City Wildlife

January is the depths of winter here and right now we are getting bombarded with frozen precipitation.  Yuk…this is not ‘my thing’.  As an August baby, I need a reason to remember the warm days when I could wear my favorite skin-baring sundresses!

I have not forgotten late last years’ beginning of my “Indian Summer of the Sundress” series, and so I’d like to add another installment to it with this post.  I figure it might help those of you in the depths of winter like me as well as inspiring those in the warm weather at the opposite side of my location!  This time I have a ‘modern-does-late-mid-century’ look in an animal print maxi.  It’s a properly classy yet subdued unruliness made to visit the animal and human wildlife for an event in our city zoo over this past summer.  Happily, a giraffe was more than willing to oblige to be in the background of some of our pictures even though I am wearing leopard (these big cats can be their predators in the wild).

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a super soft quilting cotton print fully lined in your average soft cotton unbleached muslin

PATTERN:  Simplicity #2180, year 2011

NOTIONS:  all I needed was a lot of thread, a bit of interfacing, and an invisible zipper, all of which was on hand

TIME TO COMPLETE:  about 15 to 20 hours went into making this dress; it was finished on August 25, 2018

THE INSIDES:  full lining means, “What seams? I don’t see ‘em.”

TOTAL COST:  As this has project idea been sitting in my stash for a while now, with the fabric bought a few years before that, I’m counting it as free by now.

This dress has been on my “to-make” bucket list for about 5 years now.  I remember it was one of the projects I wanted to tackle in the early days of my blogging, yet some of the details to it intimidated me at that time, so it got shoved to the back of the queue.  No longer!  However it was a good thing that I did put off making it because this sundress was challenging…not so much to make, just to fit and tweak to point where I am happy with it.  None of my changes are really noticeable when you look at the original design, though, so they are nothing major.  No, I wouldn’t do that to it – I love the style lines too much to really change them!

The back bodice triangular tied-together style is something I’ve seen again and again in mid to late 1950’s extant vintage dresses for sale at shops online.  I enjoy the fact that it is revealing yet you can still wear conventional brassiere under it!  It’s not like being completely backless but it sure gives off that air…so sexy with its teasing!  I can’t tell from the pictures whether or not the true vintage dresses really tie or are sewn shut in imitation.

Nevertheless, to make things easy for myself, I made the center back of my dress sewn down together.  The pattern calls for a tie back, but that sounds fiddly to me besides possibly creating a knot for me to sit back on – ouch!  I also didn’t want the complexity of ties to cover up the back design because I think the simplicity of the back is just beautiful.  It’s also perfectly airy for a hot summer day.  For my fix, I merely corrected the angle and left off the tie straps, which originally were and extension of the neckline facing.

I did not like the original neckline finishing though.  It was too wide and appeared stifling compared to the rest of the dress.  So I made my facing half the width.  I like the slightly more open neck and low key element to my version of the neckline facing.  However, I did have to slightly customize the shape of the front neckline because the bust (cutting out what should have been my ‘correct size’) turned out quite large in the chest.

To aesthetically correct the generous upper bust, I made two cross-bias darts that end at the upper bust and come out of either side of the bottom center neckline front.  This fix is something which is a fashion dart in my old tailoring books and you don’t see it on many garments.  Only (boo hoo!) it blends into the fabric print.  It takes out the excess right where it was at yet changed the neckline facing into something slightly more angular.  The original design has the neckline quite high with the wide facing and boat neck wide in style.  Personally, I like my version better (no surprise) but it was all just alterations I made along way of the construction process…in other words not planned ahead of time.  It is amazing how little ‘failures’ are only opportunities for happy creativity which makes things better you’d than hoped!

Now, the back bodice might be a 50’s element but the rest of the dress makes it seem more 1960s to me.  The long slim skirt with gathered waist and the high banded middle distantly remind me of Audrey Hepburn’s black Givenchy dress from the movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” of 1961 (it’s my big hat – see picture below – influencing my perception, too).  Ever since that famous costume, early 60’s fashion had recurring but occasional long slim skirts to dresses, especially when circa 1964 combined these with an empire waist for a resurrected Recency Era fad, thanks to the creations of Norman Norell (see the “Josephine” dress), the great Dior, the innovative Bill Blass (then working under Maurice Rentner), and Mod Mary Quant.  These designers made such a silhouette the mark of high fashion.

This sundress’ skirt is really very straight rectangle on paper, and only appears a lot slimmer than it is when my legs are together or one knee is jutted out as I shift weight when standing.  I actually went up two size larger than my size because I didn’t want this dress to be too confining to walk in.  The above-the-knee slit helps movement freedom (and adds to the sultry aura of the dress, certainly) but I don’t want to rely only on that…I like my sundresses to both look nice and be ready for moments of family fun!  I was able to ride the jungle animal themed carousel ride with my son that day, but only side saddle for fear of ripping the side slit sky-high!

As the printed cotton was ivory (light colors tend to be see-through) I took the extra time to fully line the inside of the dress and it was so worth it!  It makes dressing in this so much more simplified not needing a slip, besides so soft on the skin.  I like a good layer of natural fabrics during summer, it wicks away moisture and breathes unlike any polyester, so I don’t mind doubling up on a good quality cotton.  Besides, the inside looks so professional even if it is just your average muslin lining!  Sandwiching a perfect invisible zipper up the side between the layers and matching up all the horizontal seams was tricky, though.

At first, I was afraid my outfit would be a bit “too much” but I had a happy time in comfort, received lots of smiles and a few compliments from passer-bys, and stayed classy despite my day in the hot sun wearing my sundress make.  I can’t wait to get more wear out of this sundress as soon as our weather turn balmy again!  It’s funny to realize I never used to enjoy animal prints as much as I have in the last few years, but when I do use them, for some weird reason it always tends to be leopard!  I have a Dior inspired late 40’s wool coatdress with leopard printed flannel accents which I plan on making this year, so my habit of using one kind of animal print doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon!

There is an interesting article I’ve read recently called “The Trashy, Expensive, and Contradictory Reputation of Leopard Print” and as much as I enjoyed the info it made think about why I tend to leopard.  Strangely, it’s not because I feel any of the stereotypes associated with it – power, exoticism, eroticism, punk, or glamour, probably why most of my leopard print makes are relatively tame.  I think I like it because I see it as a mere print, more like a curious twist on polka-dots, even though I know it is the natural camouflage of an animal skin, to a wild cat that needs respect and protection.  So there – either I’m admitting to a watered down mentality, or I’m fully duped by fashion idea of leopard, or perhaps merely admitting to agree with Dior (which makes me cringe a little to say, but that’s for another post).  He used leopard print as a “house motif” and mainstreamed the usage of it as more than an unnatural item and not just a fur (continuing the practice to this day).  Since such a print can be found on practically any material nowadays (thanks to advancements made in the 1930s) – from cotton to faux leather and scuba knit – my mind is so far removed from the actual idea of the real fur…don’t know if I’ve ever seen real leopard clothes nor would I ever want to buy or wear them (and probably couldn’t afford them, anyway).  Dior is quoted as saying, “If you are fair and sweet, don’t wear it.”

What side are you on when it comes to animal prints, because I realize I am some weird in between…I like wearing fabric based fashion reproductions but they by no means are my favorite nor do they garner my repugnance.  It is good on an occasional basis for me.  Do any of you animal print lovers also favor leopard like me?

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OO7 Halston-Style Maxi Dress

Allie J's Social Sew badgeWhen I saw Allie J.’s monthly “Social Sew” theme of August being “Hot, Hot Heat”, I picked up a project waiting in the works to sew up and finish.  I think my garment perfectly fulfills each word of her challenge theme – what else could be doubly ‘hot’ more than a 1970’s, Halston-style, “James Bond girl” movie dress, with the ‘heat’ being the weather outside that necessitates a maxi sundress.

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I have sewn plenty of garments from year 1971 patterns, but here’s another for this post that rather looks like a 1930’s does 1970’s.  My dress is directly inspired from a dress worn by the “Bond girl” Barbara Bach in the 1977 movie “The Spy Who Loved Me”.  Now that I’ve got this dress, all I need is some secret gadgets, a little intrigue, the classic theme music playing in the background, and a handsome chap in a suit.

Barbara Bach - close-up“Just call me Agent.”  Barbara Bach (“Agent Anya”) marked the beginning of a new type of “Bond girl”.  Post Barbara Bach, I love how Bond girls seem to share the same similarities of lovely garments, kick-butt moves, assertiveness, and thrilling action as my other favorite screen girl, Agent Peggy Carter.  Elegance doesn’t have to be prissy…it can be strong and self-empowering, especially when you have made your own outfit for the part!

Butterick 6671, August 1971, junior's-compTHE FACTS:

FABRIC:  Lightweight, 100% polyester interlock knit

PATTERN:  Butterick #6671, from August of 1971

NOTIONS:  Navy thread (which I had already) and 3 packs, same as 3 yards, of silver sparkle decorative elastic, bought from JoAnn’s Fabric store.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  My dress was finished on August 15, 2016, after a total time spent of maybe 10 hours (I’ll break down this time amount in an explanation down below).

TOTAL COST:  This interlock knit is cheap and cost even less with a coupon, but I did need a couple yards.  The three packs of elastic were a few dollars each – so I suppose my total is about $10.  Not bad at all!!!

I find it so curious how my dress is from a ’71 pattern and the only thing was the neckline which needed to be changed to make it up like a ’77 Bond movie gown.  Vogue even cameVogue 8449, early 70's dress out with similar jeweled neckline maxi sundress in 1972, too (#8449), more alike than my own pattern to the Bond movie costume.  I usually think of vintage movies as keeping pace with fashion or at least starting a trend, but here is a certain design out there offered 5 years before being made up for a noticeably major movie series.  Halston’s style of minimalist, elegant, body complimentary garments for women was already popular and available to the public by the date of this pattern, and well established by the release of the Bond movie “The Spy Who Loved Me”.  So, while I think the outfits of the movie are just awesome, I do not see them as cutting edge (what I would expect from a Bond movie) as much as my pattern is.  I also find it interesting that this pattern is in juniors’ sizing, appealing to teenagers.

The juniors’ sizing is something I had to adjust at the cutting/layout stage, but as many of my 70’s patterns seem to be in these shorter teen proportions, I knew what to do.  I add in 2 inches across at a line drawn horizontally across the chest somewhere between the end point of the bust line (or slightly above) and the bottom third of the armhole.  The chosen line to add in the two inches is then added in around the back to completely bring the bust, and all the subsequent proportions of the waist and hips, too, back down to normal misses’ adult size.  (See my first junior’s dress.) As this is a sleeveless dress, my add-in line was at the bust line point over to the point of the side seam.  Sure this makes the hem a bit longer, but a wide and thick hem helps to slightly weigh this dress down.

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As my dress is a knit, I eliminated the back center zipper.  However, I had problems fitting the back dipping arch of the dress and I can’t say if it’s because of the pattern, or the way I sized up, or from eliminating the zipper.  It was really baggy!  I added in three darts on each side of the back, which sort of mars the smooth simplicity I was hoping from this dress, but I would rather have a good fitting garment.  The high halter neckline of the original pattern was also cut down to just above the bust line and out over to the edge.

Movie still - back viewMy chosen fabric of the lightweight interlock was a great choice, if I must say so myself, but a surprising one.  Until now, I’ve only used this kind of interlock as a lining to back other fabrics as I am making a garment, so this is a first time for the interlock to be worn on its own.  I am quite pleased with it.  Polyester is my least favorite fiber material, but it is most tolerable to me in this light interlock form.  It creates hardly any static, has a nice flowing ‘hand’, is breathable with its tiny waffle weave yet silky in finish, super sheer by itself but opaque once worn, and with a stable stretch.  I’m supposing the original movie dress is either a rayon or a silk jersey knit.  However, this interlock was on hand in the house in a perfect matching color (a very dark blueish navy) and has similar but slightly less body-clingy properties…so it was used, and I’m glad I did!  Yay for stash busting!DSC_0215a-compfull dress shot -

The thigh-high slit helps amp up the hottie factor.  It also makes the skirt portion of the dress just beautifully move and flow around me as I walk as if it has its own independent mind and its own places to go.  I see in the Bond movie that Barbara Bach’s dress is the same way.  Her dress however has two off-center front slits up to the thigh whereas mine only has one on the left side seam.  At first I had it as a knee-high slit, but that just seemed to reserved compared to the rest of the dress, so I made it higher (but still not as high as the pattern called for)!  I can’t help but think of the ZZ Top song, “She’s got legs…”

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The neckline is pretty much the highlight of the dress, so I took extra pains to get it right. Now, of course the movie dress has diamanté straps and neckline decorations of real crystals, probably.  Mine is more of an everyday girl’s version.  The metallic elastic would not be sewn on by my machine, and neither would my machine tolerate metallic thread no matter what I tried.  (It was getting stuck in the tension feed.)  Thus, although the dress itself only took me just a few hours to make, hand sewing on the metallic elastic took me many more hours than that.  Argh!  Hand sewing is something my hand, shoulders, and neck cannot take without making my body miserable, so I did the sewing in stages.  As I’ve said before, the promise of the end look always gets me through the hard parts of finishing a garment.

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So does anybody know of a metallic thread that is decently sturdy?  I used a Coats and Clark brand and even hand sewing was hell with it.  I had to sew with little short lengths because after a dozen stitches the thread would fray and separate.  Is Gutermann better?  Or is there some brand better yet?  Or do the modern offerings of metallic thread just…well…stink, and should I try vintage metallic thread?

Making this OO7 dress makes me ponder a few things.  Again, this dress is one of the many I’ve sewn which amazes me at how easy and inexpensive fancy gowns are when self-made.  In the stores, I’ll bet buying a gown remotely like this, which probably would not fit half as well, would cost a fistful of dough to buy.  Again, another vintage pattern shows me how patterns, designers, and movies all have been so interrelated.  Again, I see film fashion and iconic designs transmuted to the public is generally so lacking nowadays (with a few occasional exceptions).  Glamour is easier to wear and more available in the hands of those who create with fabric than the greater populace reliant on ready-to-wear realizes.

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For more movie images, see Barbara Bach’s fan website here or ‘Classiq.me’ for a review of the movie fashions

Tropical Wrap – a 1971 Summer Maxi Dress

Do you have one hour to spare? Do you have two yards of beautifully draping, summer-worthy fabric? Most sewers will answer yes. Well, here’s a year 1971 Super Jiffy maxi dress pattern that I found will fulfill a sewing ‘need’ for an uncomplicated project and look effortlessly amazing in – yes – one hour with two yards of fabric.

100_5935a-compTHE FACTS:

FABRIC: a 100% rayon challis

NOTIONS: I always have black thread on hand, and the inner closure ties were from my scrap bag of ribbons, so no notions were bought. The ribbons are so pretty and such a perfect match color-wise, it’s a shame they don’ get seen.

Simplicity 9415 combo back and front-compSimplicity 1100 reprint coverPATTERN: My pattern is an original, Simplicity #9415, year 1971, but this has also been reprinted this year (2015) as Simplicity #1100

TIME TO COMPLETE: One hour on the afternoon of July 21, 2015

THE INSIDES: The center back seam is covered in bias tape, but all the other seams are the hemmed edges all the way around, which are turned up in tiny ¼ allowances.100_5974-comp

TOTAL COST: Two yards of this tropical print challis was bought on clearance at Hancock Fabrics store for about $5 or $6 in total.

My hubby actually seems to find it hard to believe that front start to finish, as in “laying out the fabric and placing the pattern on it” to “ironed and wearing it on myself”, took me only one hour…but it’s true! After all I’m not nicknamed “Seam Racer” for nothing! Now I know every seamstress may not have the ability to be as speedy with her skills and that’s perfectly fine. However, even if this dress doesn’t exactly take you one hour, it will not take you much longer than that, I would imagine. It is a “Super Jiffy” pattern, and it really is incredibly simple, fast to assemble, nicely fitting, comfortable to wear, and (most importantly) flattering. This is the first Jiffy pattern out of the many I have met from either the 60’s or 70’s with which I am completely happy with and can file no complaints. That’s saying something!

100_5946-compThe best part about making this 1971 wrap dress is that in the time it could take you to go to the store, try on and find that perfect dress, then fork out the dough for it, you can decide to sew your own for less money and in less time. The motivation for making my wrap dress was a night out with my hubby – my little guy was babysat, and I had a new dress for that night by the time the dress was done. I do love challenging and complicated sewing projects, but an instant satisfaction project is always nice too, and I think everyone will agree.Butterick 4526 yr 1995 swimsuits and sarong wrap&1971 halter wrap sundress ad in directional fabric

I’ll bet the short version is really cute and fun, but I wanted something elegant and –hey- since I had the fabric for it…might as well. Maxi dresses cost more at the stores, and a little extra fabric on discount is no big deal generally. I would like to try a short dress from this pattern out of a wild, possibly border print fabric (like in the old 1971 magazine print at far right) or even a terry cloth for a swimsuit cover-up (like the 1995 pattern at left which looks very similar in design). Next year perhaps…

As you can see on the pattern cover, there is only one large piece needed to make to maxi wrap dress. The straight edge on the side that dips down is put along the fold, making the U-back. Despite being put on the fold, the instructions said to cut this back center, and it really is necessary since it does have some curvy shaping. However, I did make a very slight modification to the pattern. I merely put the bottom half of the center back seam on the fold, and cut the top half out as a regular seam. Thus I only had to sew halfway down, kind of like a dart, before finishing the edges. This center back seam is the only real seam to the dress, beside the duo of darts which are sewn into the front/side at the waistline. One of these front/side darts has the inner waist tie attached to it so that your wrap stays decently closed. I find the inner waist ties help me find and define where the waist is exactly as I am putting my dress on myself.

100_5951a-compWhat is the most time-consuming part to the dress is definitely hemming the long edges not just on the bottom, but all the way around everywhere else, too. I can do good straight stitching rather quickly so this part was a breeze for me, but a word of warning…the back U curve was rather tricky and took some snipping or stretching to hem it without warping the bias.

Looking at the sizing chart on the back, I should have technically made a small, but the pattern I had was a medium and I figured correctly that perfect fitting is not that important with a wrap dress like this one. I am glad I actually went a size up because it gives me slightly more coverage around the body. The wrap portion from the waist down is not as fully generous with the overlap of the two layers as most wrap dresses I have made before. If you have not made a wrap garment, let me briefly explain – the further the right edge of the wrap overlaps from the edge of the inner left wrap, the less “flashing” open you will have. The skinnier the skirt portion of a wrap dress or skirt, the more opening up you will have, also. This wrap dress has both – a smaller overlap of the wrap and a very slim skirt portion, but together they are the sexy design feature to this 1971 maxi dress. I really don’t mind the way the dress opens up. I feel it keeps it from being too overwhelmingly long, as well as making for a very elegant appearance when you walk the way it flows open and swirls around the body at each forward step. The way the skirt opens up highlights one’s legs and also shoes, which makes me happy because I’m proud of the comfy, vintage, ‘Hush Puppy’ brand heeled sandals I like to pair with my dress.

100_5939a-compThe wrap neckline actually does not have to be tied as the pattern shows, in other words laid oppositely on each side of the neck and tied behind the neck. I experimented and found that the neck straps can be tied into a knot before going around the neck (as I did for this 1930’s style dress), twisted and tied around under the arms for a strapless look, or even twisted together to go over only one shoulder and (with assistance) pinned down to the lower back. Even though these other neck-tying methods are totally possible, it does make the bottom skirt portion of the dress open up even more than normally. I solved this flashing problem with the skirt (when the neckties are wrapped differently) can be solved by closing the wrap with a pin or brooch to the side, just a waist tie/belt, or both together, as I wore on my own dress.

100_5959a-comp-comboMy being cold-sensitive necessitates a sweater for most indoor places when the weather is toasty outside. Air-conditioners normally make a room seem like an ice-box to me in most restaurants. In my opinion, this ’71 wrap dress doesn’t work well with many sweaters and jackets because of the neckline bulk…one sole drawback.100_5947-comp

For a basic but elegant warm weather garment – quick to make as it is to wear – give Simplicity’s 1971 Super Jiffy wrap dress a try if you have a chance to nab an original or a multi-sized re-print. Then break it out and be prepared to have a new dress almost before you know it. Instant and low-cost garments can be made by you much better than anything a store has to offer – vintage patterns have some killer styles that need to be worn and deserve to be seen more often! Do you have a favorite “super-quick” and low-fabric needy pattern which amazed you recently?

I recognize that it is now officially the season of fall where I live, and so I will be doing more postings for the chilly weather. However, I know that other parts of the world are just gearing up for their warm season, and so I plan on mixing a little of summer here and there in between the coming several months to brighten up my winter and give other readers ideas for their season.

“Sometimes”…You Just Have to Go a Little “Mad”

I’m not really referring to a mental condition or an emotion with my title…it’s more specifically “Mad Men” the T.V.show, that is, or even more precisely “mad” for a crazy “disco era” color scheme!  Yes!  This “Mad Men” inspired late 60s dress of mine is my ultimate summer party dress for this year.  (Click here to see the blog of my ultimate summer party dress for last year!)  Like last year’s party creation, this “Mad Men” 60s inspired maxi dress was different and out of my comfort level, but, as always, stretching my boundaries gives me a new sewing satisfaction, especially when I end up with a new favorite item to wear.

Betty_Pucci maxi-dressSeason3,Nov30_10_Souvenir_cropped     A very lucky find of an old fabric stash at a vintage fair provided me with the opportunity to make my copycat version of this lovely Pucci designed dress worn by the “Mad Men” character Betty (see left picture).  This scene can be found in Season #3, the “Souvenir” episode, released November 30, 2010.

I can’t help but do a funky dance in my wild retro dress!  We even found an era-appropriate “Mid-century modern” building to have as the backdrop for the picture below (more about this location later).

100_3072THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  I believe it’s a cotton/polyester blend fabric, soft and flowing, in a wild “Pucci style” color tone of swirling, bright (almost neon) colors.  The fabric was vintage, but not that old to be a poly blend, and it was a 3 1/2 yard cut in a 45″ width.  I also used an old, small scrap of fabric in a matching blue to use for the dress’ side pockets.

NOTIONS:  On account of all the colors in the fabric, I had multiple choices when it came to deciding what color thread to sew my dress together.  Therefore, I had thread on hand already – I used a deep turquoise thread which was also used to sew up my “Serpentine Style” 1948 dress. The only notion I needed also happened to be hardest to pick out – something to create the contrast trim along the dress’ neck line edge.  I will talk more about this further down, but, in the end, I ended up with 1 pack each of two different colored bias tapes.Simplicity 2363 cover pictureSimplicity 2363 line drawing

PATTERN:  Simplicity 2363, year, view A, without the ties

TIME TO COMPLETE:  From start to finish, my late 60’s maxi dress took close to 10 hours (maybe a bit more, maybe, or a bit less, perhaps) on May 17, 2014.    It was finished just in time for an upcoming outdoor birthday party for our little one.

THE INSIDES:  My dress’ innards are quite nice but not perfectly clean, which I’m o.k. with anyway.  All the long panels (three in front, three in back) took some time to sew together, so I merely double zig zagged the raw edges and trimmed any fray threads.  The ‘bib’ facing sections of the front and back necklines cover up all the bodice seams and most of the armhole seams, so the top half of my dress is smooth and nice inside.  The bottom hem is finished with matching turquoise single fold bias tape.  See the below picture.

100_3099TOTAL COST:  The vintage crazy colored fabric roll was $7.50, and the bias tapes were just under $2.00 each, so my total cost is about $12.00.

         Just in case you don’t know, “Pucci style” prints are as wild and lively as his life story.  Emilio Pucci’s designs are also unmistakably iconic of a past era – the 1960’s.  The designs of “The Prince of Prints” were worn by everyone who was someone in the 60s, from Jackie Kennedy to Sophia Loren to Marilyn Monroe (who was buried in a Pucci dress).  “As the sixties swirled on, Pucci draped his devotees in increasingly vivid prints, using a kaleidoscope as a guide to color his Op-Art arabesque, filigree, and mosaic motifs in stylized Art Nouveau and geometric patterns”, to quote “Vogue.com”. “The psychedelic profusion that defined the era (of the 60s) would fall out of favor, however, elbowed aside by the disco-casual of the seventies and then the man-tailoring of the power suit eighties. The unmistakable Pucci print, all swirls and whorls, did have a brief moment back in the sun around 1990, when the retro impulses of the nightclub scene collided with a passion for all things bright and colorful.” (Another quote from “Vogue.com”)  However, out of all his trendsetting creations, such as his trademark silk scarf, none would give him a name to fame quite like his featherweight silk jersey dresses.  “A Pucci dress is just about worth its weight in gold,” observed The New York Times in 1967.  The “Mad Men” episode in which Betty wore her Pucci dress took place around the time of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination, dating her dress to circa 1968.  My own Pucci knock off creation may not be an authentic print, nor is it a fine silk jersey, but I feel that my “Mad Men” copycat maxi dress captures a definite, exciting moment in the history of the fashion world.

100_3075  early 70s Simplicity 8025 boho maxi dress     For the styling of my retro dress, I chose this modern Simplicity 2363 pattern because (to me) it married the best of everything together.  Simplicity 2363 is quite close to Betty’s original “Mad Men” Pucci dress, having the empire waist and split front neck, with a styling which appeals to my personal taste, while still staying true to authentic styling of the era.  I really couldn’t sacrifice keeping exactly similar to the T.V. show dress, because I really didn’t like the full gathered high waist.  Betty had just had a baby a few episodes before she is seen wearing the dress I used as my inspiration, so I can understand the waist styling somewhat, but Simplicity 2363 cut back on a full waist by having gathers at the center front and center back only.  After my dress was finished, I happened to come across the envelope cover of a vintage 1970 Simplicity 8025 pattern (seen at left) which proves the validity of my idea that the “bib” design of the modern Simplicity 2363 is a retro design element.  With my Pucci knock-off dress being a circa 1968 dress, imitating the 1970 look is not far off…merely fashion forward.  This is my fourth 1968 sewing project (numbers 1, 2, and 3 can be seen by clicking here).

After browsing through plenty of reviews of Simplicity 2363 on the blogging-world, I was thoroughly confused as to whether or not this pattern really normal, small or generously sized.  I ended up cutting out according to what saw on the finished garment measurements, grading just a bit to cut out a size smaller than normal for my bust, while keeping my normal sizing for the waist and hips area.  As my dress turned out, the sizing I chose was a perfect fit.  The only minor change that I made to the fit and sizing of my dress was to bring in the side seam (the one in the center of the side panels) 1/2 an inch on each side for a total of an extra inch smaller.  I graded the 1/2 inch down to the normal seam allowance (5/8 in.) by the time I got close to the pockets, and remembered to take in the side panel’s under arm facing, too.  I could have done without taking the side in an inch, but my dress is not bad with it, because there is not any underarm gaping…I just need to do a bit more of a wiggle and stretch trick to get it on!100_3094

The pockets in the side seams are a wonderful dream come true!  I never realized how handy and fun pockets could be or how easily they are to sew in.  I am impressed at how the pockets are absolutely invisible by having them recessed in by 1/4 inch.  It’s embarrassing to admit, but having my dress’ pockets face in towards the center front makes me kind of think of myself as a kangaroo, with space to store stuff over my belly!

The two-tone color trim around the neck and bodice was the most challenging part to recreate to make my dress similar enough to Betty’s original.  I did a good amount of brain crunching to figure out 1.) how to shape something around the neck and bodice, 2.) what matching colors to choose and 3.) where to put the trim.  Like what I did for choosing the pattern for my dress, I found a compromise between following Betty’s dress and staying true to my personal taste when it came to the trim.  The helpful employees at my local Hancock Fabrics store were again an amazing help…they gave me the idea to use packaged bias tape for the trim.  I had been thinking of using ribbon or making my own “facing”, but bias tape, being on the bias, stretched and curved and was easily ironed into place just like they said.  Using packaged bias tape was a good thing also by the way I was restricted to the colors available, because otherwise I had no idea what colors to hone in on in the fabrics print.  I went for the more muted colors of turquoise and lime green to mellow things out.  I used a double fold for the lime green bias tape (so it wouldn’t show the print underneath), with the inner points mitered in for a neat corner.  The turquoise bias tape is a small single fold which I folded in on itself to make it thicker and smaller.  It took some meticulous machine stitching to hover on the very edges of the bias tapes and sew the bias tape down just how I wanted.  I love how it looks!

100_2977b     While sewing my dress together, I wanted to get “in the mood”, so I put on some disco-era and 60’s style music.  I mostly listened into a favorite CD of mine, “The Way I See It” by Raphael Saadiq.  My favorite songs are Love That GirlKeep Marchin’ , Staying in Love, and Sometimes (the last of which I included in my title).  Saadiq’s soundtrack kept me going through my sewing, and his songs are stuck in my head so I can listen to them again (whether I want to or not) every time I wear my “Mad Men” look-alike dress.  It’s no wonder I was dancing in the picture at the top of this blog.
100_3076     Happily, as I mentioned at the beginning of my blog, the backdrop to my dancing picturetriple-a-on-lindell is also very complimentary time-wise to my dress, as well.   It is the  American Automobile Association (AAA) office building, 3915 Lindell Boulevard, completed in 1977 and designed by W.A. Sarmiento (see right picture).  Wenceslao Sarmiento, a Peruvian-born American modernist architect who was the head designer (1951 to 1961) for the Bank Building Corporation of America, designed many amazing financial buildings across America but especially left a powerful example of “Mid-century modern” style in my town with the AAA office.  My town, St. Louis, is extremely rich with “Mid-century modern” buildings of every purpose, with our town’s very best headliner for the style being Lambert International Airport.  In my opinion, few of the “Mid-century modern” buildings are as perfect an example of the style as the AAA office, with its walls made of glass, ‘post and beam’ design, and suburban modernism.  I know this style isn’t for everyone.  However, it is an architectural and historical style of many famous artists (like Frank Lloyd Wright) whose buildings are in dire need of respect.  Our town even has a handful of groups, such as “B.E.L.T. STL”, “ilovebernoudy.com”, and especially “Modern STL, who are actively involved in the preservation and awareness of the modern styles.  “Mid-century modern” buildings are quickly starting to completely disappear before they even have a chance to be recognized.  I’m sorry for the passion here, but it seems as if it is too easy to demolish something that’s one-of-a-kind, unable to be recreated.  Art is as individual and special as the people that make it.

100_3091    Speaking of art, hubby couldn’t help but notice how my maxi 60s style dress even turns heads, like on this poster in front of a neighborhood art gallery.

After the poster got its initial look to check me out, I was a bit offended, and had to turn around and ask, “What?  Me?  Really!  Why, thank you!”

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Thanks for joining me joining me on this trip through the late 60s fashion and architecture.  I hope this post inspires you to explore outside your sewing comfort zone…and enjoy it!  As an idea, get out into your city and find out if there’s some “Mid-century modern” buildings to see for yourself!

Please check my Flickr page, Seam Racer, for more detail shots and fun outtakes.