Hot! The “Dress of Many Colors” Dress

The Facts 
Fabric: A bunch of fat quarters and some scrap fabric, $16
Pattern: McCall’s 5829 $1
Year: c. 1961
Notions: zipper, eyelet lace (dyed)
Time to complete: ~5 hours
First worn: May 2012
Wear again? Yes.

Total Cost: ~$17

Whenever I think of Dolly Parton’s song, Coat of Many Colors, I can’t help but to think that there’s some old guy out there in Tennessee that’s big claim to fame is “when I was a kid, I made fun of Dolly Parton’s coat.” Well, I’m taking the spirit of that coat and bringing it to a dress.

I was all ready to sit this week’s challenge out. Mostly because I had been traveling to Omaha where I gave a talk (more about that soon). But this morning, I decided that I would make the easiest thing possible using an unfinished project that has been sitting in my UFO pile.

My original inspiration for the UFO was this fantastic patchwork dress from the pages of the Sears catalog. I had a near complete dress (minus a zipper and a hem) but I never liked how it looked. The skirt was too short for the bodice’s proportions and the dark blue I used for the bodice was just too much of a contrast. So, this morning, I took the bodice piece off and ungathered the skirt until I was left with a fairly long piece of patchwork fabric.

From this fabric, I made a new bodice and a new skirt. I used a bathing suit bodice from 1961 because it was the easiest top pattern I could find in the mess of my sewing room. The skirt was simply a gathered rectangle that I attached directly to the bodice.

I hemmed the neckline and hemline and inserted some dyed red eyelet lace that has also been sitting in my stash, unloved.

Before I can wear this dress again, I’m going to have to reinsert the zipper since it’s a bit too loose. Other than that, I’m kind of surprised how so many patterns/fabrics actually work together.

The necklace I’m wearing was a Mother’s Day gift from my daughter . It’s a 1940s plastic and paste beads necklace that, oddly, looks a bit edible.


Mena Trott

Mena Trott started The Sew Weekly to document her attempt to sew all of her own clothes in 2010. Since then, she's made over 125 outfits and has way more clothes than she needs.


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  1. Wow! Cute! All those prints really do work together – amazing how that happens! I have loved that Sears dress since you shared it too – going to start saving bits now.

  2. Such a sweet dress!

  3. Wowzers! Love it! You really went to town with all those patterns, and it totally works! If I saw someone coming down the street in this dress it would make me smile :-)

  4. So sweet! The colours all sing against one another. I think Oona may have some competition in the pattern-matching stakes!

  5. I’m taking a detailed look at the red stripe across your bodice and how it looks like a straight piece but it obviously is not because I see that it has darts. Great job! Every piece seems to fall in place, and it looks effortless.

  6. LOVE this dress. Never thought I’d say that about so many floral prints together, but I just can’t deny it! :)

  7. This turned out so cute!

  8. This is sooooooooooo cute.. I love the different fabrics.

  9. Hi Mena, looks great and festive for a day outing.

  10. Oh, fantastic! This is so cool and inventive, I never would have thought to do something like this but it looks so stunning!

  11. Wow, this has to be one of my favorites. Love it!

  12. So whimsical. : ) I love that hat on you!

  13. I agree with Leah above, I would never have thought to do this but it looks stunning on you!

  14. I think this is one of my favourites too!

  15. It really does work all together, but I’d never have chucked those fabrics together … you must have a bit of an eye for it! Love it!

  16. Wow that is cute, well done on getting so many patterns to match.

  17. I love love love this and have had a similar dress idea bubbling away in my head as I have a stash of 1930s fabrics that would come up a treat like this!

  18. Patchwork in clothes usually isn’t my “thing”, but I *love* how well everything works together in your dress! So cute!!!! I especially love how the fabrics on the bodice are horizontal instead of vertical. Great touch!

  19. Wow! I’ve always wanted to make something using fat quarters! What a great idea and it turned out so nice.

  20. Love the mix of prints Mena, it’s just like the one in the Sears catalogue. Super cute.

  21. This is great! And you’ve just convinced me to attempt this week’s challenge after all…

  22. Adore the patchwork! So many awesome scraps now living a new life as very cute dress.

  23. I think this is my favorite dress you have made. I am obsessed with it!!

  24. I remember when you first put up the Sears catalogue pic. I loved it but couldn’t see how it would work. Boy, does it ever.

  25. I was soooo expecting to see your sears dress interpretation. It’s been in my head ever since you showed it to us and I’d been planning my own. I’m loving your new version. Seems more modern.. love the lace tying it all together.

  26. Completely love it! I want one

  27. Love this….and you said you had difficulty mixing prints, they’re perfect! I want this dress!

  28. It turned out beautifully!! I love all the colors and prints – they came together so well!

  29. So pretty. I copied those pics into my inspiration folder. Will need to try out something similar soon.