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Butterick 4790 Vintage Dress

I love bias binding. Yes, it’s nuts, but it’s true; I’ve always loved applying it and finishing off raw edges so neatly. You can see that this pattern’s appeal to me is obvious. And then there’s the construction — so flat! Just wrap around, close one clasp, button the front and off you go. This pattern is one of Butterick’s vintage collection. 1952, here I come!


Well, maybe not quite 1952 — the wacky print I chose is strictly modern, especially since it’s enhanced with my favorite ingredient: spandex. Love that stretch! As for the black trim? What can I say? I was going for drama.


The pattern’s great, truly easy-to-sew, and the dress makes up quickly. I loved it from the start, but my spouse didn’t. He pointed out that the neckline wasn’t really becoming on me. He was right. That’s not a neckline that looks good on everyone. It took several months before I decided what to do about it, and my decision was radical. I took the sweetheart neckline from this pattern:


and re-cut the front of my dress.


The result’s pretty nice, I think, and much more becoming on me.

I changed three other things as well: Instead of letting the wrap-around tabs meet end-to-end in the middle front, I overlapped them. I used two larger buttons instead of the three suggested.

Since I noticed that the under-sheath (the nearly-hidden front of the dress) tended to ride up when I wore the dress, I sewed the buttons to the bodice, and made buttonholes in both sides of the overlapping tabs on the skirt. This keeps everything in place nicely.

One last note: I made a narrow hem, faced with bias tape. I much prefer this type of hem when the skirt is this full and the fabric has some substance.

(The New Look pattern is 6723.)

Update 18 July 2008:  Vera, a reader from Portugal asked if I could provide more information about the way the dress is constructed.  Here’s the line drawing from the back of the pattern envelope:

The dress is made just like a sheath in front, with a slim, straight skirt.  This slim front skirt wraps around to the back and fastens at the center back waist. It ends up under the back skirt, which wraps over it.

The skirt that is attached to the back isn’t gathered — it’s almost a circle skirt.  This back piece wraps around to the front, over the sheath, and fastens at the center front waist.

I hope this helps, Vera, and I apologize for the delay in responding.  This has turned out to be an event-filled summer here, and I’m way behind on Noile dot Net and about a hundred other things, too.

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  1. Annette
    March 13th, 2012 at 20:21 | #1


    I just got this pattern & didn’t think it lookEd hard. I’m glad I looked it up & found your site. I’m loving the neckline you did. I’m going to try something similar! Thank-you!


    • March 17th, 2012 at 09:30 | #2

      It’s not hard, Annette, especially if you take your time with the binding. Have fun with it!

  2. Scheri Manson
    July 10th, 2010 at 23:42 | #3

    What is the pattern nmber of the New Look you used for neckline variation?

    • August 2nd, 2010 at 09:58 | #4

      It’s right there in the post, at the bottom, just above the update. One thing I try to be very careful about is attribution. I try never to leave a pattern number, or source, out of a post.

  3. October 31st, 2008 at 15:13 | #5

    Thanks for your note, Jenn, and good luck with your costume!

  4. Jenn
    October 31st, 2008 at 00:28 | #6

    Oh my gosh I am using that same pattern for a 1950s costume, and have just realised that the necline isnt flattering on me either! I was trying to imagine how I could modify the neckline but keep the dress in the right theme! But the other modifications you mentioned are going into it too! thanks for your help, and now that I have discovered your website i might just haunt it too!

  5. Jess
    October 8th, 2008 at 23:48 | #7

    I MADE THIS LAST YEAR! in my grade 12 sewing class. 😀 yours looks way better though :p

  6. June 18th, 2008 at 12:25 | #8

    Hi, Christina — sorry I didn’t get back to you faster; we’ve been traveling and without Internet access. I probably should have cut a size 14 in the pattern, but cut a size 12, which was almost right, but a little large in the waist.

    I overlapped the front and used an adjustable hook in the back to take up the difference — worked fine, though the overskirt doesn’t flare open as a result. But most other sewists reported that theirs didn’t flare when made according to the directions anyway.

    The real fit issue may be the bodice, which is broad and flat above the bust, and definitely fits in a true retro way. It kind of naturally looks a bit large, even if it technically isn’t. You can probably check that fit just using the tissue, though.

    Does that help? I’m thinking that you’re right about the 14 for you. It’s simple enough that a tissue fitting may give you all the information you need. It’s a great dress!

  7. Christina
    June 5th, 2008 at 21:42 | #9

    You did a great job! Did you notice if the pattern has a tendency to run kind of large? I bought an 8-10-12-14, and was planning to make it in a 14 (to give you some idea of my size, I wear a 12 store-bought, which is like a 16 or 18 in patterns) and I was hoping that a 14 would work. Have any insight?

  8. April 19th, 2008 at 17:32 | #10

    Thanks for your comments, all! wundermary, Cotton is such a wonderful fabric when spandex is added — so forgiving. Your mother was right; until I attached the buttons to the bodice, the dress was just about unwearable. But not any more!

    Issie and Lorraine, I was just plain lucky that the neckline worked so well, but I’m really glad it did. There’s something so cool about a dress like this one that doesn’t become a dress at all until you put it on.

  9. April 19th, 2008 at 14:30 | #11

    Wow Noile, you did a great job with this. The neckline just rules!

  10. April 19th, 2008 at 12:10 | #12

    Hi Noile,
    Just discovered your blog from the Dress a day site. Excellent job on the dress, really love the fabric and neckline.

  11. wundermary
    April 19th, 2008 at 11:49 | #13

    Noile, you did a very nice job with this! My mom had this pattern. I remember her commenting on how the dress didn’t fit well, she had ride-up issues with it and didn’t think the bias cut made the sides wrap quite the way they should. I’ve always shied away from it for those reasons.
    It sounds as though you’ve found a great solution in a fabric with a touch of spandex, attaching the buttons to the bodice and your neckline treatment is wonderful.
    I am thinking on giving this pattern a whirl!

  12. April 11th, 2008 at 17:35 | #14

    Thank you, Bunny! Now I’m really looking forward to making the New Look dress. I’ve just taken a quick look at your blog, and it’s going on my blogroll — it looks really inspirational. Thanks for introducing us!

  13. April 11th, 2008 at 14:29 | #15

    Great job on this pattern, particularly with the sweetheart neckline. I just found your blog tonite and it is wonderful. It is going in my blog roll. Bunny

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