Unlike last week, when I was very on the fence about my linen maxi dress, there is no doubting how I feel about this dress. I LOVE it. It is basically my ultimate summer dress.
This pattern is a vintage number from 1977. It is McCall’s #5414. I need to state here that I am obsessed with 70s fashion. Not so much the lamé pantsuits, but I am totally into the tailored blouses and blazers, the flared jeans and the dresses. I think this obsession started a few years ago, when a friend recommended the show The Americans. If you aren’t familiar, the show is about undercover KGB spies in America, and the first few seasons take place in the late 70s. I was immediately hooked – both on the show and on all the fashion.
After the show entered the 80s, I was less enthralled with the fashion – although I still loved the show.
I got my copy of the pattern on either Etsy or Ebay (I don’t remember which), and a quick google showed several available on Etsy, Ebay and Amazon. Before I get into the specifics of making this dress, I want to point out a few things about this pattern. It’s labeled as a “Pounds Thinner Pattern.” That’s a pretty big claim for a pattern – apparently the sewing machine is mightier than the treadmill. I don’t really think I look pounds thinner in this dress, but it gave me a chuckle.
The other thing about this pattern that makes me laugh is the cover illustration. The four girls in dresses look so happy and confident. The girl on the far right, however, not so much. Yeah…she knows she drew the short straw with that smock-looking top.
I’d been wanting to make a dress with some embroidery on it for quite some time, but I just hadn’t come across the right pattern. I purchased this pattern about a year ago and sort of forgot about it. When I came across it one day in my pattern stash, I knew right away that some embroidery would look awesome on the front yoke pieces. Not to toot my own horn, but I was right.
I decided to make view E and picked up some denim look striped cotton shirting at JoAnn. I didn’t want to use a solid, and I figured the stripes would be a nice contrast to the embroidery. I also played around with the stripes a bit, using a horizontal orientation for the yoke. This fabric was great to work with and is perfect for hot summer days. The pattern went together so easily, the only fit adjustment I made was to shorten the dress by four inches. The original length is much longer than the illustration shows. I also made one construction change.
Instead of buttons, this shirtdress has a front zipper. The pattern instructs you to stitch the facing to the neck and front openings prior to adding the zipper. I didn’t like this method, because then you would need to bend the upper ends of the zipper tape over and hand baste. I decided to sew in the zipper, then stitch the facing to the neck and front openings. This way, I could conceal the top ends of the zipper tape between the dress and the facing. I’m quite pleased with the result. In my humble opinion, it looks much neater.
Now on to the good stuff – the embroidery! I don’t have an embroidery machine, but my mom does. And lucky me, she lets me pop by to use it whenever I like. Thanks, mom!
The entire time I was making this dress, I envisioned bright red roses with Kelly green stems. Boy howdy, did all that change when presented with my mom’s myriad of color choices. But first, I needed to choose a rose pattern. We looked at hundreds online, until we finally found this one. This embroidery only uses two colors, but the way it’s stitched provides so much depth.
After laying out the red and Kelly green thread, these colors didn’t feel right. I also tried yellow, peach and pink. Nope. Nope. And nope. I’m not a big fan of purple, but something about this purplely fuchsia color caught my eye as soon as I saw it. I gave in and did a test run with the fuchsia and a bright lime green. It was nothing like what I had envisioned…it was better. My mom always says that once you start laying out colors, you might be surprised by what looks best. She was right!
This might be the most fun summer sewing project ever, and I know the best part of it was getting to spend the day working on the embroidery with my mom. Now, I have about a million more ideas for embroideries – I hope my mom’s ready!
I’m already planning a second version of this dress for fall. I have a variegated green wool from this year’s Salvation Army Fabric Fair that will look perfect with view B.
Until next time,