Hot! The “Not Quite Nautical” Dress

The Facts
Fabric: 2 yards (x 60”) navy blue twill from Knittn’ Kitten, $7.00
Pattern: Simplicity 3061 from Knittn’ Kitten, $3.50
Year: 1959 pattern; thrifted/possibly vintage fabric
Notions: zipper ~$0.65, buttons $3.65
Time to complete: 12-ish hours (8 for the first round; 4 this time)
Sewing soundtrack: OPB and (don’t laugh) Roxy Music’s Avalon the first time; My Favorite (that’s the name of the band) this time
First worn: To work today, finally—I’d been planning to wear it each day this week, but the rain’s been too awful until now
Wear again: Yes!
Total cost: $14.80. A bit high for me, but well worth it—I love this dress!

Okay, I’ll admit it—I cheated a bit with this challenge. This dress was mostly put together back in October; all I had left to do was add the sleeves and replace the buttons. But I’m still at the point where I’m trying to get through the finish/mend/improve pile before starting any new projects (that won’t happen) and I also fairly recently acquired a buttonhole attachment that I hadn’t yet found a reason to use. Plus, I’d been planning to get a lot of wear out of this dress this winter, and for that to happen, it, well, needed to get done. Suffice it to say everything seemed ideal.

The dress was already essentially wearable when I started this week (the giant collar completely covered the unfinished armholes), but I also wanted to replace the cannibalized (yes, they were in my stash, but they’re there with specific intent to be used on another (also nautically-inspired) garment) white buttons I’d slapped on the top of it. None of the buttons were functional, and they don’t need to be, as the dress actually closes with a zip up the side. But I don’t like the look of buttons sewn straight onto fabric, so I did the right thing and now they’re all functional. The pattern actually called for bound buttonholes (on the two outer ones; the others were meant to be purely decorative—I don’t know how the pattern designer arrived at this uneven decision), but I thought that would be a bit dressy for what I consider a more workaday, almost industrial, dress. Besides, I already know how to make bound buttonholes, and I wanted to use the buttonhole attachment. So machine-worked it was.

Let me take a moment to mention that my sewing machine is sixty years old. The buttonhole attachment, which resembles nothing more than some kind of antique robotic crustacean, is not much younger than that. However (or perhaps because of this), once I had installed it, and once I did exactly what the manual told me to do, it worked perfectly. The first few attempts, when I skipped a few manual steps and instead did what it looked like I should do, were uh somewhat less than perfect.

I did have to go around each buttonhole twice, because the stitching looked a bit less solid than I wanted, but perhaps this is standard? Or perhaps it’s because my machine’s stitch length, which I’d assumed the attachment would override, was set rather long? Whatever the cause, it’s been adequately dealt with. I have a feeling there are going to be a lot more machine-worked buttonholes in my future—which is kind of a shame; I’d only just gotten good at hand-worked ones for them to be worn in public.

Now, the dress, the dress. Not much to say about it. I had to grade the pattern down about five inches, and I don’t think I took it quite far enough, although perhaps it just seems a bit gappy around the top because I was in a hurry and decided I didn’t need to resize the collar… I’m wearing a slip underneath (of course) and considering it a minor thing, though, and other than that, I’m perfectly happy, with both the fit and design, and, now that it’s finally done, I’m sure I’ll wear this a lot. (It’s comfortable—actually soft—too!)

I remember being particularly pleased, back in October, by the ease and tidiness with which I was able to put the collar in, collars having been something of my bane before. Likewise, when I put in the sleeves this week, not only did they take much less time than I expected, but they also turned out to be the nicest looking pair of set-in sleeves I think I’ve ever done. I don’t know if that’s the mark of a vastly superior pattern or if I’m just starting to get better at this, but I’m hoping for the latter. We shall see.

PS “Not quite nautical”—I bought this pattern intending to make a sailor dress, because one can never have enough nautically-inspired wear. I quickly decided I wanted blue buttons instead, but had a devil of a time finding these (who knew plain blue buttons were so rare?) and with the white ones I was using temporarily, the dress did indeed look rather nautical. Now—not quite so much. Although if I ever make an add-on collar like the pattern model has on…



Z. has, much to her surprise, been sewing since 2007. She lives in Portland, Oregon, and uh 1955-fantasy-land. In addition to sewing, she likes words, music, and old things. Her life is a story.


Comments are closed.

  1. great pattern and you’ve made a first rate dress.

  2. Great to hear this challenge enticed you to complete this wonderful dress. She’s a winner.

  3. It’s a great pattern and a fab dress and I think you have to make the additional collar just to see what it looks like heehee!

    • Ha. My original plan did actually call for making the collar. I just haven’t found the right fabric yet. We’ll see…

  4. Wonderful pattern, and it turned out great- well done!

  5. This is lovely! And kudos on owning the buttonholes!

  6. Very cool little dress! Well done!

  7. I love a large collar and you totally rock this one!

  8. I love a large collar and you totally rock this one. Nice work!

  9. I’ve actually made this dress up before – here. I haven’t seen anyone else make up this pattern so I was really excited to see your post :) I love this pattern & your version turned out gorgeous! And I hear ya on the buttonholes – I also hate the way buttons look when they’re sewn directly onto fabric. I think it really cheapens the overall effect.

    • Oh! I remember, now, seeing your dress before, so I must have googled the pattern at some point around the time I first started this. I love your buttons–and I’m sure the fact that you finished your buttonholes so nicely probably had some influence on my desire to “properly” do my own.