Hot! The ‘Betty’s Got The Blues’ dress

Fabric: Vintage cotton jacquard with an overprint (?) – from inherited stash. Scrap white cotton for bodice lining and upper pocket bags
Pattern: Butterick 9279 (in very bad shape and missing my front bodice!)
Year: 1964 (?) if you go by the cute koala calendar I found in the pattern envelope
Notions: New invisible zip
Time to complete: way longer than it should have!
First worn: For the photos
Wear again? Yes.. I actually think this dress could work for anything from a casual weekend lunch to weddings & races.
Total price: $4.40 (for the new zipper)

Ladies, meet Betty (The dress). Don’t be fooled by the simple pattern and the all sweet and innocent blue floral. This dress fought with me tooth and nail into being. Seriously… she’s super pissed at me. I was a little scared to wear her. Like I might get struck by lightning.. or ‘fall’ down a flight of stairs.

I think she got annoyed when I changed my mind about making a modern dress.. and switched to an authentic 60′s number. If the fabric could talk, I imagined it was saying – ‘I’ve been waiting around in cupboards for the last 50 years and now you want to make a 50 year old dress out of me!

You betcha Betty! Betty.. was displeased… and she let me know about it.

The process went something like this..

  • Make toille of bodice
  • Note adjustments
  • Transfer adjustments to pattern
  • Say ‘hell no’ to another toille and just go for it on the real deal.
  • Sew bodice & discover stupid stupid math error in my pattern alteration. Seriously.. am I smarter than a 5th grader? Apparently not.
  • Make adjustments to bodice
  • Gather and attach skirt……inside out. seriously.
  • Unpick and reattach skirt
  • Discover waistline is too low. (my mathmatical errors continue to plague me! – why didn’t I just try on the inside out skirt!)
  • Unpick skirt and cut 4cm off the bottom of the bodice. (classy I know)
  • While cutting bodice, somehow catch a bit and snip the scissors into it leaving a big gash in the lower back.
  • Create triangular panels at the lower back in an attempt to cover the hole with a ‘design detail’.
  • reattach skirt. finally.

From there on in everything went swimmingly. Either I beat her into submission.. or being a mid century girl.. she was dazzled by the invisible zip. Which I did perfectly.. first go.

I decided to machine stitch a deep hem. Betty wanted a handstitched blind hem. I said ‘suck it up.. you’re in the 21st century now Betty’.

That’ll teach her.

Surprisingly.. after all the drama.. and hours…. I love how this dress turned out. The bodice & armholes ended up bigger than they were supposed to be… but it’s probably a blessing as it’s much more comfortable to move about in now and will probably get more wear this way.

One of the neatest things about using this vintage fabric and pattern of similar era, was finding that the very narrow fabric width (84cm after washing) was exactly the width the pattern required for each of the 3 skirt panels. That’s clever design I think. (The pockets were my own addition)

The bodice is lined and faced, but..in a strange departure from usual, I decided not to line the skirt. I actually want to try petticoats of different fullness for different looks. I’m even thinking of turning a pile of organza curtains into a nice fluffy one. Oh how people will stare. hehe.

 

Author

Casey Sew

Casey Sew joined the Sew Weekly Sewing Circle in 2011 and completed 38 challenges. Casey learned to sew first from her mother, and then during an Advanced Diploma of Fashion course she completed 10 years ago. Her sewing supplies are generally thrifted or vintage passed on by family.

36 Comments

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  1. Oh, man, how I hate picking out stiches! Glad you persevered, because it’s really pretty.

  2. This is a gorgeous dress. I love when dresses have pockets!

  3. This is totally a Betty dress! Great job. Glad you survived the ordeal!

    • Thanks Liz. I’ve got a thing for florals..so Betty was my most obvious choice. Survive is the word though!

  4. Wow, you look ready fro spring. THe dress looks great on, you can tell you put a lot of time and effort into it.

    • Thanks Krista. It’s Autumn here now.. but something tells me Betty will be waiting for me when spring comes again.

  5. Adorable! The print is lovely. I’m glad you persevered. Sometimes those da** dresses need to be shown who’s boss.

  6. Great story and fabulous dress! It really captures the spirit of Betty. She would not be able to pass this by. I also made a dress from vintage fabric that was only 36 inches wide. Somethings in the water, eh?

    • Thanks Barbara. That narrow fabric is usually such a pain. I think this is the first time I’ve actually matched up period appropriate pattern and fabric so kinda had a ahh moment when I realised the pattern was made just right for the width.

  7. Just wanna say…I love this dress. It was defiantly worth finishing. Hope it sees lots of sunshine!

  8. Casey, I’m just cruising by and I have to say this dress is adorable! And it’s adorable on you!

    • Thanks Cathe! It’s so nice to hear from you! I’m kinda missing the ol’ 2011 gang. x

  9. Hi Betty – you are a naughty handful aren’t you! Makes you want to go out and shoot at birds. This is my favourite dress of yours Casey. I love Blue Florals and have a board of them on Pinterest. If you have any scraps I would be thrilled to take them off your hands – for my City project. Look at me begging for scraps. Please. Maybe I could send you a 40′s little girls dress pattern. Lets talk. Trish x

    • hahaha Trish. Shooting birds. too funny. I see you crushing on my fabric you scrap beggar you. She’s pretty hey. Here’s the downer though… no scraps to speak of. Oh for shame. My husband’s Grandmother must have had this exact dress in mind when she bought this fabric. I’m piecing together a few teeny bits just to make a couple of triangles for a bunting I’ve got in the works. So sad there isn’t more. But I must say I am now super curious about your city challenge!

      • Ok, sob. Yup, she’s very pretty. Thanks anyway. I am attempting Anthropologie’s fabulous patchwork skirt. I have a pic of it on Pinterest if you are there, using up my illogical collection of vintage table cloths, and I am a little short in the blue department. Might have to add some pillow cases. Deep breaths, ok – gonna make it work.

  10. Oh Casey, I just love you and your fabulous blue dress! The neckline is so flattering and the colors are perfect for sunshine and outdoor events! I say yes to lots of petticoats and a fab pair of sunglasses. You rock that look, girlfriend!

    • Oh Meg.. I love you and all your fabulous creations too! Sunny outdoor events is exactly where I see this girl heading. I hadn’t thought of sunglasses. That would look cool. Thanks for the idea.

  11. It looks great, and I love your description of your epic battle with Betty, and that last line “Suck it up Betty, this is the 21st century” is perfect. Love it.

    The blue is so pretty!

    And you’ll probably find that people stare when you wear a fluffy skirt a lot less than you’d think…

    • Thanks Steph. I’m glad you liked my story.. and my last line. That really summed up my feelings towards Betty by the end of my ordeal. She can look at that row of stitching and remember why it pays to be nice to the girl sitting at the machine. lol. We’ll see if I can brave the fluffy petticoats in public. Even if they’re not staring.. I’ll feel like they are!

  12. I feel for you. I seriously do. These Betty dresses have minds of their own….my waistline was too low as well, I hadn’t thought about the weight of a full skirt pulling it down even further. Ha! but you beat her into submission and look fantastic! Love that blue!

    • Oh not you too! Hang in there.. Betty’s not as tough as she makes out. I love the blue too. It really is as bright as the photos.

  13. I love it – everything about it – plus the shoes too!

    • Thanks Diane! I’m loving this one too. My shoes are one of the best things I’ve bought. Perfect for a girl with a wardrobe that looks like a kaleidoscope burst open. I’d never have the right colour otherwise!

  14. Oh Betty! Sounds like an epic battle but you prevailed in the end. She looks AMAZING!

    • Thanks Amanda. Epic battle indeed. So happy I made it through. She looks so pretty just hanging on my bedroom wall.

  15. She and you look gorgeous, what a smashing job you have done Casey. You suit this style of dress perfectly. Well done on all levels. GORGEOUS.

    • Thanks Kazz! I’m loving the shape of this dress. (botched bodice grading and all!) And I always love me some floral.

  16. I love the addition of the pocket to this dress! It is impossible not to be caught up in MadMen fever, isn’t it? I’m working on a Betty of my own. I hope it turns out as well as yours did!

  17. I love this! The dress suits you so well!

  18. gorgeous! i’d totally wear this, and i’ve got the hips that make such full skirts a not-always-wise decision. :)

    • The pears have ways of making this work Liz, I believe in you.

    • Liz… trust me… there are some serious hips under this skirt! That to me is the beauty of a full skirt. Who knows how much is hips and how much is fabric. hehe.

  19. Betty may have been a beast to make, but she’s a knock out on you! I heart that fabric too.