Hot! The “No Brain(er)” dress

Fabrics: Silky print bought at Britex months ago, black from stash
Patterns: Simplicity 1685
Year: 1945 (but originally 1944!)
Notions: Interfacing, 1 zipper, 3 buttons
Time to complete: 4 hours over 6 days!
First worn: For this photo
Wear again? Maybe…probably
Total Cost:
Don’t remember now, but certainly less than $30

After the amount of sewing I found myself doing the last few challenges I MADE myself promise myself that I would do ONE! and only ONE!! piece this week. Even better, I got this pattern last week at the Swap Mena hosted for us local stitcher/blogger types and it even says “Simple to Make” in flowy script between the 2 women on the envelope. SIMPLE, the theme of the week!

I chose this fabric out of many “specials” that I had – partly because most of the rest could dress a sparkly drag queen and partly because I really love this print. I bought it intending to make a blouse to go with the super tight black wiggle skirt that is dying to be brought to life on my table : ) Because this is a war-time design its fabric requirements are minimal so with careful cutting I was able to get the dress out of that which was originally meant for a top.

And then the fun began…

Like that red dress I made for the red Valentine challenge this “should” have gone together quickly. I could name this dress the “Woulda, Shoulda, Coulda” dress. This is a sample of the week:

Sunday – Get super efficient after doing my 2 blog posts and cut dress out, takes 45 minutes. Celebrate with a cupcake and go to bed.

Monday – stitch the 2 shoulder seams and decide to overlock all seams. Notice there is green thread on the overlock left from last weeks green skirt (which I have worn twice and is now my new favorite skirt!), wander out to find black thread, get distracted by something shiny. Go to bed.

Tuesday – Finally find black threads, change out overlock, finish shoulder seams, notice I need to do facings next. Dig out interfacing, cut one piece out, go eat half a cupcake, come back to finish and can’t find interfacing. Go to bed.

Wednesday – Hold very cute orange cat for the first 45 minutes of dedicated sewing time, go to sew on facings and discover clever instructions telling you to cut another piece for left side from right side piece by folding one edge down…spend another 45 minutes looking for scissors and interfacing. Go to bed.

Thursday – Get ready to put zipper in, can’t find zipper that I pulled out of the drawer Sunday in a fit of organization. Go to bed.

By Friday evening it finally occurred to me that I needed to be done in TWO days to take pics and Saturday AND Sunday were so completely booked that some kind of breakdown would surely result if I attempted that much fun. I jammed some stitching in Saturday am, reneging on going to the Flea Market at Rossmoor with my grandmother, stuffed the dress in a bag and took it to my next two events on the off chance I’d be able to do some handwork. Yeah…that didn’t happen.

Sunday morning, wake up at 4 am, not enough awake to actually just get out of bed and sew, but enough to try to solve the same problem over and over and over again…no brain, no pain : )By the skin of my teeth I finished, and with a little help from Angie cheering me on and digging out the blind hem foot while something shiny held my limited attention span. My daughter was off filming today so I had to rope in a friend to do pics. The weather could best be described as blustery and within SECONDS of stepping outside this silky fabric was full of static and clung to every curve, blip, dimple and crevice it could find. I had static spray that just couldn’t overcome the forces of nature.

The other “force of nature” to overcome was the boobage. This pattern “should” have been big enough, and had I had time I “might” have made a quick muslin and added a quarter inch or so to each side, the girls were definitely pushing the limits of ease! On top of that the original pattern called for 4 buttons, which would have put the fourth somewhere uncomfortably close to my arm pit. I deleted the fourth, stitched everything closed instead of the innocent looking buttonholes they suggested and then apparently couldn’t measure correctly since that lower button is just a tad low. Easy fix but one of those things I “should” have caught. The little gap at the top where the black doesn’t quite meet the print is a goof, there is a snap there that came unsnapped and we didn’t catch it. I ended up restitching the neck line, the original was so tight I felt choked. In the future I’ll just sew it a half-inch out from the original stitching line.

I took a cue from Kazz and put on almost all my red bakelite bracelets! They never get worn all at once, my forearms are only so big, and she rocks that whole “bracelets to the elbow” thing! I bought them with the idea to wear as many as possible like Diane Vreeland used to do so why not now!!

What “should” have been, what “could” have been a very simple and straight forward project met an amazing array of distractions. The best thing I can say is it is DONE and when everything is all put together it’s not bad. Losing another 10 pounds would be good too : )

The other thing I noticed is that there are clues here as to my next week’s project…which is on the table as we speak…

Maybe this coming week will have fewer magpie-like distractions : )



Loran is a Bay Area designer, stitcher and suburban farm girl. Having done theater for years she's finally taking on her most demanding client (herself!) and fashioning a wardrobe from her huge stock of vintage patterns and fabrics, all while writing her daily tablesetting blog. Let's see if she can keep up with both : )


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  1. Well I have trouble myself with this type of cross over top. I have some Chinese tops like this that gave me fits. This really does look great on you and I adore those shoes. You always have so many accruements to enhance the dress. I have yet to acquire one bakelite bracelet but I’m looking.

    • I was *hoping* that since this pattern had such lovely bust darts that it *might* be more bust-friendly. In the grand scheme of things it isn’t bad but I really *should* have done a muslin first! Keep looking for the bakelite, I found most of mine in small stores and the vendors put it on mega-sale since it had sat there so long. If you’re not sure if its real bakelite take a small bottle of Fomula 409 (yes, the spray cleaner) and a cotton swab-thingy with you. Dip the cotton tip into the 409 and rub it on the item, if its real bakelite it’ll come away with a yellow tip, not brown like dirt but yellow. Or buy from ebay where you have return rights. Good luck : )

  2. Love your choice of pattern and fabric. It looks great on you. I tried to find all those problems you mentioned in the write-up, but they weren’t noticeable in the photos. I’m going to search for the pattern after seeing how it looks on you. It’s just adorable.

    • Thanks Barbara! I think the photos were kinder than my eye : ) If you want a copy of the pattern just email me. I think it would look FABULOUS on you!

  3. Love the whole thing! That fabric is perfect for that pattern and you executed it so well! I love it when you break out the Bakelite!

    • Thank you Liz : ) I’ll have to remember to bring out the bakelite more often, it’s actually kind of heavy and noisy but I love looking at it!

  4. Great dress, and great fabric! I love that you used a pattern from the swap already.

    • Thanks Christine, it was calling to me : ) I also saw your raincoat fabric at Stone Mountain Daughter last week, I may have to get some to do my own coat after seeing your fabulous creation!

  5. Gosh, wished I lived closer to swap pattern. I think you did a beautiful job on the dress, looks beautiful in the photos.

  6. Gorgeous dress! Your log of sewing days sounds like everyday of mine! I plan in the morning what to do then realise I have gone to bed and done nothing!

    • Thank you so much!! Yes, that was pretty accurate for the week, I even left half a cupcake in the box… At least I finished and that’s always good : )

  7. If you want to see something shiny, you can come over and watch another Firefly episode. You could do handwork. You could probably talk me into doing handwork. BTW I love these photos of you…. I think if you cropped one closer into your face it would make a lovely FB profile pic or head shot. The dress is very cute but I’m not totally nuts about it, the way I am about some others. I like the pattern and fabric but don’t like the black block on one shoulder. LOVE the bakelite bracelet stack.

  8. I love it! The fabric, the colours, the pattern, the way the print looks like ginko leaves, and especially those red buttons! It’s fabulous.

  9. I love this dress. It photographs beautifully. Never would’ve thought that you had any problems completing it. Glad you pulled through and shared it with us. Gorgeous!

  10. You look great – and you always style your outfits so beautifully. Three cheers for your perseverance.

  11. Always wonderful Loran, fantastic styling and accessories. Love the red buttons and the black shoulder, a clever contrast.