The “blue & white parasol” dress | Adey Lim
Fabric: Blue and white stripe cotton from Spotlight $8.50 for 3.2 metres at 30% off rolls end sale!
Patterns: Kansas City Star mail order pattern 3257
Year: c. 1958 (according to postage stamp)
Notions: Invisible zipper, 5 vintage buttons and interfacing $1.50
Time to complete: 6 hours
First worn: 31 May 2011
Wear again? Yes!
Total Cost: ~$10
The little isle I call home is one degree north of the equator. We do not experience the four seasons. Instead, what we have are 365 days of summer with an average of 179 days of cool rainy days. While all the dresses I have made are essentially good for the weather here, I wanted this dress to spell summer fun for me.
Essentially, it has to be sleeveless, fun and versatile enough to be wore to the beach or a family restaurant. My family love strolling along the beach on weekends but sometimes I feel overdressed for it after a shopping trip or church service. This dress needs to fill the gap. It has to be a fun dress. A sundress.
In terms of fabric choice, the parasol print of bright blue & white stripes or red & white stripes immediately came to mind.
When I visited Spotlight, I couldn't find any red and white stripe fabric (Isn't it like an essential basic print?) but found this blue & white stripe fabric hidden right at the bottom and it was the exact shade of blue I had in mind! I'm so glad the last 3.2 metres waited for me, the only other option left in the store was a hunter green and white stripe print which just wasn't summer. And because the store was having a rolls end sale, I ended up getting a 30% discount on the fabric! How wonderful is that?
I have a bunch of vintage mail order patterns in my stash and was so happy that I finally got around to sewing from one of these. The pattern pieces from Kansas City Star 3257 were unprinted but came with notches and perforations.
I've never heard of the Kansas City Star mail order patterns until I got mine off ebay sometime back. My google search was unfruitful, there wasn't much information on this brand of vintage patterns. But, according to quilting sites, the paper published more than 1000 quilt patterns from 1928 to 1961 and many of these patterns were submitted by readers. The original envelope was postage stamped 1958 so I assume that's the year this pattern was published. I'm not sure if it's the same with other mail order patterns (I certainly hope not!) but the instructions were really scarce to the extend that there were only ten instruction points for constructing the entire dress and a bolero.
What really attracted me to the pattern were the cute pockets but after reading through the instructions and looking at the pattern pieces, I realized that it only made provisions for mock pockets and if I wanted a real pocket, I had to draft my own pocket pieces. That wasn't difficult, I just had to borrowed the pocket pieces from another pattern and use it for this dress. The pockets however weren't sandwiched between seams and the directions given were to cut a slit on the front skirt fabric and insert the pocket. Oh gosh! Cutting on the front skirt pieces was frightening as I didn't have enough fabric to cut another skirt piece if things didn't work out. So I tried doing the pocket on scraps first before actually making the slits. Still, cutting the fabric felt unsettling but in the end I am glad I did cos the pockets turned out really cute! For contrast and a dash of fun, I used orange vintage buttons on the dress.
To make full use of the stripes design, the front bodice, front skirt pieces and back skirt pieces were cut on the bias while the back, shoulder straps and front waist piece on the vertical. I love that all stripes that were meant to match did. Those on the skirt met on the centre front seam, centre back seam with invisible zipper and the side seams. And I must confess I had great fun matching them! As with most patterns, I had to take in the sides to adjust the fit of the dress but matching stripes made it more challenging this time round.