Vintage Wool Crepe Dress

Y’all. Can we talk about wool crepe for a minute? I just love this stuff to tiny threadbare pieces and I wish everything I made had a wool crepe option. I love the spongy texture, the glorious drape, the magical body-temperature-regularity (yay, wool!), and the COLORS. Truly, everyone should have at least one experience rolling around in a uncut length of wool crepe. Especially if it is a jewel-toned wool crepe. Ooh la la.

For my first Mood Sewing Network project, I wanted that experience to include wool crepe. I have a beautiful 1940s Simplicity pattern that I knew would look amazing done up in such a fabric. And since we’re talking about ~my first time~, I decided to go all out with my bad self and splurge on silk crepe de chine lining and satin bias tape as well. The end result is very… purple.

Wool Crepe Dress
The pattern I used is Simplicity 3178, which is undated but looks to be from the late 30s/early 40s. I love vintage patterns because they always have sweet little details, like the darts on the elbows that provide gentle shaping for the sleeves and the shoulder yokes that are actually pockets (!!).

Wool Crepe Dress
The skirt is bias cut, so I finished the hem with 1″ horsehair braid to give it a nice flare.

Wool Crepe Dress
The pattern gives a couple of options for finishing the neckline – I went with the double collar (self fabric on top and ivory wool crepe at the bottom) and a giant bow!

Wool Crepe Dress
I didn’t have to make too many changes to the pattern to get a good fit. I took in the side seams by 1/2″, tapering up to the underarm. I also removed a whopping 9″ of length from the skirt – the original pattern pieces came all the way down to my ankles! Yeech!

Wool Crepe Dress
I reckon the pockets are totally unnecessary, but ughhh I love those little guys!

Wool Crepe Dress

Wool Crepe Dress
This baby is also lined! Wool crepe really begs for a nice lining to give it some additional structure, and although the pattern doesn’t include pieces or instructions for adding a lining, it wasn’t too difficult to figure out. Unfortunately, I didn’t correctly calculate my yardages, so I didn’t have enough lining for the entire dress – which means the sleeves are not lined. I’ve noticed a distinct lack of lining in lots of dress sleeves, so this doesn’t bug me too much. Bonus plus: now you can see the pretty bias tape at the sleeve hems!
Also: lol at this hideously unflattering photo of me. IT WAS WINDY WHEN I TOOK THESE PICTURES, OK.

Wool Crepe Dress
The instructions do call for the sleeve slit and hems to be finished with bias tape, and then closed with a series of snaps. After trying the dress on during one of many fittings, I decided to flip the hems back to show the bias tape since the dress really needed a bit of color breakup. I pressed the cuff (wool crepe really does press so beautifully) and tacked down each side with a couple of hand stitches to keep everything in place. The neck bow is the same bias tape, just pressed completely open.

Wool Crepe Dress
I think the shoulders are my favorite part of the dress! Instead of using shoulder pads, I made a small stiff rectangle with horsehair interfacing and tacked that to the armholes like a sleeve head. It keeps the pleats from dropping too much and gives the dress those badass strong shoulders that were so fashionable in the 40s.

Wool Crepe Dress
Here you can better see the yoke pockets. I just think they are the coolest little detail! I wish they were big enough to hold my phone, but they’re just baarely too small. Hm, what do you think I could use them for? My seam ripper seems to fit 🙂

Wool Crepe Dress
Wool Crepe Dress
I worked hard to make the inside of this dress just as pretty as the outside. The yoke pockets and neck facings are lightly interfaced with silk organza, the facings are finished with satin bias tape, and I even rolled the hem lining and used tiny hand stitches to secure it. The collar is detachable – its current state of attachment involves basting stitches.

Wool Crepe Dress
Overall, I’m very happy with my dress – I love it’s snuggly wool warmth and did I mention purple? Because purple.

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Comments


  • Ginger
    January 15, 2013

    Oh, this is so cute! I love this! The contrasting purple bias tape and the ivory collar are great details!

  • Carolyn
    January 15, 2013

    Boy, did you sew up a beauty! It’s stunning and I love that you used a vintage pattern to such great advantage! Just stunning!

  • Rochelle New
    January 15, 2013

    Ahhhh!! Lauren, that dress is AMAZING!!!! 40’s dresses have the best sleeves ever. (You know this already.) I love all the little details on this pattern. So cute!

  • Cidell
    January 15, 2013

    Really beautiful!! How much do I love that color?

    • Lauren
      January 15, 2013

      No lies, I actually thought of you when I first saw it haha!

  • Staci
    January 15, 2013

    Beautiful Lauren! I love the color and all the details you included. My guess is that the shoulder yoke pockets were the perfect place for a lady to tuck a lace hanky that could be pulled out immediately when needing to pose coyishly and hide a sly smile 🙂

    • Lauren
      January 15, 2013

      Good point! I thought they might be handy for a small case of cigarettes, but I like the hanky idea much better. Maybe I should make a little hanky to stick in there…

  • Amanda S.
    January 15, 2013

    Pretty! I love the shoulder pockets too.

  • Mary G.
    January 15, 2013

    Beautiful work. Those little pockets might be intended for “mad money” (cash in case your date gets fresh and you get mad and need a quick cab 🙂

    • oonaballoona
      January 15, 2013

      mad money stash, i love that! way more chic than sticking it in your shoe.

  • Erica B
    January 15, 2013

    Very pretty! I love wool crepe!

  • oonaballoona
    January 15, 2013

    Bows!!! BOWS!!! i bow to your bow. i bow to all of it. and now i want some wool crepe.

  • Sarah Gunn
    January 15, 2013

    1940’s hardly comes to mind when I see your awesome dress! Fabulous!

  • Lori
    January 15, 2013

    This dress looks amazing on you.

  • Janine Whisler
    January 16, 2013

    Not that I don’t love purple (because I do), but what really makes this dress for me is the white collar and the fushia ribbon detail. These details are genius, they make the dress so much more interesting, something to draw the eye from all that purple.

  • Rebecca
    January 20, 2013

    The bow is adorable, the dress looks great 🙂

  • Amy
    January 25, 2013

    Fabulous introduction to MSN! I should have known you’d rock your first garment over here. Love it!

  • Lesley
    January 28, 2013

    Hi, great dress! I’ve been searching where you can buy the big solid 40s style shoulder pads. I need some for a coat that’s had them removed. Can’t find any, and wondered if you know of a supplier please?
    Best wishes
    Lesley

  • Chris Johnson
    February 3, 2013

    I , too, love the dress and purple wool crepe. How do you clean your wool crepe? Dry cleaning seems so expensive, and then there are the chemicals. I have read about Euclan (May be misspeclled) wash for wool, but the one time I test washed a piece of wool crepe in just cold water, it truly was not the same. Suggestions?

  • Jill Trainor
    February 13, 2013

    Very lovely! …..and inspiring! Oh, and the pictures are nice, too!