Hot! The “Mondo was Robbed” Dress

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The Facts

4474 Fabric: Repurposed skirt from theater sale – $15, turquoise fabric, black fabric – $1, houndstooth fabric – $.50
Patterns: Bodice, Simplicity 3398; Bolero, Simplicity 4474 – $1
Year: 1963
Notions: invisible zipper, $2.50; embroidery floss
Time to complete: 25 hours
First worn: March 2011
Wear again? YES!

Total Cost: ~$20


That my dress is called The "Mondo was Robbed" dress dates its start exactly to October 28 of last year. If you're unfamiliar to that reference, Mondo was a finalist in last season's Project Runway and lost to the Chiccos-designing Gretchen. His inspiration for his final collection was Mexican circuses and the Day of the Dead and he made use of great black & white prints with bits of turquoise and pink  for contrast.


The skirt  – a black and white skirt that I bought from a theater in the East Bay that was selling off its costumes –was to be the foundation of my garment.  Other than a couple hats, I hadn't found anything particularly worth buying. While I waited in line I saw this skirt in the hands of the woman in front of me and immediately fell in love with the print. When the cashier told her it was $15, she put it down and I snatched it up. I really wonder what production this skirt was from!

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The skirt sat in my stash for months before I decided to give it new life as a Mondo-inspired dress. As soon as I knew I was going to make a dress, I cut the skirt into one large piece of fabric. For my original dress, I used Simplicity 4693 for the bodice. As an attempt to add the color to the dress, I sewed a band of turquoise to the bottom of the bodice before attaching the skirt. Unfortunately, I didn't take in account that adding the fabric would make the torso way too long. And, because I hadn't shortened the skirt (I wanted to preserve the existing hem), the hemline fell way farther than I would want to ever wear.

I never got as far as adding the zipper in the back, so it remained unfinished. In this picture, I simply pinned the back to see if I even wanted to continue. I didn't want to continue and it never made it to The Sew Weekly. 

Fast forward to last week. I knew that this dress had to be my UFO for the challenge. The skirt had so much potential and I knew exactly what I had to do to make it work: shorten the skirt, change the bodice, introduce more color and, well, just finish it.

For a bodice, I decided to go with Simplicity 3398. Enamoured  with the result of my "Eat Local" dress, I decided to add piping to the neckline. Due to the stiffness of the piping, I had to really anchor the facings to the bodice. But since this was a solid color bodice, any stitches would be visible. I said "who cares?" and simply machine-stitched the facing down.

Well, "who cares?" turned into "I care!" and I was very unhappy with the result. Not ready to abandon this dress once again, I decided to do a blanket stitch around the neckline. When that didn't look good, I looked online for other straight embroidery stitches and found the fabulous herringbone stitch! What began as a solution to fix something seemingly ruined, turned into my favorite detail of the dress! 

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Of course, knowing me, I had to make the project even more complicated! So I decided to make a bolero to go with the dress. I knew I wanted to incorporate houndstooth since that had been another Mondo staple during the season. For the bolero, I used  Simplicity 4474 (the dress part of the pattern was my Christmas dress) and made it up in black with houndstooth lining. 

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The flower on the bolero was made from the fabric I cut from the skirt to make it shorter. The belt is simply a fabric belt I borrowed from a vintage store-bought dress.

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I absolutely ADORE this dress. This may be my favorite dress I've ever made. It just shows that perseverance can really pay off!


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. What a beautiful dress! I love the combination of found and handcrafted. Love that colorful backdrop for your photos too!

  2. Mena, I absolutley adore your dress too!

  3. Super cute!! I am getting in the mood to begin looking for a fabric and pattern to make myself an easter dress! This is a big step for me b/c my luck with dresses is not good. I think my torso is too short for the patterns.

  4. I’m from Portland, and I can say with confidence that Mondo WAS robbed! What a great dress and the perfect antidote to Gretchen’s ode to 70’s beige collection.

  5. This dress is amazing! Such great details and the color combination is amazing.I love the turqouise.

  6. WOW! I ADORE the embroidery around the neckline! I think embellishments make the biggest difference in the overall “polish” of a finished garment! You nailed it with this dress! I’m so inspired by your use of color and pattern in this project!

  7. I love everything about this dress! I would never think to put these colors/fabrics together, but it looks so finished and fresh. The details really make it too, with the houndstooth lining, the black stitching, and the perfect hem length. Congratulations on another envy-inspiring creation!

  8. Mena!!! That is a fantastic dress!! I love all of the pattern and colour and you look utterly fabulous!! Yay!!

  9. Thanks, Alexandra! Living in San Francisco gives me access to amazing murals.

  10. Thanks, Charlotte!

  11. This dress is amazing! My favorite detail is the neckline, too. Can I say it looks amazing, once again?!

  12. Love the colors, the bolero, the neckline, and the skirt – it’s all so fabulous!

  13. Thanks, Jessie! To break yourself out of an unlucky streak, you might want to try making a a tent-style dress that you can belt. Then, for the most part you shouldn’t have to worry about your waistline.

  14. Thanks, Amber! The nice thing about runway is that the winner isn’t always the one with the career.

  15. Thanks, Michelle! I think embellishments are what truly separate true vintage clothing from vintage reproductions. It’s not like they much different in style — it’s just the little details that set them apart.

  16. Thanks, Elise! I think all the time I spent on this dress made it really worth it!

  17. Thanks, Liz. I should do a neckline tutorial since it could really save a dress.

  18. Waaaaaaaaaaaaw this is SUCH a cool dress! If I was on the East Coast I’d come and steal it from you ;) Kidding!
    But it’s gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous!!!

  19. Oh my goodness gracious that dress is awesome! :]

  20. This is my favorite dress that you’ve made too! The herringbone stitch is absolutely stunning…I may have to steal that at some point in the future :-) The pictures are fabulous! Way to go–this week is going to be good methinks!

  21. I adore the fabulous herringbone stitch! It’s so fabulous and I too have found new interest in handstitched details. They end up really making a garment special. The whole look is so wonderful! Really looks charming, bright and so appealing! Completely in love with the whole thing! Wonderful job!

  22. I loved Modo and I love this dress!

  23. I totally love this dress!

  24. I totally agree — Mondo was robbed. I kept hoping that Gretchen would get booted off the island, but no such luck. I thought her bad attitude made Portland look bad. I love how your dress channels the bright colors and geometric influences that he used in his PR runway show.

  25. Mena this dress is stunning! I can totally see myself wearing it. Great job! And yes, Mondo should have won!

  26. Well, it looks amazing! You can really see a clear line from your inspiration to your finished product, which is great :) I wish I could pull off that many fabrics in a garment.

  27. What a terrific dress!! LOVE the color combination! The bolero is adorable with the houndstooth! Great job! Time for me to break out my UFO….lol!

  28. This is absolutely stunning and I love the handwork around the neckline! The whole package – color, pattern, shape – so inspiring!

  29. Thanks, Rebecca!

  30. Thanks, Debi! This week is going to rock, actually! I already know what to expect :)

  31. Thanks, Sunni! I am going to try to learn more stitches to add personality to my garments. It was so rewarding!

  32. Thanks, Rebecca!

  33. Thanks, Valerie! Yeah, her bad attitude really made her clothing seem a lot worse than they really were. I wonder what she is up to now.

  34. Thanks, Libett! I’ve had Mexican dresses on the brain for the past couple days! :) I thought you’d appreciate the murals, as well. Another photo I took had a painting of Cantinflas in the background.

  35. Thanks, Lisette! Maybe that should be a future theme — using two or more fabrics in a garment!

  36. Thanks, Mary! And it’s reversible if I just want to wear the houndstooth side — I forgot to mention that.

  37. Yes, Mondo was robbed! I love this! Great combination of colors and prints. And the herringbone stitch is a really nice detail.

  38. Who could forget Mondo! Love him! This is such a fun dress and bolero and a perfect tribute to Mondo! It makes me so happy, thank you!
    Mena do you ever sleep?!

  39. Such a beautiful mix of colours. I very much like the houndstooth lining of the bolero and that you kept the border print on the hem (and made good use of the remainder for your accessory flower).

  40. What a fabulous project! The color/print combos are inspiring and the neckline trim is beautiful! Love it with or without the bolero!

  41. Patricia Austin

    I love it! So festive. Doesn’t every festive garment deserve it’s own bolero? I think so!

  42. Thanks, lizajane!

  43. Thanks, Cathe! What a nice compliment. Yes, I sleep — though I’m always tired. Ever since we started doing themed challenges this year, my sewing is far less stressful. Having direction helps.

  44. Thanks, Adey! I actually loved those colors together before Mondo, but I never had the guts to put them all together.

  45. Thanks, Patricia! I’m starting to think that I need a bolero for every day of the week!

  46. I ADORE this dress – the skirt is beautiful, and the colour combination is striking. I keep saying this, so I have really got to do it – I need a bolero!!
    I’m off to see who Mondo is (not having seen Project runway – wonder if it was on down here??).

  47. Love the dress and YES Mondo was robbed!!

  48. Mena, so cute.. looks great on you..So proud the lady put the skirt back..Her lost…your gain.yea..

  49. I love Mondo! I love this dress. I would so wear this! It’s beautiful, Mena.

  50. ahhhmazzzzing! you could step right in with that runway lineup! In fact.. you need to be either opening girl or closing girl! Love the embroidery.. I’ve never tried anything like that! love love love.

  51. Thanks, Debbie! I think there needs to be another bolero post in TSW’s future.

  52. Thanks, Carolyn!

  53. Thanks, Judy! I originally had written more about the skirts but decided to keep the post simpler. She had three or five of the same skirts and ended up buying at least one.

  54. Thanks, Bethany!

  55. Thanks, Casey! Very sweet compliment.

  56. Yay! I love Cantinflas!

  57. This dress is great. I love the skirt and you did a great job. I kind of think the lace hose are a bit much with it and some wedge shoes the same color at the top would be much better.

  58. You are an inspriation – this is so COOL, totally love the look & your style.
    You’ve inspired me to get a new machine, as my machine is well & truely past its use-by-date.
    Thanks for a wonderful site!

  59. I just love the combination of color, pattern and texture. Reminds me of Frida Kahlo’s clothing and paintings. Just gorgeous!

  60. Lovely! What a cool, modern dress and such a great inspiration for anyone who finds an amazing item and wants to go further with it!

  61. Actally I believe Gretchen’s clothing fits better w/JC Penney. A very cute not to Mondo’s use of color and pattern.

  62. I meant to say “nod” to Mondo’s use of color and pattern.

  63. AMAZING- that skirt and the way it works with the blue and pink- oh, so wonderful!

  64. What a success! It’s gorgeous, and you look so happy to be wearing it. And why wouldn’t you?
    The herringbone stitch around the neckline really makes it, I think. Without it, the top would be a little too plain to look cohesive with the skirt. It just goes to show that you should never give up until you’ve tried every possibility for fixing/completing a UFO. And it looks so sophisticated with that bolero. Very creative use of skirt scraps! I think this is my favorite of all your dresses to date!

  65. Oh, cool! I miss the Bay area. I’m a Cal grad, so I got to spend some time there. I just got my sewing machine serviced, and I can’t wait to take some sewing lessons and create some beautiful garments myself! :)

  66. Mena this is so adorable! You have really inspired me. I wote about your blog and this whole community on my blogpost today.
    Now – to decide what to make with the fabric I found. :-)

  67. Thanks, Sue! I really wanted to over style the dress since it was meant to emulate a dress as it would be on the runway. I’ll most likely be hoseless in future wearings.

  68. Thanks, Lauren! I’m so glad I could have inspired you!

  69. Thanks, Sarah! This challenge was really great to get me moving.

  70. Wherever it belonged, it didn’t belong on a runway.

  71. Thanks, Stephani! I totally agree about an embroidery-less top — it would have been overpowered.

  72. Thanks, Karen! And thanks for taking the time to write about The Sew Weekly. I’m glad we’re all inspiring you!

  73. So much to love! Colours – Tick! Beautiful skirt fabric – Tick! Great detailing on the neckline, and a fix up job as well! OMG – Tick!
    Yay for finishing your UFO, it’s the best ever! xoxo

  74. I am laughing so hard at the name of this dress. I agree! Mondo was robbed. Your dress is lovely.

  75. This dress is gorgeous (seriously want to reach through the screen and steal it! ;). But I think what really impresses me the most is that you persevered through what was seemingly a “dud” project. Just goes to show ya that just because it’s not perfect doesn’t mean you can’t evaluate and come up with a creative solution!
    ♥ Casey

  76. By far and away my favorite of yours so far. Saved in my ‘going-to-knock-off-one-of-these days’list. Love it.

  77. Thanks, Veronica! I can’t wait to post your dress!

  78. Thanks, Annelise!

  79. Thanks, Casey! This whole process helped me realize that I need to have a goal for each garment I make. I wanted this one to feel “fun” and just kept on trying until it stuck.

  80. margueritedesigns

    What a fun dress and great location!

  81. This is just beautiful, Mena. The dress is great all on its own, but on top of that it just suits you so well. You look stunning!