Hot! The “You Can Do It!” Dress


6511 The Facts
Fabric: Striped pillowcase and blue cotton ~$1, thrifted
Pattern: McCall 6511
Year: c. 1946
Notions: None
Time to complete: 4
First worn: December 2010
Wear again? Yes. 

Total Cost for all three dresses: ~$1

What better way to illustrate the them "you can do it" than with this simple blue and white dress. The story behind this dress begins in Las Vegas when my friend, Libett, and I visited a Bettie Paige store in some insanely large mall.

Libett had never been to the store (I had visited the Haight stree location) and was interested to see how the dresses compared to the ones she had seen online. I, as an annoying sewing friend, kept on remarking about the quality of each dress: "Look how cheap the fabric is!" "There is no lining!" "Everything is just serged!" But, of course, the most-repeated line: "Don't buy that, Libett! You can just make it yourself!."

Libett-bettie That's not to say the outfits at Bettie Page aren't cute — they are just basic reproductions of 1940s, 50s and 60s period clothing. One dress that Libett tried on was particularly cute — the Shipmate Navy Circle Dress (they only have the light blue version online).  Here's Libett modeling it in the dressing room (Libett, you look cute — don't kill me for posting this photo).

The dress, on sale, is $96.

Anyway, a couple months later, while thrifting, I found a navy and white striped pillowcase. Combine that with some blue cotton I already had purchased for about $.50, I had all the fabric I needed to reproduce the Bettie Page dress for about $1. The pattern is an old favorite — McCall 6511 — which I documented over here. I believe I actually improved the dress because I actually made a belt (complete with grommets) instead of just running a cord around the waist.

All in all, not bad for $1.


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. Very cute, I love that the top was a pillow case.

  2. Yours has a much more flattering neckline and sleeves than the original–love it!

  3. Joining the stripes at less than a 45-degree angle as you did is more flattering/slimming than the original. Nice!

  4. I love that dress, yours and Libett’s. Can’t believe it cost $96.00 amazing.

  5. This is one of my favorites that you’ve made. Good work!

  6. I’ve been in that store and LOVED all the dresses, but had the same thoughts as you, “I could just make this. This fabric is cheap. I’m not paying $100 for a dress that’s not lined!” I forgot to take pictures of everything I liked though!

  7. Wow, this is my kind of dress. I need to sew more nautical things. You look a bit French with the hat, tres chic!

  8. Very nice! Love the choice of fabric for this dress…

  9. love this!! You would never believe that you used a pillowcase.

  10. The smaller stripes are much more flattering!