Vintage Noir

This month’s challenge on The Monthly Stitch was vintage patterns. It was the perfect reason to finally get to a dress I’ve been planning to make for almost a year now.

Front View 2


The pattern is Advance 8211, a pattern so good they released it twice. First as Advance 7011 which was unprinted, and the second time as a printed pattern (which is the version I have). Trying to figure out exactly when this pattern was released proved to be beyond my Googling skills. As far as I can tell it was originally released sometime before 1955 and re-released in 1957. The above picture is my best attempt at a Gloria Swanson sneer…her version is much better. Especially on the pattern envelope.


So now I admit something rather embarrassing. I couldn’t mentally place who Gloria Swanson was that she would have her name in bold print on a pattern. I did eventually figure it out (oh yeah, Sunset Boulevard…I should watch that at some point), particularly with the help of this post and it’s second part. I especially enjoyed reading the part about her television show, but if you’re in a reading mood, she has a fairly fascinating life-story.

She also may have enjoyed torturing home seamstresses. You can’t tell from the envelope front, but the facing to this pattern is a little bit crazy-shaped and leads to a very subtle sticking-up collar-ish thing at the top of the back bodice. It’s totally hidden by my hair and drove me to distraction in the making of this dress. The instructions and line drawings got a little vague right about that point in the pattern. It’s there though, so score one point for me.

Back View


The absolute best thing about this dress is that I bought the size 20 1/2 and I made absolutely NO alterations to it. It might be the best-fitting item of clothing I own (maybe not, my Lady Skater dresses are pretty perfect too). The best-fitten non-knit item of clothing for sure.

Front View 3The dress fabric is a rayon-poly suiting. It drapes like a dream and doesn’t wrinkle. The bow is fabric left over from this jacket. I did change up the making of the bow from the way the pattern is written. One of my pet peeves with mid-century dresses with bow-front embellishments is the way they are drawn all stiff and set in place on the envelope, but go all limp in the washing and wearing. That was not going to happen to the bow on this dress. Instead of one layer of fabric with narrow-hemmed edges, mine is two layers of fabric with fusible shirt-crisp interfacing between them. I defy this bow to sag!

Of course, one can’t have vintage without accessories. I made the hat with the same fabric as the bow using McCalls 1774, from 1953.


I made view A without tassels. There was a bit of modifying going on in my construction compared to the instructions. I used shirt-crisp interfacing instead of the called-for crinoline and shoved a narrow plastic headband into the inner casing (maybe that wasn’t a modification. I’m not sure exactly what the “bicycle clip” called for referred to back then, but it might have been a headband).

For my photos I had gloves, sent to me by the lovely Cindy of CationDesigns. She sews with a cat, so in her honor I got Gru Cat to pose with me.

Vintage with cat


This was a stash-busting project too. Stash-busting stats 19/25.

I hate to interrupt the vintage vibe of this post, but one other thing happened in 1953 besides glamorous patterns being released; color television was introduced. Following that lead, here’s the color version of my new dress.

In color


7 responses to “Vintage Noir”

  1. ndimi Avatar

    That dress is even prettier in color. I really like it, it’s beautiful. Your comment about the non-saggy bow made me laugh. Wonderful!

  2. shelleyatticusfinch Avatar

    I am loving the colour .
    really brings the dress alive, and you can make out more detail on the bow fabric.
    I have never heard of Gloria swanson designs before, I wonder just how much she was involved in the design aspect ? ( not a snidey remark just out of genuine interest. )
    : )

  3. prttynpnk Avatar

    I love the shot of technicolor- this dress is lovely- I have much envy!

  4. sewinggoddess Avatar

    oh, awesome outfit and cool photos! nice job!

  5. Gjeometry Avatar

    Yay, I popped over here from the Monthly Stitch to see your dress in colour. Stunning! I find sometimes vintage makes can have that costume-y look, but this dress looks so fun and fresh. Kitty says ‘bonjour’ to Gru cat.

  6. Flor de Lima Avatar

    It’s a lovely dress! I love it!

  7. Carolyn Avatar

    Perfectly styled! You really look like you stepped out of some classy film noir 🙂

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