“Betty’s Style” Border Print 50’s Dress

My floral border print dress makes me feel a part of the “Mad Men” TV series and Audrey Hepburn era, with all the classy fashion that goes with these connotations.  I am especially proud at how I made the most of what I had with this dress.  It is a ‘franken-patterned’  creation so as to make the most of a small amount of border design fabric from my stash.  This pattern combo also makes a more manageable design to wear in our modern times while still remaining true to 1957 dresses.  I am very happy with how all my meticulous work paid off these past two years I’ve been dressmaking to have this project turn out just right – finally!


FABRIC:  a lightweight rayon (super soft with a slight mesh weave),with a stitched on border print, in only 2 yards…it’s been in my stash for so long I’m considering it free;  lavender cotton batiste for the dress’ lining, bought 1 3/4 yards for about $4 – the handful of scraps leftover of the lining fabric went to my “Heart Apron”..click here to see how I used them.

NOTIONS:  I had the thread I needed; only had to buy a 20 inch zipper ($1.50), 6 matte green squared buttons ($3), and 1/4 a yard of light blue cording (25 cents)

PATTERN:  a combo of Vintage Vogue #8789, year 1957, view B, for the bodice;  and Simplicity #2177 (from 2011), view A,  for the dress’ skirt

TIME TO COMPLETE:  first finished on July 28, 2012, after more than 10 hours of work;  then several more hours of alterations and final work was put into this dress in April 2013…yep, a two year project!

The reason why I think this project was chosen next was twofold: the fabric was so pretty and soft I would rather wear it than fold it and put it away, and also because I wanted an adventuresome project to further test my sewing skills.

I made a mistake – but small enough to recover – when I was cutting.  Mistakes are something I rarely do at the cutting stage because I know they waste fabric and can doom a project.  They are avoided at all cost!  I was doing my usual grading between the bust, waist, and hips while busy talking and thinking, when I realized I really only cut the front bodice in my bust size, which is too small for my waist.  Apparently talking and cutting do not intermingle well.  However, hubby thought of cutting the back with the extra width missing from the front piece.  This worked out great, but with only 2 yards to work with, this fix had to work…I didn’t have another fold to cut on!

All the darts in the bodice and the tucks in the skirt’s waist were (as usual for me) the most bother, especially since I was actually making two dresses, one for the lining and one as the ‘good’ dress.  Once I got past that part the rest of the dress went together quickly.  I hand sewed the cording loops for the buttons onto the front shoulder seams, then the lining and the ‘good’ dress were sewn together at the neck and shoulders, and the whole thing turned right sides out.  My neck and shoulder seams were all top-stitched down for reinforcement.  Wow!  Once I reached this point I was really impressed with the way the dress laid down nicely and the darts matched up almost perfectly with the waist tucks.

I had planned my dress with the zipper to be installed between the left side seam, differing from the Simplicity 2177 pattern.  This plan makes for a LOT less wiggling and contortions to get into this vintage dress.  When I sewed in the zipper the first time, I did a so-so job, since the teeth were showing too much with not enough fabric overlapping.  I wanted to fix it then, but this year I had the perfect excuse to unpick the zip and do it right as I needed to take in both sides several inches due to some weight loss.  Now I can say my dress looks professional.

The buttons were an unexpected happy match in the frosted mint green.  Hubby found them for me…two heads are better than one!  Nevertheless, this year I ended up sewing the button loops down, making them more or less non-functional.  I also recently added a hook and eye further in along the neckline just so I could get a straight boat neck (horsehair braid might have worked well, too, in hindsight), thus reducing any ‘showing off’ of my bra straps.

In the picture below, you can see the belt loops I added this week, made out of some leftover scraps of the border print.  This fabric’s border design is just so pretty but so subtle it’s almost a shame it so very hard to pick up true reality in our pictures 🙂

The best part about making this dress was the fact that I didn’t have to do ANY hemming.  You heard right, I cut the skirt bottom pieces on the selvedge so the edges were already nicely sealed, plus the border print was optimally left untouched. I think this occurrence of no need for hemming probably will rarely happen again in my sewing.  Boohoo!

In my photo shoot, I decided to go for the 1960s sleek French Twist hairstyle, complete with ribbon and vintage 60’s T-strap shoes.  This dress IS from ’57 (late in the decade), and besides my hairstyle is merely twisting back in a different direction instead of being piled up into a beehive (‘B-52’ as it was nicknamed) hairstyle.  Just the year before, in 1956, actress Grace Kelly made national headlines with her marriage into Monaco royalty, and the same french twist I did my hair into was popularized by Princess Grace herself right around those same years.

Below are two pictures for the sake of fun and comparison: One is Betty from the TV series ‘Mad Men” and the other is my own ‘brunette Kelly’ imitation.  My dress is her favorite perfect pastel colors, at least!

It’s a funny thing how I seem to get more looks from others with this ensemble than some of my modern dresses.  Everyone I have spoken to recently has said how much they love vintage.  It’s so great to know that while being in style according to history, we seamstresses can also be in style via 2013!  The best part is the fact that I saw a button shoulder top at K-Mart about a month later after I finished the dress last year.  Not that I bought it, but when I see styles in the stores after I have made the same thing, it makes me feel ahead of mass market trends…in vintage.  Ha!

Keep up the vintage sewing and go proudly wear what you make!

1 thought on ““Betty’s Style” Border Print 50’s Dress

  1. Pingback: Red Roses for a Vintage Style Lady | Seam Racer

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