The “Not a Bridesmaid” Dress

image from farm6.static.flickr.com

image from erintest.typepad.com The Facts

Fabric:  Nubby-textured plaid cotton, thrifted – $1; 
Patterns: Butterick 9651, $2 (I think)
Year: c. 1960
Notions: vintage zipper
Time to complete: 3 1/2 hours
First worn: April 2011
Wear again? Yes.

Total Cost: ~$3 for dress. Hat – $21

Of all the vintage things in my life, hats hold a complicated place in my heart: they both make an outfit and make me seem a bit odd at the same time. But I love hats, so much so that I have begun collecting them in earnest during the last couple months; I'm especially fond of 1940s tilt hats. Even with this passion for them, I'm often quite reluctant to wear them out in public. I should tell myself that life is too short to care what people think. I should, really. But then again, I don't neccessarily want to be known as that "hat person."

I'm getting over that.

I was quite excited about this challenge because it meant searching for a new spring hat. Because this was an Easter challenge, I knew that my dress would be purple (that's the Catholic liturgical color guide embedded in my brain) and would involve flowers of some kind. With that in mind, this hat  jumped out at me at the Alameda Antique Fashion Fair. The condition was marvelous — including the netting — and the price was a steal at $21.

image from farm6.static.flickr.com 

Here's a view from the side:

image from farm6.static.flickr.com

I had originally planned on using the sheer lavender fabric I bought from Alameda last month but I just wasn't into lining a dress this week. The fabric gods once again were smiling down on me when I thrifted about 4 yards of this nubby purple/pink plaid for about $1! From my stash, I picked Butterick 9651 because it was suitable for plaids and fairly simple. After all, with a hat like that, the dress doesn't need to fight for attention. 

This was the first time I created a dress with a circle skirt. Unfortunately, I didn't have the fabric yardage needed for those huge pattern pieces. Thankfully, it was easy enough to adjust the skirt to make it fit within the fabric I did have. In all, I probably shortened the skirt by 4 inches! I'm wearing a crinoline in these photos so you could imagine just how long this dress would be at it's original hem length. 

I forgot to pack my belt (we stayed the night in Carmel) so the dress is lacking that important little element. It's okay, though! I'll just do this jaunty little pose to overcompensate for that fact! 

image from farm6.static.flickr.com

I wore this dress out for the photos and to dinner. Of course people looked me up and down as we strolled down the street. I remarked to my husband that I look like I'm going to a wedding. As a bridesmaid. In 1962. That's what a veil netting will do to you! And of course I was a bit insecure. But if wearing pretty hats is weird and wrong, I just don't want to be right.

Author

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.

55 Comments

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  1. fantastic hat, fantastic dress. wear out with pride, never worry about others!

  2. I know what you mean about the hat issue – I love the idea of wearing them, but haven’t gotten up the courage yet! I figure I should get there soon though – I’m rather used to all the odd looks I get from wearing my brightly-coloured 1950′s style dresses most days. Hats do just seem a bit scarier to wear in public though, don’t they? Which is such a shame! :-(
    Maybe we need to start up a ‘wear a hat in public day’….

  3. Love the hat!! And the dress is fantastic (love the skirt–looks so fab with the crinoline!) I know what you mean about hats–luckily they are worn with much more frequency in the UK–though still usually for weddings. I’m starting to wear mine more too! YAY for hats!!

  4. What a great dress! You really found the perfect fabric for it.
    You shouldn’t fear the hats. For one thing: you look amazing, and for the other: that’s what the looks are about. I wear hats everywhere and I get stopped all the time by people who just want to tell me they love my hat. :)

  5. I’ve started a small collection of hats since last summer. I can’t wait for the weather to get better (I live in a rainy city) so I can wear them out! Hats are wonderful!
    Your hat and overal ensemble are wonderul also. :)

  6. Love the neckline on the dress!

  7. Oh my!!! You look so pretty! I just adore the plaid fabric to death; it’s such a lovely combination of colors on you and suits the style so well. Also bravo for wearing a hat! I too adore hats, but often get a little shy about wearing them out in public. I’ve been getting better about it, which is probably good considering my growing hat collection. hehe!
    ♥ Casey

  8. That hat is lovely and I adore that dress!

  9. It looks beautiful :) I wore the 1940′s style dress I made on Saturday- we went out to the mall. I was SO overdressed compared to everyone else- in a simple cotton dress! My husband told me that people stared too. He said that we (my daughter wore a dress too) just looked better :) I would hazard a guess that you were stared at because you looked better than everyone else too- and where is the harm in that? It is time some of us brought pride in our appearances back into vogue. Which means more excuses to wear pretty dresses ;)

  10. I think you look fantastic! I love the hat and the dress. Be brave!

  11. Oh my–the dress and the hat are both perfect! If people were staring, it was because you looked so amazing!

  12. You look amazing, and the hat is adorable. I want hats to make a comeback, hats are amazing and juice up an outfit and make you feel fancy. Embrace the hat. I just bought a blue pillbox hat and I’m going to wear it, you’ve inspired me.

  13. Very pretty, both the dress and the hat! People should wear hats more often… :)

  14. Thanks, Charlotte!

  15. I think that’s a good idea!

  16. Thanks, Debi! I would love it if America followed some of the formality rules of Europe and the UK. I think our standards get worse every year.

  17. Mena, the dress is beautiful.. And congradulations on wearing your hat out ..I know….that is so difficult to beat that ‘Ole someone is staring at me thing,”ha..
    You look beautiful..

  18. Thanks, Emma! Yeah, I should think that for every person who thinks I’m odd, there’s another one that admires my hat.

  19. Thanks, Caroline!

  20. Love dress and especially the hat! Totally takes me back to my ’50′s childhood Easter bonnets. Perfect time to wear it, I’d say. Never mind who’s looking – they’re just wishing they owned something as lovely and were brave enough to wear it like you!

  21. Thanks, Casey! You’ve got such great hats! You need to flaunt them.

  22. Thanks, Rachael!

  23. Thanks, Rachel! We just have to resist the urge to wear the boring stuff everyone else wears :)

  24. Thanks, Leah! I’m glad to have made a positive hat-wearing influence on you!

  25. Thanks, Louisa! That’s what I’ll tell myself next time :)

  26. Wow, kudos for wearing a hat with a veil! They’re really hard to wear, but that is one gorgeous hat. I’m amazed the color hasn’t faded at all!
    Anyways, onto the dress…how well it matches! And I like the looser bodice…I’m assuming it is cut on the bias?

  27. Hear hear! I’m all for wearing comfortable clothes but I think we’ve surpassed that and are heading into sloppy. PJ pants to walk your child to school and then go to the grocery store?!?! Yuck!
    (and I’m in Canada – we’re better but could still use some work!)

  28. How lovely Mena! Colour me jealous! You wear that had like it’s 2nd nature to you.

  29. Mena you look lovely in your hat and dress. I believe people are in awe of you for being uniquely you, dressed in style and loving life! All I can say is good for you and keep doing it! You are respectful of the past and want to keep this elegance alive, how perfect! And to that I say, Thank You!

  30. I love hats! I really like yours, how beautful!
    If people were looking at you it is because you looked so darling in that dress and hat.
    We should start a “Wear A Hat Day!” in America, that would be so much fun.

  31. This is fantastic and the hat is so, so beautiful! Best $21 ever spent! i love how you used plaid in such a feminine way – it definitely has me thinking outside of the “flannel shirt” box!

  32. You look so pretty Mena. The plaid looks so nice in that pattern. Never mind a bridesmaid..you’d look perfect here on Melbourne Cup day. You could go in for ‘fashions on the field’.

  33. I have loved and worn hats since I was a little girl. I get far more compliments than stares

  34. i am amazed that you even think about what other peeps think. in my mind you fearlessly tromp down the street in some amazing and completely handmade outfit daily with a spotlight on you! your ensemble is perfect, jaunty belt-distracting pose and all!

  35. Oh my! You’ve made some wonderful things, but I have to say I think this one is my favorite. It’s so chic but versatile.

  36. What a great vintage find that hat is! Just darling!
    Your dress is really gorgeous too Mena, that bodice looks fitted but drapey and totally suits that fabric!

  37. Love the colors! You look so beautiful in the hat and dress! Bravo!

  38. You look great. I find that most people who give second looks to someone who is dressed up and in a hat are usually thinking to themselves “Why am I dressing like such a slob? Maybe I should class it up a bit and get a hat.”
    :)

  39. Thanks, Lisette! The hat was in great condition — I knew I had to buy it for that reason alone. Yes, the bodice was cut on the bias. It really needs the belt to look a bit more deliberate (rather than just loose).

  40. Thanks, Cathe! What nice comments!

  41. Thanks, Sue! I’m pretty motivated to start organizing a “wear a vintage hat” day. :)

  42. Thanks, Sarah! Yeah, I was worried the plaid would be too casual but it just ended up working.

  43. Good for you!! That’s the way to approach it.

  44. Thanks, Oona! Yes, I’m getting over my insecurities gradually :) Making my own clothes has been a big part of that.

  45. Thanks, Veronica!

  46. Thanks, Erin! BTW, I still need your address to send you the patterns you won ages ago. They’re sitting in an envelope in my hallway! :)