1960’s party dress

I’ve finally finished the second part of my Vintage Pattern Pledge, a party dress made from a vintage Simplicity pattern which I found at a local vintage store. I was sure it was an early 1960’s pattern ( I looked it up when I bought it, and was sure it was 1961 or 62), but I’ve just checked the vintage pattern wiki and they have it down as being first released in 1959. I’m still going to call it a 1960’s drss though, as the pattern wouldn’t have made it to New Zealand until then!

  

I bought this pattern for the gorgeous stepped neckline, but the whole pattern is really lovely. Vintage patterns have the best details! I had expected that there would be some serious fitting work to do before starting on my final dress, and I made an unprecidented two muslins before cutting into my final fabric. Two! It was worth it though. The pattern is a single pre-cut size, as most patterns of the era are, and it was a size below what I would have made up. I had no idea what the ease in vintage big 4 patterns was like, so my first muslin was made up exactly from the pattern. Once I tried that on  I had a better idea of where I needed to make changes, and came up with the following list:

  • Increase width at the waist by 1/2 an inch on both front and back bodice pieces and skirt pieces, blending to nothing at the bust dart and at the mid thigh
  • Remove 1 1/2 inches from bodice length
  • Take 5 inches off the skirt (ladies in the 1950s/60’s must have been giants!)
  • Take 3/8 of an inch off the raglan seam at the back neckline, blending to nothing after 1 1/2″inches 
  • Shorten bust darts

I then made up another muslin, and decided it was pretty good!

  

It looks especially good with a black bra and tights…

The bodice fitted surprisingly well across the bust and shoulders, considering I made no changes there other than taking that small wedge out of the back neckline to combat gaping. The darts are perhaps not pointing in exactly the right place, but they’re ok. 

  

Finally I took a deep breath and cut into this much adored length of fabric. I’ve tried to match this fabric to several patterns since I bought it from The Fabric Store last year, its caused me some grief! Originally I wanted to make a Republic Du Chiffon Madeleine dress out of it, but when I tried to gather a scrap of it it just bunched and looked terrible. Its a silk/wool blend from Tory Burch, and is reasonably hefty with quite a stiff hand. I’m glad I decided to go with somethng more structured rather than persevering with my original plan!

  

I did have a wee bit of trouble with two parts in the instructions, the lapped zip and the vent. I had to pull out my Readers Digest Sewing Guide for the zip, and I just did my own thing for the vent! I really struggled to get the side lapped zip in neatly (you can see it in the side seam above), so I ended up hand picking it. The overlap is probably too wide, next time I’ll try to make it a bit more narrow and subtle. I was a bit worried that my hand stitching wouldn’t be as strong either, but it held up ok!

  

I must say, I was rather surprised by just how shapely this dress makes me look! Got to love a wiggle dress. My trouble with the vent stemmed from my decision to line the whole dress, and I didn’t think to look up how to modify the shape of the vent for the lining (the pattern is unlined). But the time I realised I was going to have trouble, it was too late for me to change what I had done, so I just fudged it. Not the most perfect piece of sewing I’ve ever done, but it’ll do!

  

 I used some deep red bias tape to finish the hem of the skirt and sleeves. I love the flash of bright colour that you can see inside the sleeves sometimes!

 

The best part of this dress is the shape of the upper bodice though. The sleeves are two piece raglan sleeves, and they’re so beautifully shaped, while the neckline is so pretty! Something I really noticed while making this was how it seemed to be designed to fit on a real, 3D form. I would have had huge trouble pressing the bodice without the assisance of a tailors ham, and pinning and pressing the neckline facing would have been a nightmare without it! So often modern patterns seem to be made up of flat shapes, this was a very different fitting and sewing experience. I used silk organza to interface the whole facing, and then added an extra layer at the front raglan edges to try and keep those points flat. It worked surprisingly well, the points only rolled outwards if there was downward tension on the lining, which was eay to fix with a few stitches through the facing at the raglan seams!

  

This dress has been a total labour of love, I don’t think I’ve ever put so much effort into a dress before! I’m glad I did though, I would have been gutted if I had done anything less with this fabric. I wore it to the wedding of some of our good friends yesterday, and had the most lovely day. The weather was perfect, sunny and crisp (and no wind!), and the location was absolutely stunning, and it was just a beautiful, happy day!

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35 thoughts on “1960’s party dress

  1. Wowsers!! This is absolutely gorgeous! I love the shape, and also the shape of the neckline. You did a brilliant job, and it looks fab on you.

  2. that dress is stunning, and stunning on you – could be worth doing some adaptations? well done on the make – I think this is my favourite make of yours, really love that neckline also

  3. It’s absolutely stunning Kirsten!! You did a fabulous job and the fabric is a perfect match to the pattern.

  4. OMG, seriously astoundingly gorgeous Kristen. A huge pat on the back for making such a gorgeous dress. It fits you perfectly, the fabric/pattern combo demonstrates that your stars were aligned. I am so bloody jealous because if this were in my wardrobe instead of yours my “what the heck do I wear?” Conundrum would be solved for a black tie dinner upcoming… Unfortunately we’re not the same size or else I’d bribe you to send it across the pond! Bing pat on the back from Oz.

  5. It’s just perfect! Such a gorgeous fit, and your finishing is beautiful. It’s been a long time since I made anything with a vent and lining, but I seemed to remember I took the chicken way out, and simply did a slit in the lining and left it free hanging and a bit shorter than the opening of the vent. You did so well to do it on the fly!

    1. Thanks Sarah šŸ˜Š I’m sure my vent solution would make anyone who knows what they’re doing shudder, there was a bit of half-arsed origami and some hand stitching involved! Hopefully no one will be checking though…

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