More Retro Sewing Adventures: Advance 9054 (Part 1)

You can thank Pinterest for this latest sewing project.

If it weren’t for someone posting a picture of this pattern on their board, I would’ve never discovered this pattern. I probably would’ve found this pattern without Pinterest (going to Ebay to look at vintage sewing patterns is VERY dangerous…..), but then I wouldn’t have a super cute dress hanging in my closet now!

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that I absolutely love vintage sewing patterns. LOVE. LOVE. LOVE. Not only are the styles gorgeous, but since my body type is halfway between a pear and an hourglass, the waist and bust-centric shapes of older patterns work best for my body type. So when I’m looking around at old patterns, if the finished product is shapely and it’s from the 40s through the 60s, I will sew it up and add it to my collection. And I’ll even wear it out and about. There’s something about going to Walmart dolled up in a cute, button-down 50s dress that nips in the waist or going to the mall wearing a cute 40s top.

When I saw a picture of this pattern on Pinterest, I knew I had to have it. This dress has tons of shape to it (gotta love the emphasis on the waist in this one) and it’s got buttons. Other than formal jackets, you just don’t see buttons on clothes anymore. (Admittedly, zippers are easier to install, for the most part)

I also really like Advance patterns. I’ve sewn one of their patterns before. I love the styles every time I see one on Ebay. Unfortunately, the company went defunct long before I was born, so no chance of getting any new patterns from them. Advance was a sewing company that existed from the 30s through the 60s and were sold exclusively at JC Penney’s. (Can you imagine going to a JC Penney store for sewing products?? That would be amazing!) Then they got bought up by another company and the Advance name disappeared. Booo.

At least they left behind some gorgeous patterns. Like this one.


If only my hair could be as curly as the ladies in this drawing….. sigh

Lucky for me that this was on Ebay for less than $20. I know some people pay out the nose for vintage patterns, but I don’t go anywhere above $20. (Vintage pattern prices can get INSANE. I once saw a pattern that I loved, but the cheapest I found it was $150. (!))

Then the pattern arrived in the mail (YAY!), I put it in my stash…. Then forgot about it until last weekend.

I’ve been resolving to sew more tops this year, but after sewing mostly tops and even my first jumpsuit for a cosplay, I went, you know what? It’s time I sewed a dress.

And so I did.

Before I began sewing……

The thing about sewing vintage patterns is that until about thirty years ago, you only got one size in the envelope. These days, every commercial pattern comes with multiple sizes in the envelope. Not so with older patterns. This means that you either need to grade up or down to get the size you want (a more advanced trick that even I’m still learning five years later) or try and get a size that’s close to your measurements and hope for the best. (And even then, you might still have to tweak the pattern. But we’ll get to that later.)

The only size available for this pattern was an “18.” Without knowing the bust, waist, and hip measurement for that size (it wasn’t printed anywhere on the envelope, gaahhhhh), I figured if this pattern turned out too big, I could always take it in. Too big is always better to fix than too small. (And I’ve had to fix many a “too small” vintage pattern, especially at the waist; my waist is small but not that small.)

I wish that a simple Google search could’ve told me what the measurements for this pattern size were supposed to be. However, I got several results. One source said an Advance size 18 was supposed to fit a 36” bust. Another said 40”. Gah. So, not knowing what the bust, hip, and waist measurements are supposed to be for this size, I resolved to do something I tend to only do with older patterns that don’t have measurements anywhere on the pattern envelope or pattern pieces: take flat measurements on the pattern pieces at the bust, hip, and waist and calculate them to figure out the measurements this pattern will fit.

You can see the math I did here to figure it out on this pattern:

So what I came up with for this pattern’s size 18 (which includes the ease that’s always built into patterns) was:

Bust: ~42″

Waist: ~37″

I didn’t worry as much about the hip measurement because this dress is supposed to flare out a lot anyway. It was the waist and bust I was worried about.

Based on these flat measurements, I knew that I would have to make some changes to this pattern. To confirm those measurements, I took to my dress form and pinned the pattern pieces on them to look at how they would fit. Sure enough, there was TONS of gapping at the back and front. OK, so I’d have to change this pattern a bit. Whatever. I’m used to doing that by now. Half the fun of sewing is making the clothes fit you, not the other way around!

Not only did I have to make changes at the waist and bust, but also in other ways too.

Next time: what I did to make this pattern fit me and modernize it a bit.