Sunday, March 9, 2014

Butterick 4724: The Story of My Saint Barbara's Day Dress

This morning I was relaxing with a cup of coffee while I surfed the internet, and I wandered onto my favorite vintage pattern site, Mom's Patterns.  It's always fun to find a pattern that I had back in the day, even more so when it's a pattern I actually made.  Imagine my surprise and delight when I found this, Butterick 4724 in the "just arrived this week" section:

From the website:  1990, 90s Glamour, Retro Evening Clothing Patterns - MISSES' DRESS Close-fitting, lined, boned dress, mid-knee or evening length (center back) and above mid-knee (center front), has princess seams and back zipper. A: tapered, short sleeves with boning and elastic. B: stays with attached, contrast ruffles with side front seams. B,C: inside belt. C: bias drape with bow and pleated knot and self-lined skirt. 

And here it is, View C, made up in Artillery Red Satin for Saint Barbara's Day.

Saint Barbara is the patron saint of Field Artillery and St. Barbara's Day, which falls on December 4th, is recognized with a military ball.

I made this dress for the 1990 St. Barbara's ball.  We were living in Germany at the time, and I had the pattern, but I had to have my mom send me the materials for the dress from the states.  If I recall correctly, it was about 7 yards of heavy satin, lining material, boning, zipper, etc.  She also got the shoes for me and had them dyed to match the dress fabric.  The fabric had to be just the right color- Artillery Red- for this special occasion.

I was very proud of this dress.  Other than my wedding dress, it was the biggest project I had made up until this point.  It was also the first time I made a length adjustment to a pattern... or really any kind of adjustment to a pattern.  I didn't know a thing about fitting.  I was young and relatively slim, so I just made things straight out of the envelope and assumed that the less than perfect fit was something I had to deal with just like RTW.  But I had noticed that dresses were often too short through the body, and I figured I could fix that.

I had never heard of a muslin, or a toile.  But I just decided to pull some ugly fabric out of my stash and cut just the bodice out and sew it up to try on.  When I got it on, I pulled it up so the bust was in the right place and I drew a line right onto the fabric right at my natural waist.  Then I tugged it down so the hips were in the right place and drew another line at my natural waist.  The distance between the two drawn lines, if I remember correctly, was about 1.5 inches.  So I cut my pattern pieces at the waist and added that much length.  The finished dress turned out perfect.  And I've been making that adjustment ever since.

While I was working on this dress we found out that my husband's unit was going to be sent to the Persian Gulf right after the new year.  The St. Barbara's Day Ball was canceled due to the preparations for deployment.  I finished the dress anyway and he left in January 1991.  Operation Desert Storm began on January 17, 1991.

My husband returned safely later that spring.  By the time December 4th rolled around again I was pregnant with our second son and I couldn't squeeze into my red dress.  I made a cute little baby-doll dress from a Vogue pattern that year, and the red dress sat in the closet.

It wasn't until St. Barbara's Day 1992 that I finally got to wear my dress- two years after making it.  That's when the photo above was taken.  It's one of my favorite pictures of the two of us.

I think I wore that dress for one more event a year or two later.  And I still love the look of that pattern. And I still like to wear red.


thornberry said...

That is a beautiful story, in so many ways ! And you look stunning in your dress. I made view C from that pattern, in burgundy. I still have it somewhere in a suitcase.

SewRuthie said...

What a great dress!

Karen in VA said...

What a gorgeous dress...and a great story and photo.

Linda T said...

Love to hear "history" stories like that. You did a wonderful job; the dress is just gorgeous. I can see why that photo is a favorite!

Angela said...

A beautiful dress and a great story to go with it:)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your story abut this pattern. Its lovely to hear other sewist's history. You look fabulous in it

Jeannie Watt said...

Great story, great dress!

Lucia said...

Lovely story to go with a lovely photo. You both look fantastic!

Audrey said...

What a great sewing story/memory. I am glad you did get the opportunity to wear the dress. You look gorgeous in it.