“Retro Forward” Burda Style – “Hot Stuff” Cocoon Coat and Poster Dress

What you wear says something about you, whether or not you want that to be the case or whether you even want to get anything across.  How would an army-to-army battle be fought in the buff without clothes to identify sides of the combatants, after all?  How else did the upper classes of the past undemocratically distinguish themselves from their peers not so well off?  Well, since the last 50 years clothes evolved into something more…as an opportunity to purposely, inaudibly, make a message, declare a challenge, signal protest, or be the spark of a conversation using written expressions.  Today, more than ever, fashion is re-imagining the 1968 poster dress, slogan tee, and op art garment trends in its own way to truly make powerful statements with what is worn.  You can literally wear your heart, your convictions, or your idealism on your sleeve nowadays for all to see, and we don’t realize how lucky we are for this, something we take a bit for granted in an era where every tee or pants bottom has a slogan.  It’s the golden anniversary of this freedom, and I’m celebrating with a fun, mild little version of my own.

Not too often do I go for shock value…with what I have said above, now I have a good reason!  Under my cool and classy ice blue coat is a silk dress printed with advertising labels containing four letter words (“Well I feel damn sexy today!), even though a bit subdued due to their small size.  This is the outfit of bold contrasts and complimentary contradictions.  My dress is light, airy, and flippantly playful in earth toned silk, leather, and an A-line silhouette.  My coat is lofty, warm, dressy, and feminine, as sharp as an ice crystal, yet made out of one of our modern era’s most crafty, over-commercialized material – fleece!  My coat is definitely not body conscious, with its voluminous shape silhouette concealing, while the dress is practically the opposite, with more leg and general skin baring than is my norm.

 As I said, I was inspired by some strong 60’s trends here – both the in-your-face poster dresses as well as the shape-disguising cocoon coats made popular by the likes of Balenciaga and Cardin, the Après ski culture, and popular movies.  Using two great Burda Style patterns, I have now come up with an outfit that is part 2018 and part retro flower child era, all the while designer inspired.  This post is part of my ongoing “Retro Forward with Burda Style” Blog series as this is a modern take on 60’s styles.

Our home town’s downtown was the appropriate backdrop for our photos.  As a river city town, we have a long levee wall to keep the water at bay.  Along that wall, there is a concrete ‘canvas’ (allowed by the city) open for graffiti and street artists.  It is a wonderful, organic, and ever changing platform for a very interesting, creative, and sometimes rebellious way for expression.  This medium doesn’t always have a mainstream outlet, so it attracts quite a number of visitors and quite a variety of talent, as you can see.  For an outfit centered on the 60’s idea of self-expression in a semi-shock value sort of way, I couldn’t think of a better equivalent in the built environment of the city than our river levee graffiti wall.


FABRIC:  The Coat – The outside is just your basic anti-pill fleece, and the inside is fully lined in flannel backed satin…yummy warm!  The Dress – a 60% silk, 40% cotton blend semi-sheer fabric, lined in a soft finish crepe poly.

PATTERNS:  Burda Style’s “Long Coat” #104B from December 2015, and their “Sixties Shift Dress” #106 from July 2016.

NOTIONS:  Amazingly, the only thing I specifically bought to finish this outfit was the plastic “crystal-look” buttons for the coat.  Everything else (notion-wise) was on hand – a 22” invisible zip, thread, snaps, interfacing, and bias tape

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The coat was finished on December 7, 2017 after maybe 20 to 30 hours.  The dress was made in about 10 hours and finished on January 20, 2018.

THE INSIDES:  Both the dress and the jacket are fully lined, so…what insides? I don’t see ‘em!

TOTAL COST:  The light blue fleece was bought probably 6 years back on deep discount for a few dollars a yard, so I went crazy and bought 6 yards of it and I only used 3 for the coat…so I have plenty leftover still.  The silk was bought online at an Etsy seller and the faux leather is leftover from this 40’s purse project.  Other than these fabrics, the linings were bought at Jo Ann’s fabrics specifically for my project.  I’m supposing my total is about $10 for the dress, and $20 for the coat…what a deal!!!

Both these pieces were time consuming and challenging, but they were so satisfying to make because I was making a creative idea from my head a reality.  Making a coat is necessarily labor intensive, but the dress and some of its detailing took more time than I expected.  However, I like a garment that I can be just a proud of inside as well as out, and I want my clothes to last, so I feel they deserve the extra time and I deserve finding a way to take my time to enjoy my sewing better!  Rome wasn’t built in a day and a good garment isn’t either without something being sacrificed, I would think.

Now, as for any Burda Style pattern, printing and/or tracing is necessary to have a usable pattern to lay on your desired fabric.  My patterns were traced from the inserts in the magazine issue, but they are also available online as a downloaded PDF that needs to be printed out and assembled together.  What works best for me is to use a roll of thin, see-through medical paper to trace your pieces out.  It’s at this preliminary step that you pick out your proper size and add in your choice of seam allowance width.  A scissor with a magnetic ruler guide helps immensely to quicken along the step to getting a finished pattern prepped.  Sorry to repeat something you might already know, but this is just an “FYI” for those that don’t.

The sizing of both garments was pretty much spot on, without much extra fitting needed, yet I did  some departures from the original design lines.  I’ll start with discussing the coat, and firstly, the sleeves. They were so very, very long, just by leaving off the additional cuff piece they came to a good length on my arms.  The sleeves do have the most beautiful seaming, though, especially where they join the body of the coat.  At the top sleeve panel, they are “epaulet style”, continuing the sleeve to run right along the shoulder top into the neckline.  But then the bottom panels join in as a raglan style to make a sleeve that has first rate seaming and is gently set-in the main body.  What an unusual but amazing combo!  Many cocoon coats, especially the ones first created by Balenciaga in the late 40’s and early 50’s, and many of the others made by his fellow couturiers, all had deep cut kimono or dolman sleeve, or at least a sleeve that had a similar silhouette that tapered into the waist and offered generous ease of movement.  This was part of the reason they were so popular with the Après ski culture that exploded in the 60’s when people saw movies such as “Charade” with Audrey Hepburn, “Help” with the Beatles, or the James Bond escapade “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”.  These coats are easy to move in yet look good on their own accord, and offer full movement.  The excess material around the body only keeps the wearer warm.

The back bottom hem panel to the coat was also very long in length, so I cut that down by half in order that my coat would end at my knees, what a proper longer length cocoon coat should do.  Thus, my coat ends up being a length which is in between the “A” short version and the “B” long coat of pattern #104.  The idea of the general shape of Balenciaga’s cocoon fashion was to liberate the waist with flowing lines that carry their own beauty in the tailoring and shaping of the garment itself.  The defining points to a cocoon coat, however, is the neck and the knees, the two ends where the coat tapers in to slenderize the legs and highlight the face.  This coat has great design lines that do just that with the front French bust darts, the horizontal back bottom panel, and the angled, sun-ray style darts which radiate up and out from that.  From what I have seen of cocoon coats, many have an open, basic neckline.  Nevertheless, I added a small self-drafted collar at the neck because there’s no use for a warm and cozy coat that lets my neck freeze!

The pattern called for giant patch pockets to be added on the front of the coat, but that would ruin the classy streamlined look I was going for with it.  So I added pockets that were set into the French darts!  I think this one touch was the best thing I could have done for this coat!  The pockets also end up filling out the coat right over the low hip area so that it has more of a cocoon shape – this was a bonus I did not see coming but I really like it!

This coat was a project on my backburner queue since the pattern came out in 2015.  However, it wasn’t until I saw light blue coats popping up everywhere this past Fall-Winter season, at different stores, from different designers, and even on the back of one of my favorite actresses, Hayley Atwell, that I realized now was the time to pick up that idea and make something of it!  This Versace set from their Spring 2018 Ready-to-Wear collection, with its ice blue coat and Vogue poster print dress, was the first real impetus that inspired me to pair two 1960’s trends together in a modern way.

The leather piping is the most obvious out-of-the-ordinary addition that I made to the dress, yet I think it also was the best touch.  It brings to attention the awesome geometric cut to this dress that wraps around my arms, over, and down the back of my body, as well as bringing out a whole different “feel” to the general color scheme and texture.  I did take out the horizontal waist seam all around the front and back, mostly because I did not have much fabric to work with (only one yard) but also because I did not want to mess up my silk’s print with extra seaming.  As my dress is fully lined, I did not have to bother with using any of the facing pieces the pattern provided.  The full lining not only made my dress opaque, and covered up my seams inside, but some leftover scraps of it were also used to add in some small side pockets.  My pockets are basic and in the side seams to (again) not cut into the print, since the instructions directed to add welt pockets into the front.  Welt pockets are not my favorite thing to do, anyway, but I did install an invisible zipper down the back!

The faux leather neckline detail has that hint of a plastron-armor type of feel to me, but it does make for a lovely neckline or at least a good place to highlight a statement necklace, as I have done.  Beginning circa 1967, fashion was all about experimenting with novelty materials, and mixing them with contrasting traditional fabrics.  They did have many plastron front designs (I’ve made one myself) and several armor-like dresses in the late 60’s – especially when it came to the metal and chainmail garments of designer Paco Rabanne  or the plastic armor in the film Barbarella.  For the neckline addition, I made it slightly different than the pattern.  Mine is wider and more geometrically simple to match with the dress, versus the curved, tiny design as what the pattern originally planned.

I have worked with many 60’s patterns and this Burda dress felt like a true 60’s pattern, I must say.  I’m impressed!  It has the angular corners that the late 60’s loved (thanks in part to Pierre Cardin), the traditional pair of small back neck darts, and the normal, lovely, A-line silhouette with ever so slight body shaping that I enjoy about fashion of the flower child era.  I know certain “dress doctors” mourn the 60’s loose and youthful styles as the end of tailoring and the introduction of sloppiness.  Often these kinds of fashions were part of a certain desire to stand out, be different, or perhaps a bit rebellious, and are certainly not for everyone.  They are nonetheless a significant part of history.  Text and wording on these fashions didn’t come until about 1968, but even before then they were a statement in themselves.

Now, I’m not saying that wording isn’t to be seen on what people wore before the 1960’s.  Yes, there were many novelty prints in the 1940’s and 50’s that discreetly hid small doses of words which were often song lyrics or famous persons’ names (see this vintage pj top or this Elvis skirt for only two examples).  There are cultural uses of text in traditional African khanga to list out proverbs or words of wisdom to suit special occasions.  Earlier in the past century, women who were protesting the First World War or standing for women’s’ rights had sashes, ribbons, and badges which sported the words of what they believed in.  However, the wording was never (to my knowledge), before circa 1968, directly on the fashion garments themselves, and it was never before advertising or a personal or highly political statement.  The paper poster dresses where the first wave of this methodology – with the Cambell’s soup dress, ‘Nixon for President’ dress, the Newsprint dress, and the op art dresses.  The trend has spread like wildfire since.  Beyond the paper poster dresses, about the same time Pierre Cardin borrowed from the Lacoste crocodile logo idea that started in 20’s, and began the now universal practice of visible designer logos announcing themselves on clothing so one can obviously brag who ‘made’ their clothes and how much they spent.  We now have words, messaging, and advertising overload everywhere.  What would 21st century life be without your basic favorite printed tee?!  As New York-based artist Susan Barnett has said in her interview with “The Guardian”, “slogan T-shirts…tell us about the wearer’s identity. ‘It’s about how people use their bodies to send a message about who they want us to think they are.’”  Thanks be to what was going on in history and who was alive doing the moving and the shaking 50 years ago.

We should all be aware of the power that fashion has nowadays with the black dress code for the Golden Globes.  But it’s becoming more than that, in a way that reflects upon the wearer as well as our unconscious perception of the wearer, even if their clothes are not so subtle.  Just a year ago, Dior’s first female artistic director, Maria Grazia Chiuri, had her first collection begin with a basic white tee printed with the slogan “We should all be feminists”.  Now, there are even collections so overly cued into the political climate that the newspaper garment has official made a comeback!  See my picture of the newspaper Poster dress 1967 next to Alexander Wang’s “Page Six” collection for Spring/Summer 2018.  If this keeps up, I wonder when fashion will need to be protected by the laws of our First amendment right for freedom of speech.  Just like in the 1960’s, it seems as if these collections are catered to the younger crowd, our Millennial age group, the 18 to 35 year olds.

My own advertising dress is nothing so serious or political.  There isn’t any such a thing as “Bonobo Jeans and Underpants” that I can find before 2007, so this print is a spoof.  Making something of it is meant to merely push my boundaries so that I can understand history by making my own small part of it.  Besides, the print does make me laugh and blush at the same time in a way that I uniquely love.  “I can clean dishes and wear tight edgy underwear!’’, “Designed for fun!”, and “We shape nice butts” are all on there.  I love how I inadvertently had “Somewhere beneath” with the masculine eyes along the bottom hem – it’s too funny.

Finally, this brings me to explain my title.  One of the logos on the print is, “Hot stuff for all to see!”  Yes indeed, I do feel like the dress is pretty close to being hot, and it’s so thin and lightweight it’s definitely made for hot temperature days, anyway.  The coat is so warm and cozy, it is better than our best bed comforter at insulating.  I’m supposing it’s the flannel and the fleece together, with the satin to keep the heat in.  I suppose a man-made, non-breathable fabric is good for something after all!  I certainly do need to dress for summer underneath this coat, otherwise I’d burn up.  It’s unexpectedly the warmest coat I now have, so it deserves to called “hot stuff”!

Year 1950 “Wild Thing” Weskit Blouse and a Basic Black Slim Skirt

Roar, snarl! For a cold weather set, this outfit is kinda hot, if I must say so myself. Something as “buttoned down” and “prim and proper” as a 1950 hourglass-defining waistcoat becomes defiant and wild with my bold decision to use a suede leopard fabric. To match my newly made blouse, my suede multi-paneled skirt is an oldie-but-goodie garment, still being worn and enjoyed since I made it about 15 years ago.



My “jungle cat” face!

I’m not usually an animal print sort of girl and a weskit is so odd and form fitting, but yet I am not shy to try new things. “Jungle January” is being hosted again over at the “Petty Grievances” blog so I have a good reason to go “wild”. After all, there’s always the (good) chance I might like something I thought I wouldn’t otherwise, especially when I make it myself. So here’s to going all out for a fun and unique project! Besides, there was sort of a gentle challenge behind the source of my blouse’s animal print. The fabric was a casual gift from my dad, who bought it for a work presentation background drape but thought it would find better use in my hands. I had to prove that hope correct, even if it was only one yard!


FABRIC:  Weskit: a 100% polyester micro-suede in a leopard print of brown, tan, and black tones. The facing pieces are a tan cotton-poly broadcloth. Skirt: a polyester micro-suede with a poly cling-free lining.100_6442a-comp

NOTIONS:  I have a variety of brown tones and used about three different colors from on hand for my weskit. Wanting to make this a practical “make do” project, I also used whatever was on hand to work – shoulder pads, interfacing, bias tape, and buttons. The skirt did not require much besides thread, with some elastic to finish the waist.

PATTERNS:  McCall #8265, year 1950, for the weskit, and a modern out-of-print Butterick #3972, year 2003, for the Butterick 3972, multi panel skirts-front cover-compskirt.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  Well, the skirt was made so long ago (15 years) I don’t remember how long it took me exactly but I know it was relatively quick project for all those seams and panels (and lining). This year, I remade the waistband in a matter of one hour. The weskit took a total of at least 15 hours, spent off and on over the course of a few weeks. It was finally finished on October 30, 2015.

THE INSIDES: The weskit has a “Heinz 57” mix of different seams…French, raw, and bias bound. The skirt was made on my mother’s serge machine (over locker to Europeans).


TOTAL COST:  As the weskit was half gift, half “from-on-hand”, and the skirt was made so long ago (with fabric probably bought for me by my parents, too), I’m counting this as…drumroll, please…free! Really, though, this outfit wouldn’t cost much made from newly bought fabric with both patterns demanding less than 3 yards combined.

These two pieces were a bit complicated in their own way. The skirt is fairly easy, just a bit time consuming and needing precise designation of the individual pieces with all the panels which make up the pattern. It’s kind of like assembling a quilt! Since the skirt is put together with so many pieces, I really don’t remember why I made this pattern out of a solid black, but perhaps I wanted a one color skirt to have some interesting seam lines at close inspection. The weskit was so very seamed and fitted, it became sort of a problem because each spot to be tailored relied on the other. For example, I couldn’t tell how the weskit would exactly fit until it could close, which meant I needed to add on the facing (for a true judgment)…which I couldn’t do yet because I might have to take out the back darts. The same combined problem existed between the side seams and the sleeves – I needed to hem the sleeve length before sewing up the seam (because the wrists are so skinny) but I couldn’t do that until they were in the weskit, which then the side seam (or at least half) needed to be done. Such a bother, I know, but if I end up with a perfectly fitted and beautifully tailored garment, any extra effort is worth it for me. If it’s something as unusual as a weskit I’m going to make, then it had to be a success in my book…and it is a wonderfully good one!


Part of my problems with fitting had to do with the proportions to this patterns seeming to be not as consistent and predictable as others from the early 50’s or even from McCall’s. One of the reasons I love McCall’s vintage out-of-print patterns is that not only are they printed for easy marking and making, but they also tend to fit me well (besides having awesome cover drawings). This pattern did have the lovely envelope image and printed pattern, but not the predictable fit that does well for me. I had to take out so much from the bust, both in the side seams of the bodice front and the darts, that it was crazy. Granted, women at that time were probably wearing “battle armor” style pointy bullet bras or some sort of brassiere artificially forming the girls into something like a Barbie doll’s chest, but this pattern was even bigger than that, it seemed to me. Then, the waist was incredibly small. I added extra room in the waist, but even with that I had to take out the bottom half of the back darts and let out the side seams from the under bust down to 3/8 inch just to fit. Women of the 50’s also wore very confining waist cinchers which helped give them the “wasp waists” so popular, and this might be the reason for the tiny waist sizing. 100_6563a-comp

So, according to my supposing, the sizing being off very well could be solely on account of the trend of women’s lingerie creating the desired silhouette of the time…or it could merely be this particular pattern. I don’t think my blaming the era’ lingerie is too far off, because I remember my Grandmother reminiscing about the 50’s era confining “corsets”, and she seemed attributed her 19 inch waist on her wedding day in 1951 to wearing that kind of stuff. Wow, a 19 inch waist would have certainly found this pattern (as I made it) roomy. Looking into the fashion of the decade of the 50’s nowadays can make the decade feel like a great step back to time where women were bound and confined in more ways than one.

Moving on back to the construction details, my only major changes to the weskit design (besides those made for fitting reasons) were to lengthen the bottom hem by one inch and to eliminate the hassle of wrist closures. The sleeve ends are skinny, but not small enough to not slip over my hands when I cup them. Sometimes wrist closures in small circumference sleeve hems only end up itching my skin, and I had a feeling that a zipper had a high chance of that occurring. Besides, I really didn’t feel like the extra fuss of bothering with closing the wrists when dressing in my weskit. I have enough of those garments from the 1940’s where there are four or five different spots you have to close just to be dressed (see my 1941 Military-inspired wool suit for one example). There is a point which I appreciate of being ‘historically accurate’, but at the same time, I don’t think my interest in simplicity downgraded the weskit’s design.


I love the elegant neckline of the weskit, and the buttons I used are (I think) just enough contrast/match in color, with a small enough size to be feminine. The weskit calls for an odd number of seven buttons, and I found the perfect fit in my husband’s Grandmother’s collection – a set of six with a seventh matching in tone and width to the others except with a cat-eye center. The special odd-button is at the top, the first closure to the front. The bottom button ends a bit too high for my liking, so I added a tiny hook and eye at the center of the front weskit hem to keep that sharp corner together.

100_6556a-compAnyone with larger upper arms like myself would love this pattern (although I believe it is hard to find)! Not too many sleeves are friendly enough to allow generous room in the biceps and shoulders but this weskit certainly and unexpectedly does – with room to spare. The sleeve pattern piece was huge from just below the elbows and up to the shoulder, but being a 1950’s pattern, it is shaped very well. It makes for a wonderful deep set sleeve which is very easy to move and reach freely in, though it does need thicker than normal shoulder pads to fill in the tops appropriately. If it wasn’t for the generous sleeve tops, I think this weskit would be uncomfortably confining.

100_6443a-compI considered adding in some lightweight boning into the weskit to achieve something closer to the envelope drawing where the hem sticks out and the body is a straight and rigid vertical line. But no…what’s good enough is best left alone, and the pattern doesn’t call for such measures. I figure if I want such a look, I’ll suck up and wear a 1950’s corset girdle, and see how much torture it involves and commiserate with my Grandmother. My hem is merely turned under with bias tape instead of using the pattern’s facing so perhaps this is why I’m short of a feature to the silhouette (or maybe just hard on myself).

Weskits have been worn for a long time and are a fashion adapted from men’s wear. The word is like an informal acronym of “waist coat”, those short vest-like which ends at the high hip and is sleeveless, collarless and worn over a shirt and sometimes under a jacket. Waistcoats are of very English origin which can be dated very precisely to October of 1666 from a decree by “The Merry Monarch” Charles II after the Persian-mode of dressing. (See more waistcoat/weskit history here.) Some waistcoats created an extra layer of warmth before the era of central heating. Mostly these “waist coats” were ornamental, many with plain backs and all the ornamentation on the front, some even with a mock front or simple tie-back.waistcoat & weskit history collage

However, patterns I’ve seen for weskits in the 20th century include every sort of variant – a bib-like year 1918 weskit, a 1929 kimono sleeves weskit, a 40’s weskit-like jacket, a The Thrill of Brazil movie pane-cropped-Evelyn Keyessleeveless and strapless corset-like summer 50’s weskit, a 1954 apron weskit modeled by “I Love Lucy”, and vests/weskits with and without collars, scoop necks, and double-breasted closures. My all-time favorite weskit is a striped one worn by actress Evelyn Keyes seen in one of my favorite movies, “The Thrill of Brazil” from 1946. Variety is the rule it seems with weskits, and they are so complimentary to the waist, I’m surprised they aren’t seen more than they are…which is hardly at all.

Speaking of history, my hat is a satin-type of nylon, woven as if it was straw, in an authentic early 50’s asymmetric style for more period appropriateness to my outfit. I love the fancy jeweled broach on one side! See “dollycreates” blog page here for a picture link to a 1951 fashion magazine showing a hat just like mine!

To complete the style of my weskit while still remaining modern as well as wearing something I made, my past-project black micro-suede skirt was resurrected and slightly re-fashion to my current taste. You see, the skirt was made well (all seams serged, fully lined), I did like it and have worn it many times, especially in the years after it was made, but lately I did not have the desire to put it on because I no longer liked the poufy elastic gathered waist. So I took out the elastic and cut off the casing to start over and make a cleaner, not-so-bulky, gathered waist. I’ve found myself doing this on several other past-made skirts with the same full elastic gathered waist. Very soon, I’ll have a blog post showing my method of revitalizing old waistbands and making smoother stretch-on skirts, otherwise I’d get into all the details here. All I’ll say is that it involves wide 2 inch elastic and keeps the gathering on the sides over the hips.


I love how the straight and long style of my black skirt is not-too-far-off from the slender and body hugging columnar bottoms which were so incredibly popular for women to wear for the few years in the very late 1940’s and early 1950’s. My modern skirt is close enough to be similar in silhouette, but not so extreme as those from the past. It’s still full, but slimming to the point that I feel taller in my skirt, and for a shorter lady like me, I like that! Those early 1950’s/late 1940’s skirts were at their longest lengths, low mid-calf, and very slender to the point that they appear restricting to my eyes, limiting movement like a modern “hobble skirt”. I do have a skirt pattern from 1949 (McCall #7809) which I think is a perfect example of what I’m saying, so I want to make this up sooner than later so I can experience first-hand just how confining and slender women wore their skirt back then. 100_6542a-comp

Practical sewing has wonderful benefits even though it might seem a boring sew. It’s great to make garments that are classic enough to be a staple in a wardrobe for many years, like my skirt, and to fix them so you continue to like them, as well. On the other hand, it’s also great to try those more unusual pieces that stand out on their own and teach new sewing/fitting skills. Unique and lesser known styles are especially open to those who sew versus those who rely on what the fashion industry cranks out. Both ends of the spectrum met in this unusual set…and I love it!

What is your most unusual kind of garment you’ve made? Do you have “stand-by” clothes that you’re still wearing (and loving) after years of use?

A Space Age Fashion Classic for 1968

The year is 1968 – our eyes were aimed towards the sky with an impending trip to the moon, and everything that was formerly deemed out of the question was suddenly a reality.  I have already briefly addressed the history of 1968 that had its impact on fashion styles in a previous post, my tapestry corduroy dress.

I have made a dress that combines two classic styles of the space age: hounds tooth fabric and sleeveless color-blocked shift dresses.  Every woman was expected to look like Twiggy  in the late 60’s and A-line dresses promoted the current ideal – a streamlined, androgynous fashion forward image.  Hounds tooth check has been around since the 1880’s, but had a surge in popularity during the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s for women’s business and suit wear.

100_2682      My dress has a front crossover bodice yoke, with gentle notching at the neckline, a basic A-line shape, and a back zipper.  Simple and classy, this retro dress promises a great style that should make it a wardrobe staple this summer!  I like doing my best modern poses wearing this and pairing it with my favorite knock-off beehive hairstyles.

Our town’s Science Center provided the perfect backdrop to do the photo shoot pictures of my dress.  The giant building behind me is the called the Planetarium, displaying the history of space travel and showing the night sky on the ceiling inside on certain nights.  It is lit up in different colors at night and presents quite a landmark on the south city skyline.  The Planetarium just celebrated its 50th anniversary; it was built in 1963.

100_2672THE FACTS:

F100_2433ABRIC:  My hounds tooth fabric was found around the time of last year’s summer at a Goodwill resale store, bought for only $2.00.  The fabric is a polyester knit (I think) with it’s original ‘Woolsworth’ label on a corner.  It was a 2 yard cut, as the label says, and the price was listed as $2.00 as well.  I am estimating the age of this find to be anywhere between the 60’s to the 80’s.  The brown contrast fabric was also used to line parts of the dress’ inside and is also a polyester double knit.

PATTERN:  McCall’s 9230, year 1968McCall's_9230 envelope cover

NOTIONS:  A zipper, another spool of matching thread, and a pack of sewing machine needles.  For some strange reason, I went through 4 sewing needles to finish this dress.  Some needles broke at the thicker seams while others bent for no apparent reason…quite strange.  It’s not like the fabric was that tight and I’ve sewed with thicker stuff before.  My new tool, a “Jean-a-ma-jig”, was used to stitch the thick seams, and I really can’t praise it enough – I love this notion!  I could do beautifully even stitches up and down the fabric ditches.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This dress was finished on March 6, 2014 after only a handful of days’ sewing.  It probably took 8 to 10 hours from start to finish.

THE INSIDES:  They are neatly zig zag stitched…for now.  Read on to hear about what I hope to do to the inside seams in the future. 

FIRST WORN:  My dress was first worn on a busy Sunday, just a day after I was done.  First to Church, then out for lunch, then to a family member’s birthday party for dessert.  Later that evening we went out to take the pictures for this blog post.   

TOTAL COST: $10 or less

This project was easy-peasy to sew up.  I only glanced at the instructions and otherwise did not need to use them as the dress construction is pretty straightforward.  Using the back pattern piece, I drafted my own upper bodice panels to create a matching color-blocked look for the back, so my dress wouldn’t have everything going for it in the front only.  Other than adding the back upper bodice blocking, my only other personalized changes were to eliminate the facings and downsize the dress, as my pattern’s bust was 2 sizes too big for me.  Fitting an A-line dress is easy, though, because it’s just shaping the side seams.

100_2435   It was so weird but funny to see a very big, bold lettered ‘CAUTION!’ across the pattern tissue when I was laying it out on my fabric.  I have never yet seen this before.  The caution advises, “BEFORE YOU CUT, read about your new McCall’s pattern sizing”.  Goodness, is such an alarming tone and bold letters really necessary for a new sizing chart?!  Has anyone seen something like this on a pattern before?

There is a 22 inch center back zipper to make this dress a cinch to get in and out of.  I was tempted to eliminate the zipper completely because my fabrics are knits.  As the fabrics of my dress are stable knits and since I enjoy doing zippers, I opted for the boon of easy dressing and kept the back zipper.

100_2676a    This dress is secretly a fun pun.  Everywhere you see hounds tooth, the inside is lined in brown, and everywhere you see brown, the inside is lined in hounds tooth.  My original reason for doing this was merely a fun one – so I can fold down the crossover front bodice if I want and have the hounds tooth showing.  You can see this in the picture above.  While I was almost halfway into sewing my dress together, my hubby asked if I was making it reversible.  What a good idea!  If I hadn’t been so far along in construction, I would have taken the extra time to make my dress able to be worn inside and right side out.  I still can make the reversible idea work, but I think I will get around to touching up and cleaning up the seams at a future date.  I am considering using self-fabric binding or contrast bias tape to cover and add interest to the inside seams to make this dress reversible.  You can see the inside at the right picture. 100_2686

Taking in the sides of my dress threw off the shaping of the armholes and I’m proud at how well my free-handed cutting is shaped.  I actually trimmed the front armholes only and did it while the dress was on me so I could make sure I was cutting the right shape!  A total of about 1 1/2 inches was taken off the front armholes and curved into the back.

I decided against bulky armhole facings which would then need to be hand-sewn to the lining.  I wanted to keep in things simple.  So, using the brown knit, I made my own skinny bias facing to finish off the raw edges of the armholes.  The look and feel of this finish much better than facings – it was quicker, and more comfortable.  Plus, it’s better if I want my dress to be reversible, and, besides, it was my own personal touch.  As a side note, I was actually considering adding short sleeves to my dress and had even cut out two from both fabrics just to make them reversible, too.  After slipping the sleeves in place under the armhole when my dress was on me I really thought it took a lot away from the rest of the dress.  Besides, I never could decide which side – the hounds tooth or the brown – to have showing.

100_2644a     The back facings were the only real facings that I did on the inside of the dress.  I sewed them in a special way so that when I turned them right side out, they covered the shoulder seams.  When you sew the shoulder seams (the front and back together, with wrong sides out), sew the back facing to the shoulder seam and the neck from the side of the dress front.  I hope you can see what I mean in the picture at left where everything is pinned together.  Just be careful to not catch the inner neck corner, but stay close to the corner, because a little point or bump will result next to the shoulder seam otherwise when the facing gets turned inside.   megans-white-shift-dress1 combo

A Google search of the pattern I used and also ’60’s hounds tooth dresses’ showed me a plethora of vintage items proving to me the era-appropriateness of my new creation.  Among the images I found was this lovely hounds tooth suit MAD-MEN-CHRISTMAS-COMES-BUT-ONCE-A-YEAR-08dress (at far right) worn by the character of Megan Draper from the T.V. show Mad Men.  With my dress, I hope to channel the look and feel of her outfit, but amp it up a bit by making closer to the fresh and bold attitude of a white/orange/green color-blocked dress she wore in another episode (at right).  There is also another hounds tooth dressy suit worn by a blond haired Mad Men secretary in a 2008 episode.

Doin it 60s style pic for McCalls 9230    My Google searching also revealed a another seamstress’ wonderful version of the same dress pattern I used, McCall’s 9230.  She (see her Flickr pics here) seemed to be the first to recognize the fun color blocking potential of McCall’s 9230 as well as it’s similarity to Mad Men styles.  I was also happy to run across an old original ad/flyer for the McCall’s 9230.  Perhaps this picture (below left) came from out of the pattern books we look through inside fabric stores, I can’t seem to find out for sure.  Either way, this dress pattern and fabric design sure have more potential than I first realized.

Technically, this dress isn’t really much, but I sense that it hits a great balance of fabric, styling, historical correctness, and economical cost. It’s easy wearing and easy dressing, and I really enjoy it.  We had a lot of fun taking the pictures, too, and I hope that’s apparent.

Nothin’ like some lunar illumination to link the last 50 years together!

I will post more pictures soon on my Flickr page, Seam Racer.100_2667

The “It’s No Longer a Funnel-Neck” Corduroy 1968 Dress

I would like to post a cozy winter vintage dress that I made for myself this past cold weather season.  What was originally a 1968 funnel neck sheath dress turned into a week and a half’s worth of frustration.  I’m glad this dress finally ended up as a great fitting, good looking success.  Its profile has a classic A-line shape with a…well, “not-sure-what-to call-it-neckline” that is rather complimentary.  Persistence definitely paid off with this project!  I still can’t believe something so awful has turned out so well – another reason why I love to wear this retro dress.



FABRIC: a tan tapestry print of 100% cotton, small wale corduroy; brown poly cling free lining for the inside; both fabrics I’ve had in my stash so long I don’t remember where they were bought or for how much, so they’re being counted as free.

NOTIONS:  I already had the thread and bias tape; just needed to buy a long 22 in zip for the back.100_1080a-comp,w

PATTERN: Simplicity ‘Jiffy’ pattern 7673, year 1968

TIME TO COMPLETE:  finished on February 9, 2013;  I spent at least 22 hours on this darn dress, stretched out over a week and a half’s worth of night work every day.  Those hours doesn’t count the NON-SEWING frustrated times ( many times my dress got thrown into a corner, rolled in a ball, when I didn’t know what more do to it ), but I knew I would pick it up again and do some more adjustments:)

100_2175-compTHE INSIDES: They are very nice and smooth with not a seam to be found exposed!  This dress is fully lined…meaning I more or less sewed two separate and identical dresses then connected them at the neck, sleeves, and bottom hem.  I was very careful not to twist up the sleeve linings, match all darts and seams so the lining is aligned, and the inside bottom hem is covered with hem tape (see picture at left).  Beat that, you RTW clothes!

Jiffy patterns now make me a bit suspicious after using this one.  Granted I knew the bust was too big for me, but the finished size still would have made the correct sized woman (this was a 34 bust pattern) swim in the excess fabric.  My surmise is that this ’68 Simplicity pattern basically did not have good shaping or correct proportions.  The waist and below was the only part which fit me.  The shoulders and bust were humongous, and even the funnel neck look was impossible to achieve without interfacing the way it was designed.  Not calling for the use of interfacing was part of the ‘Jiffy’ idea, I guess.  It was a bad idea because you couldn’t get the envelope drawing appearance, but it was good for me since I did so much altering to help this dress fit and look alright.


Sewing my corduroy ’68 dress was so hard mainly on account of the fact I was fully lining this dress.  Every alteration I did to the corduroy dress had to be precisely measured, lengthwise and width wise, and sewn in exactly the same way, in the same place, into my separate lining dress.  This is part of the reason all my fitting adjustments were so slow and done in agonizing increments – because I didn’t want to make an alteration which I would have to spend extra time to rip out because it was too much.  The routine went like this: I would sew and inch or two here and here, try the corduroy dress on myself, see how it fit, then do the exact same fitting to the lining, and repeat all over again. 100_2173-comp

I ended up taking in a whopping 5 or more inches around the bust.  The shoulders of my dress hung too low (affecting the bust darts) and were raised up several inches to make it properly proportioned.  An invisible dart was even sewn in vertically down the front center, from the neckline to just below my waist, and this took out the last of the extra bust room I didn’t need.  You would never guess that front dart is there…I made extra sure to match up the center front print!  The back zipper is even “professional-style” covered up by the lining inside (see picture above right).

My biggest hack on this winter dress was to the funnel neck.  After the whole dress FINALLY fit me, I just could not like the way this funnel neck looked on me with the dress’ design.  Knowing I still wanted it to cover my neck (because a warm winter dress is hard to find), I played around with different shapes while the dress was on me.  I ended up with this finished neckline by merely pulling down the front panel of the funnel neck down to my collarbone.  The ends of the neckline self-facing is covered in bias tape, and folded over inside (see picture above), so if I do decide to change the neckline again at some point, I can do so easily.


I did an internet search for my pattern to find if anyone else has tried making this 60’s dress.  I found only one woman who made this same pattern and her dress turned out so badly she hacked it into becoming a darling jacket.  Both she and I made the best of a bad pattern.100_2176-comp

Here’s a close-up of the vintage pin I added to the front of my dress in some of my pictures.  I think it compliments my dress well, and makes it look like the blond wearing the purple mini dress on my pattern envelope’s drawing cover.

I did some research on the history of the funnel neck fashion -it proves to be quite interesting (all history is interesting to me).  It seems that funnel necks made a comeback with coat fashion in 2007, but they were at a height of popularity in the 60’s.  Futurism was big during the 60’s, due in large part to the new Space-Age spawned from going to the Moon.  Crazy patterns and large brooches often went with such basic A-line dresses, such as my own corduroy ’68 dress.  For some more very interesting fashion history please visit this link and you might learn something fun to add to your retro sewing.  Fashion-era.com also is another great website where I got some of my info about for my ’68 corduroy dress, as well as info for other projects.

100_1103-comp,wThe snow picture included in this post is from a surprising Easter week snow we had earlier this year.  It was warm enough outside that the snow was incredibly wet and heavy, but it did not last even 24 hours because, as you can see, I didn’t need a coat.  It was cool to catch the falling snow in our pictures!  Beware…I’m forming a snowball to throw at my hubby/photographer in the picture below.

Whether there’s snow or no snow, I am prepared and ready for the cold with this cozy retro winter dress.  I hate to part with it long enough to go in the wash machine.  The more I wear this corduroy dress, the more I love it, but at the same time it makes me laugh at the amount of frustration and disappointment that went into getting such a wonderful finished project.  I am glad I can laugh now and be thankful.