Recreated 1943 Mail Order Dress

January 13, 2013


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!