Hot! The Girl Detective button dress

Fabric: Sueded Rayon Gaberdine from the 90’s, Silk from stash
Pattern: Anne Adams 1527
Year: 1930’s
Notions: 5 Bakelite buttons!
Time to complete: 4 hours
First worn: January 15, 2012
Wear again? Probably
Total price: $5 for buttons, $1 for interfacing = $6 total

Growing up I LOVED to read. A neighbor of ours introduced me to the “Judy Bolton” Girl Detective series, similar to Nancy Drew except Judy ages. The series starts when she’s 15 and throughout she graduates from High School, marries the love of her life in a double rainbow wedding ceremony and settles into married life with Peter. The first book was written in 1932, and is “modern” meaning the illustrations and clothing descriptions are that of 1932. Margaret Sutton wrote 38 books, the final one in 1967. I adored Judy, wanted to be Judy, and this dress fulfills a Judy fantasy : ) This is the artwork on the end papers:

And here is my version:

Loran, Girl Detective!

Believe when I say that we tried getting me from the side. It just wasn’t my best angle : ) I knew when I started this challenge that picking out a weekly outfit to make wouldn’t be the hard part, even finishing it wouldn’t be too tough. The hard part comes when I have to put it on ME and have someone photograph ME and then choose the best shots! I’ve spent an entire career designing and building gorgeous outfits for others to wear. Build it, fit it, style it and get it on stage, go home to life, daughter and animals. To say this is traumatic may sound dramatic but I’d honestly rather go to the dentist. Ugh…anyone else feel that way?

Back to the sewing – I wanted something that would show buttons, especially my latest find! I met a fabulous button lady on our last outing to the Alameda Flea market-

These are BAKELITE!! Shaped like logs, they are drilled so that they go on at an angle, not straight. Here is an extreme close up:

Button : )

Since the challenge was about the button HOLES as much as it was the buttons I decided I needed to do bound buttonholes, never one of my favorites as they are extraordinarily time-consuming. I could have cut the time spent on the dress in half if not for these… and once the buttonhole is done from the front there is still the matter of the facing that needs to be stitched down:

The back, extreme close-up!

The fabric I chose was a little on the heavy side but I had in it my stash and it was the color I wanted to go with the vintage hat, hat pin and shoes. I love my outfit and definitely feel like I’m channeling Judy : ) Now I need to get myself to the gym if I’m going to keep this up!



Loran is a Bay Area designer, stitcher and suburban farm girl. Having done theater for years she's finally taking on her most demanding client (herself!) and fashioning a wardrobe from her huge stock of vintage patterns and fabrics, all while writing her daily tablesetting blog. Let's see if she can keep up with both : )


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  1. Your dress is amazing and you look amazing in it!! I love to read, too. And series are my favorite, I like when they age as well. So, I thank you for giving me a new one to try. If you read YA books, you might like the Sammy Keyes series. She’s a modern age girl detective and she ages through the series, too.

  2. This is freaking AWESOME! I love not only the construction of this piece (buttonhole win, by the way) but the way you have styled the photos. Awesomeness!

  3. I love your dress! I was a Nancy Drew fan, I never got much into the others though :( I feel you on the picture taking! It’s really awkward and sometimes uncomfortable to put yourself out there like that. You’re buttons are amazing, and it sounds like YOU’RE amazing as well!

  4. Those buttons are AWESOME. Nice job. I love 1930s style.

  5. Adorable dress, amazing buttons & bound buttonholes! Love the grey/ red color combination!

  6. WoW! You did an awesome job with this pattern, this goes in my inspiration file!

  7. I love the dress and the inspiration behind it. Those buttons are beyond fabulous. (I too say bring on the dentist!)

  8. I love your dress and those buttons are AMAZING! I was a Nancy Drew fan myself. I love how you styled the dress and the photos are great!

  9. Those buttons are amazing! And your buttonholes–whoohoo! Great styling with the hat and flashlight. You really look the part –Detective Girl!

  10. You look beautiful. I hate posing too which is probably why I’ve only posted one dress. You did a marvelous job with the buttons and holes and choosing the pattern.

  11. This looks great on you. Fab buttons too!

  12. I hope you don’t feel traumatised every time you make and post something here because we will all miss out on your awesome creative outfits and posts, bring out your inner Girl Detective she deserves to shine. Well done she is brilliant.

  13. Love this dress! Amazing! I love the inspiration behind it too – I’m tempted to go and see if I can track down those books. Coz Nancy Drew was awesome, I reckon.

    I hear you re. getting photos taken. I’ve found it gets less traumatic with practice, although even after doing it for a year for my blog I still can’t bring myself to get photos taken when there are strangers nearby! One day I hope to be as brave as those amazing girls who get out there with their tripods and take self-portraits in public.

  14. I love the bright red and grey together – very 80’s,. especially with that beret! Look forward to seeing more from you.

  15. Ah I love it! I was a Nancy Drew fan but now I may have to find Judy Bolton and give her a whirl. I love the red highlights and the buttons, well done on the bound button holes too, they are pretty time consuming.

  16. I love this- it makes me want to re-read some Susan Kandel mysteries- keep posting, please!

  17. Love this! You did a great job; 30’s dresses are awesome! Little House girl here, tho’ you won’t catch me in a prairie dress… :^)

  18. Really lovely – that splash of red.

  19. I think you look great! The biggest challenge for me is seeing myself in photographs. I’ve done work as as stylist and consultant so making others beautiful is what I do. As long as the focus is not on me. Keep it up! It will encourage me.

  20. This is a great post! I love your dress – the contrasting red looks great, the buttons and the buttonholes…ah, I don’t know where to start and end. It’s absolutely great (and I envy you for that pattern!). I might have to try out those Judy books ;)
    PS: I hate the photo part, too. Not just that I hate posing in front of the camera – my husband has trouble handling our camera and tends to chop off my head or other important parts of mine….

    I love the colours, the hat, the shoes, the buttons… I think you should get into character for every photo shoot,and they will all turn out as well as this one did!

  22. Swoon!!! Start hamming it up, because you look amazing! (To be sure, I kinda hate that part, too)

  23. I have button envy, top marks for doing so many bound buttonholes too.

  24. Amazing work as usual. Just think how nice it was to not only give yourself the time to do bound button holes but to do them for yourself!

  25. Those buttons are so fantastic! I love that they are set at an angle – brilliant! The whole outfit is timeless and flattering – well done :)

  26. I don’t even have the words to express how much I adore this- just too wonderful in every respect! Fantastic job, and I adore the photoshoot!!!