Hot! The “Why did I suggest this theme?!” sundress

The Facts
Fabric: thrifted cotton border print = $2
Pattern: Butterick 5355
Year: c1980
Notions: black invisible zipper
Time to complete: 3 hours
First worn: Lying in the snow
Wear again? Yes, in the summer and down south
Total price: $4



Why did I suggest this theme?!?

It’s been alternating between freezing rain and  -10C for the past week, so finding a good moment to snap some quick photos was hard to come by!  Finally there was a break in the weather this afternoon, and so after we managed to wrangle the kids into the car to go skating, we grabbed the chance to take some bathing beauty shots on the front lawn.  Well, not exactly front lawn, but front snow pile :)

I’m a child of the ’70s, so the vintage portion of my pattern collection is made up of largely of 1967-1980 pattterns.  The sundresses and wrap skirts of my childhood are lodged in my memory as classics, even if some people cringe at the memory or think them dowdy.

I found this fabric at my local thrift shop bundled with a blue colourway of the same print; I waffled a bit about which colourway to use, but then I realized that I already own a few blue dresses but no red ones.  This cotton was super easy to cut, press and sew, and it is opaque enough that a lining wasn’t needed.  It is a bit stiff, so from the side view the pleats release over the stomach and give a slight… shall I say….3 months along kind of look?  In fact, when I was trying it on for fit the other night, my man said, “Is it supposed to puff out like that?”.  Not a good sign.

I didn’t have a red invisible zipper, but if Oona has taught me anything, it’s that shit don’t have to match to look awesome.  BTW, having an invisible zipper foot has rocked my world.  I highly recommend it.  Soooo much better than fiddling about with a regular foot and sewing over the teeth or leaving awkward gaps.

Actually, I’m going to Botswana and South Africa in a few weeks for work, and I need some new HOT HOT HOT weather clothes.  This should fit the bill perfectly because it’s loose and cool, won’t show too much travel dust and it covers the knees.  I wore shorts last time I was in Botswana without knowing that showing your thighs is a bit of a no-no;  everyone was so polite that they didn’t say anything, but after a while I noticed that people were constantly giving me sideways glances.  Kind of like the looks I got from all the passers-by while we were taking these photos this afternoon.





Vicki used to sew when she was young and free, but then raising young'uns and bringing home (some of) the bacon took up all her time. Now her closet is full of skinny clothes, maternity clothes and post-partum clothes, none of which fit properly. Maybe that's why she started sewing again in 2010.


Comments are closed.

  1. I love 70s fashion! The 80s do make me cringe, though. Your fabric choice is perfect, and you can always put a belt on it to address the puff.

    • I tried it with a sky blue belt, and it does look good that way, but I think I’ll wear it loose more often. Once you’ve had kids, you are kind of resigned to having a bit of a gut anyway!

  2. Great dress! I never have any luck finding border print fabrics like that – I love yours!

    • I’ve given up buying fabric at my local Fabricville because I get such good pieces from my village charity shop. I’m not sure why; perhaps we have an underground crafty population here in my area that likes to purge their fabric every month! I’ve gotten most of my stash from there, and all at ~$1/m. Score.

  3. Wow! What a lovely fabric and pattern choice. The red, and then the all the flowers! That’s enough to make me feel warm just looking at it, despite the snow in the background.

    • Thanks Barbara. I knew that this border print would make the perfect sundress as soon as I saw it, but didn’t have an excuse to use it until now.

  4. Looks great Vicki, perfect for Botswana. What a great job you have, will you have time to go fabric shopping?

    • Will I have time to go fabric shopping? Is the pope Catholic? ;)
      I’ve written on my blog about fabric hunting in Africa (here: and if you click on the label “Cape Town to Canada” under the heading on my blog, it’ll take you to all the creations I made from my last big South African fabric haul.
      My friend Nyaradzo and I already plan to play hooky from our conference one afternoon and go fabric hunting in Gaborone, and I can probably “twist her arm” and get her to take me around Cape Town again when we meet back there. The irony is, she wants me to bring her some girly-girly Daisy Kingdom fabric from North America, because she can’t get it in Africa!

  5. We must be about the same age – I love 70’s patterns too – What a perfect border print – it looks amazing and will be great for your trip. Yes, wonder what local fabrics they have – could be amazing!

    • I was born in 1970, so I remember a lot of the patterns I now have in my collection because my mother or her friends had them, and they all sewed their own clothes back then, from habit and necessity.

      I didn’t shop for fabrics when I was in Gaborone last time, but I remember admiring the UB students who wore traditional fabrics and dresses standing out from the crowds in denim and Tshirts!

  6. Cute as a button and the fabric is an awesome find! Have a great time in Botswana!

    • Thanks Amanda! You know how sometimes you’ll try something on and you immediately know it will get a lot of wear….this is going to be one of those TNT patterns for me.

  7. Lovely border print – I’m coming around to to the thought that 70’s patterns aren’t so bad, it was mostly the hairstyles that were tragic. The boots and beach towel are perfect accessories.

  8. Oh the 70’s…I was born in ’75 but I’m glad I only spent five years in its fashion. Your sundress, however is an adorable shout-out to the era. Your next trip to Botswana will met with admiring stares.

  9. Great fabric find – it looks perfect as a sundress! Very cute!

  10. Lovely print, and I adore the pictures of you lying in the snow! Its a perfect dress for Africa, but perhaps you could layer a long sleeve tee under it for our winter weather? I love the pleats – it looks fabulous!

  11. I love that dress! What a fun pattern. Have a wonderful time in Botswana!

    • Thanks Valerie – I plan to have a great time :) I’m taking my man and my son along this time, so I’ll have someone to carry my shopping bags full of fabric!

  12. channeling oona with an ease that would make her proud, and rocking that red dress in the snow pile. fabulous!

    • I really have to get a better camera though; when I look my the grainy, overexposed photos compared to everyone else’s, I suddenly see the quality difference. My birthday is coming up, so now I know what to ask for.

      And I have to teach my man to take some wide shots!

  13. Dating myself here… I made this a number of times the first time around, and wore them all summer long. I still remember the green leafy print on my favorite one.

  14. YOU ARE CRAZY SAUCE. that’s pinup does snow.

    i love that dress. never wear it to new york. or i guess los angeles too.

    • yeah GOOD LUCK oona, because I think I have the weight advantage in a frock-fight!

      And the closest I’m getting to LA anytime soon is SF in the spring to run some experiments at UCSF. I think that’s a safe distance.

      BTW: Are you going to oona does it anytime soon? Or too caught up in the move?

  15. Gorgeous! Have a great time in Botswana!

    • Thanks Taracat – We have to keep a daily journal + photos of the trip for my son’s school project (part of the agreeement for taking him out of school for two weeks), so I’ll hopefully have lots of photos of the sundress in action. Or inaction as the case may be.