’73 Coat-style Shirt Dress, a Turtle, and a Belt

This is a complimentary layered outfit of three pieces, working together as an effortless way to stay warm in the cold a la early 70’s style.  Three of the major pattern companies contributed towards my outfit – Simplicity, Burda Style, and Vogue – to spread out my contributing sources.


This is also one of those fun oxymoron outfits where I find alternative ways to wear garments taken for granted…my shirt dress is actually worn like it’s a coat.  It is a heavy denim, flowered and all.  It’s like I’m bringing the flowers from out of season to the sleeping winter landscape.  My turtle neck top is not at all dated but actually quite enticingly fashionable, and it’s neither fit on its own for the very cold temps, mostly just a perfect layering piece, especially with its short sleeves.  The jeans were made by me as well, from a pattern of a different era (blogged about in a separate post here).  I can even eliminate the extra layers underneath and wear the shirt dress with my vintage 70’s heels and a neutral belt for a dressy outfit at the other end of the spectrum (seen down later).  Yeah, I love to mix things up and break boundaries – a least a bit when it comes to the clothes I make!


This outfit is made for Allie J’s “Social Sew” for the month of January 2017 “New Year, New Wardrobe”.  There isn’t much I intend to change for this coming year’s sewing, social-sew-2017-badgebesides filling in new dates of historical sewing (teens era, and early 20’s), and continuing to try new techniques and having fun doing unique and meaningful outfits (loose resolutions, I suppose).  I feel that this outfit applies to the monthly theme because the dress was a U.F.O. (unfinished object) as of 2016 fall, and I was starting new tackling it and finishing it so as to be happy with it.  This outfit further applies to the monthly challenge because I have been meaning to make these items for a while, like since 2014 for the dress and turtle.  70’s style is still “in” so I guess there’s no time like now to just get around to a long intended project.

THE FACTS:simplicity-5909-yr-1973

FABRIC:  The Dress:  a cotton floral denim which may have a hint of spandex; The Turtleneck: a lightweight polyester jersey in a blue navy, leftover from my 1971 “Bond girl” dress; The Belt: a thin jersey backed vinyl, grooved and a bit weathered like a skin, in a cherry red cranberry color

PATTERNS:  The Dress: Simplicity #5909, year 1973; The Turtleneck: Burda Style #114 A, from December 2014, online or in their monthly magazine; The belt: Vogue #9222, from 2016, View vogue-9222-year-2016Eburda-style-turtleneck-114-a-dec-2014-line-drawing

NOTIONS:  I had (believe it or not) everything I needed to finish all this on hand already without needing to buy more than an extra spool of tan thread.  I used three different colors of bias tape (whatever was on hand), used a vintage metal zipper for the back of the turtleneck, and used vintage buttons and the belt buckle from hubby’s Grandmother’s stash.dsc_1033a-compw

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The dress was halfway made in October and November of 2016, and completed this year, finished on January 20, 2017.  I’m guess-timating a total time of about 25 hours spend on the dress.  The belt was made on October 21, 2016 in only 3 hours, and the turtle top was made one night the week after that in about 3 hours, as well.

THE INSIDES:  The dress is nice inside with bias binding, the top is left raw for the inside edges, while the belt has cut raw edges, too, finished off in my own special way (addressed down below)

TOTAL COST:  The vinyl was a remnant bought on double discount at Jo Ann’s Fabric store – a total of about $4 for one yard, so there’s plenty left over for a purse, yay!  The other fabrics were something on hand for so long I’m counting them as free.  Thus, between the vinyl and the thread, this outfit cost me about $6.  Sorry, allow me to pat myself on the back for this one.

I am so, so happy to have finally found a use for this floral denim.  It had been in my mom’s fabric stash since I can remember, then she gave it to me for my stash and I had no intention or even remote idea of what to do with it for so many years.  There were 4 freaking yards of this dated-looking flowered denim that could be from the 80’s for all I know.  So when I happened to notice my Simplicity #5909 1973 pattern having a similar looking fabric, I was sold.  Choosing the ankle-length, long-sleeve option was a give-in to use up all of the bolt, as well.  I might have been taking an easy road to follow an existing drawing, but – hey, at least I found a use for what seemed doomed to be an ugly duckling in my fabric stash!


Making the shirt dress was technically not hard – it fits me great out of the envelope with no real fitting.  What was difficult about it was dealing with the large amount of such a heavy fabric.  Marking all those pleats and buttons all the way down was exhausting.  Besides, the stitching required to sew this fabric hog together was boring, straight, and monotonous, especially when it came to the long side seams.  Just trying to stitch on it was its own problem.  Half of the time it took me to stitch was I think spent throwing and pushing around fabric so as to even get it laid out right just to sew on it.  I’m not meaning to complain, just wanting to throw this fact out to anyone who is thinking of making a 4 yard denim shirt dress, too – you’ve been warned what you’re in for.  Like I say, though, it’s worth it in the end.

I’m loving the features of the shirt dress.  Of course it has the large collar lapels that are so traditional on 70’s clothes, but this collar also has an all-in-one collar stand.  There are separate chest front and back shoulder panels which keep the upper bodice flat, without the pleats of the bottom 2/3 of the dress.  There are long horizontal knife pleats in pairs all the way down the hem, four in both front and in back.  The extra wide cuffs have a lovely double button closure, with a continuous lap opening (for which I merely used pre-made bias tape rather than self-fabric).  A baker’s dozen of camel-colored vintage buttons complete it.


This dress pattern’s long version was definitely designed for a woman with weird proportions – tall women with petite length arms.  I am about 5’3” and I had to do a 4 ½ inch hem to have it fall at my ankles.  However, the sleeves were so short, and I had to add one extra inch in length to make them appropriate for my arms (and my arms are a ‘normal’ length, not petite).

The denim is soft with the little bit of stretch, but still heavy, so in lieu of interfacing I chose only to use a medium weight, non-stretch 100% cotton.  It stabilizes the cuffs, collar, and upper back and front bodice panels with making them stiff.  I do have to laugh at how much of a rustle my dress makes when I move.  The fabric is not a heavy of a denim as my husband’s Levi jeans, but it sure does make a heavy, sort of muffled static “white noise”.  Definitely not the best dress for sneaky espionage work…no possibilities of quiet stealthiness in my denim coat-dress. I’m just doing some silly reflection.  It is a great winter dress!  Someone that recently gave me a compliment on my outfit commented that you just can’t find anything like this to buy – yes, that’s why I sew!burda-style-turtleneck-114-b-dec-2014-model-shot

The other great chill buster that keeps me cozy is my lightweight turtleneck top.  I figured the turtle pattern would work well with my 70’s dress because the Burda model picture looks very late 60’s with the equestrian-style helmet/hat, her long hair, and A-line pleated skirt.

This was so ridiculously easy to make I couldn’t stop voicing my amazement for a while after I finished – just a few hours and voila!  Of course, my top was made up more quickly without having the full long sleeves, but even still this is a great pattern.  I barely had a yard of the interlock knit leftover and I was able to make this!?  I’m so tempted to whip up a dozen of these turtles in every variety – quilted knit, sweater fabric, sheer fancy stuff, and more especially I’m hoping to find a funky printed knit for a true Space Age look to go with my ’67 jumper.


The long sleeves are something I do love, but they have more of a 1930’s look so I might end up using them as a replacement on an old-style elegant Art Deco dress in the future.  I will say the body runs small – I almost wish I had went up a size…but hubby’s happiness with how it looks on me makes me say, “Nah, I picked the right fit…”

dsc_1027a-compwThe back neck exposed zipper is sort of mixed feelings sort of thing for me.  I love the modern way it looks even though it is a vintage 50’s or 40’s era notion.  I do not enjoy how it almost always gets caught up with my hair even though I close the zip with my head upside down so my hair isn’t in the way.  Oh well, win some, loose some – I cannot think of a better solution so I’ll shut up about it.  Hint, hint – when in an adventurous mood, you can even wear the back neck unzipped and the stand-up collar lays flat on the chest for a completely different appearance to the top!  O.K., now I’ll move on.

Another amazing thing to this outfit is the belt.  Look at that asymmetric loveliness!  It’s freaking awesome.  I look at it and can’t believe I made it, it seems so professional.  This is a really great design and it has wonderful shaping for around the waist – this is not a straight rectangle sort of pattern.  Belts might seem hard to make or even mysteriously different and even intimidating (working with vinyl or leather), but all of that is blown away by using Vogue #9222.  The instructions are clear and all the designs are so neat I intend to make all of the views available.  In your face ready-to-wear, store bought belts…I can make something better than you, you are often only half belts, with elastic across the back.  My belt is all belt, 100% my style and my make!


My only caveat is that I wish I had extended the length of the belt to go up to the next size.  Cutting out a paper pattern on a slick vinyl leaves room for shifting and a small margin of error.  In order to get the two belt pieces matching together, I had to trim them down slightly, and thus I ended up with a belt that was a little smaller than the pattern intended.  This is why I recommend adding an extra 4 or so inches to the belt length going around the waist.  You can always cut some off, but you can’t add it on, especially when it comes to vinyl.dsc_0002a-compw

I was able to machine stitch most all of the belt, but I used a tiny ‘sharps’ sewing needle to hand sew on the buckle and the belt loop.  I did not want to test four layers of vinyl on my machine so I did not fold in the edges of the seam allowance.  I left the edges raw and tried something experimental.  Taking a hint from store bought belts, which have some sort of seal along the raw edges, I used a matching colored nail polish (yes, fingernail lacquer) to paint over the edges of my belt, both coloring and sealing them at the same time.  It’s a rather permanent option, nevertheless I did see some faint rubbing off of the nail polish onto my dress after one wearing.  So – it’s not perfect, but an easily available solution that I am happy to see worked out so well.

This was the first time making grommet eyelets and I think they are a success.  I have tried before again and again to get metal grommets to turn out right, but that was experimenting on fabric (for a corset) and this time they came out much better in the vinyl.  It was like a boost of confidence I needed, feeling that ‘o.k. I can do grommets, I understand how they work now’ so maybe, eventually I can have them turn out well for my future corset.  Does anyone have any tips to share about the keys to successful metal grommets or even what to avoid?  Should I add some glue to the back (to keep them in place) and can you replace one if it gets wonky (or does that not work)?  Just wondering.

dsc_1041a-compwI hope this post has inspired you to see outside of the traditional box for sewing and making every day-type of clothing items.  There is so much room for inventiveness when you make things yourself, the sky’s the limit!  A dress that is a shirt-dress worn like a coat, a belt finished-off with nail polish…a girl’s gotta do what she has to do when she gets an idea with a sewing machine, some material, and extra time on her hands!  Yup, I live on creativity and can’t stop.

Do you, too, have any big hopes for making some neat things this year, something which gets you all amped up just to think about it?  Do you too have some ‘ugly duckling’ fabric around just waiting for the ‘right partner’ in the form of a pattern to complete it (or did you ditch it)?  What is your favorite way to put yourself together to combat the cold weather?




My “High Standards” 1950’s Jumper

When I think of the word “jumper”, my mind automatically wants to picture a dowdy, sack like article of clothing that is obviously outdated.  I’m not sure why this occurrence is the case for me, but I suppose it’s easy to get misconceptions stuck in one’s head.  So, as I was looking through my patterns for something different to make and wear this winter, a vintage jumper sounded fun along with the knowledge I was taking a risk with my precious fabric.  My standards for a jumper were quite exacting just so I can break my mental block towards jumpers.  The jumper had to be something I will like, feel comfortable yet be quite modern, but still be warm in cold weather.  I am surprised at my success in making something better than what I had hoped.

100_1140a     Here I’m wearing the jumper with my peep toe patent shoes and a vintage velour hat, complete with its original feathers, netting, and jewels.

I did quite a LOT of online checking to get the lowdown on Simplicity 3673 so I would know how to make the look for which I was searching.  It seems this pattern has been made many times, in many different surprising variations.  Most of the reviews were unanimous about two things:  1) the need to decrease the ease in the bust/chest (above the empire waistline it is unreasonably big compared to the ease in the waist and hips),  2)  slightly rounding in the wide boat neck.  I accomplished both at the same time by “pinching out” 1 1/4 inches from the middle of the front and back bodice pieces.  Below is a drawing of what I just described.100_1197

From the waistline down, I cut a half size bigger than my true size (in this pattern), while from the waistline up, I cut a half size smaller than my size – both of which I rarely do.  The waistline was my happy medium, where the seams were a size 10, the one size both top and bottom had in common.  I was making the longer View A, only without either the ‘belt placket’ or the belt tabs.  The center front skirt seam was eliminated from my design by measuring out the 5/8 inch seam allowance and cutting that pattern piece on the fold instead as per instructions.  Believe me, no center front seam here is just about the best thing for this jumper!100_1133a

There were no very challenging techniques here, and the jumper went together easily.  The part about pulling the lining and the fabric right sides out through the shoulder was…well, humorous by the way I got so frustrated I had to watch TV doing it so as to mellow out.  The darts were the most precise and time consuming part of assembly, especially with my lining attached.  I just took my time, in between struggling to find time for sewing, so that I would end up with a professionally finished garment.  I even sewed seam tape (lightweight netting strips) into the armhole and neckline seams so they couldn’t stretch out of shape.  I can’t tell you how much I love seam tape now and wish I would’ve sewn it into more of my past projects.

I tried the jumper pieces on myself a few times throughout sewing it together and they seemed to fit great, but it wasn’t until I was completely done – except for the zipper – that I realized it turned out so…form fitting.  Not exactly tight, just snug, very customized to say the least.  In fact, the jumper was unfortunately “custom fitting” enough that I didn’t have room to properly install a zipper!  I really could not spare the inch or so needed or else the jumper would be unwearable (unless I suddenly did some big time weight loss system).

100_1137a     Sometimes my sewing mistakes end up forcing me to come up with something much more creative and even better looking than originally planned.

The chunky, exposed zipper down the back gave me the best of both worlds: 1) a modern, upbeat feature with a point of interest to break up the dark colors, and 2) extra inches to help the jumper fit a bit more comfortably.  I made long strips of bias tape out of the bouclé fabric and sewed them over the raw edges before installing the zipper.  I’m glad the strips are unnoticeable, blending in perfectly, and they gave those edges more support (as well as more inches).

I even have 1 1/4 yards of the bouclé still leftover, and am planning on using it to make either a small, cropped jacket or a capelet to match.  That project will have to wait until next winter.

Hubby wears a smile when I wear my jumper, which is actually more of a “wiggle dress” the way it fits.  It really took him awhile to peg his idea of “the look” he sees in what I made.  He says it reminds him of a ‘hot librarian’ style…thus my photo shoot is at our local library.  This statement is ironic coming out of his mouth, with his mom being a retired librarian and my girlfriend/maid-of-honor being a librarian for the county system.  In honor of the hubby statement, I will title this next full picture, “Really?! So you want me to bend way down and get a book on the bottom shelf for you?”  So much for calling this my ‘high standards’ jumper!!!

100_1138aTHE FACTS:

FABRIC: a wool/acrylic blend in a chunky bouclé, with a brown and tan color mix (I’d been saving this fabric in my stash for so long, as I don’t have much wool, hoping to use it wisely one day…) & black poly cling-free lining for the insideS-3673

NOTIONS: black bias tape ($2 each for two packs) & a gold exposed zipper (on sale for $1), while the thread, the hem tape, and seam binding I had already

PATTERN: Simplicity #3673, a reprint of a 1956 Simplicity #1734.  My intent was to channel a late 40’s/50’s New Look type of styling here.  I had originally planned on using an old vintage pattern of mine, McCall’s 9815, but when I unfolded it, there was only the blouse pattern! Oh well.

TIME TO COMPLETE: about 15 hours; finished on March 3, 2013

100_1198THE INSIDES: all clean and nicely finished, see pic below, with a mix of bias binding and hem tape – well worth the time, thank you.  The bouclé HAD to be lined , as it shredded EVERYWHERE (a mess for my sewing area) and it was a very loose weave…I didn’t want a jumper that was tight and see-through.  


Western Inspiration: My Denim and Plaid Dress

This dress is about 2/3 refashioned, 1/3 regular fabric store remnant, and 100% creativity between myself and my husband. What is so cool about this dress is that it’s not “in-your-face-western”, but subtle enough to suggest a feminine twist on the days when plaid was a staple for cowboys and denim was the next toughest thing to rawhide 🙂 Never intended this…it’s just how it came together…but y’all know that I love a refashion project!

I don’t technically know how this project started. I had a yard of denim floating around the basement and a lingering pattern idea which I was determined to make work. This dress was made from McCalls 6324. Now, I knew I wanted the short sleeves of view C, with the contrast bodice of view B, and the ‘no-contrast’ bottom hem of view A. Ah, the wonders of a designer’s inspiration! I love mix and match features on patterns.


THE FABRIC: 1 yard of dark wash denim from stash, my pair of dark & gently used jeans, my  husband’s cotton off-white & navy plaid shirt, and white cotton scraps for lining –all practically FREE

NOTIONS:  I had everything already but the exposed zipper – only a couple $$ – and the neckline lace

PATTERN: McCall’s 6324, year 2011, view A, B, and C combined

FIRST WORN: to see a movie (“Pirates” in Clay-mation) with hubby at the same place where we had our first date.  This is a wardrobe staple kind of dress, though!

TIME TO COMPLETE: about 10 hours

Our little dachshund (my little shadow and constant companion) is in this picture!

However, when I laid the pattern pieces out, I realized I only had enough fabric for 4 of the dress panels. I did laugh at myself at this point for completely disregarding the amount the pattern said was needed. The dress is put together with 6 panels front, and 6 panels back, and I really didn’t feel like running all over to our fabric stores for something matching. I did happen to remember I had an old pair of flare leg jeans (never really worn) that never fit quite right. I planned on giving to Goodwill. Luckily for me, I hadn’t donated them yet and was able to find them again without too much digging.

The denim of my jeans was a perfect match-just close enough to work and besides, I felt good about up-cycling into something more useful and fashionable. These jeans weren’t an easy answer though. We were going to have to use a lot more inventiveness. Above is the pants turning into my dress.

The dress panel pieces were a little too long, so I used my seam ripper to take apart the pants’ hem, pockets, and side seams from knees down. For best look, I figured on using my jeans for the 2 middle front and the 2 middle back panels. I threw my own and my husband’s caution to the wind and go for a wild idea. The undone hem of the front pant leg panels was used along the bodice seam for the 2 center back panels, while the back jean legs were used for the 2 front dress panels with the darker marking from the missing pockets along the bodice seam also. Here are close ups of what I did. The right is the front of my dress, while the left is the back.

My husband practically gave me the bodice idea. I was digging through my fabric stash for a good contrast fabric, when he mentioned ‘plaid’ (which he loves) and I went to a bin where we keep all his old ‘rag shirts’, which normally have a stain or a hole in an obvious place.  I could cut around something stained, so I thought.

Then my husband pointed out an old Eddie Bauer shirt he wasn’t going to wear anymore. He’d had this shirt since late high school, and his mom had already shortened the sleeves a long time ago. By the way, this shirt was a generous fit – it is from a time when he was, let’s say, a lot more optimistic about his future body size. He is – and always has been – a skinny guy!

I used the bottom front and the bottom back (with careful matching) for my bodice, and I used the shirt sleeves to cut out my new sleeves. Then I lined the whole bodice in a soft white 100% cotton scraps in my stash. I’m quite proud of how nicely the bodice is lined and how well I matched up the plaid across the front. Hubby’s plaid made my dress’ ‘look’ seem a bit tough, so I went and bought small cotton lace for the neckline without having the dress on hand with me. I eye-balled how much I needed and I was only 7 inches extra!  Hot dog!

The exposed zipper was so easy and fun to put in the dress. For an added touch, I even added a small panel to cover the inside bottom of the zip.

McCall’s 6324 is an easy and very slimming pattern, but there are a number of things to change on this pattern. #1) THE NECKLINE- I added 2 1/2 inches along the neckline to make it higher. It would have been quite revealing otherwise. This includes the back, too. #2) THE SLEEVES- In my opinion, they need to be wider and fuller. The sleeves are awfully small and tight. The sleeves are the one bother to this dress and I will get around to fixing them (making them fuller) one day yet…

I feel my 2nd refashion was another unique success, and my husband loves to tell others about this project, as it was partly his in it’s own right. I’m also glad I saved two items from floating around Goodwill.

UPDATE!!! _________________________________________________________________________

As of May 2014, I have made those changes and additions I considered above!

First, I had to give myself more room in the arms.  Thus, I dug back through my scrap pile and found some more bits of the plaid.  Sadly, I did not have enough for newly cut full sleeves.  I had to adapt what I had on my dress already.  Perhaps I should have done underarm gussets, but I do not as yet feel experienced enough to do such a detail..

My first step was to cut though the center top of the sleeve from the hem to almost the shoulder top.  Then I filled it in with a godet-style piece.  I had to line those sleeve godets in plain cotton, just like the rest of the insides, to make my change clean and not messy.  This might not have been the smoothest means to give myself reach room, and it does mar the plaid, but I did match up as best I could!  My dress is so much more easy to move in, so I’m counting this as a win!

Then, because a garment is always better with pockets, I also found the leftovers from the jeans I used for the body of the dress and added the one of the former booty pockets to the side front of my dress – perfectly hand handy now!