That 70s Frilly Dress | Adey Lim
Fabric: 2.5 metres floral cotton voile and ivory poly lining from chinatown $13 and 0.5 metres stretch lace fabric from Spotlight $5
Pattern: McCall's 4872
Year: c. 1970s
Notions: One 'pearl' button $0.10
Time to complete: 3 hours
Wear again? I LOVE it but might make some changes to the length first.
Total Cost: ~$18.10
It was the year 1979 and my seventh birthday. This was the only photograph I found myself smiling at the party. I was upset that mum made me wear this frilly lace and chiffon dress she'd made the night before and was naughty enough to pout in every other photo. I also remembered myself complaining about how itchy the lace was. Three decades down the road, I've definitely learnt to appreciate mum's love a lot more and decided that I had to sew my interpretation of that 70s frilly dress. Wearing it will always remind me of how much I am loved. Did you enjoy wearing handmade garments as a child or were you the lil' rebel like me?
Mum has always sewn my birthday dresses as a kid despite being a busy high school teacher. I remember seeing her sewing away often late into the night on a vintage sewing machine with foot pedal, identical to this one.
I might have hated sewing because it took mum away from my side. This was the same machine I used when I was doing my home economics assignments and hated it. Anyway, that 70s frilly dress was made on this beauty which I used to called the 'beast'.
I was utterly surprised to find out that mum inherited this vintage Singer from my grandma who had seven children and made them clothes with wholesale priced fabrics. That would probably date it back to the 1930s! There was no foot pedal then but was hand operated! What's more, mum told me that I can have it once I have space in my sewing room! Oh! I absolutely want it though I have no idea if I can tame it…
Mum drafted the pattern using other dresses I had as a guide. As for me, I found deep in my stash this rather questionable looking pattern cover and view C reminded me so much of that dress. I decided to give it a go.
Instead of using lace trims for embellishment in mum's version or as suggested by the pattern, I used a stretch ivory lace fabric for the front yoke and short bell like sleeves. This was matched with an ivory floral voile fabric which was semi sheer like the chiffon mum used but a lot easier to manage.
When I finished the dress, however, I realized the skirt was shorter than I'd expected.
This is the first time I sewed a dress which came with a separate sash and didn't realize that the skirt would be pulled up when tied. I didn't want to add more lace to the bottom as I thought it would be an overkill. So, I'm thinking I might need to separate the bodice from the skirt and add a super thick ivory elastic in between to elongate it a little but have yet to find one that is suitable. Or perhaps, I should just follow these ladies' advise and skirt the issue?
All seams are finished with french seams. I wasn't sure if I should sew the stretch elastic fabric to the woven fabric using a jersey or normal needle and couldn't find an answer searching the net so I experimented with some remnants and the normal needles worked fine.
The setting for my photographs was also inspired by my life as a child growing up in the 1970s. As the only child, I spent most of my weekends at grandma's playing with my cousins. As the adults indulge in a game of mahjong, we explored our secret paths to nearby kampongs, parks and playgrounds. The kampongs have now disappeared but I've not enjoyed time at parks and playgrounds as much as I did that evening. I love swings! Do you have an all time favorite childhood memory or activity that never fails to bring out the kid in you too?
I am so happy that we got the chance to revisit our childhood memories and totally enjoyed chatting with mum about it. More photos on Behind the Seams this week and also a sneak peek at the remake of my favorite wrap skirt as a kid ( I couldn't resist!) which I wore a lot but was never photographed in it.