Hot! The “Back to Basics” Gatsby Dress

The Facts
Fabric: Rayon (?) from Novato Estate Sale: The Return! – ~$.25
Pattern: Folkwear #214
Notions: Vintage collar (repurposed)
Year: c. early 1927
Time to complete: About 4 1/2 hours
First worn: September 2012
Wear again? Maybe?

Total Cost – $.25

After the past two years of doing the 1930s for the Gatsby Summer Afternoon, I decided to go back to where it all started and work with Folkwear #214. When I say “back to where it all started,” I don’t just mean my first Gatsby. Folkwear #214 is the first dress I sewed after taking a break for about ten years — the dress that gave me the motivation to start sewing a dress a week and start The Sew Weekly.

If you’re a regular Sew Weekly reader, you’ll recall that each year a lot of thought and time goes into picking and sewing my outfit for the Gatsby Summer Afternoon. I mean, seriously, I even held a bracket tournament for my pattern decision of 2010. This year, however, I’ve been way too busy to obsess over the event (see previous post about life getting in the way) and didn’t start sewing until the night before (this past Saturday). I had originally decided to sew a 1930s dress and even bought $40 worth of fabric at Stone Mountain and Daughter. But when I messed up on the bodice and realized I wasn’t really feeling that dress and fabric, I decided to start a search for a good 1920s pattern in my stash.

And this is the part of my post where I actually will talk about my previously mentioned “in-a-relationship-with” guy. Because I’m trying to get my house ready to sell, he’s been quite a dear in helping me tackle areas of my house that need a bit of work. My sewing room, for example. Let me just say that the first time he saw my sewing room, it was quite by accident (he meant to find the door to the garage and took a wrong turn). As he tells it, he just stood in the doorway for a few seconds and then muttered out loud “Oh. My. God.” And then backed out of the room. When he came upstairs he told me “I think I just saw your sewing room.” It was such a mess that I had basically abandoned it and had started sewing upstairs. Well, over the course of weeks, we’ve tackled it together and I’m happy to say that it’s quite clean right now.

Why does this all matter? Well it was Joe (that’s his name) that actually found this pattern for me. I hadn’t seen it since 2009! So yes, thank you Joe.
The fabric was perfect for this dress and was a steal of $.25 from the Great Novato Estate Sale of 2011. While it isn’t truly vintage — my guess is that it’s from the 1980s, it has a perfect 1920s print. The lace collar was a purchase from Lacis, I believe, that I originally used when making my friend’s Krissy dress from our first Gatsby. I also used Folkwear #214 for her dress. Here’s a shot of us from 2009.

The Gatsby Summer Afternoon was quite a different experience this year. For one, I actually danced! And, like last year, I just brought a simple picnic. I wanted to make it all as effortless as possible. Considering that I actually quite liked my outfit, it sort of makes me think I should always just do it all at the last minute.


And another nice treat was that we camped our picnic right next to Loran and her friend, Angie’s, picnic. They did an AMAZING JOB on their spread and I firmly believe that they should have taken home the prize for best small picnic. I don’t want to steal her thunder and post too many pictures of their picnic, but I just have to share this gorgeous one:

Robbed!, I say!

And because I can’t write this much about Joe and not include a picture of us, he we are. If you notice that his bow-tie and pocket square look very nicely coordinating, it’s because I made them from fabric from my dress — which I have to say was his idea, not mine. And there you go.



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. It was a pleasure and an honor to sit with you and your fabulous gentleman friend : ) Thank you for all your wonderful inspiration, you both looked wonderful and encourage him to start a youtube channel with his ukelele skills!!

  2. Glad things are going good with your beau. I know that my sewing space can get pretty crazy, and if he stayed around after seeing it at it’s craziest than he’s a keeper! I’m amazed that you got this dress finished and it’s cute to boot. Looks like you all had a grand time.

  3. A beautiful dress, I love seeing your work – and it’s lovely to see you have a fantastic gentleman to help organise the sewing room of doom…

  4. Lovely dress!!! You are in inspiration!

  5. First of all, you look so happy and beautiful(as always) That dress is so pretty and feminine. Second, I am so jealous that you and Loran get to see each other at these lovely events. I wish The Bay Area and Ventura County weren’t half a days drive from each other. It would be nice to meet both of you and anyone else in between. And third, what a handsome fella! I am so happy he went with you to the Gatsby Picnic and is supportive of your sewing and embraces the skills you posses. Bravo Mena! To a happier year of no fear!

  6. Mena–You and Joe both look very happy. I’m always glad to see a happy couple. I like his tie/kerchief idea. It would seem he supports and is involved in your sewing stuff. Very nice!

    Much love and happiness in the years ahead to you and your’s, Mena.


  7. Wish I could have been there to hang out with the Sew Weekly gals. You look like you had so much fun! You and Loren’s dresses are so perfect for a Gatsby picnic. I’m glad you had fun and posted your pictures so that we could vicariously enjoy the event. What a great guy to embrace your sewing and sewing room! Here’s to many happy days ahead!

  8. There’s nothing quite like the re-vamp of your sewing room. All sorts of goodies turn up. Lovely dress – the print is just ideal. (A man who will help clean up a sewing room is a rare and wonderful thing!)

  9. i wish I could have been there too! It may have put the pressure on me to come up with something suitable for this challenge. You look beautiful and happy and tell Joe he looks great too. My sewing space is in my bedroom so I clean it twice a month for my husband’s sake.

  10. That’s it. I’m going to have to put the Gatsby picnic in my diary for 2013 and make it out there….if only to steal a slice of Loran and Angie’s pie! Goodness that looks yummy.

    Joe looks lovely (and your smile next to him is a picture). Wow, a bloke who helps sort a sewing room, plays the ukelele, thinks about the little details of a matching bow tie and hankerchief…….he’s a keeper!

    Lovely dress too, no-one would ever guess that was a last minute decision and make, it looks too good. The collar is just perfect!

  11. All’s well that ends well … what a happy and uplifting post. Here’s to the future.

  12. Very nice dress and so glad to hear it’s all going so well for you. If Joes comes up with such great ideas like a coordinating bow tie and pocket square he can probably also distinguish a 30s from a 40s outfit… ;) What a great guy.

  13. Now this is where it’s at!! Picnics, smiles, Loran, handmade fancy dresses, well dressed boys with matching bow ties, ah! I need to lie down.

  14. You and your gentleman look so dapper together! :) Your dress turned out lovely and I adore the choice of fabric (despite it’s young “vintage” ;) lol. Personally, I find that a lot of 80s fabrics do wonderfully for vintage projects!).

  15. I love the photos on this one! Everything looks so light and airy! Congrats on getting your sewing room in order. Your post makes me want to have a picnic. I may just do that.

  16. Mena, the dress is lovely.. And looks fantastic on you. So proud Joe found the pattern for you , and it all came together..yea!!
    Lovely photos.

  17. Looking lovely, the lace collar is just perfect. Your new boyfriend seems like a very kind, and supportive man and I love that he plays the Ukelele.

    I was going to give this one a big miss, but I am totally inspired to make it happen. These photos are amazing!

  18. Just lovely! Such a perfect look on you – especially with such a handsome accessory ;-)

    I particularly love the collar – it really makes the dress feel finished. I’m going to have to have a rummage and dig out my vintage collars now. Thank you for the inspiration!