If you hadn’t heard, I placed 2nd in the Wardrobe Sudoku contest.  This makes for my first Patternreview voted win, so I’m proud for that!  I’m going to use my Sawyer Brook gift card towards some tailoring supplies I’ll need for a very special project for my husband later this year.  A big big thank you to all who voted for me!

dress like your grandma

Dress Like Your Grandma

The phenomenally talented Tanya of Mrs. Hughes has been in the process of hosting the Dress Like Your Grandma Challenge.  Tanya writes,

“This is a vintage sewing challenge where family history can inspire your wardrobe.  Take a photo of your grandma (or your grandpa, great-grandma, mom, aunt, someone else’s grandma —  you get the idea!) and re-create an outfit or piece that they are wearing.  Many of us don’t have vintage garments to remember our loved ones by or perhaps we can’t fit into what they left behind.  Re-create that image with vintage patterns, reproduction patterns or modern patterns.  If your style is different from a family member’s or you want to evoke a different era, find a vintage photo with a garment that suits you and re-create that.  The idea is to study a vintage photograph (1980’s or earlier) and transform that photo into a garment or outfit that you’ve sewn yourself.”

For me, as I’m sure for everyone else, it was good to talk to my family members and just to plain remember a special lady.  One of my aunts sent me a string of great pictures, and I found my Czech Great-Grandma’s wedding picture.  That look, straight out of 1930 I couldn’t do justice to in the time I had available to me.  Another time!

dress like your grandma

My Grandma

For me, I chose to make something in the style of my Dad’s Mom.  As 1 of 12 children (9 of them brothers!) to my first generation German great grandparents, she learned early on to be patient and kind.  To that end, she raised 6 of her own children, loved my Grandpa for over 50 years, and saw at least some of her 17 grandchildrens’ children before she died when my husband and I were dating.  She did crosswords daily, loved a good cup of strong coffee, and had an uncanny ability to hold onto the ace of trumps until the last trick of nearly every round of pinochle.  Of her sewing, my Dad remembers that she could look at a piece of clothing and free cut a pattern from brown paper bags.  I will always remember her warm smile and her sitting by the window in my grandparents’ kitchen.  Here she is with my eldest aunt c. 1960.

dress like your grandma

She wears a floral high necked blouse and some sort of slim high waisted skirt in what looks like denim.  My mother-in-law said that she had some blouses from this time period that were similar.  I chose a vintage Butterick back-buttoned blouse pattern and a Burdastyle high waisted pencil skirt to recreate my Grandma’s look.

Vintage Butterick 2545

Image result for butterick 2545

This pattern is pretty simple.  Containing just a front, back, and sleeve, this is a great little short top from the era.  There’s a stamp on the back of my envelope marked ’62, and that fits with some of the dating estimates for Butterick patterns.  I only had the size 14, so I graded it down to a 10 for a better fit for me.  It’s one of my sewing goals this year to learn how to grade single sized patterns, so I was glad to have a pattern to practice with.  This is one of the first vintage patterns I ever bought years ago when the idea of a back-buttoned blouse seemed really intriguing.

dress like your grandma

Grading down

I’ve been going through this Craftsy class on grading patterns at the behest of my sewing friend, Linda, and it really got me through this project.  Kathleen Cheetham does a great job explaining the basics of grading.  I had no problem grading this pattern, and I was surprised at how quickly it came together.  I have several too big for me vintage patterns that I’d would be good candidates for grading!

High, high sleeve caps

dress like your grandma

The only issue I came across in the pattern was an absurdly high sleeve cap.  I thought I had made a mistake in the grading process, but I remeasured the original sleeve, and there’s well over 2″ of ease in the sleeve.  Who knows, but maybe this is just a feature of sleeves from this time period.  Peggy Sagers once said in a workshop that I went to that woven tops should have just 1″ of ease, and jackets 2″.  Whether that’s true or not, it turns out that that is what I prefer.  I really dislike setting in sleeves with the big 4 basting threads method.  You almost always get little puckers, and I prefer nice smooth sleeve caps.  To avoid this little bit of nastiness, I measured the sleeve cap along the seam line and took out 1.25″ length to get down to my 1″ of ease.  In order to do this, I used the French curve to redraw a flatter sleeve cap.


I chose a piece of vintage fabric from my stash for this.  After a burn test, for all I could tell it’s silk.  It certainly has the hand of a silk.  At any rate I’m 100% sure that it’s a natural fiber that’s neither cotton nor linen.  Because it’s sheer, I underlined the front and back with a yellow cotton voile.  I added a bit of lace on the edge of the facings.

Vintage methods

dress like your grandma

The pattern directions tell you to blind-hem the sleeves and hems.  This was easy to do with my underlining.  I stitched down the facings invisibly to the underlining as well because I prefer facings that sit completely flat.

I’m choking!

The only thing that I’m not 100% sure about is the button placement.  I first sewed on the buttons with the buttons a little further into the back and the placket sat nice and flat.  The only problem is that the neck is so high that that little bit of circumference out of the back made for a neck that was bordering on choking me.  After moving the buttons closer to the edge of the placket, I could breathe much easier, but the bottom button puckers a bit.  Why would the narrower placement yield a smooth back and a wider one one that puckers?  It’s possible that sewing up the vents on the was not helpful for that last button, though I like the smoother look on the front.  I did think that the buttons were really far apart vertically just compared to a standard front-buttoned shirt.  Either way, the level of the neck is a feature I’m glad to see has lowered to a more comfortable place in the last 50+ years.

dress like your grandma

Burdastyle 2-2011-107 High Waisted Pencil Skirt

There’s not a lot to say here.  I like pencil skirts, but I’ve never made or worn a high-waisted one.  High-waisted styles are not things I gravitate towards.  On pants, for instance, low-waisted generally means just about right.  I just have less vertical space for these things, so I always have wondered if high waisted would mean somewhere up to my armpits.

Thankfully, Burda is not outrageous.  This is indeed high-waisted, but it sits actually pretty comfortably on me.  I cut a straight 34 with no alterations.

The fabric is cut from if you can believe a muslin of another skirt.  I had leftovers of this cotton/poly two-faced denim from another skirt, and just eeked out the skirt from it.  There is an extra seam from the yoke of the other skirt, but I was glad to use it up.  The only thing I don’t like about this fabric (and indeed why I ended up not wearing the original skirt) is that it’s shiny and the poly makes the seams a little poofy.  Natural fabrics just press so much better.  Still, it was the best fabric in my stash to mimic my grandma’s skirt.

Again, I’m not 100% sure about the fit of this one.  Are those wrinkles fit, or a need for ironing?  I think I’m realizing that for all of my knowledge and experience, I have some room for growth in fitting wovens.  This is the first time in my sewing life that I haven’t had to contend with the wildly variable size changes of pregnancy, so it’ll be interesting to see how my learning goes from this point forward.

Recreating the photo

dress like your grandma

It was a bit of fun to try and mimic the photo of my Grandma.  My own daughter is much younger than my aunt was here though my Grandma and I are really close in age.  I didn’t have a floral curtain, so I picked up a piece of very funky very 70s upholstery fabric and one of my tablecloths for a backdrop.  Ultimately, cutting and pasting my aunt was extra fun.

dress like your grandma

Joining the challenge

You still have some time to complete your grandma looks.  Tanya extended the deadline through until April 24th.  Even if you’re late joining the party, you can check out all of the great looks that people have put together on the Dress Like Your Grandma challenge Pinterest board.  Share your looks too on Instagram with the hashtag #dresslikeyourgrandma.


Elizabeth is a self-taught sewist with a love for all things DIY and creative. Her friend calls her "The Fabric Manipulator" and she's always looking for ways to squeeze the most out of her sewing time in between caring for her 4 kids and husband.


  1. Linda Lott Reply

    Great job Elizabeth. That top is do darn cute. Loving that fabric too. The skirt is really nice, as well. Although not something my body could wear – I’ve got to much of a tummy.

    • elizabethmadethis Reply

      Thank you! The floral stuff aged in my stash for a really really long time, and I was glad to put it to use!

  2. Beautiful! I so love how you photoshopped in your aunt! I’ve made two back button blouses and I never wear them as they must just not be my style!

    • elizabethmadethis Reply

      Thanks Tanya. I did the cut/paste because I knew my aunt would think it’s funny! After making it, I think it’s a tricky style–I wonder if that’s not why they fell out of fashion.

  3. I’ve made a couple of vintage tops that choked me too! How funny that the patterns were designed that way. Nice outfit, going to have to check out that pencil skirt pattern!

    • elizabethmadethis Reply

      June Cleaver couldn’t breathe. Now we know!

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