Modern updates for a vintage 1940s dress pattern

Butterick 4838 - 1940s

The camera arrived! I haven’t figured out all the bells and whistles, but managed to shoot some photos of the dress I finished on Monday. I started with Butterick 4838 from the 1940s and made some modern edits: shorter hem, lower neckline, and no collar. Plus, because I dislike sewing buttonholes, a back zipper instead of front buttons.

Butterick 4838 from the 1940s
Butterick 4838 from the 1940s

Like a lot of midwesterners I belonged to a 4-H club as a tween. My first 4-H project was called “Joyful Jumper”. It was the early 90’s okay? I promise jumpers were sorta cool. Anyway, I don’t recall it being an entirely joy-filled experience (temperamental sewing machine, stuffy upstairs bedroom, confusing pattern directions) but the one good thing I took away from it was learning how to sew a blind hem. That jumper had crooked seams and wonky armholes, but the hem was beauuuutiful.

I busted out my old 4-H skills and blind hemmed this dress while watching a movie.

Handsewn blind hem

If my hemming is reliable, my zipper installation is not. Sometimes they’re great and sometimes they’re awful. Pardon my boasting, but this was one of my Top 3 Zipper Installations EVer. Here’s my new and improved set of steps:

1. Using the largest machine stitch size, sew garment together as if there’s no zipper. Press seam open.

2. With a seam ripper to (carefully!) open the seam where the zipper will go.

3. Place the zipper behind the seam. Don’t spread the seam open- keep it lying flat. Using a contrasting color of thread, hand-baste both sides in place (this worked better than pinning it, so it’s worth the extra time).

4. Using a zipper foot on your machine, stitch the zipper in place.

Butterick 4838 from the 1940s
Butterick 4838 from the 1940s

My new shoes came too! They’re keepers.



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  3. lsaspacey · November 9, 2012

    I love all of the dresses you’ve made, especially this one! Just a suggestion about the zipper: That is almost the way I install a zipper; however, I keep the zipper seam basted until the end. It makes it easier to sew and keeps everything in its place. I pretty much follow these centered zipper instructions here, but I don’t do the tape part. : )

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  7. tami · June 20, 2011

    i love the dress! and the shoes! and you look like a model!

  8. Lori · June 19, 2011

    Wow awesome dress and great hem! I need to learn that skill.

  9. Janet Schumm · June 17, 2011

    Katie, Awesome dress and shoes too. Grandma will be proud !

  10. raanve · June 16, 2011

    Oh, wow, that’s GORGEOUS! I love the fabric.

  11. becca · June 16, 2011

    Awesome dress. You know what else is awesome? The line from you to the gnome to Creeper Teddy.

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