That 70s Dress

Simplicity 5728

A(nother) 70s dress

Now there’s a way to begin a post, by referencing a TV show I never even watched…

Anyway, despite my complete disinclination to do anything yesterday other than read through one of the novels I picked up at VV a couple of days ago, I did manage to get the sleeves on and hem the Simplicity dress. Raising the armscye worked like a charm—it’s lovely, high, and mobile.

As you can see, I opted (after the debate between long and short) for 3/4 length sleeves. This was initially inspired by the fact that as I was cutting there was a perfect spot to cut the sleeve out—but one side was a couple of inches too short due to the uneven cut end of the fabric.  But I’m really glad I went for it—warmer than a short sleeve*, but (I think) dodging the school-marmish/little-house-on-the-prairie potential of a full length sleeve with a full-length skirt.

Simplicity 5728

Curse that indoor light...

Since this blog is the closest I get to taking notes on my pattern alterations, I’m going to point out a few things about the sleeve again. I lengthened the full-length sleeve 2″ total, one inch above the elbow, one inch below. After doing this, I’d like to add, the elbow dart is in exactly the right position. Hooray! When I converted it to the 3/4 length, I cut off at the upper edge of the forearm “add length here” section. I felt like the sleeve was quite roomy in the muslin, even for a non-stretch sleeve (which obviously can’t be as snug as the knits I’m used to wearing), and when I decided on my stretch fabric I decided to narrow it: 5mm off each side, mirroring the 1/4″** I took off the sides of the bodice, and then I took a tuck of about 1/2″ out of the middle of the sleeve, all the way down. I figured there was more than enough ease in the sleeve cap to do this without messing with the length of the sleeve-cap, and there certainly still seemed to be plenty of gathers to go around. So in total the finished sleeves are about 1″ narrower than the muslined ones. This is perfect for my fabric, but might be a little too narrow for a non-stretch sleeve.

Simplicity 5728

Lots of sleeve mobility!

I do feel like the sleeves sit a little far out on my shoulders (possibly exacerbated by my alteration to the back neckline), although if I tug them up higher on my shoulder it seems to push out the sleeve oddly, so I’m not sure which is preferable.

I made the front midriff piece double-layered, to give it a bit more stability and make for a nicer finish inside. It is a nice finish, but it makes for a lot of layers of this fairly thick fabric, especially right under the bust where it encases the gathers. Possibly I should’ve graded the seams in this area. I’m also debating the merits of a waist-stay.

I decided to try a machine blind-hem on the grounds that a) this fabric is quite thick, and b) it hides the thread so well that it would be unlikely to show even if I did a whack job, which I basically did, and c) it just seems odd to hand-hem a stretchy. And it worked out pretty well, so long as you don’t look too close. The nice thing about such a long skirt is that the hem is a long way from anyone’s eyes, too ;). Well, except for the under-2-years age set, but presumably they won’t tell on me. The hem is the 2 1/4″ specified in the pattern, which brings it up to a length which is just shy of floor-skimming when I’m in bare-feet, which seems about right looking at the pattern illustration. Again, this is after I lengthened the entire skirt 5″. Which tells you everything you need to know about how my height is distributed (I know, cry me a river, right?)

Simplicity 5728

Finally, a smile!

I feel like it may be important to highlight a few lessons learnt from this pattern:

1) I really am short in the body. It’s not just in my head. Junior Petite, people, and the only bit of lengthening I did in the bodice I kinda wish I’d skipped out on.

2) especially in the armscye.

3) apparently I like 70s fashion, or at least the dresses. The only vintage patterns I’ve sewn for me this past year have been 70s dresses, and I have another one in stash, too. This is a little hard to wrap my mind around given that I grew up in the 80s and couldn’t even stomach the sight of bell-bottoms until well after their return to popularity in the late 90s.

4) I have neither the right hair nor the right shoes to go with this dress. Well, technically I have the right hair, but not the right hair-cut (nor am I likely to have it again. I love long, straight hair. Just not my long straight hair.). The shoes thing is unforgivable. How can I have no cute, delicate platform shoes? All I have for thick soles is my kick-ass boots, which would be fun but are not exactly period.

Simplicity 5728

Nice dress!

All in all? pretty happy camper! Though I’m still not convinced the dress will become part of my everyday wardrobe.

… now to fight down the urge to start working on a fluffy petticoat…

Oh, yes and a few more photos in the Flickr Gallery

*yay! The weather, which has been relatively clement since before Christmas, is reminding us that this is still Canada and winter still has a good two months to mess with us before spring will even begin to get a finger in the door. Today was  a virtual blizzard.

** very glad to hear that I’m not the only sewist who flits randomly between measuring systems. Canada officially went metric in the 70s, but somehow it’s never completely taken hold. For the longest time I did outdoor temperatures in Celsius, but indoor temperatures in Fahrenheit, for example.



Filed under Sewing

36 responses to “That 70s Dress

  1. lovely!! i have to admit, i wasn’t sure about the pattern but the finished dress looks amazing!! i love the 3/4 length sleeves too, i definitely agree that they look best on that dress.

  2. As usual, love the dress! AND it was nice to see a smile! I
    literally can’t get past the difference between envelope art and
    finished projects! Since I’m a 50’s junkie, I’m getting better at
    looking at wasp waists and seeing in my head how it would look on
    my more snowman-shape…. the 70’s lines TOTALLY work for you and I
    wouldn’t have been able to make the jump from the 70’s leisure suit
    vibe to what you have! Plus doing it in black edges off the 70’s
    vibe too! I long for black dresses. The silly dog that is
    squattting in my house means no black for me if I value peace of

    • I sympathize, we had two siamese cats—and we wear a lot of black. In this case, despite the photography, it’s actually a somewhat muted purple with light flecks, and the inside (which is actually the right side of the fabric, I think) is even lighter grey-purple. Its pet-hair resilience would probably be at least intermediate :).

      I think seeing past the envelope art is an acquired skill, and very useful for a sewist 🙂

  3. This is such a great dress! I agree with Patty, it works very nicely with your body. I am also happy that you went for a 3/4 length sleeve. It makes it more wearable and less “Dynasty”-like.

  4. gossamerian

    This is gorgeous. I love your style. Love the sleeves, love the shape, and it looks so wonderfully dramatic on you. You’ve totally convinced me I need to try making a long dress. (And I would totally wear it with kick-ass boots, for the record.)

  5. Your dress looks great; glad to hear that raising the armscye worked. I too like the 3/4 sleeve which I think updates the entire dress (and makes the shoes you have on work perfectly btw).

    I’m chuckling at the metric/footric (my dad’s term which I think is good) debate. I think all Canadians do the same thing. Your indoor-outdoor temperature example confused me until I realized I too still understand indoor in F because we have a really old thermostat.

  6. LOL! Leisure suit? DYNASTY? Jeez guys! It’s not that bad a pattern illo is it? 😉


  7. Hatty

    It really suits you, though judging by your photos throughout your blog, you don’t have a very short body as such, it’s more that your length is in your lower torso, and your waist it high. But if you get the waist in the right place, a maxi dress will make all that length look as though it is in your legs, of course, which is why those 70s maxis look so knockout on you.

  8. Anyway, you’ve got the right earrings, which totally makes up for the haircut! You and the dress look stunning, this make me want to try this pattern even more, even if I dread the fitting episode. Thank you for sharing the process and listing your modifications, we’re not exactly the same body-type, but this might surely help!

  9. Very nice dress! And I like how you styled it. You don’t want it to look like a costume. I think 70s style suits tall and leggy. Great job.

  10. Gorgeous, of course! The length is perfect. I’m trying to figure out the raising the armscye deal. Do you mean you raised the whole armscye or just the bottom? And does raising the armscye help because of mobility issues with the shoulder? I’m asking because I’m working on a dress right now where I feel like the incredible hulk if I move my arms up or forward. Not sure if this would help me or not- just curious.

    • Just the bottom of the armscye! 🙂 Raising the top would be a trick since it’s the top of the dress already, right? Kay the Sewing Lawyer linked to her post illustrating it here. (you then do the same thing to the sleeve piece, too.) What was happening before was that whenever I raised my arms slightly, the entire bodice shifted up. Now it stays in place at least until my arms are straight out to the sides. I can post the pictures of my altered pattern pieces if you’re still confused. Hope it helps!

  11. Uta

    I love the dress, and I think your hair is perfect with it. In all-out 70s style AND black there’s a slight risk of looking like Morticia (?) Addams. Not that you look like her. You know what I mean.

    • Fortunately in real life the dress is purple. When I was googling images of long-sleeved dresses trying to decide what to do about the sleeve length, I did run across plenty of Morticia, however!

  12. CGCouture

    This dress suits you perfectly–I think you need to MAKE more occasions to wear it. 😉 I think the 3/4 sleeve was a good choice, it definitely make it look more modern. Surely you can find some shoes at that Value Village place–it sounds like the kind of store that has everything, and this dress practically orders you to purchase appropriate shoes. 😉

  13. aw sigh, you photograph sooo beautifully, that first picture is stunning…
    and of course the dress is lovely too 🙂

  14. I would wear that all the time if I looked as good in it as you do. Do such things as “delicate platform shoes” actually exist? I don’t know I’ve ever put them together.

    That 70’s show was pretty good in the first few seasons, but they kept it alive long after it jumped the shark.

    • LOL! Good question (about the platforms)… but some are certainly more delicate than others. The only pair I have at the moment are more like doc martens or army boots (although not really as cool as either, though they photograph well). This would look smashing with my old white gogo boots (sadly, they too were casualties of the Great Shoe Purge of ’07).

  15. Corinne

    Stunning, the dress, you in it, and your styling. The 3/4 sleeve does indeed update the vintage style, the dark color (purple or black) also add a timeless component. As usual, I am always excited to see your next project. You have a vibe for want of a better word that translates from 2010 Russian style to 70’s take me off the Prarie look!

  16. Finished excellence! I think boots would be just fine with this dress, but I tend prefer wearing boots, sneakers or Docs with just about everything. Can’t get past the comfort (or lack thereof) issues. There are certainly many awesome shoes to be had, but to actually WEAR them is another story.

    Your short hair showcases earrings/necklaces so well! You could add a groovy scarf for a more ’70s vibe perhaps.

  17. It looks amazing on you – great job!
    I too love the 3/4 sleeve – totally updates it and so does your hair . Long hair, long sleeves could easily look costumey I think.
    Could also look cute 70’s luxe with some flat sparkly sandals.
    Beautiful makeup – you look stunning!

  18. Beautiful! The sleeve length is perfect… and so is your hairstyle. 🙂

  19. That is one cool dress! 70’s is the only kind of vintage that I can actually wear and I grew up in the 70’s, so have plenty of memories of daggy school principals in powder blue safari suits, sandals and knee length socks!!!!! I prefer to think of high end 70’s designers like Halston and Ossie Clark and the the Biba store of course when thinking of the 70’s! Sometimes though I think it helps if you weren’t actually around in the era that you are resurrecting. And I really like the contrast of your short hair with the long dress, I think it works well.

  20. Wow! What a nice dress! I love it.
    You also said three magical words: -raising the armscye-
    I thought that the jacket I cut has a very long amrscye… and these words gave a clue about a possible solution. Thanx!

  21. This makes you look so tall! (No idea your real height–you may actually be tall.) Very flattering and I love the photo shoot.

  22. Like the dress, 3/4 sleeves, the hair and I reakon Doc’s would look great with the dress…but that’s just me.

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  27. Ohh I just looooove this dress!
    Totally my taste of style! But I never dared to wear/sew something like that…. just adoreable!

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