Somebody Else’s Handmade Dress (II)

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I bought an old dress.

Apparently, my Value Village now has a “Vintage” section. Apparently I am a sucker, and bought a dress, which I may well not wear. Because it was nifty, and handmade. And it makes me think about the kind of blog post whoever it was sewed it, might have written, had there been sewing blogs back in the 60s. Finds like this always make me want to trot over to the Vintage Pattern Wiki and hunt down the pattern. Unfortunately for you guys, all the photos were taken by Syo on the iPhone, so are pretty much terrible (more to do with lighting and iPhone than Syo). I miss the days when I had time and space to take actual good photos (and then edit them properly), but at this point it’s largely iPhone photos or no photos.

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Woo crazy hair

I assume it’s 60s. The construction is straight out of the Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing. It’s a green lace underlined with what is currently a rather beige lining (either rayon or a much nicer species of polyester than I’m used to.) I love the hem detail with the buttons (is that a flounce at the bottom or an extra-extra dropped waist?), not so much the high neck with the placket-yoke-thing.

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Problems with the facing rolling out.

Despite her careful understitching, the facings have a tendency to roll out. Obviously they’ve been doing this a long time—she hand-stitched around below the understitching to try and keep everything in place. She even went as far as to handstitch much of the facing down to the underlining.

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Side-ish view

It’s a classic 60s sheath, high cut neckline, straight profile, with steep, curving French darts that reach the side seam somewhere around my hips. The dart placement is pretty good on me, but the tips are a little high. Presumably whoever made it was a shorty. Or very perky.

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French darts

It’s a touch roomy in the bust, and a touch tight through the hips. Although possibly that’s just from all the chocolate I ate over Christmas.

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Back view

The yoke wraps around to the back of the neck. I bet there was a version on the pattern image with big buttons on the front.

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Front placket

It’s trimmed in lace, which just barely stands out from the rest of the lace texture. I guess she was going for subtle. I do wonder how the colours have faded over time. Did it originally match better? Was the lining always a pale, nude under-layer, or did it used to be a brighter, seafoamy colour?

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Lapped zipper

Our unknown seamstress did a killer lapped zipper. Teeny and neat!

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“Design feature”

Maybe the coolest feature is this little wedge pieced in at the side of the skirt. My first thought was that she needed a little extra room in the booty, but the piece is only on one side and doesn’t extend into the flounce, so my next thought is that she either was trying to squeeze the pattern out of too little fabric or, had it folded to cut and didn’t notice that a little wedge was missing on the under-side. C’mon, I know you’ve done that too. Can you imagine how much she swore when she figured that out? Or maybe she was an old hand, and just sighed and pieced it in and trusted the texture of the lace to keep anyone from noticing. Although I notice the lace is running in the other direction—which makes me think she was probably short of fabric.

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Bottom “flounce”

Look at that bright green hem-tape! Did the dress really fade that much? Or was it always meant to be a fun flash of colour?

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Hemming with seam binding (and handstitching)

The edges are tucked under and hand-stitched to the underlining, so the finishing is invisible on the right side. Also those buttons are great.

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Running out of hem tape.

But look at the other side of the hem—d’oh! More swearing, echoing down the decades. Running out of that perfect colour of hem-tape just a few inches from the end! Obviously, she made do. One does.

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Happy. Grainy, but happy.

I love examining vintage construction (when I run across it, which admittedly isn’t often). There’s one more weird feature, that I didn’t get a good picture of—the inside of the front, under the yoke, has a big slash cut in it. At first I thought the lining had just given out from age, but the cut goes right through the lace, which is quite sturdy, and is very straight in the lace (more frayed in the lining). So maybe the yoke is a cover-up for some earlier mistake? Or maybe there was the option of an opening in the placket, and our seamstress decided against it mid-construction? (There’s a centre seam down the middle of the yoke that makes me think an opening option would be likely. Unless she really was just that short of fabric.) Or maybe it was cut into at some later date… the neatness with which she hand-finished all the other mods makes me surprised she didn’t at least overcast or otherwise neaten those raw edges.

I love these little mysteries. Problem solving, or design feature? We’ll never know…

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26 Comments

Filed under Sewing

26 responses to “Somebody Else’s Handmade Dress (II)

  1. This looks great on you. Though the neckline is mighty high… I love the flounce and the buttons.
    Wonder what future seamstresses will think of our makes/blogs.

    • It is high, isn’t it? I kinda get that look with the mini-mini dresses, but this one isn’t even very short. /sigh.

      Wouldn’t it be awesome to find a handmade piece (say with a custom label or something) and google that and find an old blog post about it? hehe…

  2. Wow! This looks so great on you! What a fabulous dress! I bet the seamstress would be so happy to know that someone who really values handmade work owns the dress now. :)

  3. What an awesome find – and post! Perhaps the slash under the front and side piecing is because she planned to use a different pattern, but once it was basted together didn’t like it or it didn’t fit and so then had to salvage the fabric by transforming it. Not that (cough, cough) that sort of thing ever happens to me or anyone I know… ;-)

  4. senjiva

    I suspect the high bust-points have more to do with the bras that were available in the 1960s than anything else. They did not appreciate a “natural” bust shape back then. That dress looks lovely on you. I bet you could dye it if you want a more saturated color!

  5. Zena

    The placket is exactly the right shape to be a facing for a keyhole neckline (though the length of it suggests a surprisingly deep slit). Seemed odd to me that there *wasn’t* an opening in it. I’m going to guess mid-stream design change.

  6. What a tribute to all the ladies just like us – but 40 years from now. I LOVE it.

  7. I really like your shoes!!!
    All my photos are taken on my iphone 5. The iphone photos come out well if I have good lighting and someone to take them for me. The “self timer” doesn’t focus properly so it looks grainy.
    The dress – fits you pretty well for something that was made for someone else’s body. What a great find!

    • Mine’s an iphone 4 (not even 4S)… it can take good pictures, but the lighting has to be spot on, which it never is indoors. Another reason winter sucks, /sigh.

      Yeah, I thought it was pretty random luck that the only vaguely-interesting piece they had was actually pretty spot-on the right size! :)

  8. That is seriously cool! So much pondering about someone else’s creations :) looks great on you by the way

    • Fun to think about, this one more than most because of all the little glitches. Funny how that makes it more interesting to us, even though I suspect it drove her crazy! Thanks! :)

  9. wordpress wouldn’t let me comment back when i read this, but i ADORED every bit of this post!!! i’m glad you rescued here even if you decide she’s just for looks.

  10. Hatty

    its is a beautiful dress and my guess is that it is supposed to have a slit in that front placket, but she felt it would be too deep. And you do realize that, lining and all, it’s pretty transparent?

    • Yeah, I’m leaning that way, too. Although a va-voom slit would make for a much more exciting dress! (I suspect she would disagree.)

      Of course! Why else would I have put on matching underwear? ;)

  11. Brenda

    My guess is that the fabric has faded a bit especially the lining. The bridesmaid dresses from my mom’s wedding in the late 60′s started green and faded to brown. It took us quite awhile to identify one of the dresses because of the weird color change.

    • That’s kind of what I was thinking. The zipper especially is a really bright green! Kind of funny to think about how much the look of the dress could have changed, even in not much more than forty years.

  12. I love your analysis of this dress…fellow geeky seamstress! And I think it looks kinda cool on you, so I hope you wear it, even if only with pearls to a dress-up party!

  13. Pretty find. Even if you do not wear it, I bet it will give you lots of design ideas. Can’t wait to what you come up with.

  14. It’s so interesting to dissect old clothes like this! On my screen the buttons seem to match (or nearly match) the lining, which may suggest that the lining has had this colour originally (though it may have faded with time).

  15. Oh how cool to find a handmade dress like that!! I would be thinking up stories about the person who made it as well, and I love all the details you’ve found – so cool! :)

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