Guest Post :: Making Vintage Dresses

Today, vintage loving Catherine of Vintage Frills joins us to talk dresses, vintage dresses. After spying her vintage dress collection and abundance of handmade creations on her blog, I just had to get in touch and ask her all about it! 
Catherine was only too kind to explain how she got started…

Dress making and sewing is getting more and more popular, with TV’s The Great British Sewing Bee and new sewing magazines and books coming out every month, home sewing seems to be everywhere. It’s partly nostalgia for a time when make-do-and-mend was the only way to get new clothes, but also I think people just like to own one off pieces. Once you get going it is a seriously addictive hobby. Nothing beats seeking out the perfect pattern and choosing just the right fabric to bring it to life.

Thus, I have discovered a whole new world of creating my own clothes. I’ve been sewing since I was a child and have always been very creative, but until recently I thought I lacked the skills involved to actually make a dress good enough to wear.
I mainly decided to start making dresses because vintage dresses were getting more and more expensive and harder to find. I love full skirted 50s and early 60s styles, but getting lots of real vintage was starting to stretch my budget. Since I finished my first dress I’ve really started to love the idea that I can choose any pattern and fabric and create my own unique item. Plus there is a certain pride when someone asks where your dress is from and you can reply that you made it yourself.

The thing is, anyone can do it. No one ever taught me to sew, the most textiles I ever did at school was making a hat when I was 12. I could already use a sewing machine as I’d been making cushions and curtains for my house for years. What really daunted me was following a pattern, as I’m terrible at following instructions. To get over my fear I spent hours watching pattern tutorials on YouTube where people make dresses following patterns. Even though they weren’t making the same dress as me I started to get the hang of the basics and it helped me no end.
Dress making doesn’t have to be expensive either. I use a £45 Ikea sewing machine, and it does the job fine. To make a dress all you need are basic stitches anyway. I now only use recycled fabric like vintage curtains or bed linen, I find the fabrics are better quality and I save myself a fortune. I buy buttons and zips from charity shops or salvage them from worn out clothes.
It would be great if more people could get into sewing and feel less daunted by it. There are hundreds of dressmaking courses for beginners up and down the country, but it’s also possible to buy very easy patterns and teach yourself. The internet is a wonderful tool and more than likely you will find a free tutorial that will help with any problems you meet along the way.
Being able to sew can also be a great way to have new things when money is tight. EBay is full of cheap patterns and sometimes they come free with sewing magazines so there’s no need to buy them full price.  Fabric is easy to pick up at charity shops, jumble sales and car boot sales.
If you’re an absolute beginner I’d recommend trying some modern reissues of vintage patterns for example the Retro Butterick and Vintage Vogue patterns which you can pick up on eBay for about £7 each. The advantage of these is the modern sizing. Once your feeling more confident move on to real vintage patterns.
Home sewing is also great for the environment especially is you are using recycled materials. Mass manufacture and shipping aren’t great for the planet so every little bit of home sewing helps.
So if you feel daunted by the idea of making your own clothes – don’t be. It’s not as hard as it looks, and doesn’t need to be an expensive hobby! The bet bit of all is the moment someone asks where you got your dress and you proudly answer “I made it myself!”

Make sure you go and see all of Catherine’s creations over at Vintage Frills. I guarantee you’ll be reaching for your sewing machine too!

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