Making a 1950s Cocktail Dress: The Conclusion


Hey Internet! It’s been awhile. I haven’t posted because I wanted to finish that damned cocktail dress before I write another article, and I have done that – it took much cursing, seam ripping and finagling. However, I have returned to you with a completed dress! Here’s what went down over the last few weeks:

Putting it together

With four pieces (the bodice shell and lining, and skirt shell and lining), I was almost done with my dress.

Since getting my new serger, I finished the seams on all four pieces. I used a four-thread overlock on the shell and three-thread overlock on the lining. The difference may seem arbitrary, but the four-thread worked well with the lace fabric, while the three-thread laid nicely on the lining.

The skirt
Then, I started putting the shell and lining pieces together. This went pretty smoothly on the skirt. I basted the pieces together at the waist and sewed the shell and lining together along the zipper seam.

The bodice
The bodice: Well, that was a whole different story! The lace and lining fabric did not lay right and I was having a damned hard time putting them together without causing buckling. I finally gave up and remade the bodice lining out of cream cotton. I’m so glad I did!


The cotton did not slide all over the place and making adjustments was much easier. After that, I was able to put the bodice pieces together.

I sewed along the entire outside, except for the waistline. I also took apart the shoulder seams so I could stitch the armholes. After that, with the lining and shell fused, I sewed the shoulders back together.

I had to fix a few things with the bodice. The shoulders were way too long, and I ended up taking them in twice. Then, the zipper seam didn’t line up between the bodice and skirt, and I had to take in the back of the bodice a good inch on either side.

Making it fit

As you can imagine, taking in the bodice back meant that the dress no longer fit. (As I told my coworker, I done fucked up).

Fortunately, I devised a workaround that would not only ensure the dress fit, but also give it that pizzaz my original design lacked.

I bought a black and silver ribbon and attached it to the zipper hem. I then fit the zipper into the ribbon instead of the actual dress. The ribbon was the perfect size, and now I can tie a great big bow at the top of the zipper. It’s super cute and I think having the ribbon enhances the garment’s overall look.


I might go back and adjust the way the ribbon lays, but I’m waiting to see how the dress looks with the petticoat, which I have yet to finish (fingers crossed that I’ll get it done by Saturday).


After ripping seams and remaking bodices, I sure as hell did not want to iron, pin and sew the hem of both the lining and shell. I mean, the dress has a circle skirt!

Instead of folding and all that, I was lazy and used my new serger to create a rolled hem. I first cut the shirt pieces to make sure they were even.

After having a few issues with my serger (turns out it’s picky about the thread I use), I made the hem. I’m really happy I decided to use the serger. The hems look great and it was way faster!


My petticoat is underneath the dress in this photo.


I had to take the hem up in some parts – it wasn’t as even as I had hoped. But after hacking away at the shirt in some parts, I think I have a fairly even hemline and a dress I’m somewhat proud of.

It’s certainly not perfect. This was my first time ever draping my own pattern, so I was bound to hit some snags. I’ve definitely learned from the process – chiefly, don’t learn a new skill using hard-to-work-with fabric. After I wear this garment to my friends’ wedding, I probably won’t want to look at it for a year. I still have to finish the petticoat, so watch out of that post!

Thanks for reading!



2 thoughts on “Making a 1950s Cocktail Dress: The Conclusion

  1. Pingback: Black Petticoat | The Pen and Needle

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s