Retrofitting Vintage

The Popover Dress: A Pattern Review

Looking for an easy project with almost instant results? Try the Popover Dress from Gretchen Hirsch’s latest book.

If you sew vintage-style clothing, you’ve probably encountered the work of Gretchen “Gertie” Hirsch. She’s a pattern maker, fabric designer, blogger, teacher, and all-around superstar sewist. I couldn’t resist her latest book, Gertie Sews Jiffy Dresses, because it promised easy patterns, limited fiddling, and quick projects.

The Book:

Ms. Hirsch took her inspiration from the quickie dress patterns that were popular in the 1950s. The book has five main patterns, with variations making for 12 different dresses in all.

As with all of her books, the first half is devoted to sewing techniques and the second focuses on the patterns and their variations. The patterns are traceable, in sizes 2-16.

Her instructions are clear, and the illustrations and photography are lovely. I found the first half a good for a quick reminder of how to do things, but I’m not sure how comprehensive it would be if you had no idea.

The five main dress patterns are solidly 1950s in style: The Popover Dress, The Chemise Dress, The Swirl Dress, The Boatneck Dress, and The Patio Dress. They are not earth-shatteringly original, but that doesn’t bother me.

The easiest of all the dresses is the Popover Dress.

The Popover Dress

It’s Quick

People on Instagram keep saying they made it in two hours, but I’d say it probably took me closer to three, which I spread out over a couple days because I wasn’t in a hurry.

It’s Bigger Than You Think

A word of advice: Choose your size based on the finished measurements of the dress. This is essentially a tent dress until you belt it, so it’s very roomy. I went down two sizes from my bust measurements, and honestly, could have gone smaller.

Megan watering plants wearing popover dress
This dress is so comfy you can garden in it.

It’s Easy To Make

The Popover Dress is essentially four identical pieces, plus some facings and ties. You have to wear it with a belt if you want any waist-shaping, otherwise, it is an actual tent that you could camp in. No darts, no fasteners, no worries.

I’ve made the dress twice, and both times I had trouble with the cutting map. It’s entirely possible that I am just easily confused by maps, or misjudged how much fabric I needed. However, I did end up losing a bit of at least one skirt piece each time. This is not a big deal for me, because I am not tall. I’d have hemmed the skirt to that shortness anyway. You may be better at spatial relationships, and not have this problem.

The sewing was easy. No problems, nothing tricky. The Popover Dress comes together in short order, the actual sewing didn’t take long at all. As usual, the pressing, and hanging to stretch the fabric, and pattern-tracing all took much more time than I spent at the machine.

Pros and Cons of The Popover Dress

The Pros:

  • Giant Pockets!
  • Roomy = Comfy
  • It works well in quilting cotton, which is cheap!

The Cons:

  • The neckline is a little low, and I can’t think of a sewing fix that doesn’t involve redrawing part of the pattern. It reveals one of my heftier bras. Alternatives include inserting a panel, wearing a camisole, wearing a different bra, not giving a damn, or pinning a big hair flower onto your bra, eclipsing it.
  • You really do need one of those stretchy elastic belts for it to look right. My existing belts were not suitable.
Megan standing in front of a garden, in a popover dress
Look at the size of those pockets!

Make a Popover Dress, It’s Fun

If you want a comfy, simple summer dress, this is the pattern for you. I had fun making the two dresses I did, and will probably make another before the summer is through. Hurrah!

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