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Home Front Friday: Use It Up Pillowcase Dress

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Home Front Friday is a regular series that highlights the can do spirit on the Home Front during World War II and illustrates how that spirit is still alive today!

During World War II anything that could be reused was reused. The popular slogan was “Use It Up, Wear It Out, Make It Do or Do Without.” Longtime Museum volunteer Al Mipro has a good story about his mother repurposing chicken feed sacks into dresses for his baby sister.

That spirit can be replicated today. In the last Home Front Friday blog entry, we featured embroidery as a travel souvenir and a useful skill. The pillowcases pictured have now been turned into dresses, much like Mr. Mipro’s mother did with the chicken sack dresses for her baby.

Here are step by step instructions for turning something in storage into a handcrafted item (the image gallery has each step pictured):

Step One: Find a pillowcase

Step Two: Cut it to size

  • General shape – find a dress that currently fits the eventual wearer and add two inches for hem allowance. Or you can measure from collarbone to desired length on the child and add two inches.  Finally, a typical toddler dress (2T/3T) is about 22 inches, so cut 24 inches up from the bottom of the pillowcase.
  • Armhole – cut about 4 inches in and 6 inches down.

Step Three: Sew it up – sew the arms first. Press 1/4 inch and 1/4 inch again, then sew. Finish the top by pressing 1/4 inch and then approximately 1 inch (wide enough for your ribbon to fit) and sew it close to the edge.

Step Four: Finish it – pull your ribbon through with a safety pin. You can sew a line in the middle of each ribbon to hold it in place.

Step Five: Put it on your toddler (don’t know a toddler? There are a couple of crafty projects out there that send pillowcase dresses to little girls around the world. Send your creation to someone who needs it.)


Posted by Lauren Handley, Education Programs Coordinator at The National WWII Museum.

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