Hot! 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!














Liz makes her home in continuously gray, but lovely, Portland, Oregon. The cloud cover and raindrops only contribute to her dressmaking habit. Liz believes that all dresses should have pockets and all pockets should hold kittens.


Comments are closed.

  1. That’s just gorgeous. I do love Rachel’s suits. I used to live in my local vintage shop in the early 80s buying short boxy jackets and matching dresses (which I convinced myself I looked like Jackie Kennedy in) and huge floral dresses….my style icon was Iona in Pretty in Pink. Isn’t it great to be you even if that’s not ‘normal’? :)

  2. It looks fantastic!! I love the jacket very much – bravo on completing both pieces in such a glorious fabric! Would some bright accessories help to lighten up the brown if you are unsure about it? A smashing outfit, and I love your high school dress as well :)

  3. This is fabulous! I love it when they wear brocade. I agree with your feelings about wearing brown, but I always think it looks really nice on other people (you included). Great job!

  4. you look great in brown! these photos are adorable, and your outfit is darling. Rachel! Awesome. I had forgotten about her.

  5. I agree, you look great in brown and the outfit is lovely!

  6. I think you look completely adorable! I loved Rachel and was so sorry to her go (and really surprised to see her show up as a biker mama on “Sons of Anarchy”). Sigh. I liked her better when she was running Menckens….

  7. Very cute! You don’t look much different than you did when you graduated. I like the sleeveless dress, and I bet once you raise the waist you’ll like it a lot better. The matching jacket really makes the whole look complete. Maybe a bright orange or green bead necklace might break of the solidness of the brown.

  8. Great look and the fabric is gorgeous.

  9. Lovely job! I don’t know if it would be too matchy-matchy, but these shoes might work with your yellow vintage outfit

  10. This is lovely. I know brown is hard, I gravitate to it but I feel a little sad wering it. What about a big 60’s gold tone brooch on the jacket lapel and some matching earrings. Would be great for a wedding or an evening event. It’s not a big expanse of brown because of the bamboo pattern – work it. How good is Iona!

  11. So pretty! I like that you used Rachel as your inspiration–I always liked her storyline. Even your hair looks right for the Mad Men era, and yet you don’t look costumey. Great job! :)

  12. Great work with that brocade. I have some in my stash, too, but am a bit intimidated by it.