Pioneer Dress

I am a beginning seamstress. I am attempting to teach myself to sew.

I have wanted to buy a pioneer dress for a couple of years now but, there seems to be no store selling such dresses. So it seems to be that I have no choice but to make my own pioneer dress. I bought a McCall’s pioneer dress costume pattern #9423.

To make the pioneer dress I bought 5 yards of 45 inches wide cotton fabric and 3/8 yard of interfacing. I also will use 2 buttons from my button collection and ½ yard of recycled elastic.

Cutting Layouts

First, I cut out the pattern pieces for the pioneer dress. I cut out these pieces: front yoke, back yoke, collar, dress front, dress back and sleeve.

 Then, I laid the pattern pieces on the fabric according to the layout directions and pinned them down with stick pins. To maximize the use of the fabric I made sure to layout the pieces paying close attention to the placement of the pattern pieces. Some pieces calls for placement on a fold or on the edge next to the selvage. The selvage is the outside edge of the fabric. Also I pay close attention in the layout directions so I will make sure that I am laying the pattern pieces printed side up or printed side down.

Next, I cut carefully along the pattern cutting line with scissors making sure that I cut notches outward. I make sure to cut out the number of pieces that are printed on each pattern piece.

Lastly, I cut out the 2 interfacing patterns. Interfacing is material that is used to make a collar or other part of a garment more rigid.

Sewing Directions

I pinned each interfacing to the wrong side of 2 of the front yoke sections and then basted the interfacing into place. Basting stitches are long removable stitches that you can hand sew or use the sewing machine selecting a straight stitch with the longest stitch length.

I stitched the front yokes to 1 back yoke using a ½ inch seam. I then ironed the seams flat. Then I stay-stitched the neck using a ½ stitch from the edge. Stay-stitch is used on curved edges of garments to help stabilize the curve. I clipped to the stitching. Clip to stitching means to clip with scissors right up to the stitching without cutting the thread. Clipping is making a perpendicular to the seam V- shaped cut in the fabric (If you notice in the photo I cut right up to the stitching instead of clipping. Ugh! Rookie mistake!)


I basted the interfacing to the wrong side of the collar. I put the other collar pattern piece right sides together to this collar that I had basted with interfacing. I stitch along the outside un-notched edges with a ½ inch seam allowance.

I then graded the seam allowance of the collar. Grade seam allowance means that I trim one of the seam allowances so that the seam lies more smoothly when it is pressed. I graded the seam allowance that had the fabric and interfacing basted together.  I cut this seam allowance into half so that it will not be so bulky. I then clipped the outside curves of the seam that I had just finished stitching.

I then pinned the collar to the yoke and basted them together. I pinned both yokes with the right sides together and stitched them together. I turned the yokes out and basted the raw edges together and put to the side.

I next basted a 5/8 inch and a1/2 inch line of thread at the top of the dress front and the dress back. I gathered the top of the dress front and dress back by pulling on the basted thread. I stitched the front of the dress to the back of the dress by pinning the right sides together and sewing a 5/8 inch seamline along the side edges of the dress.


I pinned the yoke to the dress with the right sides of the dress facing together. I made sure to gather up the upper edge of the dress by pulling on the basted thread and then stitching the 2 pieces together.

On each sleeve cut out I basted a 5/8 inch and a 1/2 inch line of thread at the top of the sleeve. I gathered the top of the sleeve by pulling on the basted thread. I then stitched the raw edges of the sleeve together with right sides facing together.

I pinned the sleeves into the armhole and stitched into place.

I tried on the dress to measure for the length of the dress sleeves. After finding the correct length for me I turned under the edge of the sleeve ¼ inch and then stitched into place. I then made a casing of 1 inch to insert my ¾ inch elastic into. After sewing the casing for the elastic, I measured a piece of elastic around my wrist giving it an extra ½ inch. I insert the elastic through the opening of the casing with a big safety pin to help me guide the elastic through the casing. Once I got the elastic in I hand sewed the elastic together and then hand sewed the casing closed.

I tried on the dress again to measure for the hem. I had to hem it up quite a bit so I cut off part of them hem. I turned under the hem about ½ inch and pressed with an iron and turned up another ½ inch and then stitched the hem.
I felt intimidated to make the buttonholes since I have never done them before that I just sewed the buttons into place. I will learn to make them soon but for now that will do since I felt that I didn’t really need to button them up and there were more for design than actual use.

The dress seemed so big to me that I made a simple matching tie belt out of the hem that I cut off the dress. To make the tie belt I placed right sides of the material together and stitched on both long raw edges. I added a safety pin to the end of the belt to help me pull the material inside out so that the right side of the material was showing after I finished.

Here is the finished pioneer dress. It does have a bit of pucker where I had to gather the sleeves in the armhole and where I sewed the yoke to the dress front and back.  I can see these mistakes but I am getting better. I still need to sew the apron and the bonnet to make the pioneer outfit complete.
I continue to practice sewing to hopefully make near perfect one day.  I won’t give up on sewing. I will keep practicing until I can do it.


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