Pattern puzzle: vintage German dress

crazy_german_dressRita Penner sent me this sketch from one of her vintage German pattern magazines.  Any hints as to what this dress may look like -sewn up, this being your challenge for the day- are provided in her comments to me:

I came across a crazy dress that made me think of you, a pattern maker.  A lot of the dresses from the 1950’s don’t have separate sleeve pieces.  Crazy.  Think of all the fabric that must have been left over especially since the width of fabric then was mostly 90cm (35″).

I attached the pic and description of the crazy dress.  Then I look at the description with the teeny pattern pieces.  Isn’t the neck edge not straight?  Here we go with problems.

The ‘crazy dress’ description mentions “if you want to improve arm movement, you might want to insert a  6cm gusset”.  Ha ha.  Also, that dress takes 5.65 metres (6.2 yd) of 35″ wide fabric.  And, the width of the skirt front seems to measure 97cm.  Pretty crappy to have to piece 90cm fabric to make it wide enough.

As ever, send your sketches to me or post a link to where we can see them on the web. Good luck, this is a good one!

Oh, and if I neglect to mention it elsewhere, I hope your holidays are warm and happy. I’ll be out of town and my schedule is wonky at the beginning of next week so I may not be back until Tuesday although you can always reach me by email (see the about page).

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  1. Kathleen says:

    Terri Helms (aka Terisews) sent me her submission. Hard to view but not bad!

    Boy, three responses and all are good! You guys continually surprise me. I put up something I think is easy and nobody gets it. Hard, and everybody does.

  2. Catherine McQ says:

    I like Terri Helms’s model because it makes the sleeves look a bit more wearable than some of the drawings. My impression is that the sleeves are below elbow length, not full length. Still, I’d want to add a gusset.

  3. dosfashionistas says:

    I am going to get my sketch in here somehow. Kathleen, if I take a picture with my phone and send it to you, can you use it?

    I am going to disagree about the sleeve length. Based on the scale of the pattern pieces, those are full length sleeves. Also, no one so far has shown what the line in the top of the point on the lower front represents. I think all those lines represent darts or tucks, but I do not see any logical need for either in that spot. So far I am ignoring it, just like everyone else.

  4. Sandra B says:

    My sketch looked a lot like Lisa Shoemaker’s, so I didn’t scan it in, however, it should have been drawn on a plus-size croquis as the pattern is for a 44 inch bust. Also, the horizontal waist seam is lower at the front than the back. There are teeny tiny matching notches visible on the front bodice, below the gusset notch and above point 3, and on the back side seam below the gusset mark on the bodice and about 1/5 of the way down the side seam of the back skirt. There may or may not be a CF seam on the skirt – there are no seam alllowances on this pattern so it would be up to the dressmaker’s discretion – as was the addition of a gusset, and how to finish the edges. ie facing, lining, binding etc.

    Realistically speaking, the fabric width would make a seam necessary. Because the 97cm hem width measurement is on an angle, the width across the grain is possibly less than 90cm so no piecing necessary. However, it could be that it’s been graded up from a smaller sample, with the assumption that the dressmaker will know that they need to piece if they want that much fullness in the skirt. And if they did actually mention piecing, the instruction in English was: “Attach lacking fabric width to front and back.” :-)

    Personally, I’d either have removed some of the gathering to avoid piecing and to avoid widening the full figure even more, or I’d have put the CF on a fold and pieced closer in (straight grain) or made a gore seam (bias grain). The cut-out dart on the back sleeve (piece 76) would probably have been closed with buttons and loops. The short lines are grain lines, the numbers are match points.

    I learnt to sew in the eighties using these vintage german patterns, (this one’s almost certainly from Neue Mode in the early-to-mid 1960’s judging by the style number, the marking conventions, and the font used for the pattern numbers) so this was a no brainer. Obviously it needs more pattern pieces for facings/linings etc, but to save space on the pattern sheets they were never included. The folded back sleeve and the seam lengths marked on the skirt pieces were also to fit the pattern piece onto the pattern sheet. The sleeve section was traced off separately and pasted together, and the skirt was only partially drawn, to be finished according to the diagram. It was presumed the dressmaker knew how to make all the extras from the basic shapes. The sewing instructions were also entertaining. Minimal to the point of useless for today’s home sewers, but these magazines were a pattern resource not a sewing resource. It was assumed that the people using them already had the skills required to make them up.

  5. Kathleen Gaffey says:

    Hi Kathleen! I promised I’d be more active!
    After constructing this dress with lots of gathers, I thought, boy this lady had a huge bust and a tiny waist!!!Then I remembered a 1950’s dress I made years ago. No zippers, so it had to be big enough to jump into , then using buttons as closures. If this was a post war utilitarian type dress, it also had to be functional, hence the large pockets in front. Zippers weren’t as widely used until after the war, when they became more afffordable and more reliable.. I constructed this dress without any gathers and without altering the pattern. Ive attached pictures of before the dress is closed and after. Somehow a large pocket may have been made out of the extra fabric in front. I think this is why the waist seam in front, is lower than the back waist, so the pockets would be at ‘hands length’ ??

  6. ClaireOKC says:

    OK – somebody’s going to get a good whopping for this….here I was minding my own business, not bugging anyone, and someone has to post this pattern thingie online….well, I nearly went nuts doing it….but sorta got it figured out. And then I see lots of you came up with the same thing…I shoulda just waited…but oooooo noooooo, not me….had to get obsessive about this.
    Here she is in all her glory.

  7. Gwen says:

    Hi! I was just recently pointed in the direction of your pattern puzzles. Wow! How fun and challenging! I’d like to use this particular image of the “vintage german dress” to point my blog readers to your website and your pattern puzzles in particular. I hope it’s okay, but, if not, please let me know. Thanks!
    Take care,

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