Handmade Wardrobe
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Peony Goes Retro

Back in January I got started on a Peony dress and it was a disaster. I moved the darts, shortened the bodice, took in the back seams and lowered the neck. Nothing I tried could get the bodice to fit properly. Over the summer I decided it was a waste of  fabric so I took the peony apart and used the fabric to cut out the second of my vintage pledge makes. The dresses are similar enough that I knew the  very too big Peony fabric pieces would be big enough to cut out the vintage dress.

The vintage pattern in question is Simplicity 4903. It’s from the 1960’s and I bought it on Etsy in perhaps 2010. I made version 2 which has a lower neckline and short sleeves, but I opted to do without the self fabric waist bows and I made the tie belt from version 1. The belt ended up being a little too small to tie in a pretty bow around my waist so I wore it as a headband instead!


This is a pretty simple dress to make and considering the instructions are vintage (sparse) and the pattern pieces were slightly degraded I was happy about that! Based on the look of the pattern pieces compared to other bodice patterns I have used, I decided upfront to shorten the bodice. It looked really long, but wish I  had left it as it was because it’s border line too short now. After wearing the dress all day and night there is a little bit of pulling at my bust so I am going to do a 1 inch FBA for my next one and leave the length as it was originally drafted. The bust didn’t feel tight so if I made this from a fabric with a little bit of give I might even not need the FBA, but I do think the style is great for show casing the prints of quilting cottons.

retro 3

I cut out the skirt as the pattern said to, which was curiously similar to the Peony in flat shape and shaping, but I decided to gather it all the way around instead of just at the front so it would be a little fuller. I won’t use these skirt pieces again because it is not a style I really care for and I’m not going to take the time to lengthen a skirt that isn’t flattering on me.

retroMy only real issues with the pattern are that the sleeves are very tight and the skirt is too short, the bodice pulling is a very minor issue in my book. If I make this dress again I will lower the armscye and gather the sleeve head less to accommodate for the larger circumference. I will also use the Kim skirt or a similar style gathered skirt. I’m excited to use the bodice again though. I really like the neckline and the dart placement is practically perfect for my bust.

One other minor change I made from the original pattern was with the neck facing. Since my fabric was limited I skipped the neck facing and used a mustardy yellow bias binding which worked just as well as a facing would have. You can see it a little in this picture.


This fabric is from Leah Duncan’s Gramercy line and considering it sat in my UFO pile as Peony for 9 months I’m glad to at least have used it for a wearable test version of a dress so I can wear it in public and show it off. I think if I wear this in the fall with tights and a cardigan I will be much more comfortable. I like my knees to be nearly covered in dresses. If a dress is knee length on me that means I can bend over without fear of my underwear showing so call me a prude if you will, but I like to think I’m practical!

retro 2I added the pictures to this post in order that they were taken. You can actually see the bust pulling more in the last picture than the first so I’m guessing my boobs grow as the day goes on. The first picture was taken in my backyard around noontime and the second two pictures were taken in a beautiful garden at the Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth, NH around 6.

This dress came together really fast, but at this point I don’t think I’ll make all 6 of the items I pledged before the end of the year. The vintage pattern pledge did get me thinking about my vintage pattern stash more so even if I don’t make all 6 of the items I planned on at least I tried. And who knows, maybe I’ll be able to really haul ass and get a few more vintage makes under my presser foot before the year is out!


  1. Pingback: Simplicity 4903 in Baby Corduroy | Sweet Carolanne

  2. Pingback: Simplicity 4903

  3. Pingback: 2015 Review & Looking Ahead | Sweet Carolanne

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