Hot! The “Obedient Seamstress” Dress

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Fabric: Floral cotton, thrifted ~$.25
Patterns: Simplicity 7806 ~$.05
Year: c. 1976
Notions: Vintage zipper – $.05
Time to complete: 7 hours
First worn: February 2011
Wear again? Yes

Total Cost: ~$0.35


I seriously love the color red! I consider it to be a neutral that works with almost pairing. It is surprising then that I have so few pieces of red fabric in my stash. In all, I may have five pieces of predominately red fabric. Actually, after this dress, four pieces. How precious my red fabric may be, I’m glad to have used it for this dress.

Even though I told myself that I wanted to make separates for all of this month’s weekly creations, I couldn’t resist making a dress for Valentine’s Day. My compromise is that it’s a fairly casual dress, a dress that I’m sure to wear quite often. I did stay true to my challenge of a forties-free February (I just named it that), and chose a pattern from 1976 that I’ve had in my stash forever.

Working with Simplicity 7806 was a breeze! I thought I’d have troubles with the back since I hadn’t ever done an open back like this before. To prevent any sewing drama and headaches, I took a novel approach to the construction: I followed Simplicity’s instructions to the letter. When it called to hand stitch, I hand stitched! When it called for a stay stich, I stay stitched! When it called for clipping curves, I clipped curves! You get the point. Even though following the instruction so precisely slowed me down, I did manage to sew this dress with fairly little assistance from my seam ripper.

I love this fabric. While I felt it was more suited for a 1950s-style dress, I didn’t have that much yardage. And even though the pattern in from 1976, I think the fabric works pretty hard to make the dress look timeless.

The best thing about this dress? It cost about $.35 to make!

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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.


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  1. margueritedesigns

    Gorgeous! Love it! Particularly that print.

    I know what you mean though, some patterns are wonderful when you follow it to a tee! I go way too quickly sometimes and sometimes you can see the rushedness in the garment. EEP!
    This one is darling! And totally has the timeless look!

  3. I love this dress….I absolutely adore the open back…what a cute pattern! I’ve been looking for some cute 1960’s/ 1970’s patterns as well! This must be a 1930’s month for me though :-)

  4. So pretty! I love the back.. and I love your photos too.
    Coincidentally, I also had little red in my stash and not enough yardage either!

  5. I’m very much enjoying seeing how patterns with dubious drawings on the front can actually make very appealing outfits. This is a beautiful pairing of pattern and fabric (and I love your shoes).

  6. I totally adore the dress, especially the back keyhole detail. It’s so lovely!!! The fact that it only cost $.35 makes it even more awesome!

  7. Wow! I love that you paired such a pretty floral with that pattern–the result is a really stunning dress! The cut-out back is darling too; such a fun detail. I have lately been really drawn to 70s styles like this, and love that you paired it with a more traditional floral print–the combination is great.
    (Love the fascinator too! I got one in that exact colorway for Christmas! :)
    ♥ Casey

  8. I love it – very romantic print :) I adore dresses with cut out backs. This turned out so lovely!

  9. This dress is really cute. I love the print on the fabric too. I have seen a very similar pattern in the Simplicity newsletter I get monthly so it must be popular.

  10. Gorgeous dress and it looks adorable with your hair creation. :)

  11. Really adorable and flirty! Perfect for V-day! I love the print–those wild roses!–it’s kind of vintagey looking without looking dated and suits the pattern perfectly.

  12. Love this completed dress! Great pairing of fabric with that pattern. And your fascinator is so cute! Did you make it?

  13. Absolutely darling!

  14. Thanks, Veronica! There are some instructions that I feel make the construction much harder — particularly older ones. I’ve learn to do things a certain way and I get all thrown off. However, when I haven’t made a certain shape, I find them to be crucial.

  15. Thanks, Debi! I still can’t wait to see you in the 1960s/1970s style. You’re firmly a 1930s/40s girl in my mind.

  16. Thanks, Casey! It’s crazy how little red I have. Maybe red fabric is harder to come by? For it being my favorite color, it’s weird. Blue rules my stash.

  17. Thanks, Jen! I think we need to have a challenge where we have to find the most hideous pattern cover in our collection and make it work.

  18. Thanks, Casey! I was surprised how not 1970s this ended up looking. The print totally changed the mood.
    Aren’t the fascinators wonderful? I actually bought it at a craft show so I got to see all the color combinations in person. It was a hard decision, but this one was my favorite.

  19. Thanks, Megan! This was my first cut-out back and after initially getting used to my back being cold, I loved it. I think there will be more to come!

  20. Thanks, Sue! I find that so many new patterns can trace their roots to old patterns. If only they illustrated the covers like they used to.

  21. Thanks, Tasha! I actually didn’t make the fascinator — it’s from Giant Dwarf:

  22. Thanks, Stephani! I wanted to have a more modern look but with a classic style so I’m glad I made it work!

  23. Thanks, Trisha! No, I didn’t make the fascinator. It’s from a shop called Giant Dwarf:

  24. Thanks, Elizabeth!

  25. This is lovely!! The cut of the dress – with the back details – is beautiful and what an incredible find on that thrifted fabric – 25 cents!?!? It looks like a Liberty print!

  26. Thanks, Sarah! Yeah, I thought the same thing about the print. It did have very Liberty look to it. I only can wonder about the origin of that fabric.

  27. Thanks, Adey! Yeah, the flowers I’m holding cost 35 times more than the dress. And they were only $12!

  28. That is absolutely adorable! And I think you’re right about the timelessness–from the front, I never would have guessed the dress was made from a 70s pattern.

  29. So pretty! I love the back view!

  30. I never would have guessed it was a seventies pattern. Pretty and timeless and versatile…not to mention the economical part. I believe you hit one out of the park with this project. P.S. I adore your shoes. Are they red velvet or am I just hoping they are?

  31. Wow, that is a gorgeous dress! I never would have guessed that it was made from a 70s pattern.

  32. That is one GORGEOUS DRESS!! I absolutely love it and your accessories are fabulous! Wonderful job, Mena!

  33. Another amazing garment made from a pattern I wouldn’t have looked twice at! You have quite the eye!

  34. That dress is absolutely stunning on you Mena! The colour and the style both suit you so well!
    I love the open back – it lends a bit of a modern twist to a classic dress, great combination.

  35. Thanks, Grace! I was surprised how it turned out so non-70s.

  36. Thanks, Alessa! I definitely want to try more back keyholes.

  37. Thanks, Amy! The shoes are red suede. They’re Re-Mix Vintage. I have a post to one day write about Re-Mix. Basically, two of my four pairs have completely fallen apart. I’m totally not happy with that.

  38. Thanks, Sarah! I’m always such a minimalist when it comes to accessorizing — I need to bust out more of my accessories!

  39. Thanks, Nichole! I’ve been really trying to see the potential in patterns that have undesirable covers. This one wasn’t bad at all, but I have some patterns that I cringe at. The real challenge is making a 90s pattern look good.

  40. Thanks, Kat! I’m going to really force myself to find/buy red prints. I love them so much!

  41. I’ve always seen the 40’s in the designs of the 70’s, and I think this turned out completely lovely! I can really see the craftsmanship you put into this dress. Good work!

  42. oh please do… that would be so much fun.

  43. Girl! You are ROCKING that dress! It’s absolutely adorable! And, you’ve accessorized beautifully! Also, you’re looking very THIN! Are you doing anything in particular??

  44. Thanks, Erin! I always look for cheap 70s patterns that can be transformed into 1940s creations. So much of the 1970s were influenced by the 40s! Hello, platform shoes.

  45. Thanks, Michelle! I’ve lost almost 35 pounds since last September. I actually joined Jenny Craig because I needed to drastically change the portion sizes I ate and shrink my stomach. I’m pretty much on maintenance mode right now but totally needed the kick start.

  46. SO pretty — I’m really amazed to find myself liking something from the 1970s, but it totally works!

  47. Thanks, Kendra! I’m giving the 70s a real try lately. Also, if you’re in town on the 27th, you should come by our fabric swap!

  48. I was in high school in the 70’s. My friends and our mothers always made our dresses for all special occasions and most everyday dresses as well. I remember one of my friends having this for prom. I wish I had all those patterns again and the body that fit them.

  49. love it love it love it. Usually I steer well clear of things from the 70s, but this is lovely.