1940s “Swing” Dress Pattern

By Jennie Chancey

Here is my 1940s “Swing” Dress Pattern, inspired by an original Hollywood design, circa 1942. The design comes from the WWII days of fabric rationing, which meant narrower skirts and more tailored lines.

  • Sizes 8-26 all included in one envelope.
  • Unique yoke with gathered shoulders and two sleeve options (short and “bracelet-length”).
  • Gored skirt great for twirling! Put on your dancing shoes!
  • Transition this pattern to evening wear by lengthening the skirt.
  • Photo Instructions online (coming soon in PDF format).
  • Click to download the Swing Dress Pattern yardage chart.
  • Available for instant download as an ePattern in PDF format!
  • I also have an online class available for this pattern.
  • Also see Casey’s detailed and oh-so-helpful Swing Dress Sew-a-Long!

Thank you very much to customer-models Casey of Elegant Musings and Anna (pink) of Pleasant View Schoolhouse!

Note: If you purchased a copy of this pattern prior to January, 2008, click HERE for corrections/revisions.

As seen on CraftGossip.com

 
Paper Pattern $17.95

 
 

ePattern $9.95

 

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57 Comments on 1940s “Swing” Dress Pattern

  1. Caroline
    June 10, 2010 at 11:47 am (4 years ago)

    Can this dress be any prettier? It is just perfect!!

    Reply
  2. Timmie
    July 27, 2010 at 4:57 pm (4 years ago)

    I love this dress, I can’t wait to make another! I found it a little tight in the shoulder area, I can’t rotate my arms, but that might just be opperator error. Once I figured out the gathered shoulder the dress was a breeze! A favorite of mine, I hope there will be some additional patterns soon!!

    Reply
  3. Carol
    September 25, 2010 at 7:16 pm (4 years ago)

    I just love this pattern/style. My question is: I am not a small woman. I would need a plus size. Would this cut be flattering for a larger woman, or, and please do be frank, should I bypass this style? Thanks, and love this site!!

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      September 25, 2010 at 7:57 pm (4 years ago)

      Hi, Carol! This does work nicely for plus ladies, because the surplice bodice with cummerbund is very flattering. The A-line skirt also gives a nice, slimming shape. Just make sure you’ve got undergarments that fit nicely, and you’ll be ready to go!

      Reply
  4. Rachel
    October 12, 2010 at 10:24 pm (4 years ago)

    The third picture from the end reminds me of a picture of my grandmother from WWII. The black hair, the dress, Oh My! Brings tears to my eyes. I love it!

    Reply
  5. McKenna
    November 16, 2010 at 4:46 pm (4 years ago)

    Can you suggest where I can find more WWII style patterns? Especially men’s military uniforms?

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      November 16, 2010 at 7:20 pm (4 years ago)

      Hi, McKenna! eBay is a great source for vintage patterns. Menswear from WWII tends to be harder to find than womenswear, but it’s out there. Military patterns do not exist from that time period, as the various branches created their own uniforms. However, you can still find “costume” military patterns from time to time (also check eBay and places like MonsterPatterns.com). Hope this helps!

      Reply
  6. McKenna
    November 29, 2010 at 10:57 pm (4 years ago)

    Thanks so much! I’ll definitely look into that.

    Reply
  7. loukoulia
    December 13, 2010 at 4:30 pm (4 years ago)

    hi, If i order this epattern i can have it and print it the same day?
    and which type of fabric is best for this dress?
    thanks

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      December 13, 2010 at 4:57 pm (4 years ago)

      Yes, you get the download link from E-Junkie within minutes of completing your order. :) The yardage chart gives you a list of recommended fabrics, and you can download it free by clicking the link above. Hope this helps!

      Reply
  8. Victoria Winters
    January 14, 2011 at 3:10 pm (4 years ago)

    This a beautiful dress!
    I revieved the “Elegant Lady’s Closet” pattern for Christmas. I can’t wait to start sewing them!
    It’s hard to find modest dresses such as these.

    Reply
  9. Emily
    January 27, 2011 at 12:07 am (4 years ago)

    i have been searching for a pattern like this for a long time. i love the style, but my problem is that i am very large chested, esp. after having a baby. do you know of any tutorials or help that would assist me in fixing a pattern like this? i’ve gotten help when it comes to darts in shirts, but most of the time if i make the top to fit in a larger size, that also means the armholes are huge, and it doesn’t fit properly. wondering if this would be the right pattern for me. thanks for all the wonderful patterns and photos!

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      January 27, 2011 at 3:11 am (4 years ago)

      Hello, Emily! Several ladies who are “E” and “G” cups have put up helpful tips on my Message Forum explaining how to enlarge a bodice without enlarging the armholes at the same time. There are two main ways to do this. For “DD”, usually just lengthening the bodice adds the needed room. For “E” and above, you will need to lengthen the bodice through the upper chest (through the center of the armhole) and the lower edge. You take up the extra room in the armhole by adding a side dart (as is done in my 1910s Tea Gown supplement for sizes 18-26DD). Definitely pop over to my board and post a note, because I know several competent seamstresses who will be happy to give you all the tips and tricks. And have fun sewing!

      Reply
  10. Natalie
    January 30, 2011 at 1:13 am (4 years ago)

    Hi Jennie, I’m new to sewing and have successfully followed simple apron and handbag patterns. I would like to progress and this dress seems perfect. Do you think this is appropriate for a beginner and if not be frank. Also I am a DD but petite and short waisted so will the extra length from being short waisted allow for the DD without having to add to the bodice length?

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      January 30, 2011 at 12:21 pm (4 years ago)

      Hi, Natalie! If you can handle your machine and sew up an apron, you can move on to the Swing Dress with a bit of help. The shoulder yoke and side zipper are two complicated areas that throw most beginners. In January and February of 2011, Casey of ElegantMusings.com is having a “sew-along” for this dress, so it’s an ideal time to try it, as there will be lots of help available. :) And you should not have to add length to the bodice front for the DD cup, but you may still want to shorten the bodice back (I’m short-waisted, too, so I have to do that). Hope this helps!

      Reply
  11. Natalie
    January 30, 2011 at 12:37 pm (4 years ago)

    Thanks, Jennie, I will sign up for that class and order the pattern. I’m 4′ 11 so I anticipate having to shorten the skirt as well. I’m so excited to sew my own clothes. Its very hard to find things that fit me I’m 4’11 size 6 waist and DD so being able to tailor make things is exciting! Wish I discovered sewing earlier!

    Reply
  12. Imogheena
    March 5, 2011 at 12:13 am (4 years ago)

    I really want to make this dress in a true red. Ok I admit, I just want my own copy of Casey’s dress :-P I was following her sew-along but got left far behind. Then I realised I really wasn’t inspired by the purple fabric I had put aside for it. I want red!
    I just can’t find any fabric in the red I want, except for 100% linen or 50/50% linen/cotton. They are reasonably soft as far as either fabric goes. Would there just be too much body to be suitable for this pattern?

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      March 5, 2011 at 12:58 am (4 years ago)

      Hi, Imogheena! A cotton-linen blend would work, because it is lighter in weight and has a better drape to it. Linen tends to wrinkle so easily and is stiffer. Have fun sewing!

      Reply
  13. Katie
    April 13, 2011 at 6:41 am (3 years ago)

    I just bought some gorgeous silk (which I think is a charmeuse) and am now wondering if it will work for this pattern – but the rest of the bolt was only 2 1/2 yards of 45″ wide. I’m a size 12-ish but not very tall so usually shorten skirts. Could I make the yoke and waist out of contrasting fabric, do you think?

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      April 13, 2011 at 10:04 am (3 years ago)

      Hi, Katie! It may be a bit of a squeeze to get it out of that little amount of material unless you slim down the flare of the skirt panels a wee bit. A contrasting cummerbund would be cute if the fabric is a good complement to your silk!

      Reply
  14. Natalie DePorto
    July 24, 2011 at 2:29 am (3 years ago)

    Dear Jennie,
    Made my muslin of the swing dress and did a FBA for my DD( not the entire amount I needed since the extra length from being short waisted also helped!) without adding length. The front fits well but as you predicted the back bodice is long. How do I take out the extra length just from the back bodice and have side seams match up? Do I take it from the center and taper out to the original length at the sides?

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      July 24, 2011 at 11:52 am (3 years ago)

      Hi, Natalie! If the front is fitting perfectly, including at the side seams, then, yes, all you need to do is reduce the back length by tapering up from the sides toward the center back. Sounds like it’s coming along beautifully!

      Reply
  15. Tanya
    August 28, 2011 at 6:18 pm (3 years ago)

    The book “Fit for real people” by Marta Alto and Patti Palmer shows you how to do a full bust adjustment (FBA) on a dress pattern

    Reply
  16. Bethany
    September 16, 2011 at 5:57 am (3 years ago)

    Going to a WWII time piece reenactment on an authentic WWII warship, so excited I found this pattern! PERFECT!

    Reply
  17. Lorri
    October 9, 2011 at 6:57 pm (3 years ago)

    I finally have time to make this dress. I love the style. I have the Revised 2008 pattern. I have sewn alot in my time but #3 has me stumped as well as 4. I can’t get to 4 without getting 3 first. If you shaded the right sides and left the wrong sided plain could help. But attaching to the facing and turning it over dosen’t make sense.
    The facing would be sticking out instead of laying down flat. Can you help me figure out this step.

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      October 11, 2011 at 10:38 am (3 years ago)

      Hi, Lorri! 3 and 4 are the steps that always confuse folks the first time they try this pattern! There is a step-by-step walk-through in the Swing Dress Sew-a-Long that will show you exactly what to do. Hope this helps!

      Reply
  18. Molly
    November 19, 2011 at 9:44 pm (3 years ago)

    I love this dress and want to buy the pattern, but am VERY nervous. I am not certain that I would call my sewing skills intermediate. Additionally, I am very busty after nursing our kiddos…36 J so it is darn near impossible to find something that actually fits top and bottom. I am not at all confident about changing the pattern to fit me, although I know this can be done. Is there help out there for moms like me that need to learn the skills to adjust the pattern?

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      November 20, 2011 at 1:36 pm (3 years ago)

      Hi, Molly! If you’d like extra help to navigate through this pattern, I do have an online class that you can take at your own pace. :) Adjusting for a fuller bust is not extremely difficult. You’d leave the bodice front at the longer length (it’s long-waisted, but that is perfect for a larger cup size) and simply add more width to the front edges that cross over. That provides more fabric to gather beneath the bustline. I will be happy to help talk you through this via email if you need any assistance. I’ve also got an online tutorial that helps you tackle special fitting issues and an appendix from my Romantic Era Dress pattern shows how to adjust bodices for DD (and larger) cup sizes. Hope this helps!

      Reply
  19. Diana
    December 27, 2011 at 3:24 am (3 years ago)

    Hi, I am curious as to what you would suggest if my top is one size and my waist is another. Should I cut the top in the smaller size and the bottom of the dress in another? I am so excited, I can’t wait to make this.

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      December 27, 2011 at 3:33 am (3 years ago)

      Hi, Diana! I have a tutorial that explains how to “grade” between sizes when you are different on top and bottom. The photos show a Regency gown, but the principles apply for any pattern. I hope this helps!

      Reply
  20. Leah
    January 22, 2012 at 3:47 pm (3 years ago)

    I am interested in this pattern, but don’t know if the size would be right. I know that patterns for this era run small, but I would need a pattern for a size 4-6 in today’s sizing schedules. Would this pattern still work?

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      January 23, 2012 at 9:36 am (3 years ago)

      Hi, Leah! Actually, this is not an original 1940s pattern but one I created (inspired by an original Hollywood design). If you click above to download the yardage chart, you’ll be able to check your measurements against the sizes on the chart. The pattern runs true to measurements, and keep in mind that pattern sizes aren’t the same as off-the-rack sizes, so a 4/6 in off-the-rack clothing is more like a 10 in patterns. Hope this helps!

      Reply
  21. Messyroo
    February 6, 2012 at 4:13 pm (3 years ago)

    Hi! I’m just wondering if sizes are in US scaling? Just wanting to check before I set off!
    Very excited – been wanting to create the dresses I always head for in shops for ages…

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      February 7, 2012 at 12:06 am (3 years ago)

      Hello! The sizes are US, but remember to check measurements rather than “size,” as pattern sizes do not match off-the-rack clothing sizes. If you click to download the yardage chart, you’ll get the measurements in inches and centimeters. Thanks!

      Reply
  22. Elizabeth
    February 25, 2012 at 6:59 pm (3 years ago)

    Is it possible to slim down the cummerbund a bit on this dress? I love the way it is, I was just wondering, because that would give it a bit of a different style.

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      February 26, 2012 at 2:32 pm (3 years ago)

      You could slim it down, yes, but you’d need to make corresponding changes in the bodice front, since it is shaped to fit the curve of the cummerbund. :)

      Reply
  23. Elizabeth
    March 5, 2012 at 3:16 pm (3 years ago)

    Ok, thanks! I can’t wait to make it… (the fabric is on it’s way) :)

    Reply
  24. Ella S.
    March 28, 2012 at 11:35 am (3 years ago)

    I love this dress. I was wondering if it would go for today? (My mother doesn’t want me dressing out of style.)I’ve seen a very similar style recently by Chaps. It had that crossover with a v-neck and swingy skirt. I would look for a solid fabric.

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      March 28, 2012 at 12:42 pm (3 years ago)

      Hi, Ella! This is most assuredly right in style now, as 1940s and 1950s fashions are on a huge comeback trend. April Cornell has just put out a retro-style collection that has a dress nearly identical to this one, and there’s also a UK-based vintage-style dress company that has one very close to this pattern. Retro is BIG now, and it’s always classic!

      Reply
  25. Jaspen
    April 20, 2012 at 10:48 am (2 years ago)

    Hi!
    I would love to make a dress like this, but I’m wondering if I have enough fabric. Can you tell me how much I would need, at least, for a large?
    Thank you!

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      April 21, 2012 at 3:58 am (2 years ago)

      Hi, Jaspen! The yardage chart with all the sizes is available for free. Just click the link in the bulleted list above to download it, then check your measurements to find your size (remember that pattern sizes don’t match off-the-rack sizes). Hope this helps!

      Reply
  26. Karen B
    May 22, 2012 at 12:17 pm (2 years ago)

    And the picture on the steps remind me of the picture of my grandmother’s wedding day picture! They had a courthouse wedding.

    Reply
  27. Ariel
    July 26, 2012 at 2:32 pm (2 years ago)

    Absolutely love this dress! But I’m curious, does the skirt go all the way to the knee? I’m 5’7 and I prefer my skirt lengths to go to just below the knee or lower. Thanks for these great patterns!

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      July 26, 2012 at 2:37 pm (2 years ago)

      Hi, Ariel! On 5’5″ me, this skirt goes about two inches below the knee as-is. As you are taller, you might need to lengthen it, but first make the bodice mock-up in muslin and try it on. The bodice is long-waisted, so if you have a long torso, it should fit perfectly, and that should make the skirt correct, too. But if you are longer in the legs, you’ll probably need to lengthen the skirt just a bit. Hope this helps!

      Reply
  28. Caroline May
    September 28, 2012 at 8:30 pm (2 years ago)

    Quick question… I’m going to a vintage-inspired wedding in December, and I absolutely adore this dress. However I will be nursing an infant (not sure how old baby will be, baby isn’t due for another few weeks!!). Is nursing a viable option in this dress? And could I add some umph to the skirt in this pattern and get something akin to the 1950’s Rockabilly style dress? I look pretty smashing in a full skirt… :)

    Reply
  29. Katie
    November 3, 2012 at 1:27 am (2 years ago)

    I’ve been meaning to buy this for years, and have just realised that it’s the workable version of the vintage pattern I just tried to make! (front bodice piece was shaped wrong)
    Guess I know what I’m spending my birthday money o!

    Reply
  30. Alex
    January 19, 2013 at 10:48 pm (2 years ago)

    Hello. A question from England. I made a mock-up of the bodice Nd I’m glad I did as my funny ol’ figure doesn’t conform and although the pattern came together well I will need to make some adjustments. My question is this: if I shorten the front so that the boob area isn’t sagging around my less than ample cleavage do I have to shorten the back? The issue is that I have a long and broad back but no boobs. So I need to get rid of some of the excess material at the front but don’t want to shorten the back. Maybe I could widen the midsection band by the amount by which I shorten the bodice front? Then they would match wouldn’t they? Any advice? Also although it is too big in the boobs it is too narrow at the ribcage and waist…see an odd shape…so it should work to just take a size 16 as I did but add width to all bodice sections as if for a size 18…right? Basically imagine trying to fit it to a 38, 32, 36 but with no boobs to speak of. Tricky.

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      January 21, 2013 at 1:32 am (2 years ago)

      Hi, Alex! If the back fits find, it is perfectly kosher to shorten only the front, and if you find it narrow at the ribcage/waist, you can also bump up a size in the cummerbund waistband. You’re on the right track–just tweak for your unique shape, and you’ll be set!

      Reply
  31. Dianna
    February 14, 2013 at 3:02 am (2 years ago)

    this is a gorgeous pattern i am hoping to purchase. i have an hour glass figure shape. will this pattern have good amount of ‘hip’ room ? from the photos the pattern looks a bit slim. i normally wear a USA size 10-12

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      February 14, 2013 at 8:48 am (2 years ago)

      Hi, Dianna! I always recommend “grading” between sizes to get a perfect fit. So if you’re a 10 in the waist and a 12 in the hips, you can cut from the 10 to the 12 down the skirt pieces to give yourself the needed room. The skirt does flare, but that’s toward the thigh rather than at the hip, so sizing up will be helpful. I show how to do this in my Tips section if you read the “Easy Alterations to the Regency Gown Pattern” (the tips work for any pattern, though). Hope this helps!

      Reply
  32. Ruthie
    July 7, 2014 at 4:18 pm (3 months ago)

    Lovely dress. I was wondering…. do you have any other 1940s inspired patterns in the works? It’s my favorite fashion era. The dresses are so lovely!

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      July 8, 2014 at 7:46 pm (3 months ago)

      Hi, Ruthie! Believe it or not, I do have a tweens/teens version of this dress in the works — but probably a couple of years from now, as I’m still under a pile of Edwardian and 1950s patterns that need to be finished up. Thanks for your interest!

      Reply

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