A Silk Taffeta First Communion Dress from a 1958 Pattern


first-communion-dress I finished the First Communion dress ! Actually it wasn’t totally finished but it was 5:30 PM on Saturday afternoon and the dress was supposed to have been delivered by 6 PM to the Reagan Presidential Library where the gala was being held a half hour’s drive away. Yikes! I still needed to get ready, too. I threw on a leopard skirt and black jacket and was out the door with hubby, dress form in tow for the display .

I hadn’t had a chance to add the sash yet, so it wasn’t quite finished in my eyes. Plus, If I had had more time I would have made a few more changes. But it would have to do.

A classic case of my not giving myself enough time for a project, stressing myself out, and feeling like a contestant on Project Runway. Do I see a pattern here?


The pattern called for soft pleats, and I just didn’t have time to get them right. My pleats were a mess, all crooked and sad looking, so I ripped out the skirt and made gathers instead. I wish I had had time to fix the pleats! They were a lot harder to make than I thought they would be…. it had been awhile since I sewed at this level. Modern patterns just don’t have the fraction of the details of the vintage ones.

That’s why I love vintage. I love a challenge!

So I just gathered the skirt. On top of that, the skirt was supposed to be cut in three panels . Well, having visual spatial problems: I have trouble seeing things in my mind if I don’t draw them out first, I figured since my fabric was much wider than the 36 inch fabric recommended on the 1958 pattern, I would just cut two wider pieces, RIGHT? WRONG. I failed to see the genius behind the pattern’s instructions and cut the two pieces of skirt instead of three. Well, of course that would cause the skirt to have a big fat seam going right down the MIDDLE of the skirt wouldn’t it? And I didn’t have time to remove it and fix it. I was so mad at myself!

( DOES THIS SEEM TO BE ANOTHER SYMPTOM OF MY INFLATED SEWING CONFIDENCE?) YES. Sewing is such a humbling experience sometimes.

richardandmeYours truly looking very tired after a full day of sewing this dress and only allowing myself 15 minutes to get ready.ย  haha!

communion-dressOK there is that seam in the middle. The person who bought the dress seemed to be quite happy with it anyway. If I hear from them about this seam , I will be more than happy to fix it! But alas, the buyer was someone who I didn’t know….

firstcommunion-dressOn a more positive note, I love, love, love the collar, tucks and pleats! I am now a tuck convert and look forward to creating a tutorial on how to create these cute little tucks. Oh and silk taffeta is just such a pleasure to work with. I can’t wait to sew with it again someday. The lace trim I had in my stash. I had bought a huge amount of it at the FIDM scholarship store for six dollars and never had a use for it until now. A case where my hoarding came in handy.


collarDo you see that weird collar? I noticed it was somehow strange when I put it on my dress form at 5 PM. I whipped it off took apart the collar and had it fixed in half an hour. Thank goodness, because there was no way I was going to sell the dress with that misaligned collar! I won’t even get started on my buttonholes. Suffice to say, I desperately need a new sewing machine that makes beautiful buttonholes. Mine just doesn’t cut the mustard. I tried hand working them but they just got worse. I need a new machine. Any suggestions?

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  1. says

    This whole post made me smile to myself, yes, sewing is so humbling at times, and I have had such similar experiences. You know though, this is a beautiful dress. We seamstress’ are sometimes so hard on ourselves, I still wake up in a panic stressing about the buttonholes on the wedding dress I made for my best friend almost 5 years ago. I can, it seems never be 100% happy with anything I sew.
    I love the tucks and the lace, just gorgeous. x

  2. says

    I don’t know on the sewing machine. I’m in the market too. Holding out for a Singer but they just aren’t what they used to be. I’m loyal to a fault.
    As for your dress…beautiful! You are so right that you don’t see those little details in modern patterns. The gathers are lovely, and I know you’re bearing yourself up about wanting pleats; but it’s very hard to get the fullness you see with pleats. Most of the vintage pattern illustrations are assuming the dress is worn with a perry skirt. So to me, it’s a win. A pleated skirt would’ve lay flat, and you have a nice full skirt that kept the shape intended.
    Hoarding is always handy…when is it not? Oh, I guess when your stash overflows…lol! Beautiful work J!

  3. Sally says

    I love your blog – have told you before…. You are so honest and inspiring. I just moved up (big time) from singer to a Laura Ashley brother. In-frigging-credible!! 13 different buttonholes just for starters!

  4. says

    I love the bodice with the pin tucks and the lace, Justine… lots of memories of outfits with pin tucks. We always wore petticoats under our dresses. Didn’t ever think about it at the time, but I suppose it made them appear fuller. A BEAUTIFUL dress!!!

  5. says

    I love my Janome 6500 memory craft. I wanted a nice buttonhole and my research led me to this machine. I have had it now for about 3 years and I’m very happy with it. I looked at some the other day in a local store. They have amazing machines out there now that you almost need a small loan for! One thing nice about having children who sew, I can hand this machine down to them when I need (can afford) an upgrade! LOL Beautiful dress. I wish my girls had an interest in this type of apparel.

  6. says

    This dress turned out amazing! I love the vintage style! You did a fantastic job on it! I don’t have any suggestions on a “good” machine but I’m sure you’ll find something great to work with ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. says

    Your dress reminds me of one I had as a child – very sweet!
    A friend of mine just bought a Brother Project Runway edition machine that has the coolest buttonholer ever! and the machine was just $400.00
    You drop the button into the attachment and the machine determines the size of the buttonholes.
    She made 8 buttonholes in 5 minutes.
    Hope you find a good one!

  8. Janlynn says

    Your dress is beautiful. I love the pleats. Sewing has humbled me quite a few times too. And we sexists always see the flaws that others don’t see. Don’t beat yourself up, you did a truly amazing job.
    Personally, I love my Babylock and Brother sewing machines. I used to only make items with zippers. Now I drop the button into the sliding part of the buttonhole foot, touch a button on the machine, and its sews a perfect buttonhole.

  9. Joan says

    I have the Project Runway Brother machine that Goodbye Valentino mentioned. The button hole foot is so much fun and so easy it feels like you’re cheating. You can just sit there and start it going and not even have to touch it. It makes several different kinds of button holes, too, and will sew on the buttons, but I haven’t had the courage to try that out, yet. The parts are generally plastic compared to other machines and the older ones, but I haven’t had a moment’s worth of trouble with it. I’ve had it 3-4 years and use it a lot. Love your blog! Thanks!