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Bestway 20602: Choosing a fabric

February 21, 2010
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So… I want to make this WW2-era day dress (main view, short sleeves) for summer, but I suck at picking fabrics to suit a project. Which fabric should I use?


  • I have a vision for this dress. I want to make the central panel in cream and the side panels in green, kind of like this. I am prepared to buy a white or cream fabric and dye it to suit.
  • This is an English summer we’re talking about, so keeping cool in the dress will be less of an issue than keeping warm.
  • A washable fabric would be nice.
  • The bodice has to ruche, but the skirt has to pleat.
  • I am not that stressed about using a period-accurate fabric.


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18 Comments leave one →
  1. February 22, 2010 5:57 pm

    Silk twill! Wash it in cool water on the delicate setting before you cut it and you can wash it that way after you sew it up. It would be lovely!

    • Susannah permalink*
      February 22, 2010 6:09 pm

      Ooh, now THAT is an idea.

  2. February 22, 2010 5:40 am

    Very cute pattern!
    Honestly, it probably was meant for a lightweight wool. If you want it to be washable, though, then you’ll have to go with a high quality cotton. It could have been done in silk, too, but again, the washable factor…
    Don’t use cotton any more lightweight than a tightly woven fine shirting. It will be limp or semisheer or frumpy. I’m picturing this working in a 97+% cotton/spandex blend, like some modern fitted blouses are. Sturdy, though.
    Try this site:

  3. JennySlash permalink
    February 22, 2010 4:58 am

    Wool Crepe would be beautiful!

  4. February 22, 2010 4:21 am

    I like the wool crepe or cotton-linen ideas… I make my son’s clothes out of 50%cotton/50%linen, and I LOVE working with it. super easy to wash, soooo soft, and quick to iron. You’d have to be prepared to iron the pleats every time, but I think it would be worth it…

  5. February 22, 2010 2:04 am

    I have seen some really lovely cotton silk blends as well. Like a cotton with 20% silk or so… They have a depth of color that you can’t find in just cotton. I think I have found them periodically on sale at fashionmartfabrics but I don’t see any up now. They are lovely though.

  6. February 22, 2010 12:19 am

    Wool crepe all the way!

  7. February 21, 2010 10:20 pm

    Ooooh. That will be an amazingly cute dress when all said and finished! :)

  8. February 21, 2010 7:43 pm

    The best fabric I can think of would be a lightweight wool crepe. Of course, there are washability issues, as well as dyeability issues, and you would have to line it.

    I like the linen suggestion best, but for short sleeves, you could also use a lightweight cotton twill. Something heavier than shirting weight, but not quite trouser weight.

    One suggestion about your vision for the dress. If you are going to use a lighter fabric and a darker one, you might want to put the darker fabric in the middle and the lighter one on the sides. Since darker fabrics recede, this will be more slimming.

    Another thing about mixing fabrics is that you should mix colors OR textures, not both. If you are using a lighter and a heavier weight fabric in the same dress, the fabrics should be the same color. It just looks too random if you do too much mixing.

    Perhaps I give too much thought to this sort of thing.

    • Susannah permalink*
      February 21, 2010 9:17 pm

      Oh no! I have no color nous of my own, so I’ve been relying on Adele Margolis, who assured me that the colors should go the other way around, with the light panel in the middle. So confused. But I am with you on not using more than one texture. Now I’m leaning towards linen for the dress, mostly because it’s the most likely to be available amid London’s not-very-prepossessing fabric selection. Does anyone have experience with cotton/linen blends?

      • Judi permalink
        February 21, 2010 9:36 pm

        Cotton-linen blends, in my experience, are an excellent combination of the crisp breathability of linen and the eminent washability (and slight reduction in unwanted creasing!) of cotton. I have not yet met a cotton-linen blend I didn’t like. That said, a wedding dress I’ve seen from the Forties with similar styling made in a much softer hand (probably a crepe-backed satin, but not being in the Textiles section, I didn’t get to handle it :( It has that soft, clinging drape but still took a pleat and gathered at the bust).

      • February 21, 2010 9:59 pm

        Just a thought on where to find a good fabric selection in London. Have you tried The Cloth House in Berwick Street. One of their shops does very interesting cottons & linens. You might find something there.

      • February 22, 2010 5:41 am

        Cotton/linen blends are very cute and versatile but super stiff, and they WRINKLE! When you stand up you see creases…

      • February 23, 2010 5:31 am

        The lighter colour in the centre makes me think of contemporary car interiors, but I think she’s right.

        And I fifth (or whatever) the crepe suggestion, and I can attest to linen being wonderful to breathe when it’s hot and keep you warm when it’s cool.

      • February 24, 2010 2:23 am

        Hmm, interesting. Maybe she said to use the lighter fabric in the middle to have the lighter fabric near your face?

  9. February 21, 2010 5:35 pm

    I think a linen-like fabric or a blend lightweight suiting would work. Also a faille or crepe. No 100% cotton, especially with long sleeves, it would wrinkle terribly at the elbows, although shirting or broadcloth if blended with polyester might work. I would try a small swatch and gather it like the ruching to see if you like the gathering.

  10. February 21, 2010 4:27 pm

    To be honest, I would use two different fabrics. For the ruched part, I would use an old sheet in a cotton-poly blend that has been washed to the point where it is really soft and drapey. For the pleats, I would use the same fibers, but in a new fabric, like Symphony broadcloth from Jo-Anns because it will hold the pleat well. Either that or you could do a shirting, or a thin wool and put backing fabric where the pleats are.
    Does the pattern offer fabric suggestions?

  11. February 21, 2010 3:53 pm

    I think that will be fantastic in those colors! As far as the fabric – you may have trouble getting one fabric to do both. But perhaps you could underline or interface the skirt to get crisp pleats? That way it could be drapey where you need it. I would think maybe a “linen-like” blend that’s washable? I don’t really know what the fiber content is on those though.

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