The “Technicolor Betty” Dress
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.
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 I originally made it as part of a Vintage Vogue pattern in the late 90s or so.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.