A dress: Vintage Vogue 8974…

Or when everything old is new again… (and a recent make!)

A floral vintage Vogue Patterns 8974

A floral vintage Vogue Patterns 8974

I’m not really a vintage gal. It doesn’t seem to fit with my casual aesthetic and I think it would be a little odd in my workwear wardrobe which tends to be quite modern and fitted.

However that doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate it on others or have the odd craving for a bit of old-fashioned pretty. And not every interpretation of a vintage pattern needs to be ‘vintage’. Perhaps that is why I have been drawn to a couple of the Vintage Vogue re-issue patterns of late.

I’ve been looking for a dress pattern for three metres of gorgeous black bamboo linen I got at East Coast Fabric with Jen and Lizzie when I was in Brisbane in October.

I’m after a longline, sleek summer dress but with a striking design detail to relieve the severity of a lot of black fabric.

Amid my searching I came across Vogue 8974, a design from 1949. This hasn’t been made much (in Blogland at any rate), I suspect the need for a strapless bra and the a-line skirt (rather than a generous gathered or pleated skirt of the 1950s era) has let it loll in the back of the catalogue, waiting to be discovered.

Vogue 8974 pattern art - courtesy of Vogue Patterns

Vogue 8974 pattern art – courtesy of Vogue Patterns

I really love the jacket as well. I’m not really a matchy-matchy girl so I’ve just made the dress. I think the jacket would be a very cute project in the future!


It’s a relatively simple make. The pattern construction has a very cool snap closure at the side waist. While I loved the idea of this, I decided to replace it with a zip. I find dresses with side closures that don’t release all the way to the armhole incredibly difficult to pull off over my shoulders. I almost dislocate my shoulders getting them off. I don’t know if my shoulders are weirdly larger in comparison to my rib cage or it’s simply that I’m not the world’s greatest contortionist. Either way, I don’t enjoy clothes that require a can opener to get in and out of.

Vintage Vogue 8974

Vogue 8974 line art, courtesy of Vogue Patterns

I added a lining to the bodice as the linen is slightly sheer on the white areas of the print. I didn’t worry about lining the skirt as it hangs away from my body and I wanted to keep it light and airy as linen is so cool to wear in summer.

I think I could shorten the bust darts a little.

The front bodice neckline is a little fiddly to sew but pinning and patience gets you through. I often add a little length to a bodice, however I left this one as drafted and it seems to be the right length on me.

The bodice has lovely french darts and a marvelous neckline.

The pattern doesn’t direct you to interface the facing pieces for the bodice, which I thought was odd so I added this.

I omitted the buttons as I don’t think this fabric needs embellishment.


It’s a tricky one. I made the size 6. People talk about the Big 4 having too much ease etc etc. I’ve often seen people make certain sizes based on this theory and then have a disaster make.

Refer to the body measurements on the envelope by all means. I ALWAYS chose my size and grade between sizes based on the FINISHED measurements on the pattern paper. It’s always interesting to compare the envelope body measurements to the finished measurements and see how much ease they are allowing. I would recommend chosing your size based on the ease that you prefer. This may be more or less depending on the style of garment.

Vogue 8974 - side view

Vogue 8974 – side view

I sewed this up and was pretty happy with everything EXCEPT the bodice upper edge sat away from my body from my mid upper bust and around under my armpits. While it looked OK and my family couldn’t see what I thought was so odd… I felt like ‘bewbs in an icecream sundae glass’. That’s the best description I can come up with 🙂 You can still see some of this gaping at the side (see below) and I’m not 100% pleased with the fit above my bust either. Perhaps a firmer fabric would be less likely to crease above my bust. So maybe the bamboo linen is not destined to be a Vogue 8974. We will see.

Vintage Vogue 8974

Vintage Vogue 8974

As the front slopes down to the back, it isn’t just a matter of running in the sides to pull it in and make it fit (no I don’t muslin much… I like to think of myself as an eternal optimist and sew with that attitude). As I was mid-make, taking it in at the sides was my only option and I pulled more in from the back on an angle to make it work. This in turn messed up my lovely neat-as-a-pin facings which was a little disappointing. Yes, very dodgy but only you, me and few other thousand readers know this – and I don’t wear my dresses inside out. So my secret is safe 🙂

I had to take at least 2 inches off the straps. For some reason you attach the straps to the back bodice and then adjust them at the front. The front bodice is quite fiddly and I think it would be simpler to adjust the straps at the back instead if I make this again.

A pretty cross-over back strap detail.

A pretty cross-over back strap detail. The rarely seen tatto- you’re welcome.

I took 3 inches off the length (I am 5 foot 4) and turned the hem up with some blue bias tape from the stash. I hand stitched the hem, I love the finish of a handsewn hem.


Love this design. It feels modern and feminine without being fussy. I’m extremely tempted to make it again… I just need to figure out how to best deal with the gaping at the upper bodice and underarms. Or maybe it’s meant for someone with more curves than me!

It reminds me a lot of the Sewaholic Lonsdale which perhaps I should also revisit.

If you have any suggestions on fitting or another dress pattern I should try along these lines… I’d love to hear it!

Pattern: Vogue 8974
Fabric: Linen from The Fabric Store, Brisbane (purchased a couple of years ago). Blue, khaki, white and splogdes of yellow, I adore this colour combination.
Also see: See Carmen Sew | The Fold Line | Silver Cat Tea Party


Photobombed by a pelican

Photobombed by a pelican in my lunchbreak.

It’s quite odd posting my projects out of order. Seeing my hair change lengths and colours. It’s much healthier now than a year or so ago.

This time last year, I cut off my nails as they kept snapping and my hair was thinning and breaking for no apparent reason… actually I think it was mainly two things… too much stress, exhaustion and no rest…  It was the day I put my hair up in the ponytail and a large amount of it simply snapped off around the hairband, I realised something had to give… I changed some things and I feel much better a year on. So all’s well that ends well.

34 thoughts on “A dress: Vintage Vogue 8974…

  1. So glad you are feeling better. I’m not one for the muslin camp either, but this pattern is so lovely on you, seems like it would be worth it to take some scrap fabric, make just the bodice without the facings and adjust it as you like, then draft new facings if needed to fit.

  2. This looks lovely! I really like the neckline.
    You’re not the only one who struggles with the side fastening. I’ve made three vintage dresses this year, and they all have side zips, and I sometimes have a moment of panic that I’m going to be stuck in them forever.

    • I do think the side zips look neater with the seam above them sewn up but unfortunately they are just so difficult to get off it’s not worth it! I’ve thought about moving the zip to the back… but the back is so lovely that I’m not sure I want it there either.
      I’ve got a gorgeous RTW vintage style dress and it looks a million dollars BUT there have been plenty of times I’ve despaired that I can get it off and it puts me off wearing it.

  3. That neckline looks amazing on you! Your shoulders may feel annoying for getting side-zipped dresses on but they’re great for this kind of cutout. Happy to hear you were able to make some changes to feel healthier.

    • I thought about moving the zip to the back but really like the back as it is. I’ve got the zip running all the way to the edge of the seam – nto quite as neat but at least I can get in and out of it.

  4. Being such a perfectionist I’m not surprised to read you had been under too much strain – maybe some OM between sewing absolutely gorgeous dresses would carry you to an even higher level of glowing health and happiness 🙂 Love your dress as always. The vibrant colour and the PELICAN are the absolutely best 🙂 – I’ve never heard of bamboo linen – maybe we don’t have that in Canada or perhaps we call it something else?

    • I never thought of myself as a perfectionist but to some degree I must be – and also one of those people that thinks they can do anything… but I’ve realised while I might be able to do anything I must accept I can’t do everything. I’m learning to say no and to also weed the people out of my life who give nothing back in return but continually demand from me.
      I’ve been bamboo jersey but nothing woven before. There wasn’t a composition label on the roll so I’m not sure if it’s a blend but it certainly doesn’t crease like linen can which makes it appealing!

  5. It has been fun reading about your thought process as you evaluate past projects. I nod my head to your observations all the time. It reminds me how terrific the internet can be.

    This particular dress nudges me to say something. Please make this one again. Black bamboo linen sounds wonderful for this. You’ve already figured out the technical adjustments, and the silhouette is seriously elegant on you, without looking like it tries too hard. It looks modern because the skirt isn’t too full and your strong shoulder line gives it “edge.” It’s quite different from many of your other dresses, which means it fills a gap, which means there will be days when you’ll be pleased that you made it.

    Happy new year to you, your peeps, and the pelican!

  6. Beautiful dress on you! Quite elegant. I am glad that you are taking steps to take better care of yourself. You must take care of yourself before you take care of others, or you will do a lousy job of it and feel horrible in the process. So, do what you must do, Lizzie. You know the drill. I love your blog and want to thank you for all the enjoyment!

    • So true – it’s a very easy thing to say and tell others to do. But the reality of looking after yourself when things are busy is much harder than you think. I’m working on it. Some days I’m doing a great job. Other days not so good. But at least I’m aware of it now.

    • Yours was one of the ones I found (and shared at the end of the post). I think the side snaps look amazing but I just don’t think I’d be able to get the dress off easily. I often put my neck out and pulling the dress over my head might end up with a visit to the physio and lots of pain!

  7. That is a lovely dress – vintage without looking ‘vintage’. I suspect that you are right about the need for a strapless bra putting some people off. I agree with some of the other comments that you should make this again. It deserves another run out.
    P.S. I love the pelican 🙂

  8. This dress looks lovely. While I don’t sew (as you know), I find reading your posts inspiring and relaxing. They don’t encourage me to go out and buy a sewing machine but it gives me renewed appreciation for what makes us all unique and different. It also makes me want to find dresses as beautiful as yours in the shops. PS The “taking care of yourself” I can completely relate to and I am also in a much better place now than this time last year. 😀 Keep sewing and blogging!

    • There is nothing better than finding a dress that makes you feel amazing – whether it’s home made or shop bought. So glad you are also feeling better – there seems to have been quite a few people who ‘ht the wall’ in 2016 and perhaps 2017 will be the year of no walls!

  9. This is a really gorgeous dress Lizzy and looks great on you. I know virtually nothing about fit (too busy learning how to sew still!) but if I was having that bodice gaping I would probably add a tiny dart at the top of the bodice. There are most likely much better ways to handle it but with my limited knowledge I would try this. I think you need to retain the curve and the dart would allow this. I suspect on many patterns where there’s a more traditional armhole this space is still there but not noticeable as it’s not the edge of the garment. Look forward to seeing you make this again and what changes you decide to make 🙂

  10. I’m so sorry that 2016 has been so tough for you. This dress should totally cheer you up because it’s amazing. That skirt is a much more flattering shape than those of the 1950s.

    • Ah you live & learn. I’ll be ok.
      I’ve decided 2017 is The Year of No.
      I love to contribute & I’m proud my daughters are the same sort of people… but it’s time to let others step up. And it’s time to reflect on my quality of life. It’s a tough lesson but a necessary one.

  11. Just gorgeous Lizzy! That dress looks amazing on you! And I agree 100%……2016 was challenging for me too, & sucked at times! Bring on 2017, exciting changes & challenges. Take care & enjoy the festive season with your beautiful family. 😘

    • I’m desperately hoping 2017 is a stark contrast to the ‘yuck’ of 2016. I’m so glad Giselle is off to high school as while the issues are different I’ve found the physical load of fetes, fundraising etc far less. I’m soooo ready for that! Merry Christmas to you and your gorgeous family. See you in 2017 xo

  12. I think this looks amazing! I can’t see the gaping in the pics, but could you pinch out a wedge in a suitable spot without mucking up the line of it? I think in black it would be stunning. I always remember Heather from Closet Case Files made a black linen Lonsdale that was equally gorgeous so that’s definitely a great plan B!

    • I remember that Lonsdale as well – and I did love my Lonsdale, the fit of that is much more simple than this. I might use some calico and see if I can figure it out – as I agree that neckline in black would be gorgeous.

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