So a few nights ago I was on Instagram scrolling through Me-Made-May photos and I saw this really awesome feather-print 70s vintage dress by Cation Designs and then she was saying that Tanit-Isis got her hooked on 1970s dresses and then I was thinking “hey, I have a kinda similar 1970s vintage dress pattern in my stash” and so then I found it and I grabbed some stash fabric and I cut it and I made it and… here it is.


The basics

Pattern: Vintage Simplicity 7575, from 1976, a topstitched raglan-sleeved V-neck knit dress with slightly gathered skirt and attached belt to create underbust shaping. (I actually got my copy from We Sew Retro—but you should be able to find one on eBay or Etsy fairly easily).

Fabric: Two yards of a wonderful soft medium-weight purple rayon or cotton spandex blend knit with amazing stretch, drape and recovery (and maybe a BIT too much cling). It’s been in my stash since before 2010 and my notes say I bought it at “NY Fabrics” but I can’t remember where or what that store is in the Garment District.

Notions: Just thread and some fusible webbing tape for taming the belt and facings.

Size: 12 (it’s a one-size pattern). The body measurements for this size were about 3-4 inches smaller than mine, but I trusted the power of spandex and negative ease, and made no adjustments except a 1″ FBA. The dress actually has quite a bit of ease, as it’s the belt that gives it a fitted look.

Inspiration: This dress totally makes me think of my amazing mom Beryl, who was a total 70s girl and loves to sew knit dresses. Here she is with my dad and her parents (both in ensembles sewn by my grandmother) at her wedding in 1973:

It also reminded me of the last vintage 1970s pattern I sewed back when I was super pregnant, which also had a similar attached belt thing going on.

Full details and lots more photos on my blog post.


Hummingbird knit top by Cake Patterns in polka dots by Polka Dot Overload

Hello, We Sew Retro! It’s been some time since I posted here (I’ve been ill and out of the sewing game for months but am finally recovered!) but you may remember me as the artist who created the art you see on the header above.

A properly fitting peplum (seam snug at the waist, skirt at the right length and proportion) is a thing of wonder. It can suggest an hourglass figure, or accentuate one that already exists. Peplums seem to be most associated with the 1940s and 1980s, though they seem to pop up a bit in the 1950s and 1970s as well.

Me Made May 19: A Little Hummingbird Told Me

My mother has actual live hummingbirds in her yard, but try as I might I could not get one to land on me for my photos!

The top pictured here (full project details on my blog, Polka Dot Overload) is a modern sewing pattern with vintage roots—the Cake Patterns Hummingbird Peplum Knit top. The skirt here is just a RTW pencil skirt, but I’m working on the skirt from the pattern next. (Full disclosure—I am the pattern envelope illustrator for Cake, but I was not paid to sew this pattern and tested it out on my own time for my own peplum-loving ends).

Here was my initial spring sewing planning sketch (Hummingbird in center):

Spring Sewing Sketch 2013 — Cake Patterns Edition

I’ve also made a more colorful version, but it’s not quite as vintage-inspired of an effect. The fabric print is almost 1970s-looking to me:

Cake Patterns Hummingbird Peplum Top—in hummingbird colors

Again, full project details (for the polka dot version) and lots more photos on my blog, Polka Dot Overload.

P.S. I hope to have more projects to show soon, including this half-peplum asymmetrical dress from a vintage mail-order pattern (acquired from the ZipZapKap store):

Vintage Mail Order 1640 Sewing Pattern


High Waisted Denim Love

“But you don’t want to wear MOM jeans, do you?”

Said my mom, to me, after a frustrating hour-long jeans try-on-a-thon at our local Old Navy. I had just rejected yet another pair of “classic-rise” jeans that weren’t even making a serious attempt at approaching my belly button (or covering the stretch marks), and I was about to cry.

My sole pair of halfway-decently-fitting jeans are falling down and falling apart, and I had searched high and low for a pair–just ONE pair–of jeans that might replace them, even if that meant trying out the skinny jeans trend.

Well, maybe I do want “Mom jeans” (minus the stonewashing and pleating, anyway). Because I’m sick of jeans labeled “high rise” resting five inches below my natural waist. What conspiracy decided that “modern” jeans should sit barely above the hips, requiring tunic-length shirts to awkwardly hide exposed bellies, and belted tops to emphasize a natural waist that could just as easily be emphasized by a well, waistband?

I am perfectly fine with my post-baby belly–stretch-marks and squish and all–because I couldn’t begrudge anything having to do with the birth of my amazing wonderful little girl. But that doesn’t mean I covet the muffin-top look, and I would much rather the emphasis be on my waist than my belly, thank you very much.

And as a vintage lover, I reject the idea that a low-waisted jean is inherently superior (though it certainly works awesomely for many, of course). Seriously, when and how DID this happen? If you look at any pants or skirt sewing patterns from the WHENEVER up to the 1980s, they pretty much rest on the so-called “natural” waist:



Source: etsy.com via Mikhaela on Pinterest


Source: etsy.com via Mikhaela on Pinterest


Source: etsy.com via Mikhaela on Pinterest


Source: etsy.com via Mikhaela on Pinterest

Oh wait!

Source: etsy.com via Mikhaela on Pinterest

Yeah, there you have it–the hip-hugger jean (and that pattern envelope girl is even striking a pose worthy of Tant-Isis, queen of the low-rise jean!). Perhaps we can blame the 1970s? The natural waisted jean had a brief revival in the 1980s:

Source: etsy.com via Mikhaela on Pinterest

And then somehow, somewhen–in the 90s?–someone permanently decided that it was more modern to ignore the laws of logic and gravity and figure flattery and decree that natural waists were not only outdated, but UGLY, PASSE, and FRUMPY, retraining the eyes of millions over time until we could not but be horrified and terrified by so-called “Mom jeans.” This (admittedly hilarious, thank you Tina Fey) Saturday Night Live video didn’t help.

So where does this leave me? Frustrated and jeansless, pretty much. That Craftsy copy-your-favorite-jeans Jean-ius class wouldn’t work for me, as I have no jeans I’d even want to copy, so I think this means I need to do a little vintage-inspired jeans sewing (pattern TBD–I think I have some good ones in my stash).

And speaking of natural waists–what’s a girl supposed to wear with her high-waisted jeans, pencil skirts and so on? It’s almost IMPOSSIBLE to find cute, reasonably priced high-waisted underthings… in fact, most of these are actually retro swimwear bottoms from Modcloth:

Not Your Granny's High-Waisted Panties

So I think a little sewing might be in order here, too!

Finally, some questions for you:

  • How do you feel about natural-waisted women’s jeans and panties? Do you think they can be sexy, or do they automatically scream “FRUMP-VILLE” or “80s” to you?
  • Do you have any favorite sources or sewing patterns for high-er waisted jeans and panties?
  • Have you ever been accused of wearing “Mom jeans”?

Cross-posted in slighty modified form on my blog, Polka Dot Overload.


Mad Men Sewing Challenge Sketch: Joan Dress

A royal blue figure-hugging V-neck Joan dress with cuffs? And a bow? Oh, yes, please.

Are you as excited by Julia Bobbin’s Mad Men Challenge as I am? A Joanie dress has been on my epic to-sew list for EONS now. I actually missed the entire last season of the show (I blame my awesome toddler for being way more fun than watching even a really excellent show) but no matter. Also: I used to work on Madison Avenue! (In marketing, not advertising, but still).

I’m not sure what I think–I’m not as in love with the drawing as I expected to be, but I think it’s the hair and the fact that I couldn’t figure out how the dress would work on my narrow shoulders–which is why I didn’t draw in the brooch. Maybe I need to convert it from the set-in sleeve of the pattern to the kimono sleeve of the real Joan dress?

I have the main dress fabric (and some boring gray doubleknit from the stash for a muslin) but I’ve been frustrated in my dickey fabric search. As you can see above, I got some random cheap poly chiffon that sorta works–but Joan just strikes me as a genuine silk charmeuse kind of woman. I’m struggling to find a silk charmeuse with an even vaguely similar or 60s-appropriate print. This awesome printed silk remnant on the Denver Fabrics site is perfect, but I emailed them and they’re only selling it as one big 8 1/2 yard piece… I need like, 1/2 a yard:

I’m also working on a modified Ruby Slip to wear underneath (I considered a half slip since I have one cut already, but I know I’ve seen Joan wearing a blue silk full slip in several scenes).

Mad Men Sewing Challenge Sketch 2: Under Options

So are you in? Have you picked a dress? I DID consider a non-Joan dress… briefly. But really, my figure type is closest to Joan’s, and I’ve never drooled over the other character’s clothes the way I have hers.

More details on my dress/plans over on my blog, Polka Dot Overload.