Hot! The “Embellished Sack” Dress

Sack-promoThe Facts
Fabric: Wool weave – ~$1 for 6 yards
Pattern: Butterick 4102
Notions: Braid trim ~ .50
Year: c. mid 1960s
Time to complete: About 10 hours
First worn: December 2010
Wear again? Sure

Total Cost – $1.50

There’s nothing like a grey wool shift dress to make you feel really sexy. Particularly one with a high neckline. That just feels Russian factory worker from the 1960s sexy. (No offense to former Russian factory workers from the 1960s who read this blog).

I had 6 1/2 yards of this grey wool weaved fabric that I wanted to make stretch. My goal was to be able to make a simple 1960s dress, a fuller 1950s dress and a jacket. I actually had three patterns that would all fit on about 6 1/2 yards of 60″ width fabric. Well, this is the first thing I ventured in creating and, because of a bunch of work, came out fairly successful. It required alterations to the dress an a bit of hand sewing. Both incredibly fun things I just love to do at 2am in the morning.

The first version of my dress was pretty true to the original pattern. I’ll spare you the photo of the dress on me because there’s nothing flattering about it. It didn’t fit horribly, but it just was incredibly dull and unflattering.

I did take a photograph of it on my dress form, however. Here it is in all its drab glory:


The sleeves were the first things to go. As much as I love wearing vintage patterns, there are some elements that I always find to be too dating. Bell sleeves are one of those things. Because I didn’t make the longer sleeve version, I thought I’d be safe. I wasn’t. So off they went.

The next thing I did was take in the waistline. My biggest lesson? I really prefer an early 1960s silhouette. At this point I realized that my goal was basically to make it into Simplicity 3836. Even with these modifications, the dress just needed something else. That’s where the braid came in. For it, I basically took a really long braid and tied bows about every 4 inches. I then placed them on the dress on the dress form and then pin/basted them on by hand. After that, I went over the stitches with my machine.


As a proof of concept, I’m happy with how they turned out. The dress may not be my favorite, but it’s still a promising start to my future couturier career.



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. I am convinced that fushia/plum/pink/purple whatever color tights those are will make even the most sackish dress fabulous. Though the braid embellishment does look fantastic.

  2. I think it is adorable! Especially with those tights :)


    wow! I just love the combination of plum+gray so ready for a xmas party!!

  4. I am thinking maybe a big black belt to go with that dress. I like how creative you were with the braid. It made the dress. Good job!

  5. I really like the finished dress. As much as I’d love to swan around the house all day in an elegant dress from the 30’s, that’s just not how I live. But this… I can do, although prolly not in gray. The braid was a great idea and I Love your tights!

  6. I mean this in the most sincere and flattering way: my grandmother had a dress just like this. It was brown and she wore it with a pair of chunky brown shoes that I loved to clomp around the house in. Plus bakelite beads and earrings, of course! I always love your stuff, but this one brought a smile to my face.

  7. Ohhh…I love the braid embellishment! It’s something I have always wanted to do on a dress! By the way, I just did a blog posting on Hollywood patterns and linked back to one of your early dresses (Hollywood #501) which I absolutely adore!!!

  8. What a fabulous dress! That braid is wonderful!

  9. Much improved over the one on the dress form. It is a cute dress on you and it looks comfortable and soft.

  10. You know this is dress number 56 and doesn’t include all the Gatsby dresses and I am thinking you made some for your vacation you haven’t shown us or put in the thumbnails here AND the costume you made for you daughter. So how many dresses did you make in the past year all together?

  11. I think the braiding is just wonderful. You tried something different and it worked perfectly. It gives the dress a lot of personality.

  12. What fabulous adornments. Awesome job! So creative!

  13. Wow. I love how the little bit of braid work around the neckline and hem really took it from “just a grey dress” to something really quite nice! :) Fantastic job! It’s always neat to see not only what you sew up for pennies, but also how you interpret the vintage look to make it a bit more wearable today. :)
    ♥ Casey | blog

  14. This dress looks great! The embelishments really make the dress, but I love how the seem completely necessary and natural to the dress, as opposed to something tacked on as an afterthought.
    And it fits you beautifully. This is one my favorites of your creations!

  15. Do you want some more patterns? I have about 25 that I bought from a thrift store. They are too small for me. I bought them because they were pretty.

  16. This is so cool, go slow you will do great!