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Sunday, 6 September 2015

The Walkaway Dress Attempt #1

As you may gather I'm a huge fan of the 1940s/50s and the 'Make Do and Mend' mantra. This may stem from the love I have for my grandparents and their fairtytale life story, together with my love of big band music, dance and arts and crafts. I'm from a family of hoarders too which may play apart in my creativity too and the waste not want not approach crucial in war time.

I recently went to the Fashion on the Ration at the Imperial War Museum, London. A great exhibition (although too small) that provided an insight into the home living of Men and Women in war time Britian. There was a collection of popular styles of dress that became iconic during WWII where making your 60 (later reduced to 48) allocated clothing coupons stretch over the course of a year. And that's not 1 coupon per item!
Image Credit
Clothing had to be made to last and due to the lack of 'luxury' resources such as Silk dressmaking had to be remodeled and adapted for the austerity of War. Dresses were made out of black out cloth, parachute nylon and old pillowcases. Hard-wearing, Standard, affordable clothes called Utility Clothing were brought out by the government that met specifications so that civilians could afford to buy clothes that lasted.

Episode 3 of Series 3 of The Great British Sewing Bee (a popular show, spin off from the Bake Off) focused on dressmaking from the 50s using old techniques and ancient no frills sewing methods. The contestants were given the challenge of making the infamous 'Walkaway Dress'. The idea of this smock/wrap around dress is 'start it after breakfast and walk away in it for luncheon!'...or in my case 3 days later you will get something passable! 
Butterick B4790 Walkaway Dress

Having studied Textiles, Fashion and Costume Design through my education Dressmaking isn't too alien to me as it can be to many. However saying that it's been a good 7 years since I have made anything wearable but still with the vintage buzz I thought it would be fun to have a go and re-learn along the way!

I needed 4.5 metres of lightweight cotton with no distinct pattern. And 7 yards of bias binding tape in a contrasting colour. A large floor space, 2 reels of thread colours to match my tape and fabric, 3 buttons and 4 snaps (when I get round to attaching them) and a furry assistant.

It's tipped to be VERY EASY. And yes, it does only have 3 pattern pieces but the main things to watch out for is the fit, the length of the front under the outer-skirt and making sure it has a good finish: darts are equal/buttons are lined up/hem balanced.

I hope to do another one soon now that I feel more equipped with how to measure and adapt the pattern so this post won't be a tutorial, just a montage of photos and then will update it with a photo shoot of me modelling the finished garment...when I get round to it!

The Great Expanse of Skirt.
Dart marked on Back Pattern Piece
Back Pattern Piece

Back of The Front Smock
Front Smock


Attaching the bodice to the skirt.

Hemming ... possibly.

L-Front, R-Back

Here are a few links I found useful when making the dress.

Edelweiss Patterns
Debbie Shore
Great British Sewing Bee