The Late 60’s Three-Armhole “Wrap-arounder” Dress

Simplicity7572     It’s time to highlight an inventive fashion oddity from the past.  No, the three-armhole, wrap-arounder, Simplicity #7572 “Jiffy” dress pattern was not meant for ladies with three arms…just for the modern woman on the go.  In the blink of an eye, this dress is on and ready to be worn as is for and easy, breezy look, or accessorized in a myriad of ways for countless different options.

I maximized on the countless options of this wrap-arounder dress by going through the extra thought, fabric, and time to make my version reversible.  Two looks in one easy dress, in one simple pattern piece, using a small amount of fabric!  This is my first reversible clothing creation, as well as the first pattern I’ve used from my mother-in-law’s pattern stash which I now keep.  Although the instructions for Simplicity #7572 lists a date of 1967, the envelope says 1968 – and, considering it to be from ’68, would make it my third project from that year (click here for #1, and here for #2).  My #2 1968 dress is also coincidentally very close to being reversible, as well, while my dress #1 is another “Jiffy” pattern.

100_3206a     It seems that three-armhole wrap-arounder dresses were something of a fad in the late 60s.  A great page about “What is the three armhole dress?” can be found by  clicking here, where the “Patterns from the Past” shows at least nine (six for women, and three for girls) wrap-arounder dresses which were released between 1966 and 1969.  All nine of the dress patterns were all categorized as “Jiffy” projects, with minimal tissue pieces to use and relatively quick time to completion.  As is shown on “Patterns from the Past” blog, Butterick, McCall’s, and Simplicity all came out with their own versions of the three-armhole dress, but apparently the term “wrap-arounder” is technically a trademark of McCall’s corporation.  (“Patterns from the Past” sells patterns, too – see here – so she should know a thing or two.) “Woof Nanny” also has a blog page here about the wrap-around 60’s fad, and she shows a few more three-armhole patterns that aren’t seen on the “Patterns from the Past” page.  Some wrap-arounder patterns have collars, some have fringe, and some are made out of towel cloth…but they are all share the same basic, but short lived creative design.

100_3207b     As far as versatility goes, this dress design banks in on the ingenuity factor, quietly offering a seamstress endless opportunities for creativity and ingenuity with a seemingly mellow pattern cover that is not fetching, just curious.  Maggie at “Vintage Core Patterns” made herself a cute version of Simplicity #7572.  My hubby and I have come up with a plethora of ideas ourselves for this pattern, so I have a feeling I’ll have some more creative variations of the 60s wrap-arounder dress in my future.  Looking at some comments on this subject in the internet blogging world, interesting variations of the three-armhole dress have already been thought of years ago.  Both of the blogs I mentioned in the paragraph above (“Woof Nanny” and “Patterns from the Past”) have some comments at the bottom of their pages that are left by people who made these wrap-arounder dresses when the patterns were first released.  One comment said their three-armhole dress pattern was made to be a full body apron to cover their Sunday best clothes, while another comment said it made an easy-to-get-on dress for a girl with a cast on her broken arm.  Many of the comments were remembrances of how the wrap-arounder dress was their first clothing project for ‘home economics’ class in school.  Read the comments for yourself and be amazed, like I was, at how such a simple design brings back memories and brings out peoples ‘creativity.  It’s a shame these innovative wrap patterns are generally unknown nowadays!

THE FACTS:100_3218

FABRIC:  As this dress is reversible, it took two different fabrics: 1.) a cotton, embroidered border eyelet in a dusty aqua color, and 2.) a printed quilter’s cotton which has a solid blue on one side and a navy basket weave print on the other side.  Both fabric pieces are cut at just under 2 yards.  You can see, in the picture at right, what both fabrics look like in detail, and also how I lined up the embroidered border to end just above the bottom hem.

NOTIONS:   I bought a spool of dark aqua dual-duty thread.  This was the only notion I needed to make this dress. 

PATTERN:  Simplicity #7572, (picture at the top left) with a date of 1967 on the inner instructions and a date of 1968 on the envelope.  I chose to make view 2, the mid-length version.  I can tell from the markings and cuts that the pattern had been made up in the mini length version, and, as this comes from the stash of my mother-in-law, I wonder who in the family made and wore their version of Simplicity #7572. 

Simplicity7572 Jiffy close upTIME TO COMPLETE:  Making the pattern up exactly as instructed, I can see this dress being a 3 hour quickie project.  However, leave it to me to make this harder!  I ended up fitting the dress at the armholes somewhat (I’ll explain more down later), and the reversible part of the dress took extra cutting, top stitching, seam turning, and pinning time.  Altogether, I think my version of Simplicity #7572 dress was completed in 6 or 7 hours, and was finished on June 20, 2014.

THE INSIDES:  What insides?  All the seams (which aren’t many) are, well, tucked ‘inside’ both fabrics because my dress is totally reversible. 

TOTAL COST:  The aqua eyelet fabric has been in my stash too long for me to remember when I bought it or where it came from, so I am counting it as free.  The cotton quilting cotton for the other reversible side was bought at Hancock Fabrics just recently.  Thus, between buying the one fabric and the one spool of thread my total cost for my dress is under $10.00.

100_3120    The size of the pattern is a medium, and I really needed a small, so I correctly estimated I would have to do some fitting to trim down both the appearance and fit.  First, I cut out and sewed up the two different fabrics like two separate dresses making no changes to the pattern whatsoever.  The pattern piece is one, gigantic rectangular style shape which you cut on the fold to end up with six total armholes.  (Pardon all of our son’s toys in my layout picture).  Every two armholes get sewn together after a small shaping dart is sewn into each one of the six.  After this stage, I was able to try on a single layer of fabric and realize where and how much to bring in.  I ended up taking in my dress, just like a giant 100_3121vertical dart, from the center under arm down to an inch above the bottom hem.  This made (more or less) three giant side seams, and I had to do this adjustment exactly the same on both fabrics.  Personally, I took in all the darts at 1 1/4 inches for the first 5 inches down under the arm, then gradually tapering down to nothing, for a total of 3 3/4 inches taken in from the bust and waist of the dress (see picture at left).

Next, the two fabric dresses were joined, right sides together, and stitched all along the outside seam…all the way across the neckline between the three armholes, down the two vertical edges, and also the long bottom hem.  My pin box was maxed out!  A small gap was left open at the bottom hem to turn the dress right sides out and turn the edges.  Then 100_3217the same edge had to be top stitched all the way around again!  The last step was to measure and turn in the raw edges for the three armholes and top stitch them together, too.  The inner raw edges and the side darts I added for fitting are actually quit invisible through the eyelet holes of the aqua side of my dress.  All you see is the nice contrast of the dusty colored blue through the stitched openings of the eyelet.

100_3208a     Wearing this three-armholed wrap-arounder dress is a process as creative as the pattern itself.  Depending on how you initially wrap it on yourself, the third armhole of the dress doubles up on either the left or on the right shoulder, to “anchor” the dress closed.  The third armhole can end facing in front or in back of you, as you can see in the envelope cover above.  Anyway you wear it, you will always have two armholes/shoulders on one arm.  See my pictures.  Above, I’m demonstrating how the dress gets wrapped on by wearing only two of the armholes without the third.  We had to take this picture at home 🙂  If I wanted to wear the dress so that the third armhole opening would end facing the back, I would put it on exactly the opposite of how you see it in my picture.  (We didn’t get a picture of that…it felt indecent.)    In the picture below, I’ve switched sides fabric sides – I think I needed to sneeze too!  It took me a small amount of experimenting with the dress itself to understand completely how it gets worn, so if you don’t understand my attempt at an explanation, you’re fine!  You just need to make one of these dresses for yourself!

100_3212a100_3216a     As if I haven’t said enough good things about my wrap-arounder dress, I would like to add one more.  I was reluctant to use my aqua eyelet to make this dress, for after saving in my stash for so long I wanted to make the best possible project.  I did realize that trying to be the very best is me trying too hard, so I went ahead and used the fabric anyway because wearing it is always better than sitting for more time in the basement stash.  My husband also made the point that this Simplicity 7572 dress stays true to the engineer’s K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle, being practically a solid 2 yard cut, so if I ever do decide to make something else with the fabric for my dress, I can do so easily.  Read how I also followed the K.I.S.S. principle here.  How’s that idea for “reuse and recycle”?!

My outfit is matched perfectly by some retro aqua square clip-on earrings I found recently at an antique mall for $1.00.  I figured on stressing the pre-70s fashion of my late 60s dress by wearing my funky navy blue “Crown Vintage” brand wedges, which were a Christmas present from hubby.  A blue suede flower pin from Hancock Fabrics closes the wrap dress’ flap in most of my pictures.  I can’t wait to find more on hand to match and compliment my unusual retro creation.

Innovation is everywhere.  Most of what we wear, and posses, and enjoy is a product of someone’s inventive idea.  We just need to keep our eyes open to see, appreciate, and spread such creative ideas, such as the 60s wrap-around three-armhole dress idea (or see my post on knitwear).  It’s fun and worthwhile to let those creative juices flow!

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.

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THE FACTS:

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.

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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.

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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.

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