Finished Project: 1917 Checkerboard Ruffle Dress

I’ve had this project finished for several weeks but am finally sharing photographs!  A few weekends ago we went to the Lanterman Tea Dance and I needed an outfit to wear to the event.  Well, I madly started this outfit that week and nearly completed it, but for a variety of reasons abandoned it at the last minute and wore something which was already in my closet.  A few days after the dance I finished the outfit in entirety and have meant to take photos since then!  Finally here it is.

This dress is from Past Patterns Past Patterns Vintage Revivals #8159: Ladies’ Dress with Two-Piece Skirt: Circa 1917, a reproduction of an original vintage sewing pattern.  It actually has another view not pictured on the website, and I made mine a combination of the two options.  The one not shown has a a “plastron” and ties, and has the wider sleeves as shown here, and also has no ruffles at the back.

I made the dress from a cotton/linen blend checkerboard print I got from Fashion Fabrics Club.  The fabric was a bit different than I expected, but in the end it worked out ok.  The white is a cotton I had in my stash.  The belt is made from a thicker linen/cotton blend from Joann and the buttons are vintage.

Of course, the back has the crazy ruffles, which is why I chose this pattern.  It is somewhat silly, but it’s fun and very of the period.

I realized after I got the photos done that I had the petticoat peeking fashion faux-paux.  Oops?  But this is about the dress, so please excuse that ;)

As far as recommendation- I would say do not attempt this pattern unless you are familiar with vintage construction and can make a pattern with little to no instruction.

Pros:  The pieces matched well and it certainly has a period look. the collar has an excellent roll line (one of the things that bothers me is when collars lay totally flat when they’re not meant to) so I really love that.  The ruffles are way fun.  And this is a pretty rare style and rare period to find patterns from, so it gets kudos for that.  The pattern is pretty basic in terms of pieces so it is easy to make alterations to them.  The dress does look like the illustration when finished.

Some things to be aware of:  It is a somewhat basic copy, just a photocopy of the front and back cover and a blueprint copy of a hand traced pattern which is somewhat wavy.  This has never bothered me, and I have used several of these “vintage revival” patterns from Past Patterns and love them because of the rare styles they offer.  The fit is totally different than modern standards, which you have to expect from patterns of this age which are meant to be worn over period foundation garments.  I am short waisted, but this one is exceptionally short waisted.  The sleeve does not have a lot of movement, when you make a mock up test the fit and construction and movement before you make it in your final fabric (which is why I didn’t wear it to the dance- I needed more movement).  The proportions, of course, are to period standards, so the bust and waist ratio is greatly different than today.  The seam allowance is 3/8″, which is standard for this period.  And the instructions are unillustrated and pretty difficult to go by, so it is best if you are familiar with period constructions and are used to using antique patterns.  The skirt is meant to be faced, but if I faced it instead of hemmed it, the dress would have been floor length and not the shorter length like in the illustration.  The buttons on the belt are shown with buttonholes.  If they are, they are faux, as there is nothing for the bottom button to attach to.  I used large snaps to secure the belt and attached the buttons to the top of the fabric as decorative instead of functional.  In the end, all I can say is definitely make a mock up.

In the end, I do really like the dress.  If I make it up again I will make some sleeve alterations for more movement.  But it does give a great period look.  When I first tried it on I hated it (it has a raised interior waistband, similar to many patterns of this age), so with the raised waist and the gathered bodice and gathered skirt it was somewhat unflattering on me and made me look like a long rectangle.  BUT, when you add the wide belt on top it totally changes it and makes it actually quite pretty for a dress of this period.  It does feel pretty to wear, and I need an excuse to wear this somewhere!

The photo effects in this post are done with Lo Fi, which has a great filter comparable to early color film, which I love.  The shoes are by Oak Tree Farms and are the Catherine boots.

Disclaimer:  I bought all the products mentioned in this blog post and thoughts shared here are my true and honest opinion.

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17 thoughts on “Finished Project: 1917 Checkerboard Ruffle Dress

  1. Ooh!! Love this dress! I like how simple looking fashions of this era are, even with all the great details on them like the collar and the ruffles (!!!). Is the fabric you used the type that would be typical of the time and/or would you use something different next time (something with more drape)? Thinking on fabric I could use on this pattern… :^)

  2. You know, when I first saw this pattern, I seriously disliked it. Seeing it made up helps a ton! You did a wonderful job with it!

  3. It looks absolutely lovely!! So period!! This is my favorite clothing era (WWI) and there are so few reproductions made in the blogging sphere. Gorgeous!

  4. Gaaaaaa Sooooo pretty!!!!! I wish we could still play dress up. Totally need more events to do so in a more “mature” way. You are an inspiration.

  5. I’m far from attempting something like this, but wow, awesome dress!! Sort of reminds me of Lady Edith. :) {She’s currently my fave Crawley sister and I’m pretty obsessed with her fab style.}

  6. Love it! The wide belt really does make the dress. I think it’s awesome that you did a period that isn’t done very often. While these WWI era clothes look kind of frumpy at first glance, they’ve definitely grown on me. I just got a ca. 1915 brooch as a present and am thinking I need to make an outfit to go along with it one of these days, so your post was very timely!

  7. I *just* found your blog (via Zine app) and I am in love with your latest dress! And I’m pretty thrilled about exploring your site. It’s always so fun to find others who embrace historical clothing. Okay, I’m off to buy the pattern.

  8. Gorgeous, Lauren! I really adore the ruffles especially. I’ve had my eye on a couple of the 1910s reprint patterns from Past Patterns for years, and am crazily thinking I now need a few because I just finished that corset. haha!

  9. This is such a great style! I love the sleeves, the shape of the bodice, the sash, the ruffles, everything! Great job on a lovely dress, as per the usual. :)

    How much more room did you find you needed in the sleeves?

    • Thanks! It’s a quirky little dress, much different than my average expectations of a dress from this period.

      I actually got really lucky and just made it up, but that’s also why I didn’t wear it to the dance. My fabric was super cheap, so I figured if it didn’t work it would be my muslin. If I make it again I’ll do an adjustment for the upper sleeve width, since the tension there is the most restrictive for me.