Hot! The “You have a friend in me” outift

The Facts
Fabric:Turquoise and brown cotton plaid from stash
Pattern: Top – Advance 6609; Skirt self “drafted”
Notions: 5 buttons, waistband interfacing from stash, 55 yards of rick-rack and trim and counting
Year: 1950’s Patio or Squaw dress inspired
Time to complete: 8+ hours over 8 year
First worn: October 2012
Wear again? YES!! And for a very special event : )

Total Cost: Free for fabric, $32.00 for trims and counting…

I have a secret to confess – for about 10 minutes back in the late 70’s/early 80’s I had a crush on just about any guy who wore cowboy boots : ) It all started with John Travolta in “Urban Cowboy”, when we first see him clean shaven at the bar in Gilley’s. Remember this?

I learned the basics of line dancing, bought a pair of JC Penney grey suede cowboy boots and a couple of plaid shirts and I thought I was the BOMB! I really wanted to be Pam but was more like Sissy, I just couldn’t get away with wearing a tank top with no bra : ) Years later I watched that movie with my daughter and had a “Really?” moment. But it was all good fun and I will gladly watch a chopped up version of “Urban Cowboy” over most weekend afternoon offerings.

When I saw “Western” in the list of challenges I KNEW I had to pull out the outfit I started about 8 years ago. I meant to make this for a Bobwhite party but only got as far as stitching the skirt panels together. My original idea was to make mother/daughter matching outfits so I have at least another 5 or 6 yards of this fabric, maybe more. When I saw Laura in her “I Heart Shakespeare” dress I laughed out loud because it looks like she fell for the loveliness of this plaid as well! I could have sent her additional yardage she needed for her outfit had I only known….

So out came the parts and pieces. I used a LOT of fabric in this skirt, around 4 1/2 yards. The top section is 2 full widths of 45″ fabric, so that’s 90″ gathered around my waist. Attached to that are 4 full sections of fabric, and the bottom layer is 8 full sections of fabric. The top section is 9″ finished, the middle section 10″ and the bottom 11″, so the finished length of the skirt is 30″. Easy to cut, easy to sew but gathering takes a while. Watch a movie as you gather and pin : )

The whole beauty of these outfits lies in the trim. Just google “Patio dresses” or “Squaw dresses” and you’ll see what I mean. Sew Weekly’s own Debi Fry made a Squaw dress last year and included links for the history of the outfit. I decided against the v-neck trim. I want to wear this blouse without the skirt, might even wear it to work this week…and I’m not a huge fan of rick rack in the real world. I was going to use my favorite shirt pattern but I think it’s here:

Puppies and patterns…

Puppies found a box in the bookcase, pulled it out and discovered patterns. I’m sure they were amused for HOURS, and truthfully I haven’t gone through the parts and pieces yet to figure out what I’ve lost and what is salvageable. I’m fairly certain my favorite patterns (blouse, skirt, pants) were stored where I could quickly and easily find them. Yep, in the box. And the best part of the pile is that whatever I find probably won’t have printing on it, most of my favorites were old enough that they just had the punched holes. It will be quite an “All the kings horses and all the kings men…” type afternoon when I finally sift through the remains : )

So I found Advance 6609 in my collection and decided to give it a whirl. I just needed a basic shirt and it looked basic so why not?

I think it worked out great! I cut about 1 1/2″ off the sleeve length and cut the sleeve bands on the bias. The shirt might have taken 2 hours from cutting out to sewing buttons on. The skirt, however, took HOURS. Since the basic construction was done all I had to do was put the waistband on (15 minutes) and then the trim.

Ah, the trim…

For weeks now I’ve been haunting Joann’s. I’ve been to EVERY SINGLE STORE in my county. At first I wanted gold rick rack. Well, what I REALLY wanted was copper colored rick rack but it is stupidly expensive IF and WHEN you can find it so that was out. The I thought I’d use the old gold color. Hah! The most any store had at any given time was two 2 1/2 yard packages. I didn’t have the 4-6 weeks to special order it so I tried to find the 30 or so yards I’d need to get things going. I finally gave up mid week and switched to brown and bought out three stores worth but couldn’t get even 10 yards of the wider brown. I tried for a turquoise to match but that too was a no go. In desperation I bought all 4 spools of brown with turquoise polka-dot ribbon I could find and called it good. The top panel has one row of small brown rick rack, the middle section two rows and the bottom section two rows with the ribbon in between. EVENTUALLY I want to add larger brown and some turquoise rick rack but at least this way I’ve got the outfit wearable and recognizable. It’s not quite “Little House on the Prairie” but close…

As with all good projects when you stop looking for something so desperately it just shows up so I’m going to relax and see what comes my way : )

The day was FABULOUS as my daughter and I set out for the Howe Homestead Park to take photos. Jim Howe was a local resident and one of the first well-known AP world correspondents. He and his wife Mia lived here from 1910 to 1970. Now owned by the city the house and out buildings have been preserved and restored so it looks much like it did in the 1930’s. We took advantage of some of the farm equipment for today’s shoot.

 My daughter thought I should show off my little cowboy hat. It makes me smile : ) I kept humming “You have a friend in me” from ‘Toy Story’ because this is a Woody hat. I pulled out the white trim, added my own turquoise and voila! I tied a piece of ribbon I was going to add to the skirt trims, until I realized it just blended in, around the brim. The cowboy boots are real, I bought them waaaayyy back in the late 80’s at a vintage store that didn’t realize they could have gotten at least $100 for a pair of used black leather boots. I paid $10. The ‘uniform’ of the day in LA was black jeans, white t-shirt and black cowboy boots and I used to wear them to music video auditions : ) I asked my girlfriend who is a REAL cowgirl if I shouldn’t have brown boots to go with my brown belt and accessories and I got a resounding “NO!”

This is the other “ultimate” accessory to a good Western outfit!

I am quite pleased with the way everything came together. I managed to EXACTLY match the plaid down the center front:

I actually pulled the plaid off just a little so you could see it really is the center front that buttons : )

We tried doing the ‘skirt-spread-out-in-a-big-circle-on-the-ground’ shot that seemed to be ubiquitous. It didn’t work out so well so we did a standing shot –

That sucker is a FULL 30 feet around! And look what I found just before we left the flea market this morning:

Three packages of vintage turquoise rick rack. I have enough for the top two tiers of the skirt. I didn’t have time to sew it on before photos today but I will soon because…

I have an actual event to wear this!! One of my favorite rescues is having a Ho-Down in a few weeks.

BAD RAP is celebrating the five year anniversary of bringing home some of the dogs seized in the Michael Vick case. One of the items on my bucket list is to meet some of these guys (I missed my chance to meet Leo, he died from a seizure disorder last year) like Teddles, Uba, Zippy, Jonny Justice, Amazing Grace and Audie!! They’ll be there to shake paws, maybe take some photos and party the night away. We’ve been told that “This isn’t a sit-on-the-sidelines kind of party, so come prepared to get on the dance floor and make some history of your own.” I plan on wearing my outfit, hat and all, to dance and smile the night away!

As one of my nice neighbors said “We take the easy cases, you take the tough ones. Thank you.” It’s been a much better week : )



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. This is great! But my heart stopped at that photo of the shredded patterns. UGH!

    • I know, when it first happened mine stopped for a moment too : ) But then, if I hadn’t left them in the room down low it wouldn’t have so it’s my fault. Ah well…

  2. Gorgeous skirt/dress…I simply love it. My question is was worth the effort for the rick rack…its hardly noticeable in the pictures. Do not mean to hurt your feelings, but I feel the plaid is busy enough to add rick rack (my humble opinion) I am sure will still be gorgeous without it. On the other hand I do not know how did you survive the pattern madness…. I am suffering for you!

    • You are correct, it isn’t very noticeable in the pics. I only saw that after I wrote the post so I’ll add some pics to my blog. IF I had been able to find all the trim I need you’d see it better. In the long run it will be worth it : ) The “pattern madness” was completely my fault so I’ll piece everything back together as best I can and life will go in. They were just being puppies, which is what they should be. I just didn’t think so now I’ll have to do a whole lot of it to put things back together : )

  3. You are amazing. You don’t bite off more than you can chew, you bite off what you can eat! You are a true example of service and love. This dress will be perfect for your ho down with the pups! I want to go. Before my daughter was born, my husband and I attended so many rescue banquets, benefits, walk-a-thons, volunteered our time with shelter and rescue dogs, and both became animal behaviorists to better their chances at being adoptable. Now life is consumed of our lil’ M.E., but once she is old enough to get involved, I plan on going back to my service work.

    • Thank you Bethany : ) I think we have several things in common including a love and protection of animals. Your daughter is very lucky to have parents like you guys! (At some point I need to talk to you about your training) I’ll get pics at the Ho Down and post them at the end of the month with me and the dogs!

  4. You look fantastic!! That is a great plaid. Sorry to hear about the pups getting into your patterns. If there are pieces you can’t salvage, let us all know, we might be able to help by tracing off missing pieces for you!

    • Thanks Liz, I’m starting to go through the bits and pieces right now. So far the worst of it is a Simplicity pattern that I can replace for 99 cents. Fingers crossed!

  5. Get a long little doggies! Your dress is awesome! That’s a lot of gathering, I hope you watched a good movie. I’d love to see the skirt in person, because it is a little hard to see the trim. It’s probably only the photos, and I bet it looks really nice. Your photo-shoot makes me smile. You really captured the west. In the photos of you with the vintage wagon and the old truck, I can almost here cowboy music.
    Have a great time at your dog rescue event. Thank you for helping to take care of the doggies. Looks like your puppies have an interest in sewing. Maybe they were looking for a fashionable pattern for a puppy outfit? :)

    • Thanks Barbara!! It is a lot of gathering and I like it better than I thought I might. Yes, the trim is hard to see because all I could find was the small, I’ll add to it, take more up-close pics and post them on my blog. The puppies came with some pretty amazing fur coats so I can’t imagine what they’d want to go over them?! Silly puppies…

  6. I love the plaid, its quite subtle. Love turqoise and brown. I have gold ric rac, and bought turquoise and silver to go with it – but didn’t have the heart to spend hours gathering and topstitching. Made an apron instead!! Oh well x

    • Thank you Trish : ) I would LOVE to see your apron! I also found a little present for you at the flea market this last week. Hint- it is from New Zealand and something we both like to collect : )

  7. What a fantastically fun outfit! It’s so marvelously over the top! It’s going to look even more magnificent when you get the turquoise ric-rack on it.

    Funny that you should mention ric rac – I’ve just been pricing old gold ric rac at my local craft store. $3.50 a metre isn’t too bad – until you need 30 metres of it!

    My heart just stopped when I saw your patterns. I work hard to keep mine well away from Fiss – what happened to yours is my worst nightmare. Best of luck with sorting them out, and fingers crossed that they aren’t too damaged.

    • Thanks Leimomi! I’m sewing the turquoise on tonight and stopping by a store in the Mission in SF tomorrow to see what I can find in the way of brown. Isn’t is crazy, this whole rick rack thing? If you ever need gold trim I’ve got several hundred yards left from a project that ended before the trim ran out : )
      Most of the animals couldn’t care less about the patterns unless I’m actually cutting something out. Yes, it was a little bit of a shock to see that pile but things will work out. I actually found the blouse pattern in its envelope and intact in the middle of the mess last night so things are looking up!

  8. this is amazing! i am in awe of your skills.

  9. So fun! Glad you are embrasing the rick-rack, welcome to the wavey side. Can’t wait to see some pictures from the dance.

  10. LOran,
    this is such a lovely outfit.You look fantastic.. The best!!! So sorry about the patterns.. but hopefully ,you will be able to salvage some..[if like me. you have plenty so].. Would love to have seen them into the patterns.. bet they were having a ball with the paper.. Our dog loves paper, or we can give him a plastic coke bottle and he will play for
    Love the ric rack too. and the ribbon trimming was gorgeous. Happy sewing.

    • LOL Judy – I was wishing for a puppy cam too!! I’m sure they were SO excited when they found them and then the envelopes had MORE STUFF in them was just the icing on the cake! Sometimes I watch them through the window where they can’t see me. They play just like they do in front of me and drop and sleep when they’ve had enough. They found a plastic pot in the badk yard and that’s keeping them pretty busy for now. One day each one will need his/her own pot : )

  11. So well made, so much work, so beautiful! Having grown up in the 70s-80s, I went through that Gunne Sax / Little House on the Prairie era and had a few full plaid dresses, but nothing like this. I’m storing away the idea of making separates of the blouse and skirt, rather than a dress, because I’d get more wear out of it.

    Gasp! Your patterns! Those puppies are worse than kids!

    • I didn’t go through the Gunne Sax stage so much but I was into Little House. About the only plaid I had was the Urban Cowboy stage and I resisted anything like this outfit until now. There is one Patio Dress that uses hundreds of yards of rick rack that I “might” make one day, it’s exquisite but would take hours along with hundreds of yards of trims. I’ll see if I can’t find the pic of it again and put it on my blog.
      Yes, puppies and patterns…but they are consistent so I can’t blame them : ) Besides, no matter what kind of day you’ve had, to walk into the puppy area and have 32 feet, 8 tails and 16 eyes so happy to see you…the patterns just don’t matter.

  12. Really fabulous – well done!

  13. Oh wow Loran, this is epic, so well done, it looks so fancy. The plaid is gorgeous as is this whole outfit. You are so brilliant, a real talent. I look forward to your posts. I need to take a breath.

    Oh god your patterns, naughty puppies. I would of cried, my dad threw out all of my mums vintage sewing pattern by mistake, I was devastated she was heart broken that was a sad sad day.

    • That sounds like solid grounds for divorce right there.

    • Oh Kazz, I know how you guys felt! Some years ago we had a major flood at the college and we lost thousands of items. Patterns, fabric, buttons, trims…all mired together with mud and water. I had an epiphany standing ankle deep in mud that in the end it was all replaceable. It made me sad, and we did grieve. It also took almost 5 months to get the shop back but it all worked out. If you need any 60’s or 70’s patterns I’ve got hundreds that I’m going to donate/sell that I’d be happy to send to you : ) I bet your dad never threw anything else away again without checking with her.

  14. Wow, I am so impressed by this, it’s gorgeous! I had a similar experience when my two year old went on the rampage with my patterns. Luckily they were ones I’d traced, not the originals, but all the adjustments I’d made on them will need to be done again. I’m afraid I didn’t take it quite as well as you have, even though she made them into a lovely collage…

    • I think the kids see us “playing” with patterns so much and figure they MUST be good fun : ) They just don’t know how to use them…yet… I can’t fault the puppies, I left them where they could get them and in the end they are just puppies. My daughter did a couple “collages” with stuff I wish she hadn’t used but oh well. Now that she’s grown that stuff just gives me a smile : )

  15. I teach dance and my proudest moment growing up was sewing my own national dance skirt aged 16 and sewing on the bands of ribbon and rickrack. Was so delighted with my self! Full circle in black, then purple and greens. :)

  16. I’m so tempted to drive cross country and steal this dress from you. I think it might be my favourite thing anyone’s made all year. It’s amazing! I’ve been drooling over pics of Lena Hoschek’s dirndls for A/W 2012-3 for a bit now, but I think your dress has just ousted them from my dreams. And I too, cannot believe how well you’re taking the shredded patterns….I hope good stuff comes from your wonderful calmness and care of the puppies.