1942 Hollywood Patterns Shirtwaist Dress

wwi working girl reproduction dress

I now present to you my 1940’s dress for Sew for Victory. It’s from Hollywood Patterns (No. 855), from May 1942, endorsed by Betty Grable of 20th Century Fox.┬áHonestly, I’m not that enamored with this dress. I was talked into the fabric, a quilting cotton, by a woman at the fabric store but I really should have stuck to my guns and gone to another store to find a nice rayon. When I first envisioned this dress, I wanted it to be something I could wear to seduce Sam Spade. I feel like it ends up making me look like I should be out back mucking out a chicken coop. I settled on working for the war effort as a compromise.

1942 Hollwood pattern shirtwaist dress

This was the first time that I have used an original 1940’s pattern (not a reproduction). I thought it was so fun to pull it out of the envelope and find that the original owner had written the name on each piece and left in pins where she shortened the dress.

blouse placket gathers

I thought that the gathers on the upper bust were an interesting construction. The dress uses a “slash facing” that is sewn right side together, slashed, turned inside out and pressed (shown above), and then the lower facing is gathered and sewn to the upper facing.

1940s dress on scooter

I had to grade the pattern up quite a bit to fit me as it is sized 30 bust, but it was fairly simple to grade. I made the mistake of not lengthening the back enough so it rides just above my natural waist, but it’s hidden by a belt, so it’s not too much of a problem. I added the rick-rack after finishing the dress because I felt that I was drowning in a sea of seafoam and it added some definition to the dress. I think I left the top a bit too blousy in the front for it to flatter my figure, but I think the back looks quite nice.

1940's eggshell blue shirtwaist dress

Comments 13

  1. Pingback: Sew for Victory: Hollywood Patterns 1942 Shirtwaist Dress

  2. I’m loving all of these ‘Sew for victory’ creations and yours is absolutely no exception! Such beautiful colours and your styling is super cute.

    1. Post

      Thanks so much! I’m open to liking the dress more with a bit more time and such sweet compliments as yours!

  3. I love all of the red trim and accents! I think it really makes the design elements of the collar and yoke pop. The colors of this are lovely – I think it turned out beautifully!

  4. Hi! Came over from WeSewRetro. I really like your chicken-mucking dress! It is disappointing when the finished product doesn’t live up to the fabulous-ness in our heads. This has happened to me a LOT! But then I figure, this can be a ‘play dress’ and should you spill gas on it while filling your moped, no worries!

  5. I think it is lovely… and although not Siren sexy, it is certainly a very nice looking day dress ;) Think of it this way- you are far more dressy than anyone else out there casually dressed- which means eye catching in a nice way!
    Love your additional trim!

  6. Hi Erin,

    You inspired me to get back to sewing for myself. I haven’t done it in years. On a recent trip to NOLA I happened upon a retro dress shop and fell in love with the shirt dress not to mention the shoes! So, when I saw your dress online I knew I had to try and make one. I am just putting the bodice and skirt together. Even though I measured what seemed 100 times. The bodice seems extremely large. I took the side seam in 1 inch on each side and adjusted for the sleeves. Where I seem to be having a problem is there appears to be too much fabric in the back of the bodice. I know I need to gather it but it seems like it will be bulky. Any suggestions? Also, did you use hooks and. Snaps as suggested in the pattern? I was thinking I might use a zipper. Your input would be appreciated. I will send you a picture once finished. Thanks,

    1. Post

      I’m so glad to be a source of inspiration! I find that 1940’s patterns are often very blousey in the back and feel odd to our modern sense of fit. I’d suggest basting the back as is and if it still feels too blousey, reduce the volume of the back that is gathered by pinching some out of the center back of the pattern piece.
      I used a zipper since I knew that hooks or snaps would drive me crazy.
      If you send me pictures, I’m happy to offer more specific advice and I would most certainly love to see the finished dress!

  7. My sister and I are writing a book about our Mom and a group of her friends that went to high school during WWII.
    They made matching dresses using Hollywood pattern # 158. Do you know how I would be able to locate an image of
    what the dress would have looked like?

    1. Post

      Ooh what a fun project!

      Have you explored the Vintage Pattern Wiki? It looks like #158 isn’t listed in the database but they have a forum where you might be able to get some more help. I would also keep a running search on Etsy and Ebay in case a listing pops up there. Good luck!

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