If you’re joining us for this year’s Dress Like Your Grandma challenge, how is your project coming along? We’re about midway through the challenge and I’ve already seen some finished projects popping up. Y’all are some dedicated and productive sewists! It’s also been so amazing as well as heartwarming to view your family photos and inspiration pieces. These are going to be some very meaningful projects for many of us. <3
I was going to do an inspiration post this year (here is last years’ inspiration post), but not sure it’s needed as most of you are finding all of the inspiration that you need looking through your family photo albums. As I’ve mentioned before, your photo does not have to be a family photo, nor one of your grandma. Your vintage muse can be anyone, whether you know them or not. 🙂
As for me, I was planning on using my great grandma Gertrude as my muse. I loved her so much and have many precious memories spending time with her. She was one of the most impressive women I’ve ever known. Born and raised in rural Nova Scotia, she moved to New Hampshire in her twenties and met my great grandfather. There wasn’t anything that she couldn’t do. She even hiked in the White Mountains in her seventies and painted her two-story colonial house all by herself in her eighties. I truly come from strong independent New England stock.
However, I have been unable to find any photos of my great grandma pre-1940’s. I really wanted to use her circa 1910’s/20’s. Unfortunately, my grandma (her daughter) didn’t have any photos of her, so I’m waiting for a relative to send me some. I don’t know when that will be, so when I found a photo yesterday that I hadn’t seen before of my grandma, I figured it was kismet as I was already planning pretty the SAME project. I will save my great-grandma as inspiration for next year’s project.
My grandparents were avid square dancers and square danced all over the world as my grandpa was a USAF Colonel. A square dancing dress like this one of my grandmas is basically a midcentury patio dress. I’ve been wanting to make a patio dress for a long time. They are ubiquitous among vintage dressers, but finding a vintage dress that would fit me is a difficult task. Thankfully, I can sew.
I’ve been on the lookout for vintage patio dress patterns for a while, but I was trying to find one in a larger size, so I had not purchased one yet. A few weeks ago I was in one of my favorite charity shops and found Simplicity 3545, a vintage patio dress, peasant blouse, and tiered skirt from 1964. It’s much smaller than me and will require grading up exponentially. However, it’s a pretty simple pattern and I was lucky to find an uncut/unused version. I also think it was meant to be, especially after I unearthed these photos of my grandma.
I was actually in the planning process of making a patio dress the night before I found these square dancing photos of my grandma and became even more inspired. The most difficult part of sewing a patio dress is sourcing the trim needed to make one. I’d say that is why I haven’t seen anyone make a patio dress with all of the bells and whistles. I really can’t think of any that I’ve seen that weren’t vintage. This pattern takes about 50 yards of trim. Rick rack is easy to find, but when you think about how many 3 yard packages that takes — it gets to be pretty expensive! Also, good luck finding 16 packages of trim in the same color at your local fabric store. I have a lot of rick rack in my stash — a lot of which came from my grandma’s sewing stash. I decided on a pink patio dress with silver and white, so I pulled out what I had that would work. Most of that is my grandma’s and I’m pretty certain that is the leftover trim for her dress in these photos. I also am pretty positive that she used the pattern I have to make her dress. Simplicity 5545 came out in 1964 and these photos are from 1966-68.
So, it’s starting to seem like this project is meant to be! My dress will be pink instead of blue and probably a bit floofier. I do have that pin she’s wearing in these photos, too. Sadly, I never saw this dress or any of my grandma’s square dancing dresses in person. I knew they were in the back of her closet in garment bags, but she never took them out. She later donated them along with many other clothes that both my mom and I would have liked to have. I also have never seen any of my grandparents’ square dancing photos until now, so this was a treat! They were in a briefcase of my grandpa’s, that is like a time capsule from 1969, and I hadn’t looked through it yet. Mostly, as I wanted a surprise and I sure did find one yesterday. 🙂
Further information on the Dress Like Your Grandma challenge can be found here.