(Re)Making History: ca. 1965

I haven’t done much sewing this summer (and fall) because the weather was so nice that I wanted to spend as much time outside as I could! I love it when it isn’t so hot that I want to melt. Plus, I’ve started taking some graphic design classes three times a week while still working a forty hour week, so as you can imagine, life has gotten complicated for me.  I’m just now getting around to posting summer projects in October, er, November (!) because of it. I’ve learned a lot and I even bought my first laptop, which I’m using to compose this post on right now. The photos in this post were taken on the last of the warm days in October, so technically, I’m only a month behind. (Covers face in embarrassment.)

Naturally this takes time away from sewing, pushing it to the bottom of the list of things I can reasonably accomplish in a day, since homework is now my priority.   Between assignments and housework and my job, I’ve still managed to do a  few projects, albeit veeeeery slowly!

I am really pleased with Simplicity #5891, a flirtatious little number from my vintage pattern collection. Dating from 1965, it still has the full skirt and close-fitting bodice from the first half of the decade, and an adorable scarf over the neckline that I just love. Speaking of love, isn’t that pattern art just adorable? Can I say that hand drawn pattern envelopes are still my favorite, even in the age of Photoshop and Illustrator?simplicity5891








I raided my stash and used an incredibly lightweight striped cotton shirting, purchased a few years ago from Vogue Fabrics. I love the thin stripes, because I didn’t have to worry too much about matching them up since they aren’t obviously mismatched. I considered having them run horizontally initially, but I didn’t have enough fabric for that. I’m pleased with the way it came out; I think the vertical stripes look nice. They’re small enough not to be distracting but large enough to provide some color; the best of both worlds!

1965dress5My fabric was so sheer I had to fully line the bodice instead of using the facings included in the pattern. I used most of the leftover fabric to make a mini skirt lining. I do mean mini, too! It barely comes to my thighs, but it provides some much-needed modesty under the thin skirt material, and I feel good about using up nearly all my fabric, too.


Love the stripe

Originally, this was a dress pattern my grandmother had made to wear herself, so instead of redrawing the pieces larger, I had to scale it down. The original was for a 38″ bust and that was way too big for me. I have learned something valuable from this experience, too. When you redraw a pattern to a smaller size, you need to reduce the interior volume, not just the exterior lines of the pattern. When I cut my pieces and did my early fittings, I discovered everything was still too big. I spent a lot of time fitting the bodice as a result. I had to make my darts much deeper to get it to fit and I still ended up trimming off the sides a bit. So, if I do this again, I’ve got to pay attention to my darts and reduce the volume when I redraw the bodice.

The skirt had three pleats on each of the four panels, plus I did a free hanging lining, so I ended up making twenty-four pleats total. It felt like forever while I was sewing them! I really love how they look, though. I feel the skirt has the right amount of fullness without being in the way. It floats a little in the breeze because the fabric is so lightweight!


Back view, with my scarf improvisation.

There was supposed to be a belt piece that has gone missing over the decades, but I feel the dress is pretty enough without it. Along with the belt piece, the second half of the instructions seems to have disappeared also. Perhaps they’re together somewhere in another pattern envelope…

As a result, I had to improvise a little when it was time to attach the scarf. I had no idea how it was supposed to go, so I guessed. I installed the invisible zipper first. Then I stitched the ends to each side next to the zipper, on the outside of the garment, on the side of the scarf that wouldn’t show. It took me a few tries to get it right, because I had to angle the pieces so they would lay correctly. My thinking was that the scarf would ten turn over, and come around the front to tie at the v-neck. It works pretty well, but I quickly discovered the scarf had other ideas about where it wanted to lay down.

I hand stitched each piece the shoulder seams to keep the scarf from moving around too much when I wear it. I think it looks good for having to improvise an installation.

I also shortened it quite a lot from the original. I made the hem fairly deep rather than cut off the extra fabric, because sometimes I get little too enthusiastic with the scissors…and this way looks very tidy with no panicking, which I like very much! I owe this tidy look in part to my dress form, which was invaluable for measuring and pinning the hem.

It’s a lovely dress and went together easily. It’s very comfortable, too! I may make 1965dress3another version with the narrow skirt later…after I redraw the bodice to make it less voluminous, that is.

I particularly like how the dress doesn’t look especially retro- the design is timeless. It’s really just a sleeveless v-neck bodice with bust and waist darts and a full skirt, and a little scarf that could be left off for variety, which lends itself to a variety of fabrics, color combinations and even fabric combinations.

Most importantly, it makes me feel pretty, which everything a dress should be and do for the wearer. Perfect!

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