The “Welcome to the Magic Pan” Dress

Magicpan-promo The Facts
Fabric: Vintage calico – $0.30 for pre-cut pattern pieces from the best Estate Sale ever
Pattern: Simplicity 2101
Year: c. 1947 with a 1980s twist
Notions: vintage buttons – $.005 
Time to complete: About 3.5 hours
First worn: Not out in public 
Wear again? Nope.

Total Cost: ~$0.30

Today's creation is the third in a series of dresses I'm sewing using Simplicity 2101. The inspiration for this series is Pattern Review's latest contest, One Pattern, Many Looks — I'm going to be making four dresses all from one view of 2101. The trims and slight variations (sleeve length, dress length, fabric choice) is all that will differentiate each dress. My ultimate goal is to create four dresses that each span a different period of time, this third one being my 1980s take.

So this dress was supposed to feel like "Homecoming Dance '81". Instead, it feels more like "Hostess at the Magic Pan '81."

Where do I begin with this dress? For starters, I didn't have much to work with — the fabric had already been cut for a shift dress of some sort. There was a front piece, a back piece and long sleeves. Somehow I managed to cut my own pieces — bodice front and back, skirt front left, front right, back, back side and sleeves out of those limited scraps. I had to make the dress way shorter than I wanted and that ultimately caused my biggest disappointment with the thing.If I really wanted to capture the spirit of late 70s/early 80s prarie/Gunne Sax/Jessica McClintock, the dress had to  – at the very least — go past my knees. I just didn't have the fabric for that length. I imagine, however, that if I did have the extra length, I'd be asking for my keys to the compound.

Magicpan-mena The variations to Simplicity 2101 were minimal: I didn't attach the included collar, instead I used some lace and made a lace collar at the neck. I added a ruffle trim to the arms and hem with some extra scraps of fabric that I machine gathered and added the lace trim to the bodice.

Would I ever wear this dress? Yes, with some alterations. I'd probably take the ruffle off the sleeves and tack down the collar so that it had more of a v-neck look to it. For this exercise, I wanted to have those little early 1980s details that, frankly, I could do without in my wardrobe.


Mena Trott

Mena Trott started The Sew Weekly to document her attempt to sew all of her own clothes in 2010. Since then, she's made over 125 outfits and has way more clothes than she needs.


Comments are closed.

  1. While I agree with you about the dress, I must say that the length makes your legs look AHH-MAZING! The length and the shoes combine to make the lower half a real winner!

  2. Actually I like the sleeve ruffle but find the v shaped lace is kind of distracting. That part of the lace seem more 1880 than 1980, I keep thinking of Laura Ingalls (Little Home on the Prairie). Whatever century it is you look great as usual.

  3. When I first saw the picture of the dress I thought immediately that it was something right out of the 80s – so I was glad to see that was the look you were going for.
    If you really wanted to do the gunne sax prom dress look you’d need a sheer weight fabric and a contrast color for a yoke, cuffs or placket. I have one gunne sax dress and one early 90s jessica mcclintock dress (the dropped waist was popular by then) and both are so sheer that even with a slip you have to make sure to wear panties with no writing on the waistband or risk advertising that you prefer Hanes Her Way.

  4. McClintock did both heavy weight and light weight fabrics in her Gunne Sax line. The heavy weights just haven’t held out in popularity to the prom dresses, but corduroys, velvets, etc. were definitely used. Being a huge Gunne Sax fan, I really like this dress. It would look amazing paired with white lacey tights and lace-up victorian style boots.

  5. I think you are being a little too hard on this dress. When I saw the first photo of it on the form, I thought “ugh!” (Sorry) But it looks much better on you! I think it’s cute! That being said, I recognize that I leave a lot to be desired in the fashion department. I definitely agree that the length plus shoes equal a very good look for you. I think with a little alteration (I agree with a collar fix) this could be a very pretty dress. It’s neat to see how differently one pattern can be interpreted!

  6. I’m suddenly feeling fourteen again! I haven’t thought about Gunne Sax in years. Thanks for the flashback.

  7. What’s a Magic Pan? We don’t have whatever they are in Australia – should we?! If people wear these dresses at them I think we should! I agree with Toocute about the V for victory lace. I’m totally with you on the idea I just don’t know if it works – kind of steals the show from what is already a really cute dress. It almost needs to be two rows close placed… but then that would be totally prairie. Is that bad? Lauren’s right about the length – tis very flatering on you! Yes to Lisette’s suggestion re: cream tights & lace up boots. Maybe black lace/ patterned tights with shiny patent leather would work too?? But then I’m stuck in winter downunder.

  8. No, it’s the Elaine Benes (“Seinfeld”) dress! Well, maybe if it were 2-3 inches longer… check out the NY Times “Style” section today – the floral dress with granny boots and anklets is baaaack!