I found this wonderful free 1950s style Bette dress pattern when surfing for some vintage style patterns online. It is on British Sew magazine webpage and you’ll only need to log in to download the pattern. I spend some time on the Sew magazine pages and there are also tons of other great patterns offered for free.
Bette dress is a classic 1950s dress with a nipped in waist and 5 panel skirt. If you want your skirt to have that 1950s volume and gathers this is a wonderful pattern for that. Although for the full 1950s look you’ll need to wear a petticoat to lift the skirt up.
I had about 3 metres (or 3,5 ?) of this nice floral satin cotton. This wasn’t enough for the dress originally especially since I couldn’t have my flowers growing downwards, but then I measured the skirt length and it was way too long. After chopping of the excess I was just able to cut all the pieces. I made the bodice lining of white Liberty cotton tana lawn.
I was keen on starting and made a basic beginner mistake of not trying the pattern pieces on myself before cutting. I had measured the waist and the bust widths but after sewing the bodice up I realised that the front neckline was huge. So what to do? I did not have enough fabric left to cut another bodice so I got an idea. I made a fake hidden button band to the center front. The hidden button band is basically a big vertical pleat that takes up the extra fabric at the neckline. At first I thought to actually add buttons to the button band but then started liking the bodice just as it was. Of course, now that the neckline was fixed the rest of the bodice was too small for me. I was able to let out the side seams a bit and when that wasn’t enough I removed the back darts.
The skirt was a easy job after all that mess with the bodice. After I sewed the skirt to the bodice I however noticed something weird. The waist seam seemed to dip down in the back. I pondered whether I was bothered by this for a while but finally ripped the waist seam and removed almost an inch from the bottom of the back bodice.
No further complications arose when inserting the invisible zip and hemming the skirt. Despite my rigorous fitting there is still some extra centimetres at the waistline. To get a nice hourglass look of the 1950s I added four belt loops so that I can tighten the waist when I want.
Despite all my struggles I can still recommend this pattern and not only because it is free. I have narrow shoulders and am familiar with all sorts of neckline/shoulder issues. If I had just paid some attention in the beginning I could have saved myself from all the trouble.
I am really happy with the outcome even after all the struggles. The fit is fine and the fabric suits the dress nicely. I like the fabric pattern especially because it is not a traditional floral pattern but a more calm one with clovers and other humble meadow flowers with rye spikes.
For the photos I did my best to make myself a 50s style updo and dug out my tulle petticoat and the white strappy sandals. The dress calls for a blue vintage style belt but I had to settle for a modern red one.
Finally I couldn’t resist doing a little twirl! I hope I can find a summer dance or something to put this dress to the test! Thanks for visiting my blog and if you like these posts please subscribe!