Monday, November 20, 2017

FO: The 60s Dress

I know I've mentioned before on the blog about the singing groups I'm a part of, but every now and then these two hobbies of mine intersect because I need a costume for a singing event. Earlier this year we sang at a Madrigal Feast, and our fall show just took place on November 4th as a 60s music show. Well I could not let a sewing opportunity like the 1960s pass me by without making something up. I surely could've just used some things I already had, but this was an opportunity to make something that doesn't exactly translate into modern fashion if you know what I mean, lol. I dug through my vintage pattern stash as well as my fabric stash to pull out some actual from-the-era options. The resulting dress is so 60s I just can't even. So let's start with the dress itself:
How 60s is this baby? Our director kept saying to focus on things people would've worn in day to day life during the 60s, not something super costumey, and I really feel I nailed that prompt. The pattern came first, so we'll start there.
I went with vintage Simplicity 8660, a classic a-line shift dress with a bow neckline from 1969. Not only is this style quintessentially 60s, this pattern was also already in my exact size (I know!) which absolutely never happens with vintage patterns if you are over 36" bust. As an avid thrifted, and as someone who has dabbled in selling patterns online, I have an extensive collection of vintage patterns, and I can count the ones that are over a 36 or 38" bust on my hands. People were just smaller on average, and while I've always had good intentions and planned to grade some of them up I've just never taken the time to actually do the prep and make that happen. So the fact that this dress was already made for a 43" bust was a huge win. I had a handful of patterns to chose from and I showed them to a few people who are into these types of things and they both chose this dress, so I guess it was just meant to be.
The fabric is another fortuitous find. I snagged this piece of cotton poplin at a thrift store over a year ago for the sheer novelty of the print, plus it was a sizeable piece, for just $3. When I got it home (and washed it) I noticed that the selvage was printed "Fashion Set M.L.S. 1963", which I interpret as this fabric being printed in 1963. Perfect! Interestingly when I pulled out the fabric to sew with, it read more blue from the background, and I even used royal blue thread to stitch this up, but every photo reads so much more orangey gold. 

Since I have never actually worked with a vintage pattern before, and since I tend to have to make a lot of adjustments anyway, I made a full muslin of this dress. I had to lower the bust dart by 1" and take it in a few inches around the bust and waist, plus I had to shorten the hem and the sleeves, but other than that this dress fit extremely well - much better than modern Simplicity patterns tend to fit me off the bat. I also wanted to make the muslin to test out the methods used to make everything. The instructions were really good, not too concise as they are reputed to be, and aside from a little (undertstandable)  hand sewing at the neckline, this was a breeze to sew together. I'm liking the whole vintage pattern idea more and more now...
Another interesting twist of fate is in the zipper. I have a crazy vintage zipper stash that are most all from the 60s and 70s. I really am set when it comes to standard dress zippers thanks to these, but I must admit there are quite a few that are in what I consider to be pretty unattractive colors that I would very unlikely wear, meaning I have a nice stack of zips that may never be used except on muslins, for which they are used regularly. When gathering my supplies, I laid out this fabric and set various zips next to it to see which would be the best match. Wouldn't you know that all 3 of the colors I dislike the most - the ones I use on muslins because I never thought I would need them for an actual garment - matched this fabric perfectly. I was chosing between bright orange, medium brown, and Aztec Gold. I put a picture up on instagram and everyone helped me chose the Aztec gold and I am very happy with the result. 
I did a lapped zipper to keep with the time period, so the zip isn't exactly on display, but it all feels very legit to have this historically accurate zipper in there, lol. See how much more blue the fabric looks in these pictures? These were taken in morning sunlight. So weird. 
The instructions have you start the project by sewing a small square of bias cut fabric at the center of the neckline and flipping it to the inside. You are then to catch stitch this piece of fabric in place by hand before moving on. This makes for an interesting detail - definitely more of a homemade feel then we go for nowadays with finishing the insides. I just pick stitched around the piece so it is invisible outside, but it's kind of fun inside this way too. 
The bow has interfacing only at the widest part of the bottom, and the instructions have you sew it with a machine to a certain point and then enclose everything by hand around the neck, which is what I did. I top stitched the hem and sleeves with the machine since a) this is a costume and b) this fabric is so busy that you can't see it anyway. I altered the sleeves quite a bit but in the easiest way possible. The pattern is designed to have a long sleeve gathered into a placket, but I would die of heat stroke in a long sleeved dress in a show, so I just cut the sleeve piece at the lengthen/shorten line, then eyeballed where I wanted the sleeves to hit on my muslin and transferred the length to the real dress. I'm really happy with how they turned out and the fit is great :) I raided our Etsy jewelry at work and I think I accessorized pretty well, lol. My long necklace and earrings are a set by Sarah Coventry and my bracelet is Trifari - all 60s originals. I was actually pretty amazed I didn't think my ears were going to fall off after wearing clip-ons all night, lol. I also wore some Clarks mustard colored flats I have - these are just regular shoes I bought for work, lol. I'm glad they worked and looked pretty accurate to the period as well. 
My hair and makeup is a bit of a sore subject. First I tried to do winged eyeliner for the first time ever thinking it couldn't be that hard - yeah, I don't recommend you do that. I was trying to do my makeup quickly between customers at work too, so it was a stressful makeup fix to be sure. For my hair I had planned on it looking like a big teased helmet, but thanks to thin, oily hair and Florida humidity it looked just like it does every other day, lol. You would think that with as much teasing as we did (see photo above) that it would've at least looked a bit poofy, but sadly it did not at all during the show. We took the photos of my dress after the show, and you can see that it looks just like my usual hair. This is why I never do anything to my hair - it refuses to do anything. I just got to feel dirty all night with my unwashed hair, lol. 
Here's a very unflattering photo of me singing that night, lol. It was the only tolerable one, so I'm trying to just let it go. Location photos are super hard, guys. The lighting was weird everywhere, so I'm sorry the pics aren't up to my usual standard. I believe I was singing Can't Buy Me Love in this picture. My solos were Can't Buy Me Love, I Only Want To Be With You, and You Can't Hurry Love, but I sang back up or group numbers on lots of others too. 
Here is all of Soliloquy :) The 7 of us are the complete womens group I sing with and we have a lot of fun. We were chosen to sing at Disney again this year and this time we have 6 performances! Woo hoo, lol.
And here is the whole gang - this is Soliloquy, Broadstreet (the coed singing group) and out band. Our drummer said he had the collar piece since the 60s, lol. Love it. We had a lot of fun, and hopefully we will be performing this show again in January. Any local people - let me know if you're interested and I'll make sure you know the next performance! I mean how can you resist the opportunity to come see my dress in person?
This also means I've officially made my Vintage Pledge! This is my first time participating, and I now know it won't be the last :) I loved working with this 60s pattern and I know I have more that are tempting. So hooray for accomplishing small goals!

Fabric: 3.5 yards vintage cotton poplin (36" wide) - $3.00 (thrifted)
Pattern: Simplicity 8660 from 1969 - $0.25 (thrifted)
Notions: interfacing -$0.50, blue thread - $0.50, gold 22" zipper - $0.10 (thrifted)
Time: 10 hours
Total Cost: $4.35


  1. I'm having a great time tonight looking through your previous posts, and you are a true Renaissance woman. You can sew or knit anything, and you are in a singing group as well? I'm not sure how you find time to go to work and church! I like that you sew dresses and skirts because I wear one or the other every day, and it's nice to see clothes I would actually wear.
    I think you had the best "costume" but you could wear that dress anytime. Where do you work that you have access to vintage jewelry?
    Thanks for keeping me entertained tonight!

    1. Hi Karen! Thanks so much for your comment :) I'm a devout skirt wearer as well (so much more comfortable!). And thank you for your compliment on my dress. I actually figured I could wear it in real life, but I have not yet had the courage to do that, lol. Unless you count when my husband and I had to swing by Aldi after our show and I wore my dress. Maybe one day I'll get a wild hair to wear it out.

      Thanks so much for reading!


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