Well, I managed to cross a “goal dress” off my list with this years’ Dress Like Your Grandma dress! I bring to you my patio dress!
The stars very much aligned to make this dress. I discussed this more fully in my “plans” post. I recently unearthed photos of my grandma in one of her square dancing dresses from the 1960’s. At around the same time I also found a vintage patio dress pattern. As I’ve had a dress like this on my dream list for years, it seemed a good time to create one, so I did.
I’m pretty certain that Simplicity 3545 is the pattern that my grandma used to make her dress. The pattern came out around the same time as this photo was taken and it looks the same. My grandma did not save her patterns, so I wasn’t able to find it in her stash. However, she didn’t get rid of notions and there was silver rick rack in there, and I have no doubt that that was some of the rick rack used to make her dress. I never saw her dress in person, as she donated most all of her clothes and the square dancing dresses were in the back of the closet that I never saw close up.
I gathered so much rick rack for this dress, that I don’t know which packages were grandma’s anymore. In fact, there are about 70 yards of trim on this dress. In addition to rick rack in two sizes and two colors, there is also silver braid and white and silver embroidered trim. I bought even more trim than that — I just didn’t use it all. I even had large rick rack, but didn’t add it to my dress.
I studied tons of vintage patio dresses for inspiration and settled on this V design for the trim on the bodice.
I used 100% vintage trims and bought about all that I found on Etsy and eBay. I had a bit of an idea of how much trim I would need from the back of the pattern envelope, but I didn’t know exactly how much I would need to go around the skirt tiers nor for the bodice. I just started pinning, surprised to find that my main focal trim — the large white/silver ribbon — went around the skirt twice. I then used the same pattern for two of the tiers and followed up more rick rack on the hem. I had a lot – so why not use it?
The pattern has trim around the waist, but I opted to make a belt. I looked at the buckles in my stash and didn’t find any that would work well, so I went with a plain metal buckle with a flashy belt trimmed with more silver.
I resized the pattern from Bust 32″ to Bust 48″ using slash and spread grading. The pattern was uncut, which was nice. I’m generally pretty lazy about grading a pattern up that much and I only make the effort for a pattern that is not re-issued like this one. It was relatively easy to grade and I’m happy to have a tiered skirt pattern now to use. I also measured the length of each tier so that I know exactly how much trim I will need for the next patio dress. (Yes, there will be another one!)
I did make set-in short sleeves for this dress, like the version my grandma has on. I also sewed trim on them and sewed them on to the bodice. However, when I tried it on I didn’t like the way it looked (1970’s Grand Ole Opry came to mind). It would have been okay to take photos in and post here, but I would have been unlikely to wear it. I don’t want to sew dresses that I don’t wear, so I removed the sleeves and added cap sleeves, which I like a lot better. Instead of drafting my own, I used the sleeve expansion for the Cashmerette Upton dress. They were actually a little tight with this bodice, so I ended up adding gussets so that I had more room. I didn’t think I needed it as the original sleeves with the bodice fit fine, but it didn’t fit well when I sewed the cap sleeves on.
The fabric is stretch cotton sateen. It was originally a pastel baby pink and had been sitting in my stash for years. I was going to sew the fabric as is, but I decided to dye the fabric a color which would showcase the silver trim. I used violet Rit dye and achieved this magenta color, which was exactly what I was shooting for. This fabric was $1/yard when I purchased it from Fabric Mart, which would make this dress about $7 to make if you didn’t account for the trim. I spent quite a bit more for the trim than that — about $100…
I think I did a pretty good job recreating my grandma’s dress. I am a bit flashier than my grandma with a different complexion, so there’s much more trim on mine. It suits my style. I was planning on wearing the same pin that my grandma has on in her photo. It’s a pin from her square dancing club in Venezuela (my grandpa when stationed there when he was in the USAF). I couldn’t find where I packed it away, so I didn’t get to wear it for these photos.
I’m so happy to have made this dream dress! It took so much longer to make it than I assumed it would as sewing all of that trim on is a feat itself. But it was well worth it. <3
- Dress: vintage Simplicity 3545 in cotton sateen, made by me
- Shoes: Re-Mix Vintage Corazon