Every girl into 50s fashion should sew a pinup holiday dress.
In sultry emerald green, sequin black, or shimmery white, sewing a pinup holiday dress is a good excuse to pull out the Fancy Fabric.
For the version featured in my YouTube tutorial, I used silk.
I wanted shimmer and fabric with body, so silk dupioni was an amazing choice. It holds its shape super well and rustles in a very luxurious way when I walk. For me, this immediately became a dry-clean only dress, so super special care taken from beginning to end on construction. In this particular fabric, the warp and weft are two different colors, so when I move in the sun, it changes colors.
The pattern I selected for my pinup holiday dress was Butterick B5603, from the 1950s.
I decided to go with View B for this dress, with the V-neck (and V-back) and tie top shoulders. There was just something about how elegant the design is that really drew me to it. Also, the nipped in princess lines at the waist are attractive and give a natural slenderness that would look demure and very cute during holiday celebrations.
If you’re considering this pattern, please read my sewing tips down below!
Step One: Pay special attention to “Special Occasion” fabrics.
Before starting to sew, determine the look and feel of the fabric you want to use. If you have a fabric swatch book (click here to learn more about fabric swatches!), look over the options that you may want to work with.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Does it have the right texture and drape for the pinup holiday dress you want to make?
- Have you had the opportunity to work with the fabric before?
- Will this fabric be dry-clean only, or can you hand or machine wash it?
Going through the steps to investigate your fabric will help determine how much time, effort, and even how much difficulty you might have in stitching up your pinup holiday dress!
It’ll also determine the internal foundation that will need to be worked into the sewing process, to make sure that your dress holds its shape and stands the test of time with nights out dancing!
Step Two: Read the Underlining and Silk Organza cheat sheet
After you’ve selected your fabric, spend a few minutes reading the cheat sheet I created for this project. The FREE Underlining and Silk Organza cheat sheet outlines directions for reinforcing and strengthening your garment from the inside out.
These vintage techniques are essential to sewing a pinup holiday dress. The cheat sheet goes into:
- How to underline fabric. This is useful when working on special occasion fabrics that might be slippery or difficult to work with. Underlining will make them more stable so you can sew them a lot more quickly.
- Reinforcing your seams with silk organza. Reinforcing them will reduce stretching on the bias, which can cause the neckline (such as the V-neck of this Butterick B5603 dress) to warp and become distorted.
Both techniques are useful even past sewing a special occasion dress- they work over all sewing types and are techniques you’ll want to know if you want your garments to last over time.
To download the cheat sheet, just fill out the form below!
Step Three: Don’t Rush It.
Simple, but easy to over look when things are crazy in your corner of the world. Having a festive pinup dress to wear at the end of the year is fantastic, but speed sewing should not be a practice when you’re working on materials that may be more finicky than the standard quilting cotton.
- Cut fabric one day, start sewing the next. Spending one day cutting out your fabric will ensure that you don’t rush into snipping into the Nice Fabric and accidentally cut things incorrectly. Special occasion fabric can occasionally be costly, and giving cutting time its own time and space will make a difference.
- When you start sewing, take frequent breaks. Every hour get up to stretch, drink a glass of water and maybe go outside for some fresh air.
- Don’t work on your pinup holiday dress for more than four to five hours in a day. Similar to the Take Frequent Breaks note, working on the dress in small chunks of time guarantees that when you see it, you’ll be in a good headspace and able to tackle it with fresh eyes every time. This is especially important if you’re working with fabric that can be new to you and/or expensive.
This pinup holiday dress is ready for Christmas or Valentine’s Day.
This dress was sewn in conjunction with Britex Fabrics, who kindly donated a gorgeous silk dupioni that shimmers gold in the light. Please note that the color fabric I have is SOLD OUT! But there are still plenty of dupioni options available on the Britex website.
Vintage sewing techniques in this pinup dress include extreme (!!) use of silk organza throughout to prevent warping at the neckline, waist seam, and zipper insertion point. Also, rayon seam binding was used quite a bit. To add extra stability to the entire piece, though, I used silk charmeuse as underlining.
Be sure to watch the sewing walkthrough video to see how I made this pinup holiday dress from start to finish!
My B5603 holiday dress was also sewn as part of a collab with…
Doesn’t her dress look amazing?
We decided to tackle the same pattern and give it our own twist. Allie chose version A of Butterick B5603 and I chose version B. Both versions feature a handpicked zipper, and a gored, flared skirt. The instructions for both dresses are nearly the same… except for the approach of the bodice which can give this pattern a totally different feeling!
Allie goes into her thoughts and experiences sewing version A of this pattern over at her blog; please go check it out!
I love the textured fabric Allie used for her dress, which gives her garment a super luxe feeling. It’s absolutely her style- very timeless and very classy (reminds me of something First Lady Michelle Obama might wear!) I also like the addition of the second pleated detail on the waist line, which breaks up the long line on the skirt. Allie also runs a mailing list where you can keep up with her different projects and get a behind the scenes look into her life. Click here to subscribe to keep up with Allie!
Disclaimer: This post was made possible by Britex Fabrics :) Also, this post contains affiliate links.