It’s Alive!

by Erin on August 20, 2007

A long time ago I posted about this pattern, McCalls 5147:

McCalls 5147

And now Toi has found it all made up, for sale on Etsy ($40, B36, click on the image to visit the listing):


ebay item 8305987417

I love it when I find handmade vintage for which I can identify the source pattern — it's like CSI: Sewing, isn't it (except with fewer splatter marks)? And it really helps when I'm trying to decide which of the embarrassingly large number of patterns in my sewing room should be worked up next — look how well this one worked out! I love the rick-rack, and the orange & plaid combo. How fancy would this look in plaid taffeta and velvet? (It'd also look about six years old, but I don't usually let that stop me.)

Has anyone else ever found a dress and known what pattern it was sewn from? (It doesn't count if you found it in your own closet …)

{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

john August 20, 2007 at 8:59 am

you say splatter marksi would say spatter marksmy guess on this dress is that it is newer than the pattern by a number of yearsjmo

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Katie Alender August 20, 2007 at 9:04 am

No, but this is lovely! I love the pleats on the bodice.

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Kate August 20, 2007 at 10:00 am

No, but I once saw some fabric I had used to make a dress on a mannequin at the Smithsonian. Talk about feeling Ooooooooooooooooold! K Q:-)

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Katie August 20, 2007 at 10:32 am

I have! I found a great 60′s a-line mini dress at the thrift store, and soon after, found the pattern at either the same shop or the one across town (not sure which one). I’ll snap you a photo sometime if I remember!

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renee August 20, 2007 at 11:17 am

What a cute dress. I never have found one that I could identify;but, what if you found the perfect ‘double row border’ vintage fabric – just like in the sketch on a vintage dress pattern. So of course I had to make it, and wear it to a niece’s wedding ( lots of compliments ! ).

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Anonymous August 20, 2007 at 11:25 am

This dress is slightly reminiscent of an Austrian Dirndl.Linda

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Alison Cummins August 20, 2007 at 11:55 am

Unrelated to the dress at hand: just wanted to report that Oracle and I met up on Friday to go fabric shopping and I had a wonderful time. Oracle had mentioned in Comments here that she was in Montreal and wanting to shop for fabric; I replied in Comments with my contact info; and that was that. We met the next afternoon. We had so much more in common than either of us expected, having exchanged no information about ourselves before meeting besides names and what we were wearing so we could recognise each other. So – in case any of you were wondering – A Dress A Day is a good place to meet other fabric lovers, in person as well as virtually.

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Latter-Day Flapper August 20, 2007 at 11:56 am

I have long fantasized about a sewing-related CSI episode. I can hear them now: “Well, the clothing is very unusual. It appears to be home-sewn but she was clearly an expert seamstress with a taste for vintage and a daring fashion sense. Grissom is scouring eBay for patterns as we speak . . . “

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Andrea August 20, 2007 at 12:23 pm

I just bought some throw pillows at a thrift store with what appears to be the same plaid fabric! No kidding. I’ll try to get you a picture. I love the dress pattern. I traipsed here by acccident, sew very rarely, but I have to say I read all your posts on this page and really enjoyed them. You write well! I have bookmarked your site and will return. Nice work!

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Katie Alender August 20, 2007 at 1:03 pm

Hmm… looking at this again, maybe those are just darts. I thought they were cunning little pleats! I still like the dress, but I have to clarify, in case anyone thought I had lost my mind.

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Lady Be Good August 20, 2007 at 1:28 pm

That’s a gorgeous dress! I once went into a hipster boutique in Silverlake and saw the salesperson cooing to some customers over a dress, saying “This is from one of our local designers.” I immediately recognized it as the famous Butterick walk-away dress, #4790. It was even made up in all the exact color combinations that are on the pattern envelope. It blew my mind that this ‘local designer’ was passing off this pattern as her own work, and in the nastiest polyester broadcloth that I have ever laid hands on! I was in such shock that when the salesperson approached me to coo about the dress I couldn’t help but spill the whole history of it to her, going back to Claire McCardell and detailing all the different reincarnations over the years. I’ve shared the story with a few people, and nobody seems to share my reaction, but the whole thing still blows my mind.

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ambika August 20, 2007 at 1:47 pm

lady be good, I would have been blown away, too. Love this dress, btw. It’s gorgeous in these colors.

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Silverstah August 20, 2007 at 2:34 pm

*dies of pattern lust* I would give my left pinky toe for that pattern. *swoon*:)

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Anonymous August 20, 2007 at 2:38 pm

Isn’t it a copyright violation to make up and sell the dress? I’m not trying to take away from the beauty of this person’s work but I’m personally breaking away from patterns for the first time to sell my own stuff.

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Eva August 20, 2007 at 2:44 pm

I *want* that pattern!/Eva

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oracle August 20, 2007 at 3:50 pm

Alison, so there you are!I’m home in Ontario again. Was thinking on the train last night that I hadn’t sent you any kind of follow up to say how very much I, myself, had enjoyed our Friday evening stroll through your favourite Montreal fabric shops! In fact, I’m just going to unpack my new fabrics today.Folks, I must concur with Alison. An insatiable appetite for fondling, oohing and aahing over, and even sometimes purchasing new cloth, plus enjoyment of really good writing and love of dresses to boot may be enough to draw two strangers together. And, those two former strangers may also discover (toward the end of the fabric shopping spree when other details such as how long one has been reading Dressaday and perhaps what work one might happen to do and so on finally get mentioned) that they have other, more serious things in common.And don’t we all come to Dressaday because we love fabric and really good writing and lest I forget dresses!?Erin, are you going to throw a great Dressaday ball for us all in good-hearted, friendly Chicago?Alison and I could take the train, since we both believe in public transportation.By the way, once, while waiting in the parking lot of a tiny rural post office, I spotted a woman coming out the door wearing Folkwear’s magnificent Afternoon Dress (the first version; not the revised version they’re offering now), and, never questioning that she would see me as a kindred spirit, I jumped out of the car and ran up to her, gasping, “I know that dress! That’s Folkwear’s Afternoon Dress!” I finally faltered a bit and asked, “Isn’t it?” since the woman was staring at me as though I’d just arrived from another planet and she did NOT know what to make of me. “I’ve got the pattern, too,” I continued, acting a little more subdued in case that might make her feel a little more comfortable.” But it didn’t. Judged, distanced, and dispensed with as not sufficiently repressed for the local cutural climate, was how I felt! Not what I would have expected from someone who’d made up that incredible dress in drab colours and was wearing it as they went through but normal, unremarkable daily activities.

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Sewing Siren August 20, 2007 at 3:51 pm

Once I found a factory made childrens dress at a thrift store, that I had made the pattern corrections for when it was in pre-production. It just happened to be in my daughters size, so I bought it :).

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Jenna August 20, 2007 at 4:09 pm

There is a huge Ren costume/replica catalog that I get sent every few months. Often with items I pine for, but in the last few issues they have been selling a simplicity outfit – the ENTIRE patterns worth of extras – for several hundred dollars. Now, its a nice costume, heck I have personally made myself the skirt portion in about 6 different variations. But it makes my brain itch to be able to point to each section and know I have the tissue paper version upstairs in the cupboard.Of course when it comes to my fellow seamstresses out there, I have tried to learn to be subtle, but my husband still catches me checking out dresses and muttering “I wonder why she went with option B? The pockets would have laid flatter if she had just used C……..”

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Erin August 20, 2007 at 4:35 pm

I like the idea of a Chicago ball. Maybe someday; I’ve not yet recovered from the conference I arranged back in June!And yes, you’re not supposed to sell stuff you’ve made from commercial patterns, commercially. However I think that if you make something from a pattern and it doesn’t fit you or you just don’t like it, it would be stupid for McCalls or Vogue to forbid you to sell it … and that’s different from making 500 to sell.I wish I had a good link to the page on Fashion Incubator where Kathleen talks about how home sewing patterns are inefficient for mass-production anyhow …

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VickiJane August 20, 2007 at 5:03 pm

I laughed, Oracle, when I readabout you rushing up to a stranger. I too have done the same. I was needing to track down a particular style of hat that I was having to copy for theatre costume when I saw a man walking down the street wearing the EXACT one I needed. I rushed up to him, grabbed his arm and said Oh I need to look at how your hat was made. My eyes then went into focus on his face that was ENTIRELY covered in tattoos (I live in New Zealand) and I realized my hand was on the HUGEST bicep I had ever seen. A very scary looking man. He was charming though and was more than happy to let me borrow it to draft a pattern.

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Missy August 20, 2007 at 5:56 pm

oooh…I didn’t know they had that pattern in an adult version. I have the girls size 8 pattern! too funny…gorgeous dress!Missy

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Theresa August 20, 2007 at 6:43 pm

Ok- I don’t knwo what in the world happened to my comment– so I will try again. I totally agree with lady Be good. I too am guilty of accosting people to inspect the construction of their clothes.I love, love, love, love this dress and the pattern.I want to go to the ball!

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andrea August 20, 2007 at 8:36 pm

My latest accosting involved walking back into the women’s room in a rest area in South Dakota to ask a woman if her bottom was a skirt or an especially clever skort. She looked at me like I was an escaped mental patient.It was a very clever and cute skort.

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Anonymous August 20, 2007 at 8:57 pm

I’m waiting for the CSI episode where they get DNA from a quilt-in-progress in a quilting frame. Prick your finger while hand quilting and get a little blood on the quilt? Use your own saliva to break down the red blood cells so they don’t leave a stain – a very old quilting trick that would leave enough DNA to identify someone.Producing and selling clothing from a commercial pattern is a violation of copyright. Somewhere on the pattern, perhaps small print on the instruction sheet, it should list what you ARE allowed to do with the pattern, that is, what rights the copyright owner has decided to sell to you when you bought the pattern. It is possible to purchase (license) the right to make and sell items made from someone else’s pattern. Some craft pattern publishers will allow you to purchase a cottage (or cottage industry) license to produce items according to their patterns. The cottage license conditions almost always require that you identify the original pattern on your hang tag. “Cottage Industry” assumes that YOU are making the items yourself, not producing them in a factory with hired help.CMC

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Anonymous August 20, 2007 at 10:19 pm

This person is selling a vintage dress, not a dress they produced from the pattern. Anyone who would make this dress today and sell it for $40 is a glutton for punishment! The yardage on that skirt alone…

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damngoodvintage.com August 20, 2007 at 10:31 pm

I’ve had it happen a couple of times.1st time was a 50′s Vogue evening gown pattern that I bought at an estate sale where I also bought a 50′s wedding gown. When I went to list the wedding gown I realized that I also had the pattern. Quit cool.I also have this right now:http://www.mainstreetvintage.com/listingview.php?num=3845&ref=21Jean Muir pattern and a dress made with the pattern, if you scoll down you can see a scan of the pattern that sold ages ago.

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Pamela August 21, 2007 at 1:21 am

Twice I have purchased vintage clothing for which I knew the source. I found a lovely pale blue and silver brocade dress from the 60s, in the final stages of construction, needing a hem and tacking on of bows. It was unusual to see how a stiff brocade made up on the bias…as was intentioned by Givenchy in a Vogue pattern. I wonder what fitting flaw stopped the progress of the dress, because it was very nicely made. Or perhaps a canceled event?The coupe de grace of vintage finds for me was the brown and rust seed stitch knitted wool tweed coat with giant wooden buttons and a matching skirt. It has a high collar and flared sleeves and hem both knitted in garter stitch. It was way too cheap at the Salvation Army, actually leaving me guilt-ridden about the price. I found the pattern for the outfit as soon as I got home, in an old Minerva knitting book from the 30s. Does that qualify for a matching pattern? It looks lovely on my daughter, but I am in charge of storing it in my cedar chest!I have a 50s green wiggle dress and matching bolero jacket,made in the softest of wool or cashmere and trimmed in fur, which I’m sure is a Vogue couturier pattern, but I’ve never located the pattern.I’m glad to know I’m not the only obsessive who can spot a pattern from nearly any decade, a mile away.

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mickey August 21, 2007 at 7:13 am

One of the first patterns I bought for myself with babysitting money was a dress that was more like a caftan with an option to make it a top. It was a pullover, very simple but what sucked me in was the embroidery on the sleeve. It was the 70′s and it was ‘groovy’. Unfortunately, my embroidery skills were passable for a pillowcase, deplorable for an entirely satin-stitched flowery sleeve. I abandoned the project although I kept the pattern for a couple of decades. When I finally decided I was tired of looking at it, I donated it to Goodwill. Somewhere in all that time I became a costumer and took over care of a huge costume storage shed. While cleaning it out one day I found a cream colored polyester caftan made from that pattern—right down to the embroidery on the sleeve. Done beautifully, I might add. Although it is much too large for me, it now hangs with a few pieces in my own collection.

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Anonymous August 21, 2007 at 8:55 am

I am in for the ball. I have never been to Chicago, so it would be an adventure! I have a couple of vintage patterns I am dying to make up for dinner/evening wear! Ok, I am off on a tangent, but I would love to go to a ball where I am NOT the only one wearing a hand made dress. The usual response I get, after having complimented the dress I am wearing, is “Oh, you made it yourself?”. I get the impression they are thinking “How quaint…”Linda

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Moonwishes August 21, 2007 at 9:20 am

Instead of finding the dresses made off the patterns, I keep finding patterns that my mother or I had made over the years. One in particular was the housecoat/robe pattern I made in 1973 to take to college. I loved the cut and the buttons done the front. When I first started selling patterns, that was one I found. The lady who bought it was oohing and awing about how she had been looking for it for over 20 years! I finally found one close to my current size that is now tucked away in my own pattern stash.By the way, I just spot checked a vintage pattern and they don’t mention anything about not making the item for resale. That came along somewhat later in the lifeline of patterns. And really can the big pattern companies really complain that after we have made a dress, wore it awhile, gained a few pounds, we sell it at a yardsale or on ebay? I think the spirit of the ‘not for commercial use’ is making it for resale as the original intent (especially the craft patterns). But nobody can tell me what to do with my old clothes, most of which are homemade.

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Anonymous August 21, 2007 at 9:43 am

the bodice! The BODice!!! drool…

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Anonymous August 21, 2007 at 9:45 am

Oh, Mickey, you are SO lucky to have found that piece… isn’t it just so nostalgic when you see a pattern you sewed as a young beginner? It brings back so much more than just the memory of sewing the item… sigh…..

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Anonymous August 21, 2007 at 10:24 am

My comments about copyright were directed toward the “local designer” incident related by Lady Be Good (the Butterick Walk Away dress claimed to be an original design produced by a local designer) and the Ren Faire catalog that seems to be selling costumes made from a Simplicity pattern. What you do with an individual garment after you make it is, indeed, your business. Selling vintage clothing made from a commercial sewing pattern does not present a problem, as I understand copyright.I checked some of my modern patterns. A Butterick states that the pattern “is to be used for home swing only” and Vogue is more specific with “Sold for individual home use only and not for commercial or manufacturing purposes”. It’s that phrase “commercial or manufacturing purposes” that is important. Copyright law related to sewing and craft patterns is especially confusing because CR law restricts the rights of others to make a copy of your original work — but the whole point of a pattern IS that someone is going to make a copy of the work. Quilt patterns are particularly confusing because, in addition to the published pattern instructions, the quilt design itself is also copyrighted. Googling this topic can make your head spin; theres a lot of misinformation out there, and a lot of honest confusion. Conclusion: Dont use a published commercial pattern to manufacture items for sale.CMC

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Anonymous August 21, 2007 at 1:23 pm

CMC – thanks so much for the copyright info. I’ve sold some stuff at secondhand stores that I had made up from patterns and worn, but I consider it ‘cheating’ to do that for any real profit. Illegal AND tacky!

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Anonymous August 21, 2007 at 1:24 pm

CMC – thanks so much for the copyright info. I’ve sold some stuff at secondhand stores that I had made up from patterns and worn, but I consider it ‘cheating’ to do that for any real profit. Illegal AND tacky!

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Fashion Student, Fallon August 22, 2007 at 12:09 am

I love this dress. I am a new reader of your blog, so I missed the orignial post, but I mUST find this pattern. Do you know how are where I can find it??? I LOVE IT!!!thanks so much!…and great job with your blog :)

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Mandy August 24, 2007 at 5:08 am

Re. your tantalizing question at the end: Not exactly, but… the first time I met the girl who is now one of my closest friends, I looked at the handknit sweater she was wearing and said “Excuse me, but is that a (correctly-identified pattern she had knit it from)?”The dress you shared today certainly is a charmer. :)

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Anonymous August 29, 2007 at 4:43 pm

Wonderful. My mother in ’50′staght me to sew on an oldSinger treadle.I love this blog-totally fantastic!!!!!!!!!!!cathy trione

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Starlite KNight September 4, 2008 at 12:45 am

Hello. I finished reading all of these comments and decided to post a comment soliciting help.I found this page whilst looking up my current search query on page 30 of Google search results.I just bought a sewing machine Tuesday – a Husqvarna Viking Emerald 118 – and would like to make a few costume pieces for a convention in October.This is a video game convention (BlizzCon) and I have screen shots of what I would like to make. I am currently searching for robe patterns and fabric. The closest I’ve come so far is McCall’s M2895 view E. Now the robe I want will I was thinking of making in velvet with layers of velvet on top overlapping.I would also like to make a tabard out of stretch velvet as it’s like a vest with closed sides. What I want to do with the tabard is have pieces puff out from the surface of the tabard and I would love any advice on how to accomplish this. After I figure out these two, I can start figuring out the cloak and gloves.Also, if anybody knows of anywhere near Brampton/Toronto that has a crash course available on learning to sew/costume designing, do let me know as well! I am especially interested in knowing how to make my own patterns and such.I’m also considering making the helm, shoulderpads and dagger with the help of Fosshape.I don’t want to type much more but can answer questions and send screen shots to those interested in my project. I would be extremely grateful for any and all help!

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Erin September 4, 2008 at 9:11 am

Howard,it’s highly unlikely that anyone is going to see your comment on a year-old post. :-( I would try posting on PatternReview or Craftster or searching on “cosplay” for cosplay communities.Good luck!

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Starlite KNight September 4, 2008 at 1:15 pm

Hello and thankies for the reply. :)I’ve tried posting on the local Craigslist seeking sewers and costume makers but I haven’t gotten any replies as of yet. I’ll try looking up sewing and costuming forums and see if I can get any advice on how to put my project together.When I got my sewing machine, there was also a class on getting to know the machine and the various stitches. I think I should at least get some basic sewing done first so I can get a feel of what I’m doing.I thought about making stuffed animals for the Christmas silent auction but then read about the whole copyright issue in the comments and wasn’t sure if making things for a silent auction with proceeds donated to charity would be legal. Would I need original designs? And with all the patterns out there, wouldn’t someone be able to point out features and say they come from patterns #### of companies abc and xyz, etc.? Sorry about all the questions!

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