The “Menken’s Department Store” Outfit
Back in the late 1990s when all the other kids were wearing over-sized flannel, I was head-over-heels in love with shift dresses, matching boxy jackets, and pillbox hats. My mom is exactly thirty years older than me so when she was my age, she lived that style. For that very reason, she just didn’t get it. In defense of my mother, I would like to admit that I just don’t get all the over-sized flannel (among other regurgitated grunge-infused trends) that have inundated fashion blogs in the past few years. I’m in my 30s now too, so I guess that’s just what happens. Funny though, while the 90s are making a comeback, this challenge allowed me to revisit the 60s. Just like I did in high school.
The inspiration behind this dress comes from a few sources. First, I have a collection of vintage patterns that I have picked up at thrift shops that I really wanted to put to use. I have a real knack for collecting and not using. Second, as a teenager I bought a beautiful sleeveless dress and matching long jacket in an antique shop. The style was perfect mid 60s. It was made of buttery yellow silk covered with an intricate asian floral motif. According to the tags, the ensemble was handmade in Hong Kong for one Mrs. John Cline. Or so the hand embroidered name tag in the jacket tells me. I wore this outfit to my high school graduation (picture below, with my dad). Just for the record – it still fits. Also, I have still never found the perfect pair of shoes to go with it. Third, I am still working through my stash. This brown brocade was left with me a few years ago. It’s not something I would have purchased for myself, but the fact that I had 4-5 yards of the fabric was, alone, a pretty convincing argument for its immediate use.
I like the pattern of the dress. The fitted, yet dropped, waist is a fun style. Because I am so tall, I added some length to the waist, but I think that was a mistake. Because the dress is so fitted at the top of my hips and the fabric is a little stiff, the additional length causes the dress to bubble at my waist. Someday, I’ll take up the skirt and shorten the waist a little, which should solve the problem. I didn’t have enough fabric for sleeves on the dress, but sleeveless works. Plus my inspiration dress was sleeveless too. The fabric seemed a little busy, so I streamlined the jacket i.e. no flap pockets or buttons. Looking at the pictures, though, I think the outfit could benefit from something to break up the endless mass of dark brown. Perhaps I will add a little belt or something at the waist seam on the dress. Or use a contrasting fabric for a bow on the jacket. I shall give me matter some more thought.
- Fabric: Dark brown satin brocade of questionable origin. I’m sure it’s acrylic. I had leftover lining fabric from some other projects. The dress, jacket body, and jacket sleeve lining is all different . . . but you’ll never see that.
- Pattern: Simplicity 6193 for the jacket. Vogue 6851 for the dress.
- Year: 1965 and 1967, respectively.
- Notions: Thread and zipper.
- Time to complete: Approximately 10 hours, including thinking and planning.
- First worn: This week for pictures.
- Wear again? I just don’t know. I will have some tweaks to make to the dress to make it fit a little more smoothly around the middle. As for the jacket, I might add some buttons or a bow or something and then we’ll see. Admittedly when I put it all on for the photos, I thought it was pretty adorable, but I do find so much dark brown overwhelming. This is the second time I’ve said this of a Sew Weekly challenge, but I am not sure I like wearing brown.
- Total Price: Patterns – .99 each. Zipper $2.40. Grand total: $4.38!