Hot! The “Watch Your Back” Dress | Debi Fry


The Facts

Picture 19 Fabric: brown pinstripe lightweight wool, old birthday gift (FREE!!); mauve gabardine, £7
Pattern: McCall 9089
Year:  1937
Notions: buttons from etsy: £2; zipper: £2

Time to complete: 12 hours

Wear again? YES!

Total Cost: ~£11

Oh, how I love a good hitchcock film! My favourite?  Without a doubt, 39 Steps.  The intrigue, the surprise and…it gets better…..SCOTLAND!!  Scotland is such a great location for a mystery movie–between a manhunt in the highlands to running through the shadows in Edinburgh–it's definitely a country that inspires the imagination!  So, I knew there was no other Hitchcock film that I wanted to do for this week's challenge!

The only problem with 39 Steps is that it is really hard to see the outfits! Much of the movie is in shadows and the characters are on the run–so they don't exactly have many outfit changes.  But what I did take from the main character's outfits are the large yokes/collars.  That is what inspired me to use one of my favourite patterns that I own, McCall 9089 (from 1937–only two years after the movie was filmed!)  The pattern features an oversized collar and a classic 1930's style jacket.  Just a heads up that I am hosting a giveaway on my blog for this pattern–definately check it out! 

Picture 21
My absolute favourite photo is of the two main characters in the highlands:

Picture 18
I won't spoil the plot for you–if you haven't seen it already! It's very suspenseful and well worth a night in and a large bowl of popcorn!

David and I tried to recreate this scene on the Royal Mile (much to the delight of many passerbys):


This outfit was a dream to sew up.  I absolutely love it!  The pattern includes a jacket and a lovely sleeveless dress with really interesting back details.  I made up the jacket in one of my new favourite fabrics to sew–gabardine! This is the same fabric I made my 1940's hooded dress out of and it's such a delight with enough body to be really easy to sew but light enough and comfortable to wear.


I really, really love this mauve colour.  I may need to go back and buy some more of this gabardine!

The dress is a really great design.  It features a high-neck, buttoned, sleeveless shirt dress with a side zipper.  I made the dress out of lightweight wool which is perfect for the Scottish summer.  It's super light, has lots of stretch and has a wonderful drape.


I also really love the collar on this dress. I used a light-weight sew-in interfacing for the collar.  I also found the perfect buttons on etsy to match the mauve pinstripes (and jacket).

But the best part of the outfit?  The back!!!

This has to be the most interesting 1930's detail I have ever sewn.  I love it so much! It was also super easy to construct.  The back yoke is a lapped seam and the panels have very narrow hems to finish them off.  I really love the uniqueness of this pattern!  I hope to make it up in several more fabrics! 

What do you think of the dress?  I love it so much!

My next steps for this dress includes sewing up a matching belt (with the pinstripes running horizontally).  I think a belt will really help give the dress some definition.  I'm still not sure if I am going to add the pockets to the bodice (as seen in the pattern).  What do you think?  They are super cute but I'm not sure if it would be too much??

Have you seen the 39 Steps?  What did you think?


Debi from My Happy Sewing Place

Debi Fry LOVES vintage patterns. She started sewing in 2009 and has been going since. In 2011, she participated in the Sew Weekly challenge and looks forward to the new challenges that lie in store!


Comments are closed.

  1. Your new dress and jacket, and your re-creation, are fabulous!!
    I love The 39 Steps, the original and the Kenneth More. Not so much the Robert Powell or Rupert Penry-Jones. I enjoy all of the Buchan books!!

  2. Lovely, the jacket is a really good cut and suits you. The dress is great too – I would just lower the armholes so they sit nice and flat – I have to do this to a lot of my vintage patterns, and it drives me nuts if they are cutting into me. Great job!

  3. Love it! As always, you’ve made a stunner. :-)
    Great pic of the two of you recreating the scene – looks like it would have been heaps of fun to do!

  4. Oh Debi- this one is WOW :) It came out really nicely!
    And I love the recreation of the scene LOL I bet that was fun!

  5. What an awesome creation! The dress manages to look elegant and comfortable at the same time. I say yes to the belt and nah to the pockets. Cheers!

  6. I love that! And what a surprise.

  7. Sweet – The jacket is such a great little mix and match and there’s a real party going on at the back with that dress.

  8. I look forward to your posts every week – not only is there an amazing outfit, but the great photos and storyline as well. I think you and David are fantastic!!

  9. margueritedesigns

    Great way to use pinstripe and 39 Steps was the first ‘grown up’ book I ever read – we had to study it in school, but I still love it.

  10. Wonderful! I really love the outfit!
    Fantastic photo of you and your husband. I really enjoyed reading your post as well.

  11. Wow!! This is neat! Love that pattern. The 30’s always surprise me. Splits down the back!.. how racy! Love the photos. 39 steps was on my short list. I agree.. amazing collars! I was going to do the blouse with the rounded collar and bow tie with covered buttons. I don’t think you need the pockets.. but love the belt idea.

  12. I lOVE Hitchcock but I don’t know if I’ve actually seen 39 steps. Time to check Netflix. The dress is so cute and looks great on you!

  13. i’ve been in love with that pattern for months, it’s great to see it made up so beautifully–it’s super flattering on you, and that mauve suits you perfectly.


    wow…… as always your work is divine!!
    you have giving me another reason to be thankful is friday!!!
    thanks so much for sharing your wonderful work!!

  15. Rina Costenaro

    i love this dress and pictures! especially that with her husband!
    como se diz aqui no Brasil, adooooorei!!!

  16. Wow, wow, wow, wow!!!!! It’s so fantastic! I love everything about this outfit. Mauve looks gorgeous on you.
    Yes to the belt, no to the pockets. :)

  17. Thanks! I need to check out the books! Thanks for the resources!!

  18. Thanks Trish! I actually need to make the armholes smaller…I think what you are seeing is the puckering from the facing tacking. The armholes are naturally cut to slope in towards the neckline. I made a smaller seam at the shoulders to add a bit of length to the bodice but should have just done a normal seam as the armholes are just a titch too large (not enough to actually go back and do anything about it but next time I make this, I’ll just follow the normal seam allowances). I may go back and retack the facings because it is pulling the fabric a bit :)

  19. Thank you dear! We had so much fun re-creating that scene :)

  20. Thanks Rachel! Yes…it was soooo much fun! I want to do more photos like that :)

  21. Thanks Brooke! It is super comfortable! I love it!!

  22. Thanks Rae! I love that about this dress…very prim and proper in the front and a bit of unexpected in the back!

  23. Thanks Jen! Love how you put that :)

  24. awwww…thank you Debbie! I love doing the Sew Weekly challenges!!

  25. Thanks so much Diane!! I haven’t read the book but definitely want to now!!

  26. Thank you so much Ronniie! We had a lot of fun!

  27. Thanks Casey! The 30’s definitely has some racy and elegant outfits! I love the style of that era!! I can’t wait to see your blouse!!

  28. ooohhh! Definitely check out 39 Steps–it’s very suspenseful and fun!

  29. Thank you so much! What a lovely comment!

  30. Your comment just made my day! Thank you so much!!

  31. Thank you dear! We had so much fun!!

  32. Thanks Sarah! I agree about the pockets! I absolutely ADORE your strawberry sorbetto dress!!

  33. I love the colors of the fabrics you used! I think this is my favorite outfit you’ve made so far.

  34. Debi, this is lovely, and the back is such a wonderful detail/surprise. I love it!

  35. awww…thank you so much! That means a lot to me :) It was really fun to make!!

  36. Thank you so much Leah!!!

  37. Oh I love it Debi, the back detail is fantastic and the collar is smashing, definitely add the belt but not the pockets I say, It may be a bit of an overkill, the fabric colour is beautiful and those buttons are just perfect. Love Love your photo of you and David. sooooo great. Another great Debi dress Yay.

  38. Thanks Kazz! I always look forward to your comments! I agree that the pockets would be a bit much but I think a belt is much needed! And doing that photo with David was so much fun!!!

  39. *sigh* Dear Debi, your dresses are all so fabulous, how do you pick what to wear in the morning? You are probably the best dresser in Scotland by far!