The “Lighthouse Keeper’s” Dress

The Facts
Fabric: Vintage Cotton – $60 from eBay
Pattern: A neckline from here, an idea from there – let’s call it self-drafted
Year: 1950’s inspired
Notions: Zip, interfacing
Time to complete: 10-12 hours – but I enjoyed every minute
First worn: August 2012 to The Fifties Fair
Wear again: Bring on that warm weather, put new elastic in the petticoat
Total Cost: $65

This was the dress I made for the literary challenge. “The Lighthouse Keeper’s Lunch”, by Ronda Armitage is my very tenuous inspiration for this challenge. It’s a cute story – about a guy whose wife makes him an amazing lunch every day while he’s at work in a lighthouse. It’s very English and there are many titles in the series. My boys enjoyed this story sent to them by their Nana.

My real inspiration was Mena’s Dark Nauticals Skirt. My mouth dropped open when I saw her skirt. It dropped open again when I found this fabric for sale on eBay a few months later. I was thrilled that the seller accepted my offer so I got it for about $40 + postage.

I have to say, I love this print. I love a black background, and the New England? fishing village is not somewhere I’ve been – but I would like to go. The fabric is lovely quality and was so beautiful to sew with.


I spent quite a long time, working out pattern placement to best effect. The actual dress is very simple. I really wanted a square neckline and I wanted the skirt to have pleats – like a vintage 50’s dress I bought recently. I have put the side zip in upside down – a la Stephanie. So easy to do up that way! I have an aversion to dresses that are cut too high up under the arm – so I dropped it way down. Too low – as my bra is showing – darn it. The other issue was that I machine sewed the hem up which looked terrible because it became warped. So I have unpicked it and hand sewed it using Gertie’s method – pins and basting – this method is slow but good!

I went to town buying accessories to go with this dress – thanks Etsy! The Bakelite? Ship Steering Wheel belt buckle, the nautical charm bracelet, two brooches: a sea gull and a yacht. And let’s not forget the hat.


I wore it to my favourite event The Fifties Fair at Rose Seidler House in Wahroonga, in Sydney. If you are interested I suggest you Google it. The day features markets and musical performances, fashion parades – it’s a great day out.

It wasn’t until I got home and went through my photos that I saw that my shoes weren’t really great, and my petticoat has slipped down. And I should have gone with the seamed stockings I had bought. And the effect of the cardi (for the slightly chilly morning) was really too much with the hat, (which has a wonderful shape – but the details are really not complimentary at all), add that to the big 50′s plastic shopping basket and the lucite topped handbag I bought on the day my overall look is more crazy bag lady than 50′s style queen!!

It all screams trying too hard I feel. Anyway, the good news is that I thought I looked fabulous – my shoes were comfortable and I had a brilliant time! So no regrets!

More photos of Toni and I, that Lighthouse Print fabric in yet another colour way and my crazy bag lady look – on my blog.

Author

Trish

Trish lives in Sydney and has way more thrifted patterns and fabric than her fair share. She studied fashion design in her former life and sews while trying to not to burn the dinner.

12 Comments

  1. Oh my gosh I love!! When I saw the lighthouse on the back strap I died! Perfection!

  2. This is beautiful and looks fanstastic on you.. I too loved Mena’s skirt..

  3. Fantastic pattern placement. These are great colors and a great print. Love it!

  4. What amazing fabric! No wonder you snapped it up. And the placement is fabulous with the lighthouse going up the strap. Fantastic accessories too!

  5. You do look fabulous! That fabric is so ridiculously cute – such a wide boarder print I would have freaked out but you placed the pattern perfectly – and the belt buckle, I die!

  6. Adorable! What a great dress you have designed. I can see why you snatched up that particular fabric on eBay. It has such a lovely nautical motif and your clever placement of the pattern is perfect. Those are great matching accessories too. The whole look is very flattering. Great job, Trish!

  7. I love your Mena pose! What great fabric shown to great effect. I’m sure some authentic fifties ladies were slightly haphazard in their styling, no worries!

  8. The fabric is stunning and the accessories….oh my…you’re a girl after my own heart! I especailly love that belt buckle but the pin and the charm bracelet are right up there : )

  9. Extremely cool fabric! I love all of the sailor details!

  10. Trish you look beautiful, the perfect dress for you and it shows in your lovely big smile. You were born in the wrong era.

  11. Thanks all of you, favourite dress ever I think!

  12. It’s so lovely to finally see this dress after the sneak peek on instagram – it is perfect. Love the care you took placing the pieces and the that lighthouse on the back strap!!! Brilliant. I’d be finding shop windows and mirrors to check out my back all the time if I had that dress. LOVING the belt buckle and all your lovely accessories too. You’re totally worth it :)

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