polka dot swing dress

12.07.10 | polka dot swing dress

I finished this dress late last week, have worn it a couple times and finally was able to get some snapshots yesterday to share with you! Of course, just as I’ve finished this lightweight, semi-sheer rayon dress, the weather has gotten chilly–but I don’t mind! It’s the perfect thing for layering (see the last image in this post) for these in-between type days.

12.07.10 | polka dot swing dress

The pattern is Sense and Sensibility’s swing dress, which is really becoming a staple for my wardrobe–this is number three that I’ve made from this pattern in the past year (as I mentioned last week)! What I like is that it’s not only a flattering silhouette, but also a basic without being boring–something I need more of in my closet. I made a few changes to the pattern when I made this up: namely leaving off the back sash ties. I used those on the previous two dresses, but kept wondering how the dress would look without them and a belt instead? I’m wearing one of my favorite vintage belts in these pictures, but also made a bow belt and have another with a vintage black buckle in the works. It’s a simple swap, but really opens up the possibilities for accessorizing.

12.07.10 | polka dot swing dress

One thing I had made a mental note of on the other two versions was that I really needed to interface the midriff piece–especially with this light and somewhat slippery fabric. I just used a knit fusible interfacing, applied to the midriff only, and that helped a lot with any possibly distortion on this lightweight fabric. Another change I did was to modify the sleeve cap, which is more of a fitting tweak, but just as necessary to achieving the shoulder line I wanted. In both my previous versions of this dress the sleeve cap has been far too full for the smooth, set-in style that the envelope shows. Since the pattern is based on a 40s pattern, this is not surprising–many commercial patterns from this era have simply too much ease in the sleeve cap. It’s an easy fix, involving measuring and re-cutting the cap to fit the armhole with the proper amount of ease though. Would anyone be interested in a quick tutorial on how to do this?

12.07.10 | polka dot swing dress

Otherwise this dress was pretty straight-forward! You can read my thoughts on the overall construction on an earlier post if you’d like. One final thing I did do was make some thin, matching shoulder pads. Although I don’t like a super-built up shoulder, they are necessary to give both that 40s look and are great for smoothing the shoulder line. I used the basic principles in my shoulder pad tutorial, but made them a bit smaller and rounded. I used 2-3 layers of cotton batting in each as well. The basic pad was constructed of muslin and then covered with a piece of dress fabric. I just serged the edges, but turning them under and slip stitching is perfectly acceptable too. To help shape these, I used a sleeve roll to pin each to and then applied a steam a few times and let them “set” overnight. It really helped give them a slightly curved shape to conform to the shoulder.

Now, I have to admit that for the first batch of photos in this post I did kind of dress up a bit to show off the dress. I was wearing it yesterday, but had bundled up a bit which meant the details were hard to pick out. I did, however, snap a couple photos of how I wore it–back seam stockings are definitely not something I wear daily! lol. I’ve been pairing it with some of the more brightly colored cardigans in my collection, but yesterday was chilly enough to make me want to snuggle in this warm and cozy vintage cashmere sweater and forget being exciting with color!

12.07.10 | polka dot swing dress

  • dress: made by me
  • cardigan: 50s/60s vintage, thrifted
  • patent bow belt: estate sale
  • tights: Target (?)
  • shoes: Madden Girl
  • bracelet/pin/earrings: Forever 21/vintage, thrifted/mall store

So one new sewing project down… and I’ve got another in the works! Hopefully I’ll post about that later in the week or next week; it’s another one I’m excited about because the technique I’m using for lining it is brilliant!

December 7, 2010 · 79 lovely thoughts
posted in sewing · tags: , ,

Marmielu December 7, 2010 at 08:56

Wow! I really like that pattern on you (have I said that before?), and this turned out beautifully. Those seamed stocking are just too cute with it, although I really like how you’ve worn it with the warmer touches in the last photo. Very pretty!

Gina December 7, 2010 at 08:58

Wow, now I know getting the pattern for this dress was a good idea! LOVE the sleeve Tutorial idea, please do it! This would be a fun sew along too, just an idea, but now that would make 4 dresses for you of the same kind! hehe! Anyway, it’s beautiful, it looks easy to wear and still stunning at the same time, love clothes like that! Good job!

Casey December 7, 2010 at 12:32

Would four of the same pattern be such a bad thing?! rofl. Definitely something to keep in mind for spring…

♥ Casey

Gina December 7, 2010 at 13:00

You could have a dozen of these dresses and they would all look different and great on you! It is surprising that even the three you made don’t look like the same pattern to me, I think the color and fabrics really change the dresses so much from one another. They are all beautiful and stand alone! Looking forward to the sleeve tutorial. I would like to see how close I got. Thanks so much for teaching all these great vintage sewing tips!

Christine Hand December 7, 2010 at 08:59


I love this dress! I have this pattern as well. However, I made it of a semi-sheer poly crepe, and it was really my first attempt at dress making (ie- didn’t alter anything, no interfacing on the midriff, etc.). Needless to say, it did not turn out well. I would definitely be interested in a tutorial on refitting the sleeve cap. I really like all the dresses you’ve made with this pattern, and I would love to have a few more (mental) tools when I tackle it again.



Casey December 7, 2010 at 12:34

It is one of those styles you do need to fit–something I didn’t learn until after I put together my first one too! ;) I’ll definitely do a little sleeve cap tutorial–it’s so easy!

♥ Casey

Christine Hand December 7, 2010 at 18:44

Good! Thanks so much! I think I just might find the courage to try this pattern again this winter.


Alison December 7, 2010 at 09:15

Absolutly beautiful! Gotta love a classic, flattering look. :)

Carys December 7, 2010 at 09:15

That dress is absolutely amazing, I just love the shape of it. And the bow belt goes so well with it too.
From Carys of La Ville Inconnue

Jane December 7, 2010 at 09:16

It’s beautiful Casey, I particularly like the layered look in the final photo! x

nancy December 7, 2010 at 09:19

You have made me want to go out and buy this pattern! I agree that it’s basic, but not boring, and I love the idea of using different belts instead of the self-ties. I would LOVE a tutorial about the sleeve cap, please oh please!?!?

I have been enjoying wearing black and white with a punch of color, myself. Can’t wait to see more outfits with this dress!

Casey December 7, 2010 at 12:37

Yeah–using lots of different belts is just too much fun, isn’t it? I am already imagining about a dozen different accessorizing possibilities… hehe! I’ll be working on a sleeve cap tutorial, so keep your eyes open for that! :D

♥ Casey

nancy December 7, 2010 at 17:52

Thanks, Casey! And I agree that a sew-along for this dress would be a lot of fun, albeit a fair amount of work for *you*…

Mrs. Jess December 7, 2010 at 09:23

So lovely! You wear clothes so well. Beautiful hair too!

MrsExeter December 7, 2010 at 09:28

That is really pretty, and I think leaving off the ties this time was a good idea. If you want to wear a long cardigan back ties can create unwanted bulk, and its fun to chose different belts. Yes, I’d be very interested to see your sleeve cap tutorial. Thank you.

lap December 7, 2010 at 09:31

I love the everyday Femme Fatale feel of this dress. You’re always only a seamed stocking and rhinestone clip away from Noir! Well done as always.

I’d love a tutorial on reducing sleeve cap ease since my solution is usually to just trim the top off! Impatience with commercial pattern sleeve caps is definitely recurring for me!

The Cupcake Goddess December 7, 2010 at 09:42

Oh I love it! The red lips and hose along with the black bow belt really make it so charming too! I love the easy look and swing of the skirt along with the criss cross bodice. I’ve never really thought about buying this pattern, but I think you just cinched the deal now. It’s gorgeous! Something you could easily wear out on the town, but transforms into a great frock for everyday too.

I love the fact that you use shoulder pads. It’s something that I’ve been considering as well. Usually when I think shoulder pads, I think bad 80′s (though there were some good 80′s things that were completely outshown). But here you’ve captured a smooth shoulder without any boxiness! Yes please on the sleeve tutorial!

Casey December 7, 2010 at 12:40

Thank you! ;) I have to tell you that this is a great dress to wear out and about because it’s comfortable but still has some of that vintage charm I adore! I wore it on Friday when I ran all over town to do errands and had a lot of people stop and ask about the dress. ;)

I think the key with shoulder pads is not only tailoring them to the garment you’re using them in, but your personal preference and shoulder-shaping needs. Making them certainly takes the headache out of ending up with linebacker shoulders! lol.

♥ Casey

Brooke @ Bright Wishes December 7, 2010 at 09:46

gorgeous! I love the last picture!

Renee December 7, 2010 at 10:00

What a cute dress. I wouldn’t have thought it would be so versatile, but both looks are great. It looks so good in the first pics with the seamed hose and then with the sweater and tights its looks great too.

Your hair and make up look very pretty.

I love the way you explain how you make the shoulder pads. I’ve had shoulder pads in garments that were like a darn pillow and just awful.

Casey December 7, 2010 at 12:46

Thank you so much, Renee! :) I’m so glad you liked the shoulder pad explanation… I really can’t stand the super-thick ones since I look like a linebacker. Not the look I’m going for… haha!

♥ Casey

Casey December 7, 2010 at 10:00

I would like to join the chorus for a sleeve cap tutorial :) Beautiful dress (and name…heehee)

Jessica Zigenis December 7, 2010 at 10:17

Nothing makes me happier than polka dots… alright, maybe bows. It’s a toss up. Love the look!

ann December 7, 2010 at 10:34

very nice…love those back seam stockings! Wouldn’t life be glamorous if you could wear them everyday?

maranda December 7, 2010 at 10:47

i love your hair like that! and i’m sooooo jealous of that belt :)

bunny December 7, 2010 at 11:04

Love the dress and also the fabric!
Your hair and make up are also amazing. Can I ask which lipstick are you wearing in the picture?


Casey December 7, 2010 at 13:00

Thank you! :) I’m wearing my favorite red: MAC’s “Russian Red” lipstick. It’s a lovely, matte lipstick that has pretty good wear (especially when worn over a lip liner) and a really classic shade of red!

♥ Casey

Amanda December 7, 2010 at 11:08

Ooo, this dress makes me want to finally take up swing dance lessons :) Great job! And I’d love to see a tutorial about adjusting the sleeve caps. I haven’t made a ’40s outfit yet, but love the decade so this would be great to learn!

Jen December 7, 2010 at 11:13

Both you and the dress are lovely! I, too, would love to see that sleeve tutorial, and second the suggestion of a sew-along…

Peter December 7, 2010 at 11:14

Love it and it looks gorgeous on you. Navy is a great color for you I think.

Sally December 7, 2010 at 11:15

Ever so lovely, Casey. And perfect with the seamed nylons!

Fay V December 7, 2010 at 11:33

I am so going to make this dress now – it’s so so beautiful! And I have to say you look amazing Casey – your hair is so perfect! What a lovely, inspiring post + yes please on the sleeve tutorial – that would be helpful.

emma December 7, 2010 at 11:53

As much as this dress is gorgeous on you I have to say your hair is stunning. It really suits you this way, so beautiful! I love the curls!

SeasideStudio December 7, 2010 at 11:53

Love it. It look fabulous with the black sweater too!

Lottie December 7, 2010 at 12:12

I love your recent posts Casey in which you show us that you’re not always the perfect 40′s girl. I have always felt slightly inadequate that I don’t live in seamed stockings and often dig out the 60 denier black tights. I’m relieved that i’m not the only one :-) Sometimes modernity is far more practical!

It’s such a beautiful dress. I love dress making but you inspire me to really master this new skill that I often struggle with. I so hope that one day soon I can write a post including a dress I’ve made myself and feel happy to show everyone.

Lottie -x-

PS – amazing hair, I am so envious I can’t tell youI

Casey December 7, 2010 at 13:01

Aw, thank you, Lottie! :) I definitely am not a “perfect” vintage girl by any means… I have my days that I prefer more comfortable, modern things over vintage (tights!). But I think that is one thing I love to do: mix and match decades!

♥ Casey

Little Black Car December 7, 2010 at 12:14

Ah, I love Madden Girl shoes.

Oh, and yes, please, to sleeve ease help.

Rhiannon December 7, 2010 at 12:18

Casey, it’s gorgeous! I’m in love with the print and the simple shape of it –there’s no way it’s boring! I love it with the black sweater too.

Also can you believe how cold it’s getting in the south? I hear that’s it’s freezing where you are, which is hard to believe!

Casey December 7, 2010 at 13:02

Thank you!!! :) I know–it’s been really cold today! It got down in the low 30s last night, and I couldn’t turn the heat on (dumb heater decided to burn some of the dust in the ducts which set off our smoke alarm at 1am!) until a couple hours ago. Brrr! lol.

♥ Casey

Serena December 7, 2010 at 13:42

I would LOVE a sleeve cap tutorial. I had a difficult time with that when I made this, and made my second one sleeveless so I wouldn’t have to fight it.

Lauren December 7, 2010 at 14:27

WOW!! I *love* it! Looks so awesome with the stockings. And your hair! Total Lauren Bacall going on there. Makes me want to grow my hair out :)

Em December 7, 2010 at 15:17

Gorgeous–always love to read about your sewing–you have a real knack for creativity in how to interpret and modify patterns. Love the last picture and how you styled the look.

paisleyapron December 7, 2010 at 15:58

Absolutely stunning. Your hubby’s eyes must pop out of his head when he sees you.

My favorite dress that I could wear every day has the same shape and is black and white patterned, too. I made it 14 years ago and have babied it to last forever. I’ve always wanted to make another one, but have hemmed and hawed about it because it would require remaking the pattern (it was a Vogue DKNY, not my current size and now o-o-p). Now I see a light at the end of the tunnel! Swing Dress! Yay!

Sarah December 7, 2010 at 15:58

That dress looks fantastic! Especially with the cardigan. I have been debating on whether to get that pattern and I think I just might now. At least before spring anyways. Lovely post as always!

Erica December 7, 2010 at 16:00

You are absolutely stunning!! This is a gorgeous! You make me want to learn to sew so bad! Two weeks ago I cut out my very first pattern. Now I’m just waiting on my MIL to come over & show me how to mark it LOL.

♥ Erica

Susan - Knitters Delight December 7, 2010 at 16:04

Everything works so well. The dress by itgself as well as the dress with the layering. The hair and makeup is perfect, too!

Genevieve Rose December 7, 2010 at 16:07

I would love a tutorial on what you suggested, because I made this dress this past summer, as soon as I purchased it from Sense & Sensibility. (In fact, that’s how I discovered your blog!)

Arya December 7, 2010 at 16:35

It looks great, Casey! I particularly like the effect of those subtle shoulder pads.

I would really appreciate a tutorial on re-shaping the shoulder. I just received the pattern in yesterday’s mail, and look forward to making one up over the holidays (I hope!).

Maren December 7, 2010 at 16:43

Fabulous, as always! Your projects always inspire me to get sewing. : )

Thanks for the link on making a bow belt – can’t wait to have one myself!

Leisl December 7, 2010 at 17:28

It’s soooo gorgeous!

nicole December 7, 2010 at 17:36

really gorgeous Casey! your hair looks awesome too! I would definitely be in terested in the sleeve alteration tutorial!!
:-) Nicole

Penny Dreadful Vintage December 7, 2010 at 17:36

As ever, it is a lovely dress and great fabric. I also really like your hair down like this, so pretty :)

lizajane December 7, 2010 at 18:32

I love it with the sweater and tights. I would love to know how to reduce sleeve cap ease! I just recently had an issue with that.

Lauren December 7, 2010 at 18:37

I am in love with this dress. I think it would look lovely in a pale pink. Or a cream with slightly bigger shoulder pads for that Kathrine Hepburn kind of look.

It’s very inspiring! I’m currently in the middle of my finals right now for school, but I would love to try this pattern out as well when I get the chance!

Nekram December 7, 2010 at 18:37

Can you post a tutorial or a description of how you did your hair like that?

Lainie December 7, 2010 at 18:58

I am loving that style of dress, I say if it works for you-you can never have too many of the same style. With the different fabrics you use they really are completely different dresses! So fun, and I am loving your hair! Such a beautiful length on you, and I love the color!

How much would you charge to make a dress for someone…if you were given the measurments?

Gina R P December 7, 2010 at 19:43

You do such a wonderful job documenting and describing each step in your tutorials; It would be great to see the tutorial on reducing the ease in the sleeve cap!

Paige December 7, 2010 at 20:12

OMG! That’s so great! I saw the pictures and did my excited hand-clapping like a dork. Ha ha.

I’m getting a new sewing machine for Christmas, and I think this pattern may be my first project…

Christina Thompson December 7, 2010 at 20:39

That close up of you is one of the prettiest pictures of you that I’ve seen. You look like your right out of a movie. I can’t wait for it to warm up here again, so I can go out and buy a few dresses like that one. Probably from Trashy Diva. lol It is just so cold that tights are barely enough.

Corinne December 7, 2010 at 22:18

Absolutely adorable. That pattern is perfect on you, really a good look. While we freeze up here in the Northeast, these posts give great ideas for our Spring sewing. Of course, I never met a bow or polka dot I didn’t like and Navy and white is perfect for our Spring. Thanks for the great ideas.

Jenni December 7, 2010 at 22:42

This dress looks so comfortable and cute!

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