Sometimes you make things because you want them, not necessarily because they’re something that will be in constant rotation in your wardrobe. This dress is one of those things. I’ve been dreaming about having a 1950’s vintage peasant dress with Mexican inspired embroidery for a long time. I pondered a lot about this and last year picked up a vintage 1950’s peasant dress pattern to make one. I considered leaving it plain — sans embroidery — or asking my MIL to machine embroider it, but in the end I opted to embroider it all by hand, which definitely was the slow way to do this. It took me about two months to embroider the bodice and would have been much longer if I had embroidered larger flowers as I had originally intended to do. I even had aspirations of adding more embroidery to the skirt, but it became quite monotonous as I went along and I wasn’t even sure how long it would take to embroider the neckline. Two months seemed like a long time to me, but as a friend told me yesterday — it really isn’t that long — especially when one is crafting a labor of love.
My inspiration for my dress came via many photos I’ve seen over the years of 1950’s peasant dresses. During that time, American fashion was influenced greatly by Mexican and Southwest designs.I used a vintage pattern from the 1950’s to make this dress. I had to grade it up quite a bit (yes, this is the same dress from my shift grading tutorial), which of course led me to put this project off as I’ve had this pattern for over a year. This pattern does not have a date printed on it, but it’s definitely from the 1950’s and sources say it’s from 1951. This is a basic chemise dress with a gathered neckline and sleeves which looks rather like a tent when not belted.
I used a turquoise cotton broadcloth for this dress and sewed all of it together (with the exception of the bottom ruffle) before I began my embroidery. I did not do any gathering until after I was done with my handwork. My embroidery is all freehand and I didn’t have a pattern nor did I draw it out first. I actually hadn’t done any embroidery for many, many years, so I was just getting back into it when I started this. Instead of a traditional Mexican design I chose pansies as they are my favorite flower.
After I finished the embroidery, I made casings on the neckline and sleeves and added elastic. The pattern instructs to gather these and permanently sew them in, but I’m for a bit more comfort and opted for the elastic. I also finished my inside seams with my serger — so I’m obviously not a true vintage sewist. I like retro styles with more of a modern twist which includes making things the more modern way. This fabric also likes to fray a lot (and wrinkle!) and I didn’t want to deal with pinked seams while I was embroidering this.
I added two rows of coordinating ribbon above the bottom ruffle, which mimics my pattern and inspiration photos. I also made my leather and silver concho belt, which is what I had always intended on wearing with this dress. I live on a ranch and have been riding and roping since I was a kid, so this style suits me.
I’m not certain how often this dress will be worn, but it’s something that I’ve always wanted and I’m happy to have it in my closet. I did love making it and got so used to doing embroidery while relaxing on the couch, that when I was done, I didn’t know what to do with myself! So, I’d say that there will be more embroidered items in my future. 🙂