I’ve always said that I was born in the wrong decade. Although I was born in the 80’s, I feel like I should have lived through the 1960’s – I just love the fashions, the styles, the music. For a few years I owned and loved a classic VW Beetle. I was, and always will be, a bit of a hippy. Given the chance I prefer to walk around in bare feet, and I will usually drive without shoes too. It was this that prompted my Mum, many years ago, to say that I reminded her of Sandie Shaw – the 60’s singer that always performed in bare feet.
One of Sandie’s more famous songs is ‘(There’s) Always Something There To Remind Me’. I love seeing vintage things that ‘remind me’ of such a cool era, albeit one that I didn’t get to experience.
For a while now I have been wanting to sew a black and white 1960’s style dress. After doing all the prep work and actually making the dress, I had to get some photos that would do it justice – but where?
I wanted something iconic, that made you think of the sixties. Carnaby Street was obviously buzzing during that era, but it doesn’t look the same now as it did back then. There are several entrances to the London Underground that haven’t yet been modernised so I set out on a mission to find one that wasn’t constantly heaving with people. Thing is, London is ALWAYS busy. All day, every day. And trying to find a spot that doesn’t give away too much about the current decade is hard. And if you’re going to have an old-school London Underground sign then you’ve got to have an old-style red London bus too, right? Well… that I couldn’t quite manage. Red bus? Yep. Vintage red bus? Nope.
The pattern I have used for this dress is New Look 6799. You get two styles of dress plus a jacket in the pattern envelope:
The dresses actually take much less fabric than I thought they would, only dress A/B on 45″ fabric will set you back more than two metres – everything else can be made from less than 2m of fabric.
If you’ve seen any of my other finished items, you’ll know that I have a bit of a thing for Alexander Henry fabric – I love all of the crazy bold prints. This dress is made from his ‘In Crowd’ fabric, which is also available in three other colourways:
The dress bodice is fully lined, with a central invisible zip closure and two button-and-loop sets at the top of the neckband. I’ve used the loop-and-button combo on a couple of dresses now, and I’m not a fan. I might like it a bit more if the loops were black elastic (rather than made from fabric) – that way, they wouldn’t have to be so big to get round the buttons and might look a bit better. I did think of instead switching them out for a hook-and-eye getup, but this would obviously be a little more tricky to fasten without help.
I used black cotton poplin for the neck and waist bands – one of the things that attracted me to this design was the potential for contrast here. Monochrome was big in the 60’s so I knew that I wanted to have solid black panels on whichever dress I chose to make, a bit of plain-ness to compliment the busy print.
This dress was quite quick to sew – the part that took the longest was the invisible zip, although I’ve had a lot of practice at it recently and I’m rapidly getting a LOT better at not only getting them in but also getting them invisible! I’m not scared of zips anymore – yay 🙂 With this dress, it was pretty important to get the zip in as straight as possible because of the grid lines on the fabric – a wonky zip would have stuck out a mile! So I took the time to hand baste each side before machine stitching, and also marked the top and bottom of the waistband on both sides of the zip. This way I could make sure that when the zip was closed, both sides of the waistband lined up on either side.
Seams were overlocked to prevent fraying, the back seam with the zip was pressed open before catching in the hem. Sometimes I do bias-bound seams on dresses for a little bit of a quirky feature but on this occasion I thought there was enough going on already so instead I gave the overlocker its moment in the spotlight.
If you’ve got a sharp eye you might have noticed that the skirt on my dress matches neither of the skirts on the pattern template. I didn’t want to make view C/D (the pencil skirt) but equally I didn’t want view A/B (the gathered skirt) either as unless I’m using quite a lightweight fabric, gathering around the waist doesn’t look very flattering on me. My narrower waist balances out my larger hips – so I don’t want to be making my waist appear any bigger.
What I did for this dress was cut the templates for the gathered skirt, but instead of gathering as the pattern instructs I put in two pleats on the front and another two on the back, in line with the bodice darts, to draw in all the extra fabric. This keeps the excess fabric nice and flat around my waist rather than having it all bunched up in gathers.
I’m really pleased with how this dress turned out, and I feel that it sufficiently channels the 60’s vibe I was after. I really like the monochrome look so I’m now thinking about other garments that I can make in the same colour scheme (not that I need more things to add to the sewing list) – one is already in progress and it involves zebras… watch this space!
Photos by Hmexus
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