Hot! The “Old Cuba” Dress


image from The Facts 

Fabric:  Pale yellow seersucker – $1
Patterns: Crepe by Colette Patterns – received from Colette Patterns
Year: c. 2010
Notions: none!
Time to complete: 4 hours
First worn: May 2011
Wear again? Yes, but will probably add a bit of embellishment!

Total Cost: ~$1 

I’ve written before about my paternal grandmother and her fashions herehere and here. My original plan for this week’s challenge had been to recreate the 1940s dress with the gingham insets and sash that’s pictured here. Actually, I went so far as spending way too much time making the dress and drafting the sleeves from scratch.  After such a frustrating week last week, I decided to call it a loss and move onto a simpler pattern that required no modifications. I needed a break.

Enter my maternal grandmother, Maria Dolores, and Colette Pattern’s Crepe. Unlike my paternal grandmother (who helped raise me until I was twelve), I never knew this grandmother. She died in a car accident in Los Angeles when my mother was only fifteen. This photograph was taken in her native Cuba in (I believe) the mid-1950s. My own mother was also born in Cuba — they left in 1959 during the revolution.

I think this photo is so quintessentially Cuba in the 1950s. You’ve got plantation shutters, tile floors, stucco, pillars and, of course, someone in a white dress. I’m sure if the camera panned out there would be a palm tree farther in the background. 


Of course, I’m only assuming that she’s wearing a white dress. It may have actually been a pale yellow or pink or blue. But considering how much it pops against the wall, it’s pretty safe to safe it was white. 

Here’s another view of my grandmother and the dress. 

For my dress, I knew I didn’t want to use white fabric, a color that I just don’t wear. I wanted to make a dress I’d actually want after this challenge was over and I luckily had about 4 yards of a nice yellow seersucker fabric in my stash. While I had vintage patterns from the 1950s more suitable facsimiles of this dress, I ultimately went with the Crepe pattern to make my life easier. I just didn’t want to deal with fasteners this week! Crepe is perfect for that since it’s a wrap dress that closes at the back with a tie.

Like other Colette Patterns, Crepe was a breeze to make up. So easy that I actually finished the bulk of it in the three hours that my daughter was at preschool. The only drawback to the pattern is that it uses a lot of fabric, about 4 yards or so. But if you have fabric in your stash with that yardage, I highly recommend it! What I love about Crepe is that it’s such a perfect dress for embellishing. If I wasn’t trying to make a replica of my grandmother’s dress, there would have been a sash in a contrasting color and embroidery along the neckline. I do believe that I will take on the neckline embroidery now that I have photos of the dress in its simple form.

Once again, San Francisco provides the perfect backdrop for my photos. Fittingly, we took photos at Mission Dolores, although none of them worked for the shoot. Here I am in front of tile work in front of Everett Middle School.

image from

image from


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.


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  1. Wow, wow, wow! Not only is your dress stunning, the photos look so much like the one taken in Cuba! I like your fabric color, it reminds me of vanilla ice cream :)

  2. I love the dress but I love, love, LOVE the pictures of your grandmother! How special for you to have those and to replicate the dress.

  3. oh this is so lovely. And your grandmother was so beautiful.
    I can see a lot of family resemblance. The dress is so nice, makes me want to make another crepe.

  4. You look so lovely and so much like your grandmother! Bea-u-tiful!

  5. What an inspiration. Your version of the Cuba dress is just as beautiful as the original.

  6. Oh! It’s perfect! I love this style on you! What a beautiful grandmother you have and you look so much like her! Stunning dress – love the fabric, the cut, the pictures! All so pretty!!!

  7. Love your interpretation. The pattern was a great choice! Beautiful photos too.

  8. Absolutely beautiful – both you and your grandmother! Love that crepe pattern and in seersucker – how perfect for summer!

  9. A lovely tribute to a grandmother you never knew. I am looking forward to getting this pattern as it really does make a lovely dress. The yellow was an excellent choice.

  10. You look absolutely stunning! You did such a great job of capturing the mood of your grandmother’s dress while still making it modern. Love, love, love!

  11. Lovely dress ans fantastic photos!

  12. Absolutely amazing I wish I had such beautiful photos of my grandparents! I would treasure
    them so much

  13. margueritedesigns

    Beautiful dress! I’m inspired to get on with my Crepe now, having cut it out yesterday. I found too that by jiggling the pattern pieces about, I could get away with 4 metres. Glad to know it doesn’t take much sewing time, since I’ll be sewing away in the evenings this week, ready for Saturday …

  14. What a beautiful dress!

  15. the entire homage is just so perfect. you look like you walked right out of those photos with your grandmother. it’s like this post was a way of knowing her.

  16. I really like this dress Mena. It is very cute on you too and it looks like it was probably east to sew. I love the picture of your Grandmother. I was looking closely at the picture and I see her dress is lined and the fabric on top is sheer and seems to be embossed with small dots. How lovely it must have been.

  17. That is so beautiful! and the pictures of your granny are lovely! You both just look like the epitome of slightly flirty summer innocence!

  18. I love how you try to copy you grandmother’s expression. You nailed it. This dress, and your grandmother’s, is so appropriate for hot, humid weather. Wearing it calls for a straw hat and a mint julep in the shade!

  19. What a beautiful dress, and a lovely tribute to your grandmother.

  20. Thanks, Lisette! It is a very soothing yellow :)

  21. Thanks, Karen! Yes, they’re really great pictures — I’m glad that even after leaving Cuba on very rushed circumstances these photos still exist.

  22. Thanks, Farah! Very sweet comments :)

  23. Thanks, Cathe!

  24. Thanks, Robin!

  25. Thanks, Eva Girl! I think my mom and I have her eyes.

  26. Thanks, Casey!

  27. Thanks, Sarah!

  28. Thanks, Elizabeth! I was so happy that a modern pattern would fit the bill this week.

  29. Thanks, Stevie! Yeah, they really are a treasure. I think our grandchildren will be fortunate since we all take so many pictures nowadays. Assuming that we print them at some point or the Internet is still around. :)

  30. Thanks, Diane! Yes, do it! It’s a great pattern.

  31. Thanks, Oona! Yeah, this is the closest I can get, unfortunately.

  32. Thanks, Sue! Yeah, there are a lot of details in that dress worth replicating. The sleeves are a flutter sleeves as well. I just had to work with what I had :)

  33. Thanks, monkeysocks!

  34. Oh how I wish I didn’t have to work this week…My mother was beautiful and very fashionable so I have great pohotgraphic inspiration. Enough about me – you are so beautiful and resemble your grand mother so much. I’m sure she would be so proud of you.

  35. Love all your look!
    Great dress and fantastic photos :D

  36. I really love the dress and the way you did your hair! Your pose is perfect as well! You are both so beautiful! Great job!!!

  37. judy roberson

    the dress is beautiful and looks so good on you.. YOur grandmother is beautiful and you look alot like her. So proud the pictures were saved for you..
    The yellow fabric was a beautiful choice.. Great job.

  38. Very pretty Crepe- but I’m caught on the gingham inset dress, as it looks so much like a Hollywood pattern I have on my drawing board: 1589. Couldn’t find it in the Vtg Pattern Wiki, so here it is
    Isn’t it like top of view 1 bottom of view 2, and then she added something fun through the shoulders to balance the swag of fabric at the waistline? The styling of this pattern as illustrated really gets me though, I don’t think it’s supposed to be a house dress. I think it’s a dress-up dress but very overtly emphasizing one’s potential housewifiness- either an apron or dishtowel-type scarf draped over your waistband as you go out to your party. Not that I get that read from your grandma’s- hers is just absolutely adorable!

  39. The dress is so pretty and you look so much like both your grandmas :) Love your hair styled this way too!

  40. Mena,
    Wow! This dress is such a great tribute to your grandmother. I can’t get over how similar you two look in those photos. Amazing job on the dress!

  41. The dress is lovely and it is a really fun challenge. I won’t be playing along though – My mum was young in the 70’s so on the pictures I have of her as young, she’s wearing a big knitted sweater and smoking a pibe! Don’t think I will try to copy that look :-) Actually, my outfit today (high-waist A-line skirt and loose shirt with convertible collar) is pretty much what my maternal grandmother always wore when I was little :-)

  42. Absolutely stunning! I gasped when I saw the photo! Great job!

  43. You and Maria are absolutely gorgeous. I think this is my favourite post of yours ever! I love your dress so much, and it’s a perfect interpretation of Maria’s dress.
    Crepe has never looked so good! Yippee for a week of Colette patterns ahead! xoxo

  44. What a special, lovely dress – you can definitely see the family resemblence! So beautiful!

  45. You are so utterly inspiring, what a wonderful interpretation, just stunning.

  46. I think this is my favourite photo – your hair, makeup and the settings look great. You may have sold me on the Crepe, since I’ve been thinking that the Colette wouldn’t work so well for my body type. Maybe I’ll think again.
    BTW, I was just in Havana last week, and it is heartbreaking to see the old town look like a war zone: the gorgeous old buildings with sweeping marble staircases and mosaic floors are bullet ridden, crumbling and covered in soot. (not to mention the hardship for the Cuban people themselves). I hope some change is coming soon for Cubans both in Cuba and overseas.