How to Sew a 1940s Collar

November 25, 2013

Many seamstresses shy away from sewing collared shirts and dresses because the instructions can be pretty daunting to look at on paper. The good thing about 1940’s collars, like the one on this DuBarry Jumper Dress from 1943, is you usually don’t have to sew the dreaded collar stand. But even the lack of stand can still prove scary for some, so I’m here to walk you through the easiest collar you’ll ever sew. (At least I find this method to be easiest!)

This particular DuBarry pattern instructs you to simply “make a bias facing” for the back neck, but in my tutorial I’ll walk you through what that actually entails. You’ll find that this method leaves barely any actual collar sewing because you’re really just sewing the facings over top of your collar piece. You’ll see…


(*notes: This method only works with a shirt or dress pattern that has the front facings built into the bodice/shirt pattern piece. The directions have corresponding photos beneath each step.)

I highly recommend tracing your vintage patterns before working with them! You can learn how to do that in this tutorial.

Step One: Create a back neck facing to match your front bodice facings. Use a piece of tracing paper, a scrap piece of pattern tissue, or just trace the new facing directly onto a scrap piece of fabric. Your back neck facing will be cut on the fold at the center back, and sewn to the front facing at the shoulder. It is important to make sure your facings are the same width at the shoulder seam. It is also important to make sure your back neck facing mirrors your back bodice piece at the neckline. In the photo below, I have a scrap piece of tracing paper placed over top of my pattern pieces.


Step Two: Once you have your facing piece, cut it out on the bias fold. The bias cut will make it easier to sew your facing to the neckline, but it’s not critical to cut this way if you’re trying to conserve fabric. A regular cut on the fold will work just fine.


Step Three: With right sides together, sew your collar along all sides except for the neckline. Then, flip your collar to the outside, press, and topstitch. Baste the neckline edges closed. This is your finished collar. Next, find the center of your collar by folding it in half and making a small mark on the neckline edge. Do the same on your back bodice piece as shown below.


Step Four: Pin and baste your finished collar to the bodice, matching center backs. The side of your collar that you want facing down on your finished garment, should be facing down when you sew. Ease the collar as you baste to make sure your bodice is not getting bunched under the collar.


Step Five: With right sides together, sew your back neck facing to the front facing at the shoulder seam. Do this for both the left and right sides of your bodice fronts, making sure your back facing does not twist in the process.


Step Six: Press open your facings at the shoulder seams and lay out your bodice so you can see what you’re working with. The right side of your pressed seams (on both the bodice and facings) should be up, as well as the top side of your collar.  The wrong side of your pressed open seams should be down on the table, leaving a full circle that will become your finished neckline. So far so good? Almost done! (The dashed lines in the photo below show what you’ve sewn so far.)


Step Seven: Find the center of your back neck facing and back bodice/collar piece again. Bring the right side of your back neck facing down onto the top side of your collar/right side of your back bodice piece. By doing this, the full circle shape in step six will become a half circle. Check to make sure your front facings line up (right sides together) to form your lapel points.


Step Eight: Pin and stitch from one lapel point, across the collar, and to the other lapel point. (Step Seven, when pinned correctly, will look like the photo below.) Ease as you stitch the facings down through the collar and bodice pieces, checking to make sure your bodice fabric isn’t getting pinched under the collar as you sew.


Step Nine: Check to make sure you’ve sewn your facings down correctly. Then clip your seam allowances, turn your front lapel corners, and press your back neck facing down onto the back bodice piece.


Step 10: Inspect your work! Check to make sure everything looks good from the inside. The raw edge of your collar should be concealed under the back neck facing. The raw edges of your bodice shoulder seams and facing shoulder seams should be together. Does yours look like this? Yes? Excellent! (You can tack, or invisibly stitch, your back facing to the bodice if you find it doesn’t like to stay down.)


Now turn your shirt/dress bodice right side out and inspect again. Looks good to me!


You did it! Now you can sew a 1940’s collar in just 10 steps.


I’ll debut my completed DuBarry dress when I announce the winner of the Vintage4me2 giveaway! Make sure you enter before midnight on the 28th, and take advantage of that 26% off coupon before it expires!

Let me know if this tutorial was helpful for you.