Hot! Joan’s Robin Egg Drape Sleeves Dress

The Facts

Fabric: 2.5m silky poly fabric from chinatown $10
Pattern: Simplicity 3445
Notions: Invisible zipper
Year: c. 1960s
Time to complete: 4 to 5 hours
First worn: For these photos
Wear again? Yes :)

Total Cost: $10

I was really excited to see the Mad Men theme on The Sew Weekly! There were so MANY dresses from the Mad Men series and cast photos that I wanted to sew and after many hours of research, I managed to narrow the list down to just four. To make things easier for myself, I got my blog readers to cast their votes. The results kept changing initially which was exciting for me. I was getting high just by taking out potential fabrics from my cabinets and imagining how each dress would look in the respective fabrics. By the later part of the week, it became clear that the drape sleeves dress which garnered 38% of the 123 votes was going to win and that was when I settled on using this silky robin egg blue poly fabric for the dress. I would have looked totally pale in the luxurious baby blue dress on Joan, which is a shade or two away, but this robin egg blue, I love!

Having only watched two and a half series of Mad Men, I have no idea if Joan Holloway actually wore this drape sleeves dress on the show. It could be just a dress from the cast publicity shots. But, I adored the sleeves enough to want to give this a try.

The pattern was where all my “Mad-ventures” began. First of all, I have forgotten why I avoided this pattern previously. It’s a Juniors size pattern so I had no idea if it was going to fit me at all! By looking at the measurements at the back of the envelope, I figured I had to add a few inches to the bodice length/width and waist width of the skirt. But, the number of inches to add was really guess work and I hated uncertainties like these and definitely abhor the possibility of ruining a fabric in that cute color. That was when I took out all the pattern pieces for the very first time and Oops! Oops! The front skirt piece and facings were missing! Thank goodness the critical bodice pieces were all there or I wouldn’t have been able to sew this dress! I used the top of the bodice pieces as guide to draft the facings so that was pretty straight forward. Phew! And after hours of searching through my pattern stash, I found a similar front skirt piece from another 60s pattern which I again guessed could be used as replacement for the piece. With all these uncertainties, I am just glad everything worked out…well kind of.

Those drape sleeves were what attracted me to the pattern in the first place as I’ve never sewed sleeves like these. They turned out to be surprisingly easy to sew. What I really love about them is how fluid they are in terms of movement and how my posture changes could create so many different looks in them. I also found the boat neck and inverted v-shaped opening of the upper sleeves very feminine and flattering.

But, for some reasons, the fabric seems rather unkind to the stitching at the ends of the sleeves. There is this annoying wrinkling effect and I have no idea how to resolve this. It bugs me because the rest of the dress is rather wrinkle free. I have worked with other poly fabrics before and this issue has never occur until now. Any advise on resolving this will be greatly appreciated.

The other issue I have with this pattern are the side seam lines. The side seams of the bodice and skirt do not match. Not even close. And I know that’s the case with the original pattern pieces since the back piece was intact. I think I may add a tie belt just like version 2 in the pattern to make it less obvious since I do have some fabric left. I had originally planned to sew a cumber band from version 1 of the pattern but after adjusting the fit of the dress, I liked it the simple way it was and decided to scrap the idea. I was also skeptical of how flattering a cumber band with horizontal gathers would have looked.

Still, I am totally into this robin blue hue and the drape sleeves so despite its issues, it is a dress I’m mad enough to be wearing this Spring.


Adey Sew Convert

A former kids' television channel manager turned stay home mum from Singapore, I hated sewing since I attended my first home economic class at the age of 14. In 2007, something miraculous happened when God blessed me with a second pregnancy. I discovered that I was expecting a baby girl. That changed everything. First I went crazy shopping for handmade clothes for her on etsy. Then I decided I needed to make something for her on my own. I was a month from my due date when I took an intensive 8-hour sewing class. In Dec 2008, I made a dress for my princess before she was born and have not stopped sewing since.


Comments are closed.

  1. Oh! Very pretty! it was great you found a pattern very similar to the dress.

  2. Oh I think it is just beautiful! I mean all of it gorgeous. Your side seams don’t do anything bad to the dress at all I like it just the say it is sans belt! So so so pretty!!

  3. Yay Adey’s back! You look gorgeous in this!
    I don’t now how to solve the sleeve situation but it’s not noticeable at all – but how weird that the side seams don’t line up! Probably it could be fixed with adjusting the width of the skirt pieces, but why would the pattern be intentionally off?! Doesn’t make any sense at all!

  4. OMG! This dress is absolutely beautiful!! I want one exactly like it! I have got to find this pattern. You look so amazing in this dress, the color really suits you!

  5. Gorgeous colour, and the fabric looks so soft! I love that you chose an unconventional pattern.

  6. LOVE! YOUR! DRESS! :) It is great to see you again!

  7. YAY! Great to see you Adey! This dress is fabulous!!! I just adore the sleeves and the blue is just the perfect colour!

  8. Adey, you are a marvel. It’s so good to see one of your creations on here again! I missed you. This is fabulous, and no one but a seamstress would notice the side seam thing. DESIGN CHOICE. It’s awesome. Such a nice dress, and those sleeves are divine.

  9. This is just so lovely! The color and drape look fabulous on you! I adore those sleeves. Wonderful choice!

  10. OH, MY! This is beautiful! I love, love love this pattern! You did a really wonderful job putting it together! And, you accessories are spot-on!

  11. Oh I just love everything about it, who cares about side seams? The photos are great, too. That was totally the dress I voted for!

  12. It’s so lovely; you really look like a movie star in it and with those photos. :)

  13. I voted for this pattern on your blog because of the sleeves. It turned out elegant – lovely drape and blue colour. Lovely to see you back here :)

  14. I love this color, it looks stunning on you. The photos feel very rich and in tune with the shows ambiance.

  15. I’m glad you decided to go with this pattern, it is so beautiful and interesting. Job well done.

  16. Adey you look really beautiful in this robin blue colour. The dress is elegant paired with the right accessories and you look like royalty! It’s good to see you on SW contributions again. I have missed you!

  17. I agree, you look adorable! Great pattern and fabric choice. Nice to see you again.

  18. Adey, you look so beautiful in this shoot! That dress is perfect on you, it is modest yet stunning. Have missed not seeing your sewing, hope you pop back again! As for the fabric crushing under your arms, walk around with hands on hips – all day – supermodel style!

  19. this dress is just breath-taking.. beautiful cut, and the color looks so good on you..

  20. I’m so glad you made this, because I have the same pattern and I’ve been dying to see it made up before I attempt it. I peven pulled it out when I heard about this challenge, but put it back. Never one to start something without seeing someone else make it first, haha! It looks amazing! As to the wrinkling on the sleeves, it might be because they’re slightly on the bias. If you undo the seam and stabilize it with a bit of interfacing it should prevent it from warping (that’s what you do for a zipper in a bias skirt).

  21. Gorgeous! The colour is perfect on you. Love the pattern too!

  22. holy wow adey, you’d be mad NOT to wear it.

    i’ve had the wrinkly poly issue too. have you tried sewing the sleeve edges from the inside? that helps sometimes… also, if you used poly thread on this, and the bobbin was wound up fast, it’ll stretch the thread and cause the tension to be off. otherwise i’d go to town handstitching. this gorgeous dress deserves it!

    • Haha, thanks dear:) Wow! Thanks so much for all those tips! I’ll definitely explore how I can best rid those wrinkles at the sleeves’ edges.

  23. Adey you look gorgeous, I think this is your colour, your dress is superb. Brilliant work as always.

  24. What a fantastic color on you, and I love the topstiched pleats!

    As for the wrinkling – I second Lisette with interfacing, and oonaballoona – I would try sewing in the opposite direction than what you did this time, since it looks like the fabric is pulling too much in one direction. Interfacing will help the fabric stay put, but handbasting, seamripping the original seam, and sewing in the other direction might help solve the wrinkling too. It might be awkward; having the entire garment on the “wrong” side of the needle, or sewing from the outside.

    Looks just smashing, love, love, love the drape of the sleeves!

    • Thank you so much, I really appreciate all these sewing tips! Never thought about sewing in the opposite direction till now:)

  25. I’m MAD about this!!! Beautiful work, Adey.

  26. Ooooh….pretty! Love it SO much! The colour, the fit, and that pattern! (must find that pattern for myself!).

    There have been some excellent suggestions for fixing the sleeve issue, but I have one more – hem it with bias tape (flat, not double fold), and then turn that under and hand pick-stitch it down. For an illustration, it’s what I did with this dress:

  27. I have this dress pattern!! I’m totally making it now.

  28. Gorgeous! Glad to have you back, Adey!

  29. ADEY! I love this color so much and the fit, as always, is divine – wow wow wow!

  30. I love this dress! It looks so good on you! Its simple and smart and yet, really feminine too. Bravo!

  31. YIPPEE! Best dress I’ve EVER seen! The front waist seam is so smooth and those gorgeous skirt darts! It’s a lovely pattern and considering it was missing pieces, you’ve pulled this one together beautifully! xoxoxo

  32. Just lovely! That color could not be more perfect. The sleeves are spot on and I agree with the beautiful Veronica Darling, the front seam and darts really work giving the dress what I think is an art deco feel. Great work here thanks much for sharing.