That 80s Dress With The Ruffles {Vintage Simplicity 5884}

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If you follow me on Insta, you would have noticed that I’ve been getting into a bit of pants (sorry UK friends – trouser) sewing lately. I bought the Jedediah Pants pattern by Thread Theory and figured I’d start with sewing pants for my husband since he’s a bit less curvy than me. He’s actually the complete opposite of me – tall, angular and mostly straight lines. I made one muslin, a couple of changes and bam – now he has three pairs of pants (which I’ll blog when I can photograph them all on his person). Did I get cocky? Yes. I moved onto Closet Case Patterns Morgan Jeans for me. Oh man, what a steep and painful learning curve. Long story short – even after two muslins I can’t get any semblance of fit.

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So what’s a girl to do to come back from such a knock to the ego? She bloody digs through her gifted vintage pattern stash and finds something to reassure herself that she can actually sew. An elastic waist almost guarantees that baby will fit.

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I’ll admit I did hesitate. I mean, look at it in all its 1983 glory. It could be amazing or really, really bad. There is no middle ground with a pattern like this.

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Did I sew that sucker anyway? Of course! I do love me a frill and they are bang on trend right now. Not that I’m a huge follower of trends, but frills man – so fun.

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I sewed this one out of a super light and floaty Lizzy House double gauze (I bought mine locally and I’m not sure it’s even available anymore). If you’ve never used double gauze before, let me try and describe it for you. It’s a bit like a Labrador puppy (stay with me) – soft as hell, cute as a button but does like to roll over on itself and misbehave in a ridiculous manner. Plus it sheds like crazy. It needs a firm but gentle hand or it will end you (or itself when it throws itself under the overlocker blade – fabric, not puppy – the puppy analogy ended).

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I think after the ruffles and the forgiving waist, the coolest part of this pattern is the rad way the back is finished. On modern patterns with the keyhole back, I’ve only ever seen them finished by slashing the back and wrestling with a very narrow seam allowance to stitch down either side. This way is so much neater and easier! You sew the facing around the neckline and then stitch down the back to a point (through the back and facing) and back up. Then you slash between your two stitching lines to get the back opening. It’s super cool (and I might have been living under a rock but I’ve never seen it before). I do find I learn new techniques from vintage patterns.

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To be honest though, I really wasn’t sure how this would turn out until the very end. I’d decided to attempt sleeves because I really do prefer them, but I knew those puffy delights on the pattern weren’t for me. I decided to make them but leave off the gathering into the cuff on the bottom – I figured they’d be more like flutter sleeves that way. ALMOST RIGHT KATIE. But I forgot one thing – the metric shit tonne of ease in the sleeve caps. OMG. It was like gathering another skirt. Those babies stood out all on their own with structure never seen before in double gauze, no doubt. Those sleeves were turfed into the bin, I dug out the sleeve pattern pieces and traced it again, this time taking a couple of wedges out of the cap. Not technically correct I’m sure, but it worked very well.

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Feeling pretty damn pleased at my problem solving skills, I tried the dress on before hemming. Oh wow, I nearly cried – frump city. The skirt hit me between the shin and ankle and was very very ‘sister wife’ looking. I had nothing to lose, so I cut 15cms off the bottom, hemmed it and tried it on with a belt. YASSSSSS. It was just as I’d hoped. It’s truly amazing what a hem and a belt can achieve.

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I was so damn pleased with my frilly 80s secret pjs, that I went up to my sewing room and grabbed this beautiful nautical print from The Material Girl that I’ve been saving for something special.

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Isn’t it amazing? Bearded sailor, pretzel rope – what’s not to love? I only had 2m so had to forgo my precious sleeves. If it comes to it, I can wear a cardi or a fitted t shirt underneath.

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I sized down for this one as the gauze one is slightly blouse-y and because I was using a quilting weight (although incredibly soft for qc) cotton this time, I thought it would be better a bit smaller. Also that clever back facing wants to flip on this version, so I’ve stitched it down.

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I love this dress so much that you might just see its friends appear in the shop eventually…

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That 70s Dress That’s A Gunne Freaking Sax {Vintage Simplicity 9008}

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If you’re all like ‘WTF is a Gunne Sax, ya big weirdo?!’ it’s totally fine. Here’s a bit of info –ย  basically it’s a clothingย  label that was successful in the 1970s and known for its prairie, Victorian and Edwardian styled designs. Gunne Sax only came to my attention recently when I watched the Netflix series ‘Girlboss’, which is based on Sophia Amoruso’s autobiography and tells the story of how she started selling vintage clothing on ebay.

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Obviously though, by the time 1979 had rolled around (the year Simplicity 9008 was published), there was less lace and high collars and more of the above. Apparently the designer had moved towards creating dresses with prom dress features. Still, I was kind of taken by this baby when I found her in my vintage stash yesterday. It was originally given to me in about 6 boxes of vintage patterns which is why my memory of it is a touch hazy.

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So I was digging through my vintage pattern stash, wanting to make something different and found this one right at the bottom. That 50s shape spoke to me – the full skirt and that collar are beautiful. I very rarely wear dresses without sleeves, but I’m making an exception for this one. Plus I thought it might be cute with a little tshirt underneath or I can always wear a little wrap top over it.

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Deciding on fabric was hard. I wanted something I wasn’t hugely attached to as this would basically be a muslin – one I hoped would be wearable, but considering the grading up I had to do, I was unsure. I hate wasting fabric but I also hate spending hours sewing without being able to wear the finished product. Another thing – it’s bloody massive. I had 4m of the bear cotton/linen and I only just managed to tetris the dress out of it (I did use plain black lawn for the facings). Being directional obviously added to the challenge. The fabric was originally intended for dresses to sell, but after I washed it the black faded really unevenly and I didn’t really want to pass that on to paying customers. So in the end it was perfect for my sorta muslin.

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See that skirt? There’s eleven panels in that sucker. Thirty pattern pieces in total. Thirty-four if you count the pockets. I think it’s fuller than a normal circle skirt, my petticoat barely makes a difference.

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I didn’t change a whole lot beyond grading it up. I just followed the pattern pieces of a princess seamed dress that fits me well and it worked pretty successfully. Once I’d redrawn the bodice pieces, I lined them up to see how much I had to add to the skirt pieces (not much surprisingly, although the 3cms added to the bodice is spread pretty thinly over all those skirt panels).

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Redrawing the bodice pieces meant also redrawing the collar and facing pieces and I ended up slightly off with my collar pieces unfortunately. They just don’t quite reach in the centre. Not a big deal though and I’ll correct that for next time.

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Next time? Oh yeah. It’s taking all I have not to make another one of these ASAP.

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