In Sewing

Recreated 1943 Mail Order Dress


It’s finished! My shirt dress inspired by a 1943 design from a Bellas Hess mail order catalog. (Available as a PDF download here) There is SO much amazing inspiration in that catalog! Once I found this brown gingham fabric I knew I had to try and recreate a similar dress. I used no less than three separate patterns to do so, but I love the way it turned out!



The sleeves are from my by beloved 1940’s New England Day Dress pattern by Decades of Style, the bodice is actually a modern Project Runway pattern for Simplicity, and the skirt is another 40’s reproduction skirt pattern by Simplicity.


These are what the sleeves would have looked like on my blue floral New England Dress if I hadn’t run out of fabric. LOVE THEM!


I wanted to make a fabric belt to match the one in the catalog photo, but I couldn’t find a belt kit at Joann Fabrics. I also didn’t look very hard though… so I might still be able to find one on my next trip. In the mean time, this cute little bow belt will do just fine I think.



There are a few mistakes on this dress that I managed to work around. They probably could have been prevented had I made a muslin first, but the WWII woman doesn’t have the time or resources for muslins, am I right? 😉 This fabric was dirt cheap so the gingham isn’t printed very straight, or on the grain. It’s not obvious from a far, but on some of the seams it’s really obvious to a trained eye. Also, the front buttons are totally not functional although they should be. The button hole guide that came with the bodice seriously lead me astray and therefore my button holes are too far away from the shirt edge to even work. Soooooo keeping my ‘make do and mend’ mentality alive, I just sewed the buttons to the very far right of the button holes and called it good. I really should have known when I marked them that they weren’t right, but I figured the official button hole guide wouldn’t lie to me! IT LIED TO ME! …or I didn’t read it correctly …but most likely it was the patterns fault! Amateurs. I also melted my brown invisible zipper and ended up having to use a black standard one from my stash. Yeah, I know, who melts a zipper?! Amateurs. I told you.

Oh! But on a lighter note, HIGHLAND CATTLE!!!!

Ahhhhh I just love their little wooly faces!! Vermont has the most beautiful variety of cows.



The weather has warmed up quite a bit from the trending negative degree temps, but was still pretty cold in a cotton dress so I’m glad a had a fancy new vintage coat to keep me warm! I’ll share more photos of the coat soon! It’s soooooo amazing!

I also have new glasses! I knew I’d need new WWII era appropriate glasses for my reenactment, and I was instructed by my troop to buy these ones:

Wait for it…


Owl face!!!!! Hahahahah! They’re SO ridiculous! But I kind of love them because of it. I haven’t been wearing them much for photos because the lenses are cheap and have the most terrible glare. I’m spoiled that my normal glasses have anti-glare coated lenses. But, for 20 dollars you can’t beat these! Seriously, Zenni Optical is awesome. They have some really cute, inexpensive frames and you can customize them to fit your prescription!


Luckily my prescription isn’t that bad so I can get away without wearing glasses for the most part. These ones really aren’t so bad as long as I tilt my head in the correct way to avoid the glare 😉


I hope everyone’s had an awesome weekend!



p.s. I’m SO excited with how many of you are interested in a 1940’s themed sew along! If you missed that subtle inquiry, I had asked in my last post if anyone would be interested and I was overwhelmed with yeses! I’m still working out some details and dates, but look forward to that in early spring! (Feb or March.) I’ll announce it officially soon!


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  • Julia Bobbin

    This dress and those glasses are freaking adorable! Adorable I tell you! The sleeves do look fantastic as well. Love your mash of vintage patterns 🙂

  • Charlotte Boyer

    Oh, your dress is so sweet! Love it 😀

    Adore your blog too!


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  • Nessa

    Debi over at My Happy Sewing place is currently sewing EVERY SINGLE McCalls sewing pattern from the year 1940. Seems the 40’s are very popular indeed. Loved reading about your dress!

  • Love the green buttons! And the hairy cows, haha 😀

  • Alice

    Holala! I’m in love! Totally. I love the dress, i love the style (coat, shoes, hairdo, …), i love the colors, i love highland cows, i love the sleeves, i love the green buttons, i love everything! You are awesome! <3

  • Jessica Cangiano

    Terrifically lovely! The timelessness and beauty of this dress make it so wonderfully memorable – and the cheerful little green buttons are like the yummiest cherry on top of an already fabulous vintage sundae. Awesome work – and absolutely gorgeous photos – dear gal!

    ♥ Jessica

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  • Sarah

    OMG!! Look at awesome you! I love the green buttons and look at your cute shoes!! The dress is completely fabulous and you look stunning. And the glasses. FAB!!

  • the Garment Farmer

    Those green buttons are unexpected and totally cute! I got all distracted from the dress when you posted pics of the cows though–seriously?! They are so hairy and adorable. How fun! Are they in your neighborhood?

    • I feel the same way about the buttons! I would have never paired them with brown gingham if not for the photo. Those cows are in the next town over from me and I find myself coming up with excuses just to drive by them! Haha! They’re so cute! I just want to hug them and brush their luxurious hair lolz

  • Miss Crayola Creepy

    I am so impressed with how quickly you are sewing! You will have a whole 1940s wardrobe in no time!

  • ozzyblackbeard

    Your dress is gorgeous! I hope you can find the belt kit.

    • Me too! I think it would really make the dress complete 🙂

  • Ahh, you look so cute, very Barbara Stanwyck! You look so pulled together! Great dress!

  • great job, it came out so sweetly! i love the green buttons the most.
    xo kittee

    • Thank you! I would have never thought to put brown and green together like that if it wasn’t for the catalog photo, but I love it!

  • Lauren

    Super cute! I love that tiny gingham – you’re such a little 40s doll 🙂

  • OMG Your too freaking cute!! It all looks so great!
    p.s. those cows are pretty awesome too! I’ve never seen hairy cows! lol

    • Haha thank you! I think cows are cuter when they’re wooly 🙂 Especially the little babies!

  • sallieforrer

    It’s fantastic, Rochelle! Your whole 40’s look is really coming together! I love the glasses and the coat, too.

  • It came out awesome!! I love that you used checks. Your frankendress combo turned out just perfect! It really looks just like what you were going for! And great with your glasses (and awesome coat) too. You are so right about muslins in the 40s too, you just had to make it work. I often remind myself this when I’m screwing around with something. lol And can I admit– I’ve never ever used button guides on patterns. I just make it up after!

    Can’t wait to hear more details about the 40s sew-along too!

    • Thank you! Yes I really should have gone with my instinct on the buttons hole because I knew, I KNEW, they weren’t right! Oh well. Know I really know for next time 🙂 I’m so excited you’re on board with the sew along! More details soon 🙂

  • Oh I’d join your sewalong – but it will require ZERO effort heeheee ;-P Since I sew all 40s at the moment

    LOVE This dress – its mega cute! 40’s patterns are so flattering – the skirts always have such great shape 😀

    • Zero effort is perfect!! Don’t you think? It will be more of a sewing challenge instead of sew along, so everyone can choose their own 40s, or 40s inspired pattern to sew. More details soon, but I’m so happy you’re on board! Your dresses are always AMAZING! I agree 40s skirt silhouettes are the best!

  • Rebecca Wagner

    Looks really really good:) the bow belt is super cute!

  • Laura Vilaró

    Lovely dress, and your glasses so cute!!!

  • Ashley Barrett

    OhI love it!! I’ve been meaning to stitch up a shirt dress for months. Yours is darling. I love the green and brown together – I feel like this shouldn’t be an odd colour combo, but it seems to be! I’ve seen belt making kits online, but never at Joann. They do carry belting you cover with your fabric, and then can add a fun belt buckle to. But I think the bow belt is adorable too!

    • I agree, I’d never think to put green and brown together like that if I hadn’t seen the catalog photo! I love the way it turned out though. I know of a few belt kits online, but I didn’t want to wait for shipping. I get impatient with sewing like that. I want a new dress RIGHT NOW! lol 🙂

  • Wow, really cool! You cracked me up- you know, I experience a lot of AMATEURS too- it’s definitely not my fault…lol. Congrats on really making it work! I’m intrigued by this 1940s sewalong too.

    • Hahah! I’m glad you found that amusing 😉 😉 I’d love to have you on board for the sew along! More details soon…

  • Elisha Harrison

    I KNEW I recognized the bodice when I saw it on Instagram! Casey (Elegant Musings) did an awesome 1940s sew along with Sense and Sensibility’s swing dress pattern… love it! Love 40s dresses. Which of course means I love this gingham one too.

    Ugh, can I say “love” enough? Love love lovey love love.

    • Thank you! I missed Casey’s swing dress sew along, but I do love that pattern! SO cute! 🙂 I’m going to set up this sew along as more of a 40’s themed sewing challenge, so everyone can pick their own pattern to work on, but I’d love to have you join it! more details soon 🙂