Saturday, July 11, 2009

McCall 2523 - Ladies' One-Piece Slip-On House Dress

First half of the 1920s.

Made up in a cotton shirting that was on sale for a few dollars a yard, with white pique trimming.

Finished measurements:

Center back length: 51 1/2"
Actual bust measurement: 53"
Actual hip measurement: 55"
Belt finished measurement: 40"

House dresses don't get much simpler than this. You really don't need to spend 30 cents for a pattern. The Lesson II book of Isabel Conover DeNyse's A Complete Course in Dressmaking, Aprons and House Dresses, shows a very similar dress on its cover, and then guides you through making a simple house dress pattern from a blouse pattern.

The only construction instructions on this McCall pattern are on the back of the envelope.

As usual with garments that don't have shoulder seams, a directional print will be upside down on the back unless you add a shoulder seam. You're assumed to know how to make a slashed opening (either bound or faced) and how to attach a collar with a bias facing.

The sides are finished with french seams and the 3" hem is sewn by hand. After I'd finished buttonhole stitching the loop for the button I remembered reading somewhere the tip to make tatted rings to whip on in place; as far as I know this is the only really practical use for tatting.


Shay said...

Hey, now! I find lots of practical uses for my tatting.

Well...uses. Maybe not practical because it does have to be ironed :-p said...

It sort of depends on how many tatted snowflakes or antimacassars or place mats you find it completely necessary to have for the smooth running of your household. The snowflakes have to be starched as well as ironed, and somehow, I'm never that bored!

Canterfeet said...

I think that turned out really pretty - for such a simple dress - the white pockets and collar really pop (and lovely stitching, too) I so love your work! said...

Thank you! The checked fabric is very nice quality, and I think that helps a lot - there is nothing worse than having to fight with your goods, even if the pattern is simple.

The pique, on the other hand, while a very good quality fabric, was really hard to sew and had very little give on the bias. I think the rest of it will be reserved for mens' shirt fronts.

Diane Shiffer said...

oh andrea... girl, you know what I like! and how kind of you to include the instructions so we can all make up our own☺

I think I may just *need* to do this one up.... ahhh something to fill all those empty hours;)

MotherLoadTV said...

Andrea I have a blue door too! And I love the house dress, So cute! I'm a mom of two girls and need something cute and practical .I'm gonna try this and if it gets too tricky I'll get "my sewing girl" to do it. Thank you! said...

Hello MotherLoad,

There are some very nice "See-and-Sew" type patterns that are inexpensive and give a very similar look to some of the old house dresses. You might want to start with one of these.

Housedress styles are generally pretty simple, so you can have loads of fun with the fabrics. Quilt shops generally have great selections of vintage 1920s and 1930s cotton prints.

Diane Shiffer said...

andrea.. I came back because I am pining for that book. I've yet to see it anywhere else, so I must content myself with coming over here to visit you and gaze longingly at its picture;)

I've yet to make this dress up, but I have purchased a sweet pale green with cream colored dots. I'm not sure of the trimming yet though. said...

These books were originally sold by the complete set. Sometimes you find the sets, sometimes you find the single volumes. I think I have eight of the 12. They do show up on ebay now and again, or try regularly.

Most sewing books of the 1920s have similar instructions, including the Women's Institute book Aprons and Caps

But you can also take a modern blouse pattern that you like and follow the same instructions.

Diane Shiffer said...

Andrea.. I just wanted to let you know that I made up this dress today from the instructions you scanned. I think it turned out quite nicely, if I do say so myself... although I must admit that upon seeing it, my son asked, "Is that an ummm... a sleeping dress?" eep.

I 'm doing a post on it right now, and will ink back to you and your wonderful blog☺

Little Black Car said...

Once again, I'm getting in here way after the fact.

I recently ran across this interview of Elda Danese, author of The House Dress: A Story of Eroticism and Fashion, which I am dying to read but haven't gotten ahold of yet.

I found it rather insulting, really.

I feel now like I need to campaign more for housedresses in their own right. I'm irritated that such a comfortable and practical item of clothing is being snubbed because of past associations.

They're cuter than sweats. Woven cotton is much cooler and more comfortable than T-shirt knits and jeans in our hot, humid, Southern summers. They're easy and convenient--no matching tops and bottoms. I make my own from old patterns, which means I can choose better-quality fabric and finish all the seams so they don't fall apart after three washes. I'm absolutely shocked at how flimsy store-bought clothing is these days. Everything looks like it's made of cheesecloth.

(Boy, do I sound old or what?)

For the record--the One Hour dress patterns that are available in several forms on CD-ROM on eBay do essentially the same thing as these books. When I make them, I curve the side seams in, and make the back out of two pieces with a curved-in seam down the middle, to make them less baggy. You may also need bust darts if you're buxom. But, basically, they're quite practical. You can make them pullovers, too, so you don't have to mess with fasteners. said...

The author of the book raises some ideas that I've been interested in as well (and, had she seen this post , she would have noticed that I've managed to trace high fashion's appropriation of the wrap dress as far back as 1950.)

I'm not entirely convinced, as the book author appears to be, that younger women don't have the personal history to "read" the gender, economic, or class messages of house dresses that older women have; it would splendid to think that they do "get it" and choose to thumb their noses at this history by transforming house dresses (or, more accurately for this discussion, wrap dresses) into something sexy.

For my own part, I'm happy to honor the gender and cultural history of women's workwear, but with you, I concentrate on the appeal of quality materials, careful workmanship, and a much tidier look than sweats. And darn it, I do wear my house dresses past my front sidewalk!

Kelsey said...

Though I'm almost a year late in responding to this discussion about house dresses, I really want to join in!
First off, I think this is an adorable dress, I love house dresses, and I'm a nineteen-year-old college student.
So there! I am one of your "young women" choosing to "thumb their noses..." :)

This from that interview really annoyed me: "And what is more important is that it is related with housework, something women try to do less and don’t want to show they do. It lowers your position in society... "

Housework isn't the most fun thing to do, but I am PROUD to do it. In my opinion, people who don't do it themselves (unless for a very good reason) are those with a lower social position; they are far more worthy of disdain than people who work hard to be self-sufficient.

Anyway, the house dress is cute and practical. If the house dress needs to be made into something "sexy," isn't self-sufficiency sexy? My boyfriend thinks so anyway! And he likes to brag to his friends about having a girlfriend who knows how to cook and sew her own clothes, ha ha.