Present Conditions – McCalls 5229

My first daliance into 1940s wartime patterns.


This pattern has a reminder of the Civilian Clothing restrictions on the front, but also has a reminder inside of the present conditions as a reason for an unprinted pattern. You can read all about Civilian Clothing restrictions on the excellent blog Cargo Cult Craft. When you start to look at this sort of stuff it gives you a deeper understanding of history and a tiny glimpse into  what was going on and how the ‘present conditions’ affected everything.


I don’t mind unprinted patterns, but I understand why they might be a little daunting for a beginner seamstress. When you’ve got diagrams and clear instructions it’s reasonably easy to figure out, but I guess a little time consuming.


Anyway, the dress. (The photos aren’t great as my camera seemed to struggle with all the red.) It’s made from a cotton/linen blend with a nice texture to it. The pattern size is 36″ bust, however I am a 34″. I folded out some space in the back bodice, and added my usual extra length in the bodice. I ended up taking in the side seams by about an inch each side, and also found I had to take in the skirt at the side seams quite dramatically. There was a lot more ease than I was expecting.  With hindsight, I should have taken in the seams at the front and back skirt gores. The sleeves are shortened by around two inches, and I had to fiddle about with the sleeve cap ease, as there was over 4″ of sleevehead to ease in. Casey knows best, this wasn’t going to work itself out.


I also interfaced the collar, which the pattern didn’t mention. I’m happy that I didn’t interface the bodice edge as it allows the bodice to be a little blousey. Otherwise it may have been a little too stiff.


The dress has lapped seams, which were quite nice to do. I topstitched them using regular thread, and a stitch on my machine that does three straight stitches side by side. Not sure if this has an official name or not. It makes for a more prominent stitch line. The buttons are vintage from my collection, I’ve been waiting to use them for a long time.


Also, bound buttonholes, and thread belt loops using this tutorial from Oliver + S. This is so easy to do, and so much more delicate than big fabric belt loops. It fastens with snaps down the side too.


The insides are all overlocked. The fabric frayed quite easily, so this seemed like the safest and quickest measure. It’s not period-specific but I may as well take advantage of what sort of seam finishes can be done now. There was something nice about mixing an old pattern with new techniques. I also did this on my Eva Dress evening gown. Does anyone else use modern techniques to finish vintage dresses, or is it better to stick with tradition?



  1. I love that pattern and I love your version. Simply gorgeous, inside and out.

  2. Beautiful style and color and your bound buttonholes look wonderful (what I could see of them). :)

  3. […] 1940s austerity dress. I love wearing this dress, I forget how much I like the 1940s silhouette. […]

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