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Sewing a vintage inspired 1940s shirt dress | the Doris Dress by Sew Over It

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Are you feeling the sewing itch? Do you have a beautiful fabric that’s been waiting to be made into something special? Well, I have the perfect project for you! The Doris Dress by Sew Over It is a vintage inspired 1940s shirt dress that is sure to impress. Not only is it stylish and flattering, but it’s also easy to make. So, grab your sewing supplies and let’s get started!

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What inspired me to sew a 1940s shirt dress?

The 1940s inspired myriad creative and fashionable trends, from the Victory Roll to bold floral prints. When I found a 1940s-style shirt dress sewing pattern, it was love at first sight – the feminine yet functional design just screamed 1940s party ready. No wonder that even today, I can still envision wearing it on dancefloors or strutting around town in style. Though this 1940s shirt dress has been a labor of love to sew, I’m confident that the results will be stunning!

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How did I find the perfect fabric and pattern for your project?

Creating the perfect project was the goal, and after some serious detective work – the Doris Dress sewing pattern from Sew Over It and some beautiful Minerva fabric from the U.K – I found the perfect match! The two were made for each other and the end result is absolutely stunning. Both the fabric and the dress combine to create a timeless piece that you can treasure forever. Now, who said shopping could never be fun?

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This is the first dress I have made from the Sew Over It collection.  Most people start sewing with the Betty Dress, though I like to do things a little differently.  What originally caught my eye from this designer was the innate vintage feel of all the patterns from Sew Over It.  I am very much a 1940’s – 1960’s girl at heart.

As I always sew up a muslin for pretty much every project I tackle I set to work on this one.  Well, this is one of the first patterns that required no major fit adjustments – yes, I said that right – no pattern adjustments for my measurements with the Doris Dress.  I am very excited to say that it fits true to size.  One thing to note is that this sewing pattern does not have as much ease built into it as the Big Four commercial patterns, if you are more familiar with sewing those.

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The Doris Dress pattern has facings instead of a full lining, which is something that I typically do not go for.  I stuck to the sewing pattern and did the facings.  The facings create a nice structure to finish the raw edges of the garment and are lighter than a fully lined bodice.  The positive is that on hot summer days it makes for a nice airy and breathable dress.  That said, if I made this again, I think I would opt for a fully lined bodice in light cotton.

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What are some of the unique details of the Doris Dress by Sew Over It that I love?

The Doris Dress is one of my absolute favorite patterns! It doesn’t take long to sew, looks professional and flattering on everyone, and is the perfect 1940s shirt dress which gives me 1940s vibes all day long, but is still wearable in the modern age without looking too costume like. I especially love that it comes with instructions that are well laid out for beginners! Not only is it cute, but it’s also incredibly versatile- but this isn’t anything out of the ordinary; Sew Over It patterns are always great like that. Whether you go for casual-chic or full-on 1940s glamour, the Doris Dress has got you covered.

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When I saw this beautiful cotton lawn fabric from Minerva Crafts I knew it would be the perfect pairing to sew up the Doris Dress.  I was lucky enough to be a guest sewing blogger for them and you can check out the post I did for them on their blog.

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The fun part about finishing the garment is choosing which buttons go best with the fabric.  Should I go with something more neutral so I can make pops of colour with accessories or do I commit to a colour pallet with a fun button colour?

In the end, I chose to sew on a more neutral button, despite the overwhelming feedback to go with a bold pink button on this retro floral dress.


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How did you feel wearing your beautiful new creation for the first time – like a modern-day Rosie the Riveter or a glamorous movie star from Hollywood’s golden era!

It felt so empowering wearing my vintage sewing creation for the first time! I felt like a modern-day Rosie the Riveter on a mission, yet glamorous and stylish like a movie star from Hollywood’s golden era. Everyone had their eyes glued to me (I had popped into the shops after filming and my hair was done in a bit of a 1940s inspired hairdo), and I couldn’t not love it! After coming up with such an inventive piece, I was ready for the world to take notice! My vintage sewing dreams had truly come alive and I could feel the power radiating off me in waves. It was an experience that I’ll never forget – what other artwork can literally be worn?

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Tips and tricks for sewing your own vintage inspired shirt dress at home.

A sewing adventure is only as fun and successful as the skill and materials used! When sewing a vintage-inspired shirt dress at home, use high-quality cotton lawn for the perfect fabric combination. It’s lightweight but will give you plenty of room to show off your fancy stitches, giving the dress stability without weighing it down. Along with sewing skills, have cool head and recognize when you may need a second set of eyes – enlisting a sewing buddy or experienced tailor can work wonders. Don’t worry if things don’t come together on the first try; constructing beautiful garments requires patience and persistence. With a little effort, you’ll be sewing up some vintage perfection in no time!

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At the end of the day, the Doris Dress from Sew Over It London is an all-around great pattern and perfect for beginner and intermediate sewists.  The fit is great and the vintage vibes of how the dress drapes are gorgeous.

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I love a good dress with pockets and this dress did not have any so I got to drafting some pretty pink pockets to sew in.  I was so proud of myself and inspired that I was going to make pockets I did not think about the placement.  Well, given the placement of the side zipper the pockets were sewn so low on the dress it was almost comical – I could get in about all my fingertips but the palms of my hands were outside.  Needless to say, I decided to get my seam ripper out pick out the pockets.  Unless the dress is modified to a back closure I think there is no hope for pockets on this dress – which is my only major con to the Doris Dress sewing pattern.

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Would I sew the Doris Dress again?  Yes, though I would make a few modifications such as fully lining it and I am wondering how a shirred back would look on this dress – it would cinch in the waist nicely and make the dress much easier to take on and off.  Especially since even with the side zipper, it is a bit of a bother to get on and off (I am thankful I kept the buttons functional).

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There’s nothing quite like wearing a garment you made yourself with your own two hands. And when that garment is inspired by a classic vintage style, it feels even more special. We hope you enjoyed reading about my journey sewing this 1940s shirt dress, The Doris Dress by Sew Over It London, and that you feel motivated to sew one of your own. Be sure to check out our helpful video tutorial before you get started – we’ll walk you through each step of the process so you can achieve sewing success. Vintage clothing is back in fashion – will you be joining us and creating your very own shirt dress?

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