Sunday, March 25, 2012

mad men sewing: technicolor betty dress

I was inspired by the many shirtwaist dresses Betty wears in the first two seasons.  As you can see, I didn't faithfully reproduce a specific dress, like the one below.  This print does remind me of others Betty HAS worn, though not in the shirtwaist style (the beautiful butterfly print on the front of a white blouse; the big red floral print dress).
I'm a newbie to using vintage patterns, and I really liked working with this one (1965, according to the Wiki), especially the cuffed raglan sleeves and collar.  The previous sewer had adjusted the shape of the collar.  I used it as is.  How cool is that-- adjustments made for me already!  I did have plenty to adjust myself.  I took out the side darts for an SBA and graded for my measurements.  The skirt is heavily gathered and has two large pleats in the front.  It was a lot to work with and felt huge while I was wearing it out and about.  The pictures make it look pretty modest, though.  I'm even wearing a petticoat! 

See my post at The Sew Weekly.

The Facts 
Fabric: 4 yards Anna Maria Horner cotton from, $36
Pattern: Simplicity 5036, View 4
Year: can’t find on the pattern, I’m guessing 1960 or so
Notions: 10 buttons, bias binding
Time to complete: a labor-intensive week
First worn: Sunday 3/18
Wear again: yes
Total cost: about $40

I’ve long been wanting to make a raglan-sleeved shirt dress with a full skirt a la Betty Draper.  The dress below is from the first season, but she wears many similar dresses, including light-colored sleeveless ones for summer.  I love how these shots reveal so much about Betty’s character.  Notice how pissed she looks?  I didn’t want to channel Betty’s profound sadness, so I chose a technicolor butterfly print.
Source: via Lee onPinterest

I removed the side darts on the bodice for an SBA (thank you, Stephanie, for showing me how to do this!) and graded for my measurements.  These are the adjustments I have to do for EVERYTHING I MAKE.  I don’t know why I still naively believe that maybe this pattern, whatever new pattern I’m trying, will be the one that fits me perfectly right out of the envelope.  The muslin of this dress bodice, which I made without any adjustments, showed me what I already knew.  If I could just get it through my head, maybe I won’t always have to make a muslin. The bodice waist, which fit perfectly, seemed to widen more than an inch after I sewed it to the skirt.  Not sure about the physics; there is no stretch to this quilting cotton.  However, the skirt IS a whole lotta skirt– oh the gathering!  I watched an entire Project Runway episode while adjusting the gathers.  I guess all that skirt
made the bodice spread.  I turned and sewed all the seams to finish them, except for the waist, where I used bias binding to enclose all that gathered fabric.

There are two things I don’t want you to notice about this dress, so of course I’m telling you about them.  Profoundly sad for me, I neglected to pay attention to the layout of the print while cutting and ended up with an echo effect on the front.  It could be worse (I’m looking at you, Oona!), but it could also be a lot better.  No fabric left to cut a second bodice front piece, so. . . moving on.  I also made the buttonholes too far in from the front edge.  Kind of a bummer having spent SO MUCH TIME on this thing.

We took the photos at a very un-Mad Men location, Ikea, where we proceeded to shop for solutions to the inefficient and frustrating way my sewing has taken over the living room.  Then I had a cocktail, like Betty (and every other character on the entire show) would.
industrial romantic


  1. It's lovely!! You have a really nice blog. :)

  2. You look lovely! I love it paired with boots - perfect for spring weather!

  3. I really, really love this dress on you. :) Good choice with the length.

  4. It's wonderful! Such classic dress with some updated funkiness!
    This dress challenge has been so much fun, hasn't it?

  5. It looks stunning! What a gorgeous dress you can wear time and time again!