Hot! My Gatsby dress

The Facts
Fabric: 2 1/2 yards cotton from Stone Mountain & Daughter
Pattern: Anne Adams 2327
Notions: Modern poly zipper, belting, bakelite buckle from stash, 4 buttons
Year: 1930’s
Time to complete: About 4 hours
First worn: September 2012
Wear again? Probably

Total Cost: ~ 12.00

I’m not even sure where to begin : )

For those of you who may not (yet/still) know I did a tablesetting blog last year. A friend and I have WAY too many vintage dish sets, tablecloths, etc. etc. etc. that we decided the ONLY way to do our collections justice was to bring everything out at least once, make a fabulous setting with it and document it. Last year we were at day eighty-four when we did Gatsby, I planned for WEEKS and cooked and sewed for days. I like what we pulled off and vowed to do better this year, possibly even taking home the small picnic set-up prize.

I don’t know about you but I’m a theme girl. I LOVE themes. So when Angie and I started talking about going to Gatsby, in a moment of sheer brilliance, she said “Why not do an election year since this is an election year?” Perfect! We chose 1936 because of the similarities to the financial and political climate today. It also meant we could dress in cotton or rayon, be comfy and still be fabulous.

Once we had the election theme the rest was as simple as walking around my house and yard, pulling cheerful, vintage red, white and blue items. We hit Stone Mountain a couple of weeks ago and the only reason I mentioned the amount of yardage I bought was I got the end of the bolt. I LOVE this print and thought it perfect for our patriotic theme. Both Angie and I wanted a rayon print but there are very few of them at any fabric store so we settled on nice cottons. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do one of the lovely flowing hem dresses but since we were channeling simple women surviving the depression it would work out.

In between menu planning, props pulling and playing with puppies we sewed. More accurately, I cut my dress out, Angie sewed. We spent the entire day Saturday getting things together, making Mock Apple Pie, Pineapple Upside Down Cake and Motor Loaves. I thought we’d be done with everything, dresses included, by 6 or 7. I think Angie packed up at 10.

I used my Anne Adams pattern for the top, I certainly didn’t have enough to do the lovely inset panels on the skirt with pleats so I used Vogue 8812 from my Vacation dress. Once again, and I knew this ahead of time, I frankensteined the back pieces. Joy of joys, I put the top on for a preliminary fitting about 7:00 Saturday night and Angie says “It doesn’t meet”. What do you mean it doesn’t meet?? “It’s about 4″ too small across the back”. Oh no… I had a handful of scraps left and was able to get enough to fix the upper back, I had somehow cut the lower back pieces just fine but had a brain fart while cutting the upper pieces. Two hours and a lot of sweat later we were putting hems in. Oh, and I threw a long zipper up the center back of this sucker since I loath side zippers and struggling to get in and out of my clothing. From the moans and groans from the other women in the restroom I’m glad I did.

The next morning I was up at 4 am. Not because I set an alarm but I couldn’t sleep. My neighbors, who already suspect I’m the local crazy cat/dog/chicken lady, didn’t seem to be upset that I’m moving furniture and boxes and walking a dog in my robe at 5am : ) We got the car loaded by 9:30, got in line for early admission and then spent a frantic hour and a half unloading and setting up our “picnic site”. I knew from last year the judges came around before the gates open at 1, and it really helps to be set up AND dressed BEFORE they see you. I think we had 5 minutes to spare. I had also managed to work up a sweat so my hair was dripping wet and half my makeup was already in my cleavage BUT just as we’re trying to figure out the instructions for judging the fabulous Mena shows up, followed by one of the judges!

I was asked about our set-up, the theme, what was vintage (umm….all of it!), what our food choices were and why (I’ll put more details on both my blogs – loransworld and retrodecosettings), why we chose out outfits, what was the book in my hand? (a Judy Bolton that had my cell phone hiding in its pages) and how many times we had done the Gatsby picnic (this was my second time). She kept saying how much she liked everything, that we were very much in the running, they had a photographer taking lots of pictures, it was all quite exciting. Later she brought by the other judge who didn’t seem to be as enthusiastic but we were hopeful.

In the meantime we ate, we people watched and we were treated to a medley of ukelele hits by Joe, Mena’s guy : ) When Angie shouted out “Play Stairway to Heaven…Freebird!” He DID. On a ukelele. Amazing. We tried to convince him to make his own youtube channel playing the ukelele. You never know….

Aren’t they adorable?!

One of the best things about Gatsby are the cars. This is me and Angie. I wore the same hat I had for the July Fourth challenge because it has cherries on it. My one regret of the dress and this pattern is that its NOT a rayon, the sleeves are a little stiff, I look like I have wings. But once my hair dried I was good for the day : ) Last year I wore a silk chiffon dress, garter belt and stockings and satin shoes and I was dripping all day. I also had a broken foot so I limped beautifully. I figured this year was a major win with nothing broken, although I have a bruise on my leg that is going to be very pretty in a few days…

And we didn’t win : (

Ah well…we couldn’t find the winners so we have to wait to see if we recognize photos on the Gatsby website. And wouldn’t you know it? I didn’t get that many pictures of the set-up! Mena actually has the best one of the table before we ate so I thank Joe for his attentiveness to his surroundings : )

Angie in her gorgeous dress complete with bakelite pin and bracelets.

And me : )

If you look at Mena’s first picture you can see my blue bike in the background. Yes, I brought my bike that I rode in the July Fourth challenge to ride around the grounds : ) It was a lot of fun hanging with Mena and Joe. I was so tired when I finally got home and unpacked that I vowed never to do this again. Give me some time to rest, you never know….



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. You’ll do it again! You have to. you’re so good at it and it’s a great way to showcase all of your strengths.

    As usual you look beautiful and make me wish we lived closer together.

    • I’m not so sure about the doing-it-again thing, it’s kind of like giving birth. I need some space from it : ) And I too wish we lived closer, it would have been fun to hang out together!

  2. Fabulous! I love the print on your dress, and your picnic setting is beautiful. I can’t believe you didn’t win either. I wish I could have gone to this. Meeting you and Mena would be awesome.

    • Thank you Bethany : ) We may try again next year, maybe not, we’ll see. IF you can come up next year we could all hang out together! It’s a very family event so you can bring your daughter and she can roll down the same hills my daughter did when she was your daughters age.

  3. If we do do it again 1. Rayon dresses, and B. less props more food. It was a wonderful day thanks for letting me be a part of it and this post. Now lets see if I can’t make one of my own.

  4. I’m so envious! I swear next year i’m in and I’ll be sitting right next to you Sew Weeklets! Looks like you had a blast and it’s too bad you didn’t win. Now if I were judging, I’d say you gals were very authentic in every detail. Your dresses are lovely as well as the patriotic table. I can almost hear that ukulele.

  5. There has never been a more cheerful print. Just sayin’. And having the great shot against the flag as today’s feature was quite appropriate.

  6. You do look comfy and fabulous!

  7. Oh Loran you were robbed! The whole thing looks incredible! Glad you had fun, sorry the sewing was so problematic. I think you look amazing. Totally inspired!

    • Thank you Trish, Mena kept saying that too : ) I don’t mind losing to someone more fabulous than we were, I just want to see what their set-up was and nothing is posted yet. The sewing was only problematic because I wasn’t paying attention, trying to do too many things at once. As a mom I’m sure you can relate!

  8. Loran,
    Love your dress..Looks great on you. Sorry it caused you so much trouble.. And nothing worse, than finding the perfect fabric..only to find its the end of the bolt .yuck!!
    Love your table picnic setting.Just beautiful. [I think you should have won!!!].. And I love all your settings on the blog.. just beautiful..
    So proud you had fun at the Gatsby picnic.

    • Thanks Judy! It was only a problem because I was trying to do too many other thigs at once. The irony was later in the day, some woman comes up to me and says “Oh my god, I love your fabric! I bought a bunch of it at Stone Mountain to make a dress for today and just didn’t have time!” So SHE has the rest of the fabric I could have used : )

  9. I can’t believe all this beauty happend in Oakland! Oakland was the first American city I walked in and it scared the hell out of me. It was a Sunday morning, my booyfriend (now husband) worked at Barnes&Noble at Jack London Square and I thought it might be a good idea to explore the city by foot. It was a Sunday morning, no people walking in the streets and all the homeless were just waking up on their park benches. I never developed a liking for Oakland after this but this beautiful picnic almost makes me change me mind…
    Your and your friend’s dresses are very pretty, I love the whole theme thing and your picnic set up looked sooo pretty (judging from Mena’s photo). And I love it that you’re known as the crazy cat/dog/chicken lady in your neighborhood. My mother and I used to be known as the crazy cat/guinea pig people in the tiny little village we used to live in when I was a teenager. IMHO, it’s better to be considered as crazy than completely crazy…and I am sure Tempest or a lot of other people here would actually agree with me. ;)
    PS: Love the term “brain fart” – I had never heard this before.

    • Well…you certainly picked a less-than-great part of that city to explore : ) Jack London square is an “interesting” place and if I had walked around like you had I would never go back! We live about 20 minutes east of Oakland, over the hills. My daughter goes to Mills College (as did I) which is in the foothills, just a few miles north of the Dunsmuir grounds. Both are stunning in their natural beauty, but both are now surrounded by high (discreet) fences to keep out reality. Parts of Oakland are gorgeous, but you have to stay up in the “hills” and off the “flats”. The gang activity is no joke and the fact that the police lost 10% of their force in budget cuts is a little scary.
      Yes, we are a “little” crazy but not “crazy”. We put our hearts out there and do what we believe in. Occasionally one of our neighbors meets one of our chickens (like the day Emily walked across the street and through an open front door, hopping up on their couch to watch tv!) and they are charmed. Mostly we keep to ourselves and go about our eclectic lives : )

  10. Fabulous! What fun! I miss being somewhere where I can attend events like this so much. There is so little in the way of historic events here.

    Your dress is just gorgeous – it’s the perfect print if not the perfect hand (how I wish they did more of those 1930s prints on rayons and lighter cottons rather than just quilting weight cottons).

    Pity you didn’t win, but I bet you had the most fun!

  11. It’s a “short” 5 hour flight from Hawaii to San Francisco, you should drop by some time : ) Thank you for the lovely compliments on the dress, and yes, the hand isn’t quite right. I found a vendor at the flea market who had vintage rayons that I lusted after but I haven’t seen her in months : ( I’m ready to take a trip to L.A. to check out the fabric stores and see what’s available.

  12. Oh wow what a spectacular day and set-up you look fabulous, as does your dress Loran.

  13. Loran, just noticed that I made a mistake in my earlier comment…meant to say “better to be considered crazy rather than completely normal (=boring)”. Ah, it doesn’t make any sense otherwise. ;) I am quite overworked lately and tend to have a very sloppy writing style when I have time off and don’t get paid for my writing… I’ll have to check out the pretty side of Oakland when I visit with my husband and son.

    • It’s ok, I think I knew what you meant : ) If you and your family get out this way please let me know and I’ll try to show you the “pretty” parts! Some things are better than they were a few years ago, some not so much. Now that you’ve posted so much about Berlin I very much want to visit! Maybe in the spring or summer…