into this particular dress, a yoke is finished off separately from the bodice front, and snaps are attached as a closure.

Another lovely vintage detail is that the long sleeves are finished with a 2" opening which is then closed with hook and eyes. Just be sure to close the hooks before putting on any stocking or doing your hair – those hooks will grab just about anything if they are not closed!

I also love 1940s fashion from a practical standpoint – day dresses rarely take more than 3 yards of fabric due to rationing restrictions. (I purchased 3 yards of my wool, and still have enough left over to make the pencil skirt I am currently working on!)

This pattern calls for crepe, lightweight gabardine, faille and lightweight linen. However, I wanted a more winter appropriate dress, so I substituted a medium weight wool. The shoulder darts and the gathered side would probably do better in a lighter weight fabric, but I knew that I wanted the long-sleeve version to be a winter dress, and I think it turned out nicely.

The only thing I was surprised about was that the dress is completely lined. The bodice obviously needs to be lined to help create the shoulder drape effect, but the pattern calls for the skirt to be lined as well (which I would have done anyway because of my fabric choice).

I used a 20" zipper instead of the suggested 14" – I find that the longer the side zipper is, the easier it is to get into the garment (you certainly do not have to use a full 20" zipper but that was what I had in my stash). At least 16" or 18" is always more helpful, in my opinion – especially if you are long-waisted, as I am. I also ignored the circle placement for the zipper, placing it as close to the armhole as possible while allowing enough seam allowance for setting in my sleeve.

Instead of sewing the snaps to the top of the yoke, I inserted the male portion of the snap through the wrong side of my wool fabric (this took a little patience with a seam ripper and pin because I did not want to cut the wool threads, but rather, just push the bump through the wool weave to the right side). This leaves a very clean finish. Just remember to do this before sewing up the side seam and connecting the yoke to the armhole.

I made up my own shoulder pads using a vintage vogue pattern as a template.

And finally, I made my own belt to match a 2" buckle kit I had in my stash (a narrow tie belt pattern in given for View B is you wish to go that route).

I am sure I will be pulling this pattern out again and again. The pattern, with its asymmetrical lines, would also make a lovely skirt.

This pattern, originally printed in 1946, is my idea of the perfect dress. I would highly recommend this pattern to anyone with a little bit of sewing experience.

Material Notes

Wool coating from Fashion Fabrics in a burgundy color with silver threads running throughout.

Bemberg rayon lining in gray from JoAnns.

Maxant buckle kit from Discount Fabrics in Berkeley.

Cotton quilting batting for shoulder pads from JoAnns.




Fall, Winter
Garment Type

13 Comments Sign in to add a post

  • Img_8969_large

    Feb 20, 2013, 12.46 AMby pictureit17

    Your dress look great! I have this pattern but haven’t made it yet; I’m inspired to after reading your post. :)

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    Feb 17, 2011, 07.02 PMby jessness

    Looks great and the colour is lovely!

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    Feb 13, 2011, 04.40 PMby salvia

    This dress is beautiful. Your fabric choice is so fitting for the style. I really like the 40s because the dresses are so feminin without a lot of fabric.

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    Feb 13, 2011, 08.42 AMby macska

    Gorgeous! I love the fabric you’ve used for this. I’ve been considering getting this pattern, and now I think I’ll have to – it looks fantastic made up! Thanks for sharing. :-)

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    Feb 12, 2011, 03.19 PMby shangrow

    This is stunning! Where did you find this pattern?

    1 Reply
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    Feb 12, 2011, 02.13 PMby nidhi

    Beautiful dress!!

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    Feb 12, 2011, 10.37 AMby mixtlii

    Original and very elegant! I prefer the dress than the design :)

  • Blogkusinekjolegr_nactionportr_tt_large

    Feb 12, 2011, 07.40 AMby groovymama

    Wow. This is really elegant. You look amazing :-)

  • Missing

    Feb 12, 2011, 04.41 AMby ara43

    I’m so excited to see this dress made up so nicely! I just bought this pattern and want to make it the short sleeved version out of cotton lawn, but I’m a little worried the fabric is too lightweight. I don’t suppose you’d have any insight after going in the opposite direction with your fabric?

    1 Reply
    • Burda_style_pic_large

      Feb 12, 2011, 05.10 AMby lauramae

      ara43 – I actually have a rayon version of View B (with short sleeves) in my closet! A lightweight fabric like lawn will work beautifully. The pattern really is meant to be a ‘40s floaty summer frock with a lot of drape. I can’t wait to see your finished project.

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    Feb 12, 2011, 03.27 AMby lyrameneses


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    Feb 11, 2011, 10.27 PMby nancynigh

    Very cute- and you did a great job with the fitting!

  • Cdtwitterfotoflexer_photo_large

    Feb 11, 2011, 09.53 PMby SimplyTuTuSweet

    This is so super pretty! You look so classy and elegant. Thanks for sharing the specifics.

  • Sart_large

    Feb 11, 2011, 09.46 PMby tamezdc

    I love this dress. It fits you perfectly! The color is amazing as well and the pictures well taken.

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