Behind the Seams: Valentine’s Day, 40s Sweetheart Dress and a Poll

I hope you had a splendid Valentine’s day! (If you are from neighboring Malaysia, I’m so surprised and sorry to learn recently that celebrating Valentine’s day is banned over there).

After a lovely lunch date, hubby took me fabric shopping in Chinatown and bought me a surprise present! I said surprise because  I’ve already received my presents- two pairs of Irregular Choice shoes. Yay!  Before I reveal our surprise find, check out my new shoes! The first is a super cute pair in bright red, blue stitches, floral ribbon and orange lace and faux fur on the back.

The other pair is very tame in comparison, a simple black with ribbon and ribbed heel. Rather vintage looking.

Okay, back to the surprise. Hubby and I have been searching for a reasonably priced dress form locally for quite a while now and besides the adjustable one selling at Spotlight for almost US$425 (*faint*), there seemed to be no other options besides buying online and getting it shipped here. On Valentine’s Day, we found a fabric dress form mannequin exactly my size at US$100 in a Chinatown notions store! While it isn’t adjustable, I’m thrilled to finally have a body double to sew with. I have to not put on weight though. LOL. Here’s the beauty. Yay!!!

So, what did I get for darling hubby? He has been a pencil enthusiast since I got to know him eighteen years ago. Last month, we watched a Korean drama series called ‘Coffee House’. The protagonist-a novelist by profession, had a perfect wooden holder for all his immaculately hand sharpened pencils and my hubby commented how nice it was. Here’s a very similar handcrafted one I got him from this etsy seller for Valentines’ Day.

In conjunction with this lovey dovey day, the gals at TSW created our own versions of the valentine’s day dress. I love love love all the girls’ gorgeous creations so do check them out here.

The gallery

The bathroom close ups…

Back view without belt

Pattern Review

I used a vintage 1942 sewing pattern by Du Barry (5357). To be honest, I’ve never heard of Du Barry so I did a search to learn more about them. These patterns were manufactured by Simplicity Pattern Company in 1931 for selling exclusively at Woolworth Company Stores (Are these the equivalent of Woolworth supermarkets?). The latest date on patterns found is 1947 so it is possible that the brand was only around for 17 years.  I did a search on Vintage Pattern Wiki and realized it does not have an image of this pattern so I uploaded one, my very first photo contribution:)

I chose this pattern for Valentines Day as the sweetheart neckline and the inverted sweetheart seam below the waist reminded me of two joined hearts on a dress. And, what made it truly attractive, I have never sewed from an unprinted original 1940s sewing pattern!

Du Barry 5357 (1942)



Despite them being cramped on one page, the instructions were easy to follow and diagrams were of great help in enhancing my understanding of the steps. There was however no instruction on how the self fabric belt was made though it provided an estimated dimension for the fabric requirement for the belt.

Yay to my first completed project for ‘Sewing through the Decades‘. One down and nine to go:)

Photography Session

The fabric I used is the silk/cotton blend bought during our December trip to Phuket Thailand. I have never sewed with silk or silk blend and having used this material, I have to say that this is a completely different ball game. The fabric is the toughest that I have cut so far because it is so slippery. The good thing is, after I underlined it with poly lining, stitching it was not as difficult as I had imagined. Nonetheless, I took much longer than expected to complete the dress and when that finally happened I was excited (can’t wait to snap away) and exhausted (didn’t want to leave the house) at the same time so I decided to just have the photos taken in my living room. I am also deterred by the hot weather these days. Yes, we are officially back to the days of  sunny (or rather scorching) 34 degrees Celsius and I would have probably melted even before I set up the tripod if I were to venture outdoors. I kept the fan blasting in my living room the entire time and now I remember the reasons I depended on the white walls all the time!

Not to worry though cos’ hubby was around to take some photos for my next project… and yes, outdoors! Sure beats setting up the tripod anytime! Gotta get my lil prince better trained with the camera:)

Easy to make fabric belt

Note: I used this method as I purchased a belt interfacing which I realized is very much thicker and tougher than normal interfacing. Hence, turning the interfacing out with the right side of the belt didn’t seem possible. Unlike, ordinary interfacing, the belt interfacing comes with a standard width which usually fits perfectly into belt buckles.

Step 1: Loop the belt interfacing (BI) around your waist and ensure there are some excess for looping through the belt buckle.

Step 2: Pin the BI on the fabric fold and add seam allowance to the unfolded sides and at both ends of the BI. Cut fabric.

Step 3: With right sides facing, stitch close to the BI width down the full length of the fabric, leaving a 0.2cm allowance

Step 4: Trim allowance and clip edges before turning fabric right side out.

Step 5: Attach a safety pin to the end of the BI and pull the BI through the fabric tube.

Step 6: Turn the seam allowances at the edges into the wrong side of the fabric at both ends. Top stitch fabric to BI if you wish.

Step 7: Loop ends into belt buckles on both sides and pin. Ensure that the belt buckles meet. Try the belt on to ascertain fit. Trim BI as necessary.

Step 8: Stitch ends of belt close to back of buckle. You can use a zipper foot to get  closer or you can hand-stitch like I did. All done!

Phew! That was another long post! Are you sewing for Spring already? I’m sending my sewing machine in for servicing today as it has been rather cranky recently so I’ll be taking a sewing break till next Wednesday. I am gonna take my time and enjoy some fabric cutting before its return.
Before I end this post, could you do me a big favor by doing the poll and letting me know which of these two sewing patterns has a more hideous cover. I’m having a hard time deciding and its for a future project. Thanks a lot!

1980s dress

1950s dress

Enjoy your weekends everyone!

37 thoughts on “Behind the Seams: Valentine’s Day, 40s Sweetheart Dress and a Poll

  1. You realize, of course, that you could do the front of the 50’s dress with the back of the 80’s? Being as how I was actually sewing and wearing clothes in the 80’s…Don’t forget about underware. If you do the 80’s dress…consider where the bra-strap will hit and if it will be covered. (Version “B” is questionable)

  2. What a gorgeous dress! I love the shoulder gathers and that dropped waistline! And I squealed when I saw your IC shoes – I got married in the red version of your black bow shoes!! 🙂 They’re super comfortable, too!

  3. Wow, your dress is beautiful! Thanks for the step by step on the fabric belt too as I will need to make one shortly and haven’t tried it before.

  4. @Fiona: Yay! I’m so excited abt the dress form too kekeke. Tks for voting!
    @Melissa: Yes, they are super comfy and I saw the red ones too, love them but already have too many pairs on red shoes LOL!
    @Kerry: Hope you find it useful!

  5. Hi, I saw this dressform too, not sure if same shop. Is yours m size? Do u know the vital measurement? I tried asking the lady but gave me vague answer. Was it easy to carry and transport with car? Do u have the contact no for the shop? Sorry for so many questions asked cos am v keen to buy it too!

  6. Hi bibimoon, mine is in size m2. I think its 34, 27, 36. It was easy to carry and transport as they parts are very light and the top portion can be detached. It might be the same shop cos the lady couldn’t tell me either so I took a tape measure from the same store and measured it myself. Sorry but I don’t have their contact # nor do I remember the name of the shop. But, it’s at level 2. Hope you can find one your size too! It’s just so difficult to get one around here.

  7. Hi hi, thanks for your reply. Oh, I vote for a combo of 80 back and 50s front. It has been nice following your weekly creation for sew weekly. Something I look forward to seeing each week fr u. And so envious of such a sweet darling hubby u have. I so love the shoes; they always have such chic vintage shoes. Nice weekend!

  8. There is so much to love about your dress. Beautiful fabric, great workmanship and lovely vintage details. You wear it well.

  9. Your vintage dress is beautiful and I love it worn with your funky fur heel shoes. Your Valentine’s Day gift for your husband was so thoughtful. Woolworth stores in the USA were a variety store that sold all kinds of things, but not food. Your mention of them made me remember how they were my favorite place to shop when I was about 12 years old (many years after the Du Barry patterns were discontinued). They have been out of business of a long time. Perhaps it was Woolworth stores in England that sold food.

  10. Thanks everyone! i love the shoes too:)
    @audrey: thanks for letting me know about Woolworth stores, I asked because Woolworth supermarkets are all over Australia:)
    @Tanit Isis: LOL, you might be seeing more of that 80s pattern later though:)

  11. So, I was a young lass in the eighties, in fact, I was er…14, when I made the 1980’s dress in white with red flowers. I wish I had yardage of that fabric still to this day. I fitted mine much closer than what the pattern shows, since I was toothpick thin and needed that definition. The crossover in the back did indeed hide my bra strap, and it required a bit of gymnastics to put on the dress by myself. I absolutely loved that dress, as it was the very first one I made, and I shall have to see if my mom still has it or not. If I do…pictures may be forthcoming!

  12. That is just the perfect Valentine dress. The shoes goes great together too. You look great in red by the way.

    I think that dress form would be right for me. Well, if I had the space for it anyway :). Would you be naming the new lady (Oddness unintended ;))?

  13. totally gorgeous!!!!! i just got my hands on a whole box of vintage patterns… i don’t even know where to start! its funny how you have to ignore the cover art sometimes cause it is so bad! you are totally talented!!!


  14. Hi, I’m a new fan of your site, and I just love it. I’m having difficulty in understanding the steps for making the belt. How much material will I need, and could you show how it’s folded prior to pinning the BI. Thx,and keep up the great work.

  15. Hi Dione,

    I’m so glad you enjoy what you’ve read 🙂

    Thanks for your query on the belt. I normally use scraps for making belts but if you are buying fabric to make it, I would recommend 0.25 yards of at least 45″ wide.
    The BI is placed on the fold of the fabric before cutting, it’s folded in half such that half of it is the BI+ seam allowance. When you open up that piece of fabric is 2X BI X seam allowances on both sides. Hope that clarifies.


  16. Hi! Xandra from evadress sent me to ths page. Love it. Just one question; how can I get a hod of this pattern? I’ve been looking for one like this ever sine I saw a girl wearing a similar one while I lived in Sydney.

  17. Thank you! I will continue my search. I just bought a bunch of patterns on etsy. Planning on sending them all to evadress Xandra after I’ve copied them. Looking forward to seeing how other enterpret them 😉
    Have a wonderful Sunday

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