Hot! “Joe, she’s driving me crazy!”













The Facts

Fabric: South Sea Imports 100% cotton from Korea
Pattern:  Du Barry 5435
Year: 1942
Notions: invisible zipper
Time to complete: 7-8 hours- over the weekend.
First worn: February 20, 2012
Wear again? Yes!
Total price: about 6 dollars for contrast fabric, zipper and thrifted belt buckle



My Oscar Winning inspiration this week comes from the movie “Marty”, which won best picture in 1955. I chose to channel “Virginia” played by Karen Steele. She had a small guest appearance in the movie as Marty’s cousin’s wife. I have a personal connection to this character because I played the part of Virginia in a small onstage production of “Marty” many years ago. It was great fun, butterflies and all. My husband and my mother-in-law came to see me opening night. Now my mother-in-law lives with us and has just turned 93. I’m not like Virginia though, and my mother-in-law is nothing like Tommy’s. We reside together rather peacefully.

(wikipedia) Karen Steele was born March 20 1931 and died at age 56. Her first critically acclaimed film was Marty (1955). She played Virginia and got the part because the director, Delbert Mann, confused her with an actress from New York who he and writer Paddy Chayevsky had intended to play it.

Here are a few of Virginia’s pleading lines.


Aunt Theresa, you got this big house here. I mean, you got this big house just for you and Marty. And I thought maybe Tommy’s mother could come here  and live with you and Marty.




Because I called up Tommy’s brother Joe, and I said, “Joe, she’s driving me crazy. Why don’t you take her for a couple of years?” And he said, “Oh no!” I know I sound like a terrible  woman…

About the dress. This was so much fun to plan and then finally put together. My daughter gave me a bolt of floral cotton, so I purchased a yard of contrasting solid to break up the flowers a bit. I decided to use Du Barry 5435 because it had that shirt dress look with buttons in the front and a belt. This pattern is 70 years old and originally costs 15 cents! I know it’s not quite 50’s like the movie “Marty”, but perhaps Virginia’s mother made it for her from her wartime pattern collection. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

I made the belt by doubling very stiff interfacing together and then I made the casing from the solid fabric and slipped it on. I covered a belt buckle using the existing belt buckle fabric as a pattern. I used a lot of glue and then I hid the  back of the buckle by gluing in a piece of seam binding. The pattern pieces did not have any printed markings, only hole punches and small nicks for lining things up. The one page of directions were very understandable, and I managed to cut and sew without too many mishaps. Instead of a side-zipper, it called for snaps. I used a zipper. I wonder why that was suggested? Was the metal for zippers one of those things needed to make guns and ammunition during war time?






























I adore this look and I can imagine it in more contemporary fabrics in my wardrobe.

Well, except for the blond hair, the cute little hat, and the fact that she was about 22 when she landed this part, here I am as “Virginia”.



Barbara is a resident of Northern California. She loves to sew and has pledged not to buy retail clothes for the year of 2012. That means she has to make her own, or buy it at a thrift store. I hope she doesn't spend too much on fabric. When she shops for fabric her eyes light up as she imagines the possibilities! She's like a kid in a candy store.


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  1. Lovely, mom! Great dress, great blog!

  2. I love the beautiful colour combination. It looks very well constructed too. I really enjoy your Sew Weekly posts.

  3. Lovely contrasts. That small role has made for a fine dress. You look exceedingly ladylike (and not at all like the kind of person to kick an old mother-in-law out of the house).

  4. Hi Barbar, this looks fantastic. Love the style of the hair piece and gloves. I think the belt looks great too, always water to try to make a self covered buckle. It’s on my bucket list.

  5. Gorgeous dress! I love the colours, the cut, everything about it. Very pretty. :-)

  6. Beautifully done! As the (self-proclaimed) history nerd (teacher) you are exactly right in your thoughts about the wartime conservation of zippers. I always thought it interesting that even that little tiny bit of metal was conserved…I guess it adds up though!

  7. Really pretty dress, I love the contrast collar and cuffs.

  8. Great story, and such a cute dress! The snap element is fascinating. Like Cheryl mentioned, every little bit, right?!

  9. That print is adorable, and you’ve made it into an equally beautiful dress! Great job!

  10. I want everything you make :)

  11. This is so sweet! And I love that it’s got a persona story attached to it.

  12. I agree with Tina C, so Sweet! It photographs well in color AND black and white. Great job.

  13. A lovely lovely dress! The colors are so springy and fun!

  14. Great story, Barbara. I bet you stole the show when you played Virginia in that stage production…wee;, you’ve certainly got a standing oh from me for that darling dress. The custom belt and contrast collar are the perfect touches.

  15. I love, love this dress. The pattern and fabric are just beautiful.. I really want it.ha.Great job sewing.

  16. What an adorable dress! Looks like some pretty nifty and neat sewing, too. :)

  17. Beautifully constructed dress and fascinating write-up. Thank you.

  18. I love this post! Great inspiration for a great dress!

  19. You look stunning in the dress. Truly. You should make about 10 more.