Hot! The “Race Day” Dress

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The Facts

Fabric: $19 from JoAnn’s Fabric
Pattern: DuBarry 2478B, free from the Sew Weekly Swap/Meet
Year: 1940
Notions: none
Time to complete: 6 hours
First worn: June 2011
Wear again: Yes!

Total Cost: $19


Back in February when I held The First Ever Sew Weekly Swap/Meet (perhaps it’s time to put on another one?), I just HAD TO HAVE this DuBarry pattern brought to the swap by Shannon. I love patterns from the late 1930s/early 1940s because the styles are not only really feminine, but are also totally wearable by today’s standards. I put my claws out at the swap and made sure this pattern went home with me. The things I do for sewing.

I pretty much knew that I wanted to use this pattern the moment this challenge went on our calendar. While I was certain about the pattern, I wasn’t quite sure about the fabric I wanted to use. As I wrote in this post, I’m not a big fan of black & white. That meant I didn’t really have much fabric to choose from in my stash. I headed to JoAnn’s and found a cute print in the quilting cotton section. Additionally, I bought some black & white polka dotted fabric for the bolero.

You probably noticed that the jacket I’m wearing is black. It’s actually my bolero from The “Mondo was Robbed” Dress. I’ll get to that in a bit.

For some reason I got it into my head that I wanted to use the polka dot fabric as contrasts. Yes, I thought I wanted that. When it was finished, however, I didn’t like it one bit. It just looked too busy and too (say it Michael Kors’ voice) “Betty Homecky.”

You’re looking at an almost complete (minus the zipper) dress here:

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I had made great time with this dress and hadn’t run into any snafus. But because I wasn’t happy with the contrasts and because I wanted to wear it past the day of the challenge, I decided to redo the collar and midriff. Thankfully, I still had enough of the floral fabric. So I seamed ripped the offending pieces and started basically from the beginning. Despite the extra work, I was happy to have made the change.

I was able to omit the zipper and simply have to do a bit of snake aerobics to get myself out of it. But that’s okay. Anything to skip the zipper step.

Back to the bolero. I decided to make the pattern’s bolero out of the remaining polka dot fabric. I completed the entire thing and then I realized a pretty important fact: I don’t like black and white polka dots! The bolero was tossed aside and the Mondo bolero took its place.

For the photo shoot, we lucked out that Golden Gate Fields was having a special racing day because of the Belmont Stakes. My husband and I have been to the Kentucky Derby but this was the first time going to a race in the Bay Area. We brought Penelope and had a grand old time betting on the races, eating fried chicken and a multitude of desserts and taking photos. I was actually quite surprised by the number of folks dressed up! There were hats everywhere and for that I was quite at home.

Oh, my hat! I almost forgot!

I love this hat so much. I’m wearing it a bit too much off to the side in these pictures (it shifted and I didn’t even realize it), but it still rocks. I believe it’s from the 1930s or 1940s based on its label but I haven’t been able to find any information on its maker, Florence Freeman.

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A better view of the hat:

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Here’s me in the car, wearing the hat. This is where it should be on my head:

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Here’s the dress without the bolero:

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My daughter watching the horses, trainers and jockeys preparing for the races:

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The first race (and the only one that we won — a whopping $4)

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My husband in a pose that screams “Yes, I own horses. Oh, you don’t?” We don’t own horses, by the way.

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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.


Comments are closed.

  1. Great pattern and I love the flowered fabric. I think you were right to dice the dots. It would have been a bit to busy, esp. if you also had a dotty bolero. And the hat is Sweet!!

  2. I adore this dress! Such an inspiration!

  3. Wow, such a lovely dress and a lovely photo shoot. I love the dress pattern and this challenge is especially fun. Mena, you look beautiful!

  4. You look so beautiful in that dress, and the hat is amazing. Great work! And the photo shoot is fantastic, as always.

  5. Wow, I love that top photo – I think this outfit is one of your best ever – superb!. Love the second version of the dress with this bolero. Totally inspired!

  6. It turned out so great! And your bolero looks fab with it why not get more use out of it? Looks like you all had a great time.

  7. Oh my goodness, Mena!!! I have been trying to track down a copy of that pattern for ages (always been outbid! ;), and utterly adore your version of it. I’m rather partial to graphic black and white prints, and love how it updates the dress a bit without taking away from hte vintage silhouette. Plus, I’ve got to admire your willingness to pick the dress apart and redo the polka dot sections.
    (I’m coveting that little hat you’re sporting too–so pretty!)

  8. judy roberson

    Your dress is so pretty.. [I kinda liked the polka dot contrast too..but remember,Im old.hahaha]
    Looks great on you.. and the little black bolero,just tooo cute..
    Great pictures of the entire family,thankyou for sharing.

  9. lovely dress- you definitely made the right decision :) It looks very elegant!

  10. The hat is adorable…I’m thinking it’s made from the horsehair trim, similar to what I see at the vintage fashion shows. The shape is so simple, it would be easy for even a beginner to make. A lot of milinery wire to get that swoop shape. But the hat is so very versatile. I can see why you get a lot of wear out it…Now why doesn’t your hubby have a hat? He needs one,the world collectively needs one.

  11. Gorgeous dress – I think you were right to ditch the polka dots (even though I do love them so) – the dress looked good with them, but fantastic without them. Looks like you had a great day – I love going to the races.

  12. I actually liked the polka dots, but not for with the hat and general racing day look. The hat is just to die for! Maybe there should be a zipper challenge so you can get past this zipper thing :)

  13. i love the finished dress! i’m so glad you ripped out the polka dots & went with all floral – the end result is amazing! and omggg i covet your hat.

  14. What a great pattern! I’ll have my eyes open for something similar I think.

  15. Thanks, Jen! I’m happy I did it. It just goes to show that being lazy isn’t always the right way to go :)

  16. Thanks, Chrissy!

  17. Thanks, Rebecca!

  18. Thanks, Suzy! We had quite the fun at the races so the photo shoot was a breeze!

  19. Thanks, Trish! I’m glad that this has inspired you!

  20. Thanks, Jessie! Yeah, the bolero is pretty versatile! I love boleros!

  21. Thanks, Casey! If you’d like to do a pattern loan swap, let me know! It’s a 30 bust.

  22. Thanks, Judy! I’m glad the family got to sneak into this post. :)

  23. Thanks, Rachel!

  24. Thanks! I forgot to mention that I found that hat for $10 at Alameda Antique Fair. That’s the best part!

  25. I love this dress! SO cute, and you’re totally rocking that hat.

  26. This is just absolutely gorgeous–the dress, the hat, the family. So perfect.

  27. Thanks, Debbie! I’m glad folks feel like I made the right choice! I’m happy with my decision. :)

  28. Thanks, Lisette! Part of the zipper problem is that I never have the right size/color, so a lot of it comes down to laziness. I can insert an invisible with no problem — it’s the regular type that looks all sloppy.

  29. Thanks, Lauren! This dress was created *for* the hat. :)

  30. I was very lucky to have received that at the swap!

  31. Thanks, Lauren! I knew you’d like the hat. :)

  32. Thanks, Grace! We’re certainly not perfect, but we photograph well. :)

  33. Love the dress, hat and photoshoot! I’ve pulled out a black and white polka dot blouse I’ve had cut out for a while now and may finish it this week : )
    If you haven’t read Cecil Beaton’s diary of his time spent working on “My Fair Lady” you should, I’d even lend you my copy. It is a fabulous story! I also had the priviledge a few years ago to actually TRY ON most of the original hats from the Ascot Scene. After all these years they are still in amazing shape considering they’ve been stored in boxes nestled into each other. Being able to touch history in that way is a thrill. (P.S. I think I saw you at the flea market this weekend if you were wearing a turquoise/blue print dress with a turquoise sweater. I was running to get somewhere and couldn’t stop but next time I’ll say “hi”).

  34. This outfit is absolutely adorable, Mena. Hats are my passion and you are a great inspiration, the dress is much nicer and without polka dots. Lovely!

  35. Love the black and white pattern on the dress! And the hat is truly divine!

  36. HOTT to TROT, lady! You look incredible! This dress is uber flattering! And, your hubs is a total babe!

  37. I love the dress! I really like black and white myself. I guess I am a graphic girl at times but love florals. you made the right decision to lose the dots though.

  38. You look absolutely gorgeous, Mena! Despite your misgivings about black and white prints, this one really, really suits you. The cut of the dress is super flattering and I love it paired with the solid black bolero.
    Please, please hold another swap! I would love it if it was in August when I’m in San Francisco! :)

  39. Thanks, Loran! Wow — trying on those hats must have been amazing! Yes, that was me in turquoise. Maybe we should have a group meet-up at Alameda next month :) Have you gone to the Treasure Island flea yet? I haven’t but thought it might be worth checking out.

  40. Thanks, Rosy! I’ve gotten over my wearing hats in public phobia and love them as well!

  41. Thanks, Michelle! I’m sure he appreciates you saying that :)

  42. Thanks, Rae! I’m glad I ditched the dots. The consensus seems to agree with that decision.

  43. Thanks, Sarah! You’ll be here on Sunday, the 7th, right? That’s Alameda Antique fair (the first Sunday of the month). We should go there.

  44. You look wonderful Mena! Everything you’re wearing is picture perfect. Might I ask what shade of lipstick you’re wearing? It’s great!

  45. We arrive on the 7th (need to check the time) and I would love to go to Alameda!!! I’m in SF through to the 14th. I’m happy to go wherever you think would be fun! :)

  46. Thanks, Tiff. I’m not exactly sure what the shade is but it’s matte and red, probably from Revlon. I’ll check.

  47. You look great and your husband looks like he’s in a Ralph Lauren ad!

  48. um, your husband is really quite dreamy. well done, Miss!

  49. Wonderful outfit once again. You and your husband make a great looking couple, you both look very swish.

  50. Oh this is totally my favourite post! With all the sewing and the photos and the family, it’s a winner all round (even if it’s a $4 win, it’s still a win, right?!)!
    Great idea to chuck the polka dots, now it’s a totally wear again gorgeous dress! You look svelte in these photos! xoxo

  51. I haven’t because I had plans that weekend but am DEFINITELY putting it on my schedule this month! Yes, let’s have a group meet-up! We could meet by one of the food booths mid-morning to compare finds and have a nosh : )

  52. your love/hate relationship with the polka dots is hilarious.
    the dress is gorgeous… and so is the shot of the hunk…

  53. I agree with losing the polka dots and making an entirely floral dress – the black and white is stunning on you! Love the bolero and hat accents – fabulous ensemble :)

  54. You always look great Mena. I think you made the right decision with the black spot, and the bolero is too cute. The floral is so gorgeous, love it. Thankyou for sharing

  55. I’m going to throw my vote behind the version with the polka dots. It really shows off the structure of the dress, and I bet it would have been adorable with the polka dot bolero, but then I LOVE polka dots and mixing prints. The finished ensemble with hat is incredible as is, however. Is the Alameda Antique Faire worth the drive from the Sacramento area? We have something similar here the second Sunday of the month.