Hot! The ‘Scarlett O’Hara’ Dress | Debi Fry


The Facts

Fabric: 1 pair of long velvet curtains from charity shop £10,
Pattern: McCall 3456
Year: 1939
Notions: 9 self-covered buttons from etsy, £2

Time to complete: 14 hours 

Wear again? yes!

Total Cost: ~£12

McCall3456I've gone all Scarlett O'Hara this week (though out of choice not necessity) and have tackled some old velvet curtains to turn them into a dress using McCall 3456 from 1939.  This dress pattern was hailed in the December McCall's magazine as the hottest trend for jewlery necklines (i.e. they look great as a backdrop with some serious bling!)  Even looking at the pattern cover, it looks like velvet!!

I got a pair of these curtains for relatively cheap (as far as velvet curtains go–only £10).  The slightly creepy thing is that I met the man who grew up with these curtains in his house.  He was the one selling them and he talked about how great it was to have these velvet curtains growing up and how they kept the place warm.  He seemed very interested to hear (and not in the least way upset) that I planned to use them as fabric.  In fact, part of me wants to go back and visit him to see if he recognises the curtains! How weird would it be to see someone walking around in your childhood curtains? hahaha! Well, for being so old–they were in remarkable condition.  I used the majority of both curtains and cut the curtains in one with the lining (to act as underlining since the back of the velvet wasn't very soft).

I'm quite pleased with how the dress turned out.  I was a bit concerned that perhaps the fabric would be too thick but it was absolutely fine.  The neat bit about using the thicker fabric is that the lapped seams making it look like cording was applied to all the seams–I really like that detail.

Picture 122
The dress closes down the back with 9 buttons (the pattern calls for 10 but I only had 9 self-covered buttons). Covering the buttons took almost 2 hours–this fabric is thick and so it's really hard to get the snap backs on these buttons.  In fact, I don't think the buttons will last and I need to think of some alternatives.  I really like how the self-covered buttons look but the fabric is just too thick.

This dress is also really interesting because it has gathers at the side seams in addition to the interesting yoke gathers. Also the waist line dips in the back–extending the back buttons!  I haven't made a matching belt yet, though I have cut out the fabric.  I think I will finish it.  I find it interesting that the pattern envelope has the figure wearing the belt with the buckle at the back!  I can see how this would give a nice smooth line in the front–I'll have to give it a try!

The only bad thing about working with velvet is ironing!!  Arrrgghhh.  I followed the instructions and kept the iron upright and put a press cloth over it and gently rubbed the fabric against the iron.  I found this good for seams but it didn't work so well for getting wrinkles out.  If that is my least favourite part of working with velvet then my FAVOURITE part is the feel of velvet! I just love running my hands across the fabric.  So soft!!  I really want to try this pattern in silk velvet!  Wouldn't that be dreamy (and probably so much easier to work with)?

What do you think? Do you think I would have made Scarlett O'Hara proud?  Have you ever worked with velvet?  What about velvet curtains??


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. Gorgeous! Gorgeous! Gorgeous!! This is stunning and must be toasty warm! :) I love velvet and want to make a pair of velvet Clovers.

  2. The colour has certainly remained vibrant -Your dress looks lovely and warm.

  3. Scarlett I believe would approve. :)
    I read somewhere recently (no idea where) to iron velvet you should place another piece of velvet on the top of your garment, velvety sides facing each other and nap running in the same direction and iron over that… Supposedly the other piece of velvet stops the iron from crushing the velvet of your garment.
    I dunno if it works… Good luck!

  4. You’re dress is gorgeous!! I hope you let us know what the gentleman who sold you the curtains thought : )
    To press velvet in the future the best way is to get a velvet press board. Clotilde used to carry them, they aren’t cheap but WELL worth it. They are like a tiny bed of needles that you put the fabric facedown to iron. You can use a very fluffy towel with decent results and in a real pinch you can try another piece of velvet but once the pile is crushed no amount of love or money will bring it back. ALWAYS test out a sample piece to make sure it will work. Good luck!!

  5. I love your curtain dress and I’m sure Scarlett would be proud.

  6. The dress is lovely, but I could never wear it,even the thought of it makes a bit queasy. Id love to be able to wear velvet, but the feel of it is just to weird. Its great tho, I really like it!

  7. That really is a Scarlett-dress, so gorgeous!
    Maybe you can put an invisible zipper in somewhere to save the buttons. They look sooooo great. Or hide a zipper under a fake button tab down the back.
    (Sorry about all those zipper suggestions, I’ve just tackled learning to put them in properly for once and am putting them in everywhere. So never mind me)

  8. If you plan on making up more velvet I cannot recommend getting a velvet board for pressing highly enough, I have one and even managed to bring back a crushed velvet skirt!I was amazed & the owner delighted – they are definately worth it. Alternatively as Anna suggested lay the velvet facing itself to stop the crushing whilst pressing, and lots of steam hovered over it should help.

  9. PS Love seeing the pattern on you – I maight try a version out for myself haveing seen it ‘in the flesh’ so to speak

  10. The dress looks lovely. A great pattern and the colour is really cheerful (you don’t see that often in velvet). I recently made a jacket with velvet facings and also used a velvet remnant (about the size of my iron) and a wet cloth to press it. Worked like a charm, but is a bit time consuming, I have to admit. I posted about it here:

  11. Stunning in a long line of beautiful work! I know what you mean about loving the feel of it. I have a velvet skirt thatI can’t help petting when I’m wearing it.
    Try steaming the velvet if you are not pressing seams, otherwise you use a scrap piece of velvet placed under the velvet being pressed (nap sides together) Like someone else suggested.

  12. I think its lovely. As for the buttons I’d do fabric covered but with a print that matched. Like a little extra surprise in the back.

  13. Wow that is really cool. My big question is where’s your bling? If your going to wear the dress then you also need the jewels. Am I right?

  14. i love the color, the pattern, the lapped seams, the whole look! great job!

  15. Wow you did great, the dress is really very beautiful. I would definitely go back to show the dress, it’s so wonderful, I’m sure the man who had them in his childhood home will love that they have come to such a lovely new use.

  16. What a deal for the velvet! I’m curious–did you wash or somehow pre-treat the fabric before you worked with it? How do you plan to care for the velvet.
    I think it would be great to wear the dress back to the shop. I bet the previous owner would love to see it!

  17. Wow! I’m totally jealous. You rocked that pattern! I think Scarlett would definitely approve. I have never even thought to try to sew anything in velvet precisely because of the ironing issue. You made it look effortless and I love the way the seams came out looking like cording. I might have to try something like an evening handbag to test the waters but this makes me much less reticent.

  18. Very lovely, Debi! Sounds like you need a steamer like the stores use to get out wrinkles :)

  19. My jaw dropped when I saw it. Just too beautiful for words. And such and interesting pattern too. The side gathering. So pretty and flattering–I’m surprised some fashion designer hasn’t brought it back to the runway.
    Thank you so much for sharing!

  20. Wowzers. Gorgeous! I’m in love with this dress. The details are to die for!

  21. Gorgeous, I love the dress. Did you have to do any alterations to the pattern? Had you made the pattern before?

  22. GLORIOUS!!!!! you must show this transformation to the man!

  23. You look stunning in your curtain dress Debi such fab detail too. I think you look smashing in this colour as well.

  24. The dress is completely unexpected, but very very cool. (Warm, rather, I should think. And rightly so.) I’d go and show him, it’s not creepy. Kind of interesting.

  25. oh! A pair of velvet clovers would be AMAZING! Great idea!

  26. Thanks Jen!!! oxoxox

  27. Thanks Anna! I did try this but maybe a little too tentatively :) The other piece of velvet I used had a much shorter nap. Maybe I should try to use the left over velvet from the curtains?? Thanks for the advice!!

  28. Thanks Loran! I think I definitely need to invest in a velvet press board–I just love velvet and know I will be sewing with it in the future!

  29. Thanks Sarah! Isn’t it funny how different textures feel differently to everyone? I’m that way with some foods!

  30. Great ideas! I really like the idea of an invisible zipper somewhere! I would have never thought of it! Thanks! xooxox

  31. Thanks Rosemary. I think you’ve sold me on the velvet pressing board!!!

  32. Thanks! You should definitely!!!!

  33. Hi Christina! I love your blog–thanks for the link!!!

  34. Thanks Becky–isn’t velvet just so comfy??

  35. oohhh…great idea! Thanks!!!

  36. OH YES! I definitely need to get some jewel layering going on :)

  37. Thank you!!!oxoxoxox

  38. Thanks Ewa…I think I will go back sometime this winter to show him!!

  39. I dry cleaned it when I first got it but then I also tried a large scrap in the wash on the cold wool cycle and it came out fine (nap wasn’t damaged and it maintained it’s softness). So I’m thinking of washing it from now on though someone said that once you dry-clean–you can’t really go onto washing???

  40. ohhh..this would be perfect for an evening handbag. The cording ‘look’ was a great surprise! I love that effect!

  41. Definitely!!!! Wouldn’t that be grand?? Hey–how are you? You must be getting close???

  42. Awww..thanks Dottie! I do love this design too! I definitely want to try it out in other fabrics!

  43. I agree! This time period is my favourite!

  44. I’ve never made the pattern before BUT I have used a lot of McCall patterns from this time period so I know exactly how they are going to fit. Usually I wear a size 16 (B34) and this one is an 18 (B36) but it worked out ok because of the thicker fabric. I did have to take about a 2 inch tuck total from the back shoulders tapering down to midback. I also have to extend the sleeve length and shorten the skirt.

  45. Thanks Kazz! I just love this dress!

  46. Thanks Steph! I think I will make the trip to show him!!