Hot! The “Channeling Joan” Dress

The Facts

  • Fabric: stretchy cotton blend of some sort
  • Pattern: Bodice = McCall’s 4335; Skirt = McCall’s 6423
  • Year: 1957 & 1962 (respectively)
  • Notions: thread, invisible zipper, belt kit (from 1962)
  • Time to complete: 5-6 hours?
  • First worn: March 10th
  • Wear again?: Yes, Mr. Sterling.
  • Total price: $15  (pattern 1 was $5, pattern 2 was free, $2 zipper, $5 fabric, free thread, $3 belt kit)

I love late 1950s and early 1960s (pre-mod) fashion and Mid-Century Modern furniture. So obviously Mad Men is a feast for the eyes. Of the three main women characters from the first four seasons (Joan, Betsy, and Peggy) I’m shaped most like Joan (though with an unfortunately larger waist and a thankfully smaller bust). But I do look good in sheath-type dresses, solid colors, and generally the same color palette as Joan. So when this theme was announced, there was no doubt which character I would try to channel.

Of my stash patterns, none was just exactly what I wanted, so I combined two and came up with what I think is a very Joanish dress. She has a number of dresses with interesting necklines, hence the pattern I chose for the bodice. But she doesn’t wear flared skirts, so I substituted a straight skirt.

It was simple to construct, though there were a number of adjustments to make (zippers to move or remove, darts to move, hemlines to raise due to lack of fabric, etc.) to bring it up to Joan’s standards.

This is possibly the most flattering thing I’ve made for myself. My only complaint is that it is easily wrinkled. And that I don’t have teal shoes to match it.

Regarding the photo shoot, we used my husband’s office because there were mini blinds like there are in the offices of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. I borrowed cigarettes from a friend since I don’t smoke, but Michigan has banned smoking in almost all public spaces and workplaces (except for cigar bars) so lighting up in the church office seemed to straddle the line between extra illegal and ironically amusing. I refrained.



Erin Bartels

Erin is a copywriter by day, a novelist by night, and a wife, mother, dressmaker, quilter, zoo docent, painter, poet, and photographer in between. She only gets paid for the copywriting.


Comments are closed.

  1. Cute! I love the twist detail.

  2. Love it. And very jealous you have an office that looks retro for the pics. That last photo of you smiling is gorgeous, you have such pretty eyes.

    • The reason my husband’s office looks so retro is because it is a church. That part of the church was built in the 1960s and they just haven’t updated! :)

      Thanks so much for the compliment, too!

  3. I totally feel you about the shoe problem!!! Looking at vintage patterns, and after watching the show, I now feel like I have to have shoes that match my outfits exactly. Can we petition to bring this fashion back?!

  4. Love the results of the photoshoot (unlit sigarette included)! I think that neckline is very Joan-like. Well done!

  5. Erin, you look beautiful! Great color and shape of dress.

  6. That twisted neckline is all kinds of clever and one I want to try! Great photo shoot, but no smoking at church right!? Lovely colour on you – I agree!

  7. This is such a fantastic color on you! I adore the cut and style of the dress, especially the neckline – well done!

  8. The top is great! And it was a great idea to combine those two patterns. They look perfect together.

  9. Hey Erin,I love the combo of the 2 patterns. The color looks great on you. Hail to curvy girls!

  10. Whoo hoo! What a lovely dress! You really captured Joan with a look that also looks great on you. Love the color and the style you created using the two patterns.

  11. What a fabulous dress- it’s beautifully put together and the colour is amazing on you. Snaps for the epic picture, as well.

  12. fantastic neckline! love the matching belt. You make a wonderful Joan. Better get those teal shoes.

  13. I definitely think Joanie would approve! I love the neckline! You did a really great job with this project, and it’s very flattering on you!

  14. You are stunning in that shade of blue. I adore this dress immensely. The bodice and pleated skirt are goregous.

  15. Wow, this looks AMAZING on you. I have never commented before, being the watching, stalkerish sort on this blog, but I have to say, you look pretty gorgeous in this. Good job!