Red Linen Peter Pan Collar dress from a 1963 pattern

sewing-with-vintage-patternsWhen I decided to make a Christmas dress for Lily to wear to her music concert at school, I let her help me choose the dress pattern. She chose a Helen Lee for McCall’s vintage pattern from 1963. She likes dresses that have a classic look for special occasions. The Peter Pan collar she was on the fence about but now she likes it. Now that she is 11, she is very specific about what she will and won’t wear and she doesn’t like a lot of the things that are marketed to her age group.
 After spending the day looking at lots of synthetic ill fitting dresses at the mall, I decided that yes, I simple must make her a dress. I have a problem with a lot of the cheapo fabrics that are available for girls dresses and I didn’t want to pay a fortune for something of a higher quality. So I made one, of course!There are lots of adorable dresses for younger girls but not much in the size 10 and up range. it’s sort of a no man’s land for dresses, the pre teen age group. And nice patterns aren’t that easy to find either.


Mccall's69751963That’s why we love vintage patterns. They have so many lovely details, like the piped Peter Pan collar, self belt, and piped cuffs. I love that they have darts to flatter a young girls figure and the buttons up the back are so classic. I’m not a fan of the  hook and loop back neck closures that a lot of modern patterns have. It’s a fine technique if you are just getting started making dresses but if we don’t challenge ourselves to make more sophisticated designs, we won’t ever improve as sewists, will we? Buttonholes and zippers aren’t really hard to make with a little practice. OK. lecture over!


I love this exaggerated Peter Pan collar with a high roll. It doesn’t lie flat because it’s drafted to stand up a little more.peter-pan-collarI used some red linen I got from the theater where I work sometimes. It was donated and then given to me along with lots of other lovely fabrics. The white cotton fabric I bought in Paris a few years ago and I love the small striped texture and weight of it for making collars.


We had some beautiful weather yesterday in the garden. I love California on days like this. Windy, warm, and balmy. Our giant oak tree is in the background. It’s been here since the Spanish days maybe.piped-cuffThe cuff should be turned up and it has a curve but you can’t se it here because she didn’t turn it up. It can be seen on the pattern envelope.

peterpandressLily just celebrated her birthday. We had fun and went rollerskating with her friends, then went out to eat crabs.


I made little belt loops and a belt from the fabric cut on the bias. I made a deep hem and used a catchstitch to hem it by hand. It gives the skirt a nice

sewing-with-vintage-patterns,1Thank you for stopping by!

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  1. Barbara J says

    Classic AND classy. Let’s not rush our girls into adulthood, right? This is beautiful and you should be thrilled that she loves it as much as you do.

  2. Judy says

    Happy Birthday Lily.. Love your dress. You Look Beautiful.

    Justine, i so agree with you, When girls leave the little girl sizes, there is nothing out there for them.. and the RTW clothes are awful….Ok, I just won’t go there. But Mama, you came to the rescue.. this dress is beautiful..Love the red with the crisp white collars and cuffs. Beautiful job. I too love vintage patterns for children..

  3. says

    I love vintage patterns, so it’s nice to see this! Beautiful dress and beautiful girl. I’m tempted to look through my vintage patterns now, even though I don’t have time to sew one right now. I have one or two from the fifties that I can’t wait to use once my kids grow into them.

  4. says

    I love seeing Lilly on the blog! She’s my favorite because she’s a picky thing like mine. I know this age is the hardest to sew for! You did an awesome job on this dress. I love the up close textile pics and how you describe fabric too. Happy birthday Lilly!

    • Justine says

      Thank you Amy! Lily is not such a willing model anymore these days so I was happt she agreed to be photographed…

  5. says

    I love this, Justine! It is really stunning with the red/white contrast and the nice, crisp collar. Good job!!!

  6. Carrie says

    Stunning!!! Well done…. Everything about it says classy. How many yards of linen?

  7. says

    Super cute! I’ve recently inherited a few girls 1960’s dress patterns (I think they are all around sz 12). I really prefer the style over a lot of modern dresses for that age group. Plus there’s so many more options for personalization for girls who are worried about their style.

  8. Carol says

    Justine, Lily’s dress is so pretty. I teach sewing, and you are right, there just aren’t many patterns out there for young girls. We end up “creating” our own sometimes. What a wonderful mom you are to take the time to sew your daughter a special dress. You are
    making good memories.

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  10. Elisabeth Mellon says

    Absolutely beautiful and perfect for that age group. My daughter is almost 10 and I agree there is nothing out there for them that is dressy and age appropriate. I made my girls’ Christmas dresses this year from a vintage pattern and had a ball. They also had Peter Pan collars and pinafores. I am developing a hobby/love of sewing from vintage patterns.