Promaballoona, Vintage Edition

Vintage Grad Dress

Now, it is a sad truth that there was no way in hell I was going to have time to make a whole prom dress for Promaballoona, Oona’s fantabulous birthday bash this year. And, well, I hate to say it, but it’s not as if I really need another prom dress.

But, it is equally true (and considerably less sad) that there was NO WAY IN HELL I was going to be left out. Especially not when I just happen to have a vintage handmade prom dress handy. You saw the pre-digital-camera shots from my original grad  here—now you get the full expose.

Confession: I have written about this dress before. But. a) I didn’t have it on hand to take closeup and detail photos, and two) many of you weren’t reading back then and, inexplicably, may not have obsessively gone over every single post in my archive. So I’m going to indulge my inner brat Oona and write about it again. This time with brand-new, modeled shots courtesy of my glamorous back deck, and even some detail bits.

Full view. Yes, I should’ve ironed. I did not. Hush.

Now, as you have no doubt seen (and if you haven’t, go! I’ll wait.), I wore this dress, which my mother made, back in 1998, to my grade twelve graduation ceremony and subsequent dance and dinner. 1998 may not seem old enough to some of you to qualify as vintage, and indeed, you are probably right (except possibly by my daughters’ standards.) But this dress wasn’t made in 1998. My mother made it in 1970, for her Grade 12 graduation. (And while that still may not count as vintage for some of you, well, this is my blog and I’m counting it.) In particular, she received some kind of 4H credit for completing it. (Sadly, my efforts to acquire photographic evidence of my mother wearing it were in vain. Neither she nor my grandmother were able to lay hands on my mom’s grad photos in the time-frame I gave them. When I have the leisure to dig through their houses myself I will try and hunt one up and force you all to read about this dress yet another time. 😉 )


The fabric is a peach polyester brocade. My mother is no more of a peach fan than anyone else, but the fabric was on sale, and this was a Factor in its selection. Unlike the Teal Bombshell dress (which is a similar vintage), this one is fully lined, but, I must say, from the construction I suspect that the lining was my mother’s addition rather than an integral part of the instructions. She constructed the lining exactly as the pattern, and attached the facings overtop of that, with the inner edges (very nicely finished, I will add) free. The neck and armhole facings are separate and overlap at the shoulders, which I think we all agree is unfortunate, although probably easier to sew.


She went the extra mile for the trim—lace and ribbon—along the bottom of the bodice, which I think really finishes off the dress.

Zipper and facings

The zipper is a simple, centred application. The lining and facings have been stitched to the zipper tape by hand along the CB on the inside. There is interfacing in the facings, but it doesn’t seem to have been caught in the fold-over finishing of the facings. Not sure if that was intentional or not; it might also have originally been caught but frayed itself loose over the years.


Aren’t those pretty hems? Seam binding, hand-hemmed on the fashion fabric, a machine stitch on the lining.

Original 1970 accessories

These are my mom’s original accessories—long evening gloves, sequinned handbag, pearls, and wrist corsage, although the corsage, I fear, has not really enjoyed its time in the box. My corsage was real flowers—it didn’t even survive the first night, although it was very pretty while it lasted.

My accessories (then)

I wore the evening gloves and carried the handbag, but for whatever reason supplied my own pearls (although I do think my mom’s are nicer). And my own shoes, not that you can see them. And my own Big Meaningless Trophy. 😉

My accessories (now)

(It was the Art Award, if I recall correctly…)

Back view

A few more pics, just because.


There are not many things more enjoyable than a good prom dress.

And further vanity

Happy Birthday, Oona!

Oh, rats. I forgot the booze.



Filed under Sewing

16 responses to “Promaballoona, Vintage Edition

  1. I often overlap my facings on the inside, especially when I have made a lot of adjustments to the pattern and am not sure how accurate the pattern piece for the facing is! It looks just as good 9if not better sometime) on the outside, and I don’t worry about the inside too often! Great that you still fit into it!

    • I generally prefer the all in one facing just because it’s less bulky. Well, actually, I generally prefer to line the whole thing and screw the facings! 😉 I make a lot of changes in this area, too, usually—I’d generally draw a new facing piece from the altered pattern piece, if I were going to use it at all. You’re right, though, from the outside it looks just the same—and I sure never noticed until I actually went looking for the construction details. 🙂

  2. So I’m stunned by a few things:
    a) What a pretty and classic dress. I hope she got some good 4H credit for that.
    b) You fit into your prom dress?
    c) You fit into your mom’s prom dress? (Bust size makes both b and c inconceivable to me)
    d) The frugal streak has genetic roots, eh? 😉

    • Ah, yeah. Y’know, when I was a teenager I kept waiting for “real breasts”… never did happen.

      The annoying thing is, the science questions were going on for MONTHS before I realized what they were up to… i r smart.

      And yes to the thrifty streak. The trick is to keep it from slipping over into hoarding… 😛

  3. I…am so jealous that you still fit into your grad dress. lol Sadly, I actually JUST donated my grad dress when I was packing up to move to the Yukon. Should’ve taken some pictures of it. I definitely didn’t fit into it anymore though. I think I have some pictures of it somewhere though, maybe I should crash the party with a post on my grad dress and day! lol

    I really like this dress. It’s sort of timeless, in that I’m pretty sure someone could pull it off today without being seen as vintage. Think one of your girls would be interested in wearing it for their graduation in a few (!!!) years? Now that would be cool.

    • You should totally do a Promaballona gate-crashing post! Yeah, I feel like it’s aged pretty well. I’m not convinced either of my girls are ever actually going to be big enough for it, but I suppose that’s probably just in my head. My husband’s family is all pretty tiny, though… 🙂

  4. Love seeing this being worn on modern you….it’s aged well and is a gorgeous shape on you….you obviously knew even back then what worked. I love the vintage accessories too….perfection. Must say that the shadow in the first pic above your head looked like some kind of fascinator / vintage feather could have been going on, but alas, just a shadow 🙂

    • A fascinator would’ve been cool! Alas, it’s just the outside lamp and it’s shadow. Keeping anything in my hair with pins or combs is almost impossible…

      This might’ve been the dress that cemented my fondness for the empire waistline, actually…

  5. Oklahoma Mom

    Really pretty dress.


    your mom went nuts on that dress. i love seeing those guts… and i had a very hard time telling the prom you from the today you. seriously, what is in the water over there.

    (i adore that award shot. priceless.)

    • Woot woot! I will go pour myself some now… Ok, maybe after I eat something first. 😉

      Clean living, my dear, clean living. No smoking, drinking, or drugs, and lots of being obsessive about sunscreen on my face. 😉 (*snork*)

      I think the highly similar haircuts helps. Although there’s gotta be something lame about still having the same haircut from highschool… I have lost the baby fat from my cheeks, and gained some in the belly, but the dress hides that nicely. 🙂

  7. Wow – terrific dress. It’s very Barbra, IMO!

  8. Awesome dress, and a wonderful story! I love seeing the construction details, and that hem IS so pretty! 🙂 I have to say… you are rocking that dress so much better now than in your original prom – and I love that you are so unapologetic for not ironing!! ^__^

  9. Pingback: A Christmas Dress | Tanit-Isis Sews

Leave a Reply to Heather Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s