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Making a Retro Maternity Dress | Part 1: Drafting the Pattern

Updated: Nov 2, 2021

I went out of my “style comfort-zone” with this dress. I thought it would be a good idea to have a loose, tent-like dress for later in my pregnancy. I made this dress using a “yarn-dye” linen with a fine black and white checker pattern.

Retro Maternity Dress back
Back view of the finished dress

Drafting the Pattern

To create the pattern, I traced off my close fitting dress block to get the shape of the yoke of the dress. I added the wide neckline I wanted, then cut it off a few inches below that. The yoke swoops up to its shortest in the centre front, and gets longer in the back. This was a total experiment but it ended up looking good. I also removed a dart from each neckline to prevent gaping. This is a mandatory step whenever you are lowering a neckline on a pattern.

For dart control in the front, I simply incorporated the dart into the seam between the yoke and the skirt. I kept the back waist dart where it was.

For the collar, I followed the instructions from my pattern drafting book, Metric Pattern Cutting, for drafting an “Eton collar”.

The sleeves were made using a short puff sleeve pattern I had drafted for a previous project, with a narrow cuff at the bottom. They were either from my “18th Century Little Black Dress”, or my “Regency-Inspired Dress”.

Retro Maternity Dress Pattern Making
Drafting the skirt using my bodice block

Finally, I created the skirt using the remaining length of the dress block, and I widened it out to the full hip measurement so it was the same width all the way down. I also lengthened the hem in the front by about 8 cm, to allow for my baby bump. And of course, I made the top of the skirt swoop higher in the centre-front, to allow for the shortened yoke in that area.

I created the facings, and totally guessed my way through adding a button placket (of a sort) to the top of the front skirt panels, which had a centre-front seam.

Retro Maternity Dress Collar
Drafting the 'Eton' collar

The Mock-Up

Foolishly, I only made a mock-up for the bodice, which had virtually no issues. The skirt, which I did not mock-up, had plenty of issues. More on that later. In theory, making what’s known as a “mini-mock-up” can be quite time saving if you only need to test out a small portion of a pattern.

The only changes I needed to make to the bodice yoke were lowering the armsyces, and lengthening the back collar to allow for the dramatic roll line the collar ended up having.

Retro Maternity Dress Mock-up
Trying on the 'mini mock-up'. I should have made a full mock-up however

All the Things I Should Have Done Differently

The main problems were in the skirt, and all could have been prevented if I had made a mock-up for this area. I should have allowed much more width in the skirt panels than I did. I ended up having to add skirt godets which added more work to the project and interfered with the pattern of the fabric. I also should have made the skirt a bit longer, and the button placket could have been done better. I still don’t know how I would go about improving that, though. In Part 2, the sewing, I will go over how it caused me issues.

Stay tuned for Part 2 where I will go over the entire sewing process of this dress! Let me know what you think in the comments below.

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