Hot! The “Resourceful Mary Ann” Dress

The Facts

Fabric: Red and white gingham from Jo-Ann’s, $12 & poly-chiffon scrap
Pattern: Advance 9399, $2
Year: c. 1960
Notions: Elastic
Time to complete: 5 hours
First worn: June 2012
Wear again? yes, after hemming and a possible bodice modification

Total Cost: ~$14

Alright.This week takes the cake (or, more appropriately, pie) as my most eleventh hour post. Despite having most of this dressed finished last Thursday, I didn’t finish this dress until this morning (Friday) and took photos this afternoon. Penelope and I spent a good part of last week in Los Angeles and I had expected to finish the thing in between trips to the Rose Bowl Flea Market, Disneyland and visiting my family. And though I did get some unrelated sewing (or rather, embroidery) in on my trip to Los Angeles, this dress was sadly neglected. But that’s ok.

I toyed with skipping this week, but as a product of sweet, sweet television, there was absolutely no way I would miss the yearly TV challenge. And while I sewed two dresses this week, I ended up going with Mary Ann from Gilligan’s Island because I knew it would certainly be a crowd-pleaser. My other dress (which I didn’t completely finish) was an homage to Naomi from Mama’s Family.

But back to Mary Ann. The most ridiculous thing about using Mary Ann as an inspiration is that she has way too many outfits to choose from. For those who never watched Gilligan’s Island (I’m not sure how international it went in syndication), seven stranded castaways have wacky adventures on a tropical island and NEVER CAN GET OFF because somehow Gilligan messes things up. And though they planned for a three-hour tour, four of the characters brought pretty much every item of clothing known to man. “I’m going on afternoon sightseeing tour? OF COURSE I NEED TO BRING MY FRENCH MAID UNIFORM AND BEATLESEQUE WIG!!”  But as soon as I knew I wanted to tackle the farmer’s daughter, there was only one pattern in my stash that would do. It’s a fairly ridiculous and over-the-top and, well, perfect.

Everything about this pattern was easy to construct except the white contrast bodice piece. It just didn’t want to cooperate. Originally I cut the inset out of a cotton, but it proved way thicker than I needed for the gathers. After trying unsuccessfully to make it work, I ended up recutting the piece out of a poly-chiffon. And that worked. Out of the five hours I spent sewing this dress, two of them were spent figuring out how to make the bodice fit me right. Even after all that time, it still fits weirdly — I’ll blame my slightly larger right breast for part of the problem. It’s like that breast just keeps on trying to escape from the bodice. I do believe that I would have liked the top far more if the white inset piece wasn’t gathered. But oh well.

And then there is the matter of the hem. I was in such a hurry to take the photographs, I didn’t realize that the dress length was far longer than I would ever want it to be. After seeing how I looked in the initial photos, I decided to make a resourceful, executive decision and hem it on the fly by ripping it on the grain. In the second half of my photos, the skirt piece is all ragged and not hemmed, but I think it works better as a short dress.



My petticoat is longer, but that’s okay. It’s all about accepting the flaws. I do blame the wind for it riding up in the back, though. It’s not that uneven,

Not my best work, but it’s cute.

Finally. The pie. My dogsitter and friend, Natalie, takes full credit for this delicious strawberry pie. While she was housesitting, she made a pie. Yeah, that’s a pretty awesome thing to find in your refrigerator when you get back from a trip. Thanks, Natalie, for the pie and prop!


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.


Comments are closed.

  1. Hey, I picked the same show. I thought that series was halarious. Love the shorten version, brave of you to do it on the fly.

  2. Oh so cute!! I’m amazed by your ability to change the hem on the fly. If I tried that I’d have no dress left! Fantastic job as usual!!

  3. You make a perfect Mary Ann!

  4. Haha! That is darling and hilarious! Despite the fact that I have never seen Gilligan’s Island, and my entire knowledge of it is based on Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s version of the theme song, I instantly recognised the look. It’s definitely better shorter.

  5. Awesome dress, and a super-awesome photo shoot! I love that you changed the length on the fly – brilliance. :-)

  6. I love it both lengths. I made a very similar red gingham dress for my kid challenge. I don’t have a matching pie to go with it, though I did make a matching purse. Hems: so over-rated!!

  7. Love the shortened version too, makes it less costumey. Looks like you’re going to chuck that pie straight out of the photo!

  8. Yummy dress and pie! You really captured Mary Ann’s look. Love the beach shots.

  9. Hooray! All you need is a strangely well-built hut and you’re all set to bake coconut cream pies for the rest of your days. Love your version of one of my favorite characters.

  10. Please, please take a post your Naomi dress!! Love Naomi!!! Great job on Mary Ann :).

  11. Wow, this is seriosuly cute. You can also wear this at the Oktoberfest in Munich – it looks like a perfect dirndl.

  12. This looks adorable on you! It’s a great interpretation of the original.

  13. I was just thinking how cute this is, when my daughter came in and started looking over my shoulder. Now she’s begging me to make her one just like it, only small so it will fit her.

  14. Fantastic Mena and you get to eat the pie too.

  15. Cute! I like it with the petticoat peaking out the bottom. That pie looks delicious!

  16. Want pie NOW! Oops sorry, I seem to have turned into the Cookie Monster’s older sister, the Pie Monster. I am gobsmacked at your ability to pull something as wonderful as this our of the bag, despite having such a full week AND talk about being resourceful ripping the hem on the fly WOW.

  17. It does look prettier as a shorter dress and I like the petty coat showing for some reason.