The “Technicolor Betty” Dress

The Facts
Fabric: 4 yards Anna Maria Horner cotton from fabric.com, $36
Pattern: Simplicity 5036, View 4
Year: can’t find on the pattern, I’m guessing 1960 or so
Notions: 10 buttons, bias binding
Time to complete: a labor-intensive week
First worn: Sunday 3/18
Wear again: yes
Total cost: about $40

 

I’ve long been wanting to make a raglan-sleeved shirt dress with a full skirt a la Betty Draper.  The dress below is from the first season, but she wears many similar dresses, including light-colored sleeveless ones for summer.  I love how these shots reveal so much about Betty’s character.  Notice how pissed she looks?  I didn’t want to channel Betty’s profound sadness, so I chose a technicolor butterfly print.

Source: tomandlorenzo.com via Lee onPinterest

 

 

I removed the side darts on the bodice for an SBA (thank you, Stephanie, for showing me how to do this!) and graded for my measurements.  These are the adjustments I have to do for EVERYTHING I MAKE.  I don’t know why I still naively believe that maybe this pattern, whatever new pattern I’m trying, will be the one that fits me perfectly right out of the envelope.  The muslin of this dress bodice, which I made without any adjustments, showed me what I already knew.  If I could just get it through my head, maybe I won’t always have to make a muslin.

The bodice waist, which fit perfectly, seemed to widen more than an inch after I sewed it to the skirt.  Not sure about the physics; there is no stretch to this quilting cotton.  However, the skirt IS a whole lotta skirt– oh the gathering!  I watched an entire Project Runway episode while adjusting the gathers.  I guess all that skirt made the bodice spread.  Luckily I have a suitable, even coordinating, self-made belt I’ve kept for many years and never worn.  I originally made it as part of a Vintage Vogue pattern in the late 90s or so.  The dress is long gone, but I knew the belt would turn out to be useful!  I turned and sewed all the seams to finish them, except for the waist, where I used bias binding to enclose all that gathered fabric.

There are two things I don’t want you to notice about this dress, so of course I’m telling you about them.  Profoundly sad for me, I neglected to pay attention to the layout of the print while cutting and ended up with an echo effect on the front.  It could be worse (I’m looking at you, Oona!), but it could also be a lot better.  No fabric left to cut a second bodice front piece, so. . . moving on.  I also made the buttonholes too far in from the front edge.  Kind of a bummer having spent SO MUCH TIME on this thing.

We took the photos at a very un-Mad Men location, Ikea, where we proceeded to shop for solutions to the inefficient and frustrating way my sewing has taken over the living room.  Then I had a cocktail, like Betty (and every other character on the entire show) would.

industrial romantic

Author

Lee

Lee Fulton is a highly educated stay at home mom with a lot of projects. She lives in New York City.

16 Comments

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  1. I looked up the pattern on the Vintage Patterns Wiki and someone tagged it as 1965. But they didn’t mention that in the description so I can’t be 100% that that’s correct. http://vintagepatterns.wikia.com/wiki/Simplicity_5036
    You did a great job picking up Betty’s style – but not her terrible mood lol!

    • Thanks, Liz, for doing my homework! I’m a new vintage pattern convert, so I’ll have to start exploring the wiki resource.

  2. Very cute! Great way to channel a happier Betty!

  3. I love your fabric and shape combination for this dress! and your background complements it marvelously :)

  4. I think the fabric is fantastic on the dress. I bet it would great with a petticoat.

    • Krista, I actually have on a petticoat! The skirt seemed so huge while putting it together and wearing it out and about, but it does look pretty modest in the photos. Obviously I need a bigger, better petticoat.

  5. Thanks for the shout-out, lovely. :)

    Your dress looks so cute, I love the way it fits you and the technicolor riffing on Betty’s classic looks. Really beautiful dress, you did a great job.

  6. Great dress! You look so adorable in it. I love the pattern and the colorful fabric. Great styling in the photo shoot with the orange background.

  7. This is great Lee, I dig the contrast belt, and am a bit nuts for Quilting Fabrics, those blue roses…

    Can you imagine Betty at Ikea? – she’d have those kids checked into Smaaland before you could blink and be trying to light up a ciggy in the Cafe over a bitter coffee. Next – the fabrics section to see what’s new. No wait, that’s what I would do (not the bit about the ciggy).

  8. this dress is SAINTLY compared to my horror!!!

    i love it– the thumbnail immediately caught my eye and i don’t think the echo effect is bad–in fact i can’t tell if you’re talking about the bodice or the skirt. it looks intentional! i’d be happy to trade you a maxi skirt for it.

    • Aw, thanks! The way the left and right front bodice pieces repeat bothered me a lot when I first tried it on, but I think I’m over it. The print is so busy, and no particular body part stands out, so. . . not so bad. I wish I could say the same for your maxi-skirt. xo

  9. So lovely! I have some of this fabric in a different colourway lurking in my stash at the moment after buying it on offer a few weeks ago eek! I’m not entirely sure what to make yet but your dress is inspiring.

    • I love the print, but it IS really stiff, so I’d say choose a style that would benefit from that structure. And be careful with the print layout! :)

  10. I’ve been wanting to see that Anna Maria Horner print made into a garment for a while now…and your dress is a wonderful showcase of it!

    As different as our bodies are, it’s a trip to me that you have a set set of standard pattern alterations to make just like me! And just like you, I had to accept that I CANNOT sew out of the pattern envelope. Luckily, I am getting more consistent with flat-pattern measuring, so if I was brave enough (which I’m not quite yet), I can simply measure the pattern in key places, compare that against my body measurements, and alter accordingly. I still do that AND make a muslin every time, but lately, I’m starting to see the same alterations come up…guess it’s time to man up and use my measure twice-cut once plan.

    Great work, Lee. I always enjoy your creations and lessons learned.