Ok, how to explain the provenance of this dress? My crafty sister-in-law (techically my brother-in-law’s wife), has, astonishingly, both a mother and a daughter. Long and long ago, her mother was a seamstress, and at some point ended up with a store of (now) vintage dresses. A year or two back, she offered one of these to my crafty sister-in-law’s daughter for her grade 8 graduation. She altered the dress quite a bit, in particular removing the sleeves and shortening it, but in the end, said ungrateful child didn’t like it (at least partly because it’s quite tight in the bust on her,* but also because her grandmother wouldn’t shorten the hem any further) and wore a modern, storebought dress instead. On my most recent visit Home, said ungrateful child offered the dress to me. And then, when I tried it on, declared how great it looked on me.
I’m not entirely sure how to take that, frankly, but anyway. Here’s the dress. Questionable taste of fourteen-year-olds aside, I like it quite a bit.
The vintage is late sixties or early 70s (I was told 70s but the style feels more 60s to me… maybe that’s just the length, though, which has been altered). It’s an empire-line cut with a darted bodice and long darts to fit the skirt over the hips. In fact, it’s very similar in style to the grad dress my mother made herself in 1970. And it was entirely home-made, by someone whose skill, while adequate, certainly wasn’t any greater than most of us bloggy types.
The dress is unlined, but entirely underlined. It’s made out of a satiny teal twill, undoubtedly polyester, with an overlay of white lace in the bodice area.
The matching ribbon “waistband” and bow at the front are made of tubes of the fashion fabric, finished by hand at the ends.
The raw edges on the inside are finished with a zig-zag (with considerably less rolling than I’ve ever encountered when zig-zagging). The long, double-ended waist darts have a snip in the middle, to allow them to curve more smoothly. Possibly I should be doing something similar for my Project Drop Waist efforts, but I’m not a big fan of the raw edges. I suppose that’s what lining is for.
The shoulder-seam is finished by hand. Given that the dress originally had sleeves, and how freakin’ snug it is under the armpits, I suspect my sister-in-law’s mother took the shoulders up to shorten the whole bodice for my niece, who may be busty but is definitely not tall. The bust darts are distinctly high on me, too, although where the empire waist falls is perfect. (That being said, before I read the Slapdash Sewist’s trick, I used to sometimes finish sleeveless shoulders this way, too, so I didn’t have to hand-stitch in the lining (in this case, facing). But like I said, the dress originally had sleeves, so I can’t imagine why it would’ve had this kind of finish on the shoulder if it’s not from alteration.)
The back zipper is lapped, and the top has some of the same kind of funkiness that I tend to run into when I attempt such things, making me think that either that’s intentional or that the dress’s original stitcher was as inept as I generally am. Other than that it’s reasonably well executed, but not hand-picked.
The bodice fits well enough but the rib zone is, ah, snug. Cute, but not quite fit perfection (not recommended if deep breathing is going to be required, either). As per usual, the portion above the waist is a smidge long (but less than I might have expected, which also makes me think the shoulders were taken up). Fortunately, there’s lots of room in the hips. The horizontal fold deepens a bit at centre back—swayback joy.
The bodice darts are sliced, zig-zagged, and pressed open to reduce bulk. I have heard of this, but haven’t tried it yet myself. I think that about covers the construction details, however. Oh, bodice is finished with a one-piece facing, which you’d be able to see in the first interior picture if you clicked to embiggen it.
Also, I GOT A HAIRCUT! It’s been, um, six months. Aiee. I feel human again! Although I tried to use a hair wax to style it this time, like my stylist does. When she does it it looks smooth and soft and fluffy. Somehow, whenever I try to use a wax, it ends up stringy and greasy-looking. But I won’t complain, because I love my haircut. And this dress. I totally don’t think it’s over the top to wear a vintage 60s prom dress for running errands. Do you?
*yes, my fourteen-year-old niece gives me hand-me-downs…