Hot! The “Beautiful Little Fool” Dress

…that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool” – Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby.

…Daisy, you’re quite, quite wrong” – Tempest Devyne in her front garden/yard.

The Facts

Fabric: Blue sheeting from stash, blue sparkle dot tulle from Goodwill $3.99 (£2.49).

Pattern:  Self-drafted. Year: Contemporary.

Notions: One re-used applique collar, plus one new applique $0.99 (62p) & thread.

Time to complete: 8 hours.

First worn: 10th September 2012.

Wear again? Possibly, though I’ll have to sew the drop-waist gathers properly first.

Total Cost: $4.98 (£3.11).

Challenge: “Gatsby Attire: This week, to coincide with the Gatsby Summer Afternoon in Oakland, we’re sewing creations from the 1920s and 1930s”.

“In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars”.

Confession time again. I’m not a great Gatsby fan (haha, did you see what I did there?). No really, I think it might be cultural thing. I don’t get Catcher in the Rye either. I think there must be something in the American make-up or understanding that chimes home with both of this books that perhaps as a Brit I don’t identify with in the same way. But then you see, I do get and love Brideshead Revisited which I think is the British version of The Great Gatsby or vice versa. Please if you’re an English Literature major don’t shout at me if this is being simplistic.

“…the world and its mistress returned to Gatsby’s house and twinkled hilariously on his lawn”

Btw my 1st degree I WAS an Eng Lit major…and I did take “The 20th Century American Novel” as a course in my 3rd year at uni, so I’d probably shout at me if I had the energy…..but of course I don’t have the energy, because it’s so darn hot here. Do you see the lengths I go to for the Sew Weekly challenges….moving to America and putting up with the long, stupidly hot Arizona summers just so I can claim to be a method sewist for the one week that we do Gatsby? (What Gatsby?) That’s commitment I tell you!

And 1920s fashions definitely aren’t my friends. Drop waists are not kind to my voluptuous behind (and thighs, belly, and various other wobbly bits). And trust me, I did a serious amount of research online and at my local library trying to find some flattering fuller figured inspiration to no avail. Did fat women* like me in the 1920s just wear big coats or hide in kitchens? I did have a look at some dust bowl fashions but to be honest, I like my glitz and sparkle so I concocted this little number. I like that the blues echo the many, many blues referred to in the book and I hope the sparkle dot and floppy sleeves echo Fay Dunaway’s outfit when we first meet Daisy in the 1974 movie version.

*yes, my on-going mission to reclaim the word fat for what it actually is, just an adjective without the ability to hurt. Just as you are blonde, and you over there are tall, I am fat, and that’s cool too.

I desperately wanted to catch up this week (I think for the last 3 weeks I’ve posted after the Monday midnight deadline) so I kept it simple (stupid). I made a straightish shift dress in 2 pieces (front and back) from blue sheeting I had in my stash. You may remember the fabric from very early on….the “Freaky Déjà vécu” Dress. And I scored this tulle with holographic dots from my wonderful local Goodwill thrift store/charity shop ages ago but never had anything to use it for at the time. I again made a 2 piece, front and back straightish dress but this time with a high round neckline and after several bodgings came up with an armsyce shape that matched sleeves I based on ones from Butterick 4985 (except they are two piece sleeves with a gap in the top middle, so I joined the front and back pieces and made the sleeve length about 2inches longer to be floppier). I say straightish dresses because if I really made a dress straight up and down to fit my hips, it would gape horribly at the bust….I’m a 42″-44″-52″. You know, that size all the department stores make their clothes to fit ;)

I thought about sewing the pearl and sequin appliques onto the top of tulle but was worried the weight of them would warp the netting, so sewed them instead onto the blue shift underdress. I think they still work ok. And if in doubt, throw another string of pearls on….

Confession time AGAIN. You see that 3rd pic down. It’s seriously photoshopped. Nope, I haven’t taken out my wrinkles or moles, or bags, or bingo wings…..I’ve photoshopped the dress to what I wish I’d finished it to look like. As I said, I wanted to catch up this week, and post by the Monday midnight deadline…..but that meant taking photos Monday before the sun went down…..and I didn’t totally finish the dress the way I wanted to. In reality I haven’t sewn up the drop waist gathers. In reality I’ve used a elasticated pearl ring as a ‘dress scrunchie’ to gather the netting up.

*hangs head in shame and shows you the reality…..*

“Everyone suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known”.

Oh the shame.

I WILL finish the dress properly I swear……sometime……when time allows……that’s going to be next year isn’t it? I like the side gathering but I’ll sew it flat. I promise.

See, you can trust this face….

Oh and if I’d really gotten my act together, I’d have done a movable feast of me actually doing the charleston. It’s one of the few proper dances I can do and don’t mind my wobbly bits wobbling everywhere. I do it like this. OK maybe not as seriously as that ;)

Oh, and look at that, I’ve blooming made a polka dot and blue dress. What’s the challenge next week? Polka dots. What’s the challenge the week after? Blue. Darnit. Oh well, onwards….

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past”.

(Perhaps Gatsby isn’t that bad after all….and I’m sure as heck off to see the Baz Luhrman version next year to oogle over the pretty dresses and sets, though I’m not convinced Toby Maguire will be a patch on the brilliance of Sam Waterston as Nick Carraway).



Tempest Devyne is a Brit who loves rain. She was therefore exiled to the deserts of Arizona. She started tentatively sewing about 3 years ago to make her own burlesque costumes. She'd now like to make pretty clothes for herself that don't rely on velcro and poppers to stay on. She's self-taught with help from the internet and lots of books from the library.


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  1. I think this is pretty fantastic. Who cares if those gathers aren’t sewn? That just makes it more versatile. As an English Lit major and an American, just know that I have complete and utter disdain for The Catcher in the Rye and I think that, while Fitzgerald is a beautiful writer and turns a gorgeous phrase, I have never been a big fan of The Great Gatsby, despite being required to read it a total of FIVE TIMES over my high school and college years. So no yelling here. :)

    • Thank you Erin.

      Blimey, having to read it 5 times? The British school system is pretty guilty of killing off any joy one can gain from Shakespeare, but I think my worst was only 3 readings of Taming of the Shrew over the years.

  2. Oh, and seriously, I can’t STAND Daisy. Just depise her. :)

    • Isn’t she vile. Such a waste of space. I didn’t like her from the start, but I always have to be careful because I’m a terrible inverted snob. But she doesn’t redeem herself in the slightest throughout the story. I originally thought I’d like Gatsby, but love the journey we have through Nick’s eyes of his failings too…..oh my goodness, I think I am honestly beginning to like this more than I thought!

  3. Brilliant! It’s a really lovely dress — that shade of blue is gorgeous and I think your interpretation of the 20’s flapper look is inspired. The “scrunchie” gives it a sort of sarong drape, which I think is often done with a tie or buckle. The original drop waisted shift-dress styles only look good on women who are skinnier than most of us are.

    I too was forced to read Gatsby in High School, but I still love the book — if only because it is so beautifully sad. It has that sort of end-of-summer/fin de siècle thing going for it where we can see that it’s really not going to work out at all, but Jay Gatsby is so lost in his fantasy that he can’t see it. Just like he can’t see that Daisy is the vapid anti-heroine of the piece. The Japanese have a similar idea called “mono no aware” that focuses on the slightly sad awareness that everything is temporary. I was thinking of that this morning as I was watering my tomato plants with all those green tomatoes that aren’t going to ripen. *sigh*

    I am going to see the movie too — Prada+Gatsby+Baz=Awesome

    • Yes Valerie, the gathers do look sarong-like don’t they and hide a multitude of ‘sins’ ;) I started out with just the straightish drop-waisted shift dress and was really down about not being able to make it look even the slightest bit flattering, but am pretty happy with the overall look one the tulle and gathers went on.

      I love that this is causing such intellectual and philosophical thought from you :) I’m definitely going to have to explore mono no aware a little more, it sounds fascinating….and green tomatoes are very pretty….

  4. I think the dress turned out great! It is clearly 20s-ish, and I really like the fabrics you chose. (And you can never have too much blue or too many polka dots, can you?) I think that the modifications you made to the dress shape work great with your figure, and I love your headpiece! I actually think this is a good style for you — you pull off a 20s vibe perfectly!

    As always, I love your humor and the fun photos. I look forward to your posts every week!

    • Haha I love the ’20s-ish’, I didn’t dare claim it was authentic because there are very talented sewists out there who make dresses/clothes with original patterns and/or authentic vintage fabric. But I made a decent shot of it. Thank you so much for your kind words…it’s so nice to have a home-town fan ;)

  5. I, too, had to read “Gatsby” for a couple different classes in high school. I *hated* Daisy, but I can’t stand any woman who simpers and is that dense. I also didn’t care much for the movie which is surprising since I like most of the actors and Theoni Aldridge was one of my favorite all-time costume designers. It was a very 1970’s-does-the-1920’s sort of film, the hats were especially hideous…
    Your dress, on the other hand, is decidedly adorable Tempest. I like the fact that you didn’t put the appliques on the top layer, you might have looked like a blue bride. GOOD FOR YOU for claiming your size! One of my favorite resources for designing is old photos, what we call “first hand” research. Most of what I have shows REAL women with REAL bodies, not the wipsy skinny shadows portrayed in design books. Keep in mind a lot of those catalogs are like Vogue today – the “ideal”. If, in a hundred years, you look at Vogue you might wonder if real women really dressed and looked that way and the answer is a decided No. I’ve seen more women your shape and mine than the other and the answer is no, they didn’t wear coats all the time : ) Their family and friends loved them for who they were, just like ours love us for who we are.
    If you need any more of that fabric I think I have several yards in my stash somewhere… : )

  6. Tempest, you look fab! That blue is gorgeous on you.
    I once, not so very long ago, used a vintage 1920s pattern for a princess slip intended to go under an overdress that had belonged to my grandmother. The pattern is PROOF that Rubenesque women did exist and actually wear fashionable clothing in the ’20s, because my grandmother was never a small woman and the one-size pattern fit me perfectly (I am also not small). The styles aren’t the most flattering, being designed to emphasize a pre-pubescent figure rather than a voluptuous figure–but dang it: We can wear ’20s fashions and look good too! It’s about silhouette, anyway–not size–and you can create any silhouette you want with the right garments.
    Confession: I was also an English major, and I’ve NEVER read The Great Gatsby. After being tortured with William Faulkner, the dude who wrote The Red Pony, such “classics” as Of Mice and Men, The Crucible, and The Scarlet Letter I almost gave up on “literature” until Miss Austen saved me.

  7. I am in love with your dress, even if it’s not finished. You look radiant!

  8. I knew you were come out with something very peculiar. Love the dress and specially the colour.

  9. I absolutely love this! You can finish it for the upcoming UFO challenge!

    I like Photoshop. I’m learning to do make-up and love removing the bags under my eyes. Lat week’s was a bit of a disaster but I take it all as a learning experience.

    I’m not really into the book either. It took me a lot longer than it should have to read it and when I sat down to watch the movie I made it through the first five minutes the fast forwarded to the end and watched the last 3.

    You could make anything look beautiful-

  10. That is the prettiest dress! It’s not funny or crazy or goofy, but just darn pretty. I think blue is your color along with the sparkly polka dots because just like the dress, your sparkle comes through. I bet you can really do the Charleston justice too. I like your temporary scrunchy fix, and your amusing confession. I wonder if you really will fix it. ;)

  11. This dress looks really good on you and I think you actually managed to make something 20s-ish (thanks, Paula, for the term…) that looks very flattering for your figure. I am not a fan of the 20s fashion at all – it doesn’t look good on me either because I have seriously wide hips…and I am really not a fan of “The Great Gatsby” or “Catcher in the Rye” even though I majored in English AND American literature…so I chickened out of another challenge… :( I applaud you that you actually did something so pretty for a theme that didn’t appeal much to you in the first place.

  12. Love your dress.Looks great on you.. I love reading your post.. you make me laugh.. Happy sewing.

  13. I love this! You say you don’t look good in it – but I think it’s really flattering. It lengthenings you and carries the eye around to the different elements in an interesting way. The whole look reminds me of a time when it was OK for women to have physical gravitas. Just because you don’t look like a modern version of ‘beautiful’ doesn’t mean you don’t look fabulous – there have been different standards of attractive in every era, and the ’20s wasn’t nearly as slim as today.

    And good on you for reclaiming the word ‘fat’. I like things that are as they are, without judgement. Not everything has to be good or bad – some things just are.

    I’m looking forward to more polka dotted and blue things from you now ;-)

  14. I love this too Tempest, you look brill in blue and the silhouette really suits you, it does!!

    I found the book boring and the movie equally so. I love love love your interpretation.

  15. Tempest dear, I love it too. I agree with everyone else – it’s your colour, I love the draped section – it is so flattering and the stroke of genius, the collar sections, under the sheet – so perfect. I hate Catcher in the Rye also. I found I have three copies of the Great Gatsby on various bookshelves – I have just started reading it!