My Grandma Bertha dress

The Facts 
Fabric: 4 yards linen, 2 1/2 yards from stash, had to purchase 1 1/2 more yards to make sure I had enough
Pattern: Vogue 2960
Year: 1954
Notions: 1 zipper, interfacing, 9 self-covered buttons all from stash, belt
Time to complete: ~3 1/2 hours
First worn: May 2012
Wear again? Definitely!
Total Cost:
$10.65 for fabric, $4.36 for pattern for a total of $15.01

When I saw this challenge in the list I knew immediately I wanted to make something like my Grandma Bertha would have worn. She was my dad’s mom, the one who taught my mother’s Girl Scout troop how to make circle skirts (you can see I come from a long line of radical females!) and eventually taught me how to sew. Sewing is like breathing to me, it’s just part of my soul and who I am. I sewed my way through junior high, high school and college, I sewed my way back to financial health after my first husband went rogue and I’ve sewn everything from Greek chitons to yellow patent leather Gwen Stefani pants for my daughter. You name it, I’ve probably made it or made a conscious decision NOT to : )

Now I work at a job where wearing something like this isn’t really going to raise any eyebrows. And I work in an office, not a shop underground that is prone to flooding and has widely variant temperature changes. Dresses are quickly making their way into my wardrobe and I’m pretty happy about that!

Me, my Grandma Bertha and Wendy the dog

This is me around 9 months of age, my mom thinks it was Memorial Day weekend. In this photo my grandma is one year younger than I am right now. She taught sewing for a living, believed in dressing “correctly” all the time (I’m pretty sure my habit of wearing jeans to work would HORRIFY her…or she would have embraced the change and worn them too!), and if you can’t tell from my blog, she believed in setting a “correct” table ALL the time, even if we were eating macaroni and cheese. You just never know who might stop by and heaven forbid if  there were no spoons on the table… I can guarantee you she has a camisole and half slip on under her dress or a full slip. A lady NEVER went without! She loved purple, which was pretty radical at the time, and I don’t remember her ever NOT having something purple on her self.

She also had a pretty cha-cha shoe collection, I have one pic of her in a lilac colored chiffon dress with super full pleated skirt and dyed-to-match shoes. I’m sure Michael Kors and Issac Mizrahi would be horrified but that’s just too bad. I thought she was wonderful and she would let me wear her shoes if I didn’t get them wet : )

When I saw this print many months ago I bought a random chunk just to have, a concept I’m sure one or two others might understand : ) As soon as I saw the pattern and that voluminous skirt I bought the extra yardage just to make sure and yes, I needed all of it. Too bad you can’t really tell I’m wearing one HUGE petticoat! A friend sent me her old bridal petticoat so I just cut 16″ off the top, re-gathered the pieces and put on a new waistband. That extra heavy netting and layers of gathered nylon make one really big pouff. It wasn’t until I saw the pics I realized I should have put on 2 petticoats! The purple hat with the rose on it is vintage as are my rhinestone earrings

This dress was easy, easy, easy to make! I looked at the very low cut back and raised it up about 3″ so I could wear a bra and not worry about something showing. I did NOT make the bound buttonholes down the front! One thing I’ve learned through the years is that my boobs and button front dresses aren’t friends. I just tacked the fronts together and stitched on the buttons so they’re not functional. Instead I inserted a zipper up the center back and called it good. Now I can get in and out easily and I don’t have to worry about gap-osis, pulling or popping a button.

. The only problem I had with this outfit was the darn belt! I did eventually get the belting that was inadvertently left out of my bag back in February but now I’ve put it somewhere so safe even I can’t find it! I covered another belt of mine with some purple silk close to the color of the shoes. I’m sure my grandmother would have approved : ) The dress is super comfy, I feel pretty (oh so pretty!) and if the weather keeps up like it is you’ll be seeing it on BART very soon…

Author

Loran

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 : )

29 Comments

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  1. Your. Shoes. Are. Killer!!! They match your fabric so well! I love your story about your grandmother, and your dress is beautiful! Gorgeous.

  2. Everything about your dress is amazing! The purple shoes are killer! I love that the style of yours closely echoes your g-ma’s dress.

    • Thank you Liz : ) Those shoes were just purchased at Target of all places! I think my Grandma would have loved the dress in her day.

  3. I too am having difficulty at looking at your seriously gorgeous dress and admiring your grandmother’s attention to detail…..because those shoes are blowing me away. Don’t ever let me know exactly where you live or I will have to come and steal them. Love the colours on you, and yes, I totally understand buying a ‘chunk’ of beautiful material just because….and loving the unabashed cleavage from Grandma Bertha, that woman (like you) had seriously style going on.

    • GO TO TARGET and you too may own those purple gems!! And yes, I not only inherited most of my face from my Grandma but also her cleavage, something no other woman in my family has : ) She had mega style which I wouldn’t mind channeling more but honest to god I thought I was going to need therapy by the end of the week, stories of her brought up so much family “stuff” : )

  4. Love your dress! I am a big fan of purple. It’s been my fave since I was very little. I also buy “just because” fabric amounts. I have this pattern in my stash. I’ve wanted to make it up for a long while. How much alteration did the bust take?

  5. I ended up taking in the top near the armholes, they gaped too much for me. And I’m full busted so I would strongly recommend making a muslin first. I may also take up the shoulders a bit more, I didn’t check the waist placement before I attached the skirt so it’s a little long-waisted on me (I’m short waisted). I haven’t made up my mind whether it would be easier to re-do the shoulders or take the skirt off, both plans have merit but I also hate ripping out my own work : ) Other than that I love the pattern and might make another.

  6. You look like a morning glory! gorgeous!

  7. SIMPLY STUNNING! This dress suits you in every way. I ADORE the fabric!

  8. You are right your Grandmother would be proud, especially because you use such technical terms like gap-osis. A term I am also familier with. I’ve seen this pattern for years but figured it wouldn’t look good on my figure but after seeing it on yours I’m off to buy it and make one of my own. Would love to do one in RED!

  9. Beautiful dress! A great tribute to your grandma!

  10. This is an absolute dream of a dress!

  11. Fantastic dress and so pretty! The pattern and the fabric are to die for and of course, we all love the shoes. You had one special grandma!

  12. Loran I love it! The colour, the cut, the style – just perfect. I think you should wear this style all the time!! I think the neckline is so pretty on you, and the slightly lowered waist line hide your shortwaisted-ness brilliantly. I just got this pattern in the recent Vogue pattern sale, love that low back – I can’t wait to try it. Sorry to hear about your ex, that must have been rough, but what a lovely Grandma you had. x

    • Thanks Trish, you should make this one as well! I would love to see how you do it up! I had a wonderful grandmother, I wish she were still around or had at least lived a few more years (she died in 1974) but many of the lessons she taught me I’ve used all my life. Yeah for grandmothers!

  13. This is the bestest, Loran! The colors (I keep scrolling up so I can look at that stunning floral again before I continue typing) and silhouette are so damn beautiful I wish I had a time machine and a picnic basket so I could hang out with you in a proper setting ;-)

    Thanks for sharing your fitting adjustments (armhole gaping, short waist, raised back, shoulders…same alterations I’d have to make), I think I may finally buy this pattern now that your gorgeous version has made me less intidimated.

    I love that you grandmother was such an influence on your life and style. Both of you are beautiful.

    • I think you and I are probabaly pretty close in body shape/size but don’t let this pattern fool you. It is EASY and would look GREAT on you!! Make one and then we can get together in a park and “do lunch” : )

  14. Beautiful and looks great on you.

  15. Hi Loran, another great outfit I would love for myself. My Gram was a huge influence on me and my love of sewing so I really enjoyed your story.

  16. This is amazing Loran that colour and cut on you is perfect. I loved reading how much Grandma Bertha was an influence on you, a long line of radical women indeed, glad to see you carry on the tradition.

    Sewing is like breathing to me, it’s just part of my soul and who I am. <<<<< you and me both Loran. I wish I could spend a day with you and talk sewing and stuff I would be like a big ol sponge soaking up all your tips and tricks. Loved this post.

    • I have definitely put Australia up at the top of my list of places to visit! I would love to see the places you take pics at, shop in your stores and just explore your beautiful country. Thank you for the lovely comments, I so look forward to seeing what YOU post every week : )

  17. Love, love, love!! I want one. I may just have to make a copy!!

    • Please do and then let’s do some kind of photoshoot to show off all our dresses! Even if we have to skype or photoship something…

  18. That is a hecka dress! It looks amazing on you. The colour is just perfect.

    Your Grandma and my Nana must have been kindred spirits – Nana was all about purple (and animal prints – even more scandalous!) and had the most awesome shoes. We found a few of the most cherished pairs after she passed away, but alas I don’t have size 4.5 feet so couldn’t wear them.

    • Isn’t it too bad about the shoes thing? My grandmother wore something like 9AAA and I have wide EEE feet! I love it that our grandmothers were such mavericks, done’t you?

  19. Really beautiful dress