Mod 60’s fashion is not automatically associated with a sweet and feminine style. Yet, when on occasion it is juxtaposed with the ‘baby doll’ trend, you end up with a very serious, no-frills, freshly classic take on something overtly pretty – a nice combo. The Netflix show “The Queen’s Gambit” presented a version of this style to perfection with Beth’s bow dress in episode 6. Of course, I was then on a mission to find a historical benchmark for the outfit, and have since found a true vintage pattern from which to replicate my own version. This is my second “copy” of an outfit from “The Queen’s Gambit” (my first one is posted here). Being made in a luxurious wool crepe and in the prettiest pastel tone, I think this is the perfect outfit to present to you now for our chilly Eastertide.
FABRIC: a worsted 100% wool crepe with the black contrast being 100% rayon crepe lined in satin finish polyester interlock jersey
PATTERN: Simplicity #6634, year 1966
NOTIONS NEEDED: one long 22” invisible zipper for the back closing and lots of thread with a bit of interfacing for under the neckline contrast
TIME TO COMPLETE: This dress took me 15 to 20 hours of time. I finished it up on February 27, 2021.
THE INSIDES: cleanly bias bound
TOTAL COST: The fabric was $35 for two yards from this Etsy shop (highly recommend!). All the contrast fabrics are being counted as free since they came from small remnants leftover from other projects
I specifically chose my version of Beth’s bow dress to be a soft blue versus the original mint green. In the Netflix series, mint green is the color of Beth’s childhood and when worn by her as a young woman it connects her to certain events as she is struggling to find herself. The prevailing color of my childhood was a different pastel hue, and slightly cooler in tone – soft blue. I have a small portion of my childhood dresses on hand, and a good number of them are a pretty blue (see picture). I felt feminine in blue, and I personally sense it compliments my skin tone more than pink, which I have grown to love more in the last several years. Before the 1940s, blue was traditionally considered to be the more feminine color over pink, after all. Besides, I have other mint green dresses that I love and could never upstage (see here and here)!
Fashion historian Raissa Bretaña fact checks “The Queen’s Gambit” outfits in this excellent video (watch it here) at Glamour magazine and the mint bow dress is included (skip to the time of 6:02). Raissa Bretaña agrees this outfit is pretty accurate except for maybe the lack dark stockings or tights, which I added for my iteration. Happily, as I was searching through pattern images online one day, this particular pattern showed up and I instantly recognized it as a very similar base in seamlines, contrast details, and silhouette of both body and sleeves to Beth’s bow dress. The story is set in the late 60’s during episode 6, and the inspiration for Beth’s bow dress was 1966 to 1968, so this particular pattern hit the right spot. I love happy circumstances like this where what you are looking for falls in your lap…only this kind of thing is always a challenge with vintage patterns because it is gamble to see if one is for sale. As you can tell, I found one and couldn’t be happier with my finished dress!
The original version of this dress (which can be seen in an online exhibit here through the Brooklyn Museum) was crafted in a crepe (click on the info button). A wool crepe has more body than a rayon, so I went with that because I thought this needs to be winter dress. It should be a flowing dress but being inspired by the likes of Pierre Cardin means that it should also have a bit of structure, too. I splurged for my dress and ordered something special I have been wanting to try – worsted wool. I personally find worsted spun to be less itchy than a regular woolen, and a crepe finish is so very dressy with its soft shine and pebbled texture. I love this fabric. Worsted wool is considered stronger, finer, and more substantial of a fiber coming from long-staple pasture raised sheep. Worsted wool is more expensive on account of the labor intensive production – it is not simply carded like other woolens. I find it didn’t shrink much in a cold water wash and needs hardly any ironing more than a touch of steam (very low maintenance). I am a worsted wool convert.
The dress itself was relatively easy to make. The pattern is pretty basic. The wool was as soft as melted butter to sew through. As I was using a fine fabric and the pattern had such clean lines, I took extra time on both the finishing details and the fit so my dress would look first-rate. I did have a few issues with the sizing and placement of the bust darts. At first, at the cutting stage, I had graded in some extra width to be ‘safe and not sorry’ later. By the time my dress was finished, I ended up tailoring out the inch or so which I added. Oh well. The bust dart was tricky to perfect because it was an unusual curved, very long, French style one that joins the side seam below my hip. This different French dart creates a beautifully simplistic front panel with gentle shaping. I think this is the best feature to the dress, yet it’s only a very low-key element though.
Lengths of both hem and sleeves ended up different than both what I had originally wanted and what the envelope cover seems to show. I kept the ‘longer-than-your-normal-60’s-dress’ length because I think it makes my version of Beth’s dress more elegant and something not so youth oriented (like many Mod fashions). I found the sleeves ending up as bracelet length, but I don’t mind this feature either. They are very dramatic being so wide and bell-shaped, too. I can clear off a table without even trying – it’s quite hilarious. Nevertheless, these kind of sleeves are really quite part of the general flowing aura of this dress, I think. Can I repeat myself, again…I absolutely love my newest Queen’s Gambit dress…it’s so different from my first one. It’s remarkable how varied the fashions of the 60’s can be.
My chosen pattern was the shadow of my inspiration dress except for the neckline bow. This was an easy addition but a bit complex to craft. I wanted the black stripe only on one side of the bow strip. The underside needed to be plain blue and not showing the stitching from the contrast stripe on the other side. This is how it was on Beth’s original dress (I can see as she is running through the café) and I had to recreate that because I love a challenge. Sewing challenges are a good learning experience to further my skills, and this time will go towards adding a deluxe touch.
It is always a task in itself to try and figure out how to recreate proportions of details as compared to a picture. I mostly just kept the bow’s width as wide as the neckline facing for uniformity. I had to double the width and add in seam allowances because this was going to be a folded over, one seam tie strip. Then I carefully marked the center length of only one side to the tie strip where the black contrast will go. I chose not to line the bow so it could hang soft like the rest of the dress. I thought of crafting the black contrast as a tiny tube, ironing it flat, then top-stitching it down in place on the blue strip. It was an unnerving step to sew the entire blue bow strip together finally. If the black contrast was stitched down in the wrong place, my life was about to be miserable. I absolutely hate unpicking! However, I turned the tube inside out and it was looking all good after a light ironing! Whew. I was so happy it was figured correctly.
One small, extra cut of the bow strip became the center holder. I have an extra-large safety pin from behind (inside the neckline) holding my bow down in place. I do not want to wash the dress with bow on it. Neither do I want to have to unpick threads before it needs a wash. Keeping the bow unstitched makes my dress project easy to take care of as well as versatile. I can wear the dress without the bow for a different look, but really – adding the bow brings this dress from a ‘meh’ to a ‘wow’! Sometimes it is so amazing how one little added detail makes such a big difference.
For this dress, there isn’t much that needs to be added to it for a complete outfit. The color blocking and the oversized bow takes most of the center stage. However, what I am wearing to compliment my dress here make a big difference. Slip on heels were an important part to the story of this dress for the occasion Beth wears it…she only had time to put on her shoes at the very last minute! I updated the look with a modern pointed toe, block heeled version.
Beth’s cuff watch is a small part to the storyline, too. In a brief scene, she receives a Bulova “American Girl” watch from her (adoptive) mother as a graduation gift (also see this post for detailed pictures). My 60’s era, two-tone cuff watch is from my Grandmother, as are my earrings, but it is my gold pearl ring which is a similar graduation piece. My mother recently passed this pearl ring down to me, telling me it was the gift her mother gave to her for her Graduation in 1969. I’m so glad it fits me because it’s so special to wear. I’m connected to the past few generations of women in my family history just with my accessories alone. How cool is this? Then, I go and choose a color for my dress that recalls my own childhood fashion preferences. I love this outfit for more than just the fabulous dress alone.
I will follow up this post with my next one being about another ‘vintage’ childhood style that I am reinterpreting for myself today. Yes, it is also in blue! Until then, I do hope everyone has a beautiful, peaceful, and happy Easter weekend!