Hot! The “Gabby and Papa, Sittin’ in a Tree” Dress | Sarah Gabbart


The Facts 
Fabric: Seersucker ($7.98 a yard – 3 yards) from and navy/white stripe ($6.98  a yard – 1/2 yard)
Pattern: Simplicity 3964 – Built by Wendy
Year: c. 2006
Notions: none
Time to complete: 4
First worn: May 2011
Wear again? Yes

Total Cost: ~$27

I'm a lucky person to have so many strong women in my life. My mom, my grandma, my mother-in-law – each of these women is beautiful, unique and amazing in their own unique ways. From my mom I learned to not let people push you around and to always send a thank you note, from my grandma – the importance of getting to know people no matter where you are (or what language you speak) and my MIL has taught me the importance of kindness (she's a super nice lady) and instilled in my the joy that comes from celebrating the heck of holidays, complete with matching napkin sets, wonderful family rituals and tons of delicious food. Like I said, I'm a lucky girl!

When faced with the prospect of picking one of these ladies to imitate, I had a tough time choosing. The decision came down to what photos I could find and what outfits were wearable in my everyday life (red sparkly shift dress my mom wore when she sung in a concert? Probably not going to wear that as much as I want to…). Thankfully, I found one of the coolest pictures in our family history – my grandparents (nicknamed Gabby and Papa) sitting under a tree at Lake Whitney from the 1950s. 

Gabby and Papa - Lake Whitney

My grandpa is shirtless (if you knew him, you would know he rarely wears a shirt – so this is not out of the ordinary) and my grandma is looking as beautiful as ever in white dress with a striped bib on top. They look so happy and relaxed – like they were enjoying a sunny afternoon together, swimming and working on their tans. 

This picture was taken after my grandfather returned from the Korean war and before they had my mom, so we're thinking around 1953. Gabby was just embarking on what would become a 55 year career as a journalist, back in a time where there were not many women around a newsroom. She started as a secretary – taking dictation for the publisher – and retired a few years ago from her post as the Family Editor. For over five decades she was part of people's lives, dilligently recording their births, weddings and wonderful moments for the local newspaper. 

I feel lucky to have her as my grandma – she's amazing. 

For my 2011 version of this dress I went straight to the fabrics – seersucker for a wearable summer weight – and a heavier striped cotton to make the bib. came to the rescue when a trip to Jo Ann's caused me to come up empty handed – everything summer was very picked over! 

Full body

The pattern was another story – I searched high and low for a pattern with a bib front that I could use. Nothing at Jo Ann's that fit the bill, so I decided to draft one myself. After 1/2 day of swearing and being disappointed, I stumbled on a patter in my stash - Simplicity 3964 – that had exactly the look I was going for! I amended the bib top a bit to make sure the stripes looked right (I made the bib into one piece, instead of three) and opted to construct the bib by pressing under the edges 1/4" and topstitching it on to the body rather than the way suggested in the pattern. So glad I did both of these things because they made my life much, much easier!

Bib detail

After completing this dress, I 'm ready for my own day at the lake – complete with shady trees, my shirtless husband and breezy summer fun!


Sarah Gabbart


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  1. FABULOUS dress! I am loving the bib so much! What a clever idea! You look exactly like your grandmum. She sounds like an amazing lady! What a beautiful shot of them under the tree!!

  2. margueritedesigns

    Great dress – it looks like a dress and yet kind of modern and sweatshirty at the same time!

  3. What an interesting bib and totally comfy summer dress! I love how it turned out! Really enjoyed reading the story of your grandparents under the tree and now we know where your wonderful writing skill came from:)

  4. Gorgeous! what a great interpretation and a perfect summer dress. Love the pattern.

  5. Awesome dress! It’s such a great modern interpretation from the photo.

  6. I’ve sewn this pattern a few times when I was starting out being a ‘good seamstress’, and haven’t really seen it on anyone else! I love it!
    What a beautiful vintage photo as well!

  7. Sarah, the women in your life sound awesome! I love how you describe them, such great qualities, you really are lucky!
    Your inspiration picture translated so well to your dress. Your dress is so fresh and summery and looks great on you! So well done!

  8. judy roberson

    What a lovely dress. and I so enjoyed hearing about your sweet mama, grandma, and mother in law..So very nice.. Love the relaxed picture..perfet.

  9. I loved reading about your G-Parents. Good rendition of your G-ma’s dress, I love seersucker it is so comfortable and cool in the summer.

  10. great summery dress – lovely to hear about your grandparents.

  11. i meeeees you! lovely lovely :)

  12. This post is such a beautiful recognition of all the amazing women in your life. It must have been hard picking but I love your inspiration photo and the re-created version you’ve made for yourself nearly 60 years later! Hope you had a lovely day at the lake – good to hear your husband was also inspired to follow your Papa’s example!

  13. I love the striped bib! You match your Grandmother perfectly…well done!!

  14. Thanks Amanda! I’m always amazed when I think about what these women have done and accomplished – it makes me want to be a better person.

  15. HEY! I miss you lady – let’s go get easy eggs at Cricket’s soon!

  16. Thanks Sue! It is soooo comfortable in the humidity – which is a necessity here!

  17. Thanks Cathe! You have seriously made my day – thank you for the kind words!

  18. Thanks lady! I was on the fence about the pattern until making it – it’s awesome!

  19. Thank you so much Casey! I’m going to have to make more for my summer wardrobe!

  20. Thanks Adey! And you have totally made my day – I love to write and it means a lot that other people like it!

  21. Thanks Debi! OMG – I am so flattered to hear that: my grandma is a beautiful lady!