Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Mary Walker Dress

This is actually a draft from a post I wrote exactly a year ago in late March. Since that time, I haven't made any progress on this dress. My new long-term project is to finally finish this dress! Since I am still stuck in the same part I'm going to post this post and then start posting further progress and information I figure out. 

“Misses Organdie Dress with Over-Skirt”
“the collar, cuffs, and piece in over skirt are made of tucked material of the same material or of another color (To avoid tucking material, I decided to just do a decorative stitch, now I'm thinking I should go back recut the overskirt and instead make it in another color so that I will still be following directions exactly) . The dress opens in the back and the sash ties in the back in a big bow. The hem of the bottom skirt folds back to top of top skirt”
Besides the description it has the amount of material needed, the seam allowance, symbols used. and the name “Mary Walker” and “Bust 36”. It is is a brown envelope and the back has a cutting diagram and vague directions.

I got this at an estate sale along with two 1930 sewing catalogues. I thought it might be from the 1920’s but as I’m making it im not so sure anymore. It is not a drop waist, it has a normal waist line. I figure it must be from somewhere between 1910 and early 1920's. 

With this pattern there were two others in the same brown type envelopes. The other is torn and the picture isn’t there but it is a “Ladies Envelope Chimise” that has just two pattern pieces. I found references to these envelope chemises in the 1910’s and 1920’s. The third is mostly torn and only a small part of the drawing remains and the name of what it is is gone. Though on the back there are two main pattern pieces and a sleeve piece (I'll get some pictures and do a post on the other two patterns later. I plan on making the chemise for under this dress)

The front has her name on the bottom of the envelope and “Sec. III” so I wonder if these must have been for a class.I also considered this being a pattern for a younger person but the size being a bust 36 it couldn’t possibly be.They are homemade patterns and I’m really interested to find out anything more about them. It would certainly help me to more accurately decipher the dress I’m making since the instructions aren't a ton of help.
This is my attempt at the pattern.
The bodice and skirts are not connected and the top is not finished at all. Instead of the pleating I did a decorative stitch on the overskirt that I will also do on the sleeves and possibly the collar.
Right now my biggest problem is the bodice. It has no darts, it’s just gathered and the neckline wont sit flat. I don’t know if the gathers are not in the right places or what.
Besides that, the skirt has no opening. The back buttons down the back so I can't figure out how you would get into it. The blue belt is leftover from my white 1860 ballgown from maybe 4 or 5 years back.

Since even the bodice I can't get to sit right, I think this will have to be started over from the beginning. On the front of the envelope under seam allowance, it gives very specific instructions such as "on top skirt, 7 inches fullness allowed in back. 6 1/2 inches in front." The first time I didn't measure seam allowance exactly figuring it wouldn't make much of a difference, though perhaps it did? 

I am still working on other projects as this is going to be a long term project with lots of stops to research and make sure I'm doing the next step right, but I do want to get this done after sitting on it for a year! 


  1. What an adorable pattern! I can't wait to see what the finished dress looks like! I love the pillow you hand quilted as well, especially the color of it. The sheen reminds me of a crow's feathers. :)

    How many eras do you reenact?


    1. Thank you! :) I typically reenact 1850 -1860's because there is a historical village near me for that time period that I volunteer at weekly but I love sewing historical clothing so I've been working on getting into a lot more eras!