Winning at Sewing: Striped 70s dress

There are clothes you like, and clothes you love. And then there are clothes that just feel like you.

This dress is ME. The color, the cut, everything. I completely fell in love with this fabric when I spotted it at a yard sale a few months ago. And, you guys, I LOVED sewing with thick polyester fabric! It was a dream. The stitches just disappear into it.

But ... there were a few missteps along the way.

First there was the whole issue of the bodice. You see, I had decided that I wanted the stripes angled downward on the bias, because it seemed like it would look cool. But this is the part of sewing where I often fail. To wit:

Yes, these are the two bodice pieces I cut out with the fabric folded over on the bias. Because, duh, that's what happens. And then I carefully arranged and calculated and measured ... and did the EXACT SAME THING AGAIN. I was starting to get pretty nervous at that point, because I was running out of fabric. But third time was the charm, and I got two pattern pieces that actually matched up. Whew!

There were other surprises, too. When I had all my pattern pieces cut out and marked and pinned and ready to sew, I realized that there were no instructions of any kind inside the pattern envelope! And then I also realized there were no pattern pieces for the sleeves! So I completely winged it. I pieced things together with what I remembered from the last dress I sewed (and borrowed the sleeve from that pattern), and thought about what I had absorbed from poring over Love at First Stitch. And it was ... mostly OK.  

So let's tally up the firsts that are represented here. First time installing a zipper; first time sewing a collar (it's pretty wonky but so be it!), first time sewing pockets; first time cutting pattern pieces on the bias (we know how that went) and first time altering a pattern to fit. And I am probably proudest of that last one, because my natural inclination is just to say "Screw it" and keep going. But I didn't, I stopped and made it right. Perhaps I am finally becoming a grown-up.

Here's what the dress looked like the first time I tried it on. I had already shortened up the bodice to make it hit closer to my natural waist, but I was surprised to find when I put it on that it was quite big. Because of the construction of the dress (it has side panels rather than side seams), I decided to pick apart the waistband at the back, and sew the back of the bodice to be a bit tighter. It is still a bit loose (I don't think I could really wear it without a belt), but on the plus side, it's super comfortable.

And as for the pockets, which I was pretty excited about, they do make the skirt hang kind of awkwardly ... but so it goes. I will put up with a lot for the luxury of having pockets in my dress.

My overall verdict of this dress is that I LOVE it. I was worried that it would be all flash and show and not actually be nice to wear, but it was a dream. The fit is just right, not super loose or baggy, but also not clingy or tight. (I can even raise my arms above my head, which makes this dress rank above the last two I sewed!) And I really feel like, with each project I take on, I am gaining skills and confidence, which is terrific. Up next for me, I think, is a simple dirndl skirt — after zippers and stripe matching, I am eager for some instant gratification. Then maybe I'll be ready to attempt the butterfly-print maxi dress I've been dreaming about ...

Vintage fabric: $0.50
Notions: About $2.50
Total cost to make: About $3.50!


  1. This dress is awesome, and nice work! I'll never pick up something from a thrift store/garage sale that needs altering because I just can't/won't do it. But you did a great job! Love the print and colors on this, and it fits you so well now!

    ♥ perfectly Priya

    1. Thanks Priya! I totally feel you about alterations, I usually can't be bothered. But with this, I figured if I was going to go to all the trouble to sew an entire dress, I should at least make sure it fit me!

  2. THAT DRESS. It is so perfect on you, and definitely YOU. You make me need to sew more. I've been keeping an eye out for good thrifted fabrics lately, and the Goodwill here in the harbor since we moved has WAY more fabric in better condition than my favorite Goodwill (and way less clothes, sigh) so I'm excited to eventually sew more skirts and attempt at least one dress.

    1. Go for it! I was intimidated by tackling a dress but once I got into it, it was pretty fun to kinda chip away at it in little free moments here and there and then realize, "Hey, I'm almost done!" I feel like I am weirdly less patient with smaller projects because I feel like I should be able to finish them in like 2 hours, which is just not realistic.

      Thrifted fabric is THE BEST! I get so excited when I find it. I am just way too cheap/poor to buy fabric new ...

  3. This dress turned out so well!! It looks awesome and you look awesome in it! I love reading about your sewing process (mistakes and all). It make me want to dig out my machine and figure out how the darn thing works.

    1. Thanks! You definitely should dig out your sewing machine, I let myself go for way too long saying, "Oh, I can't sew" and really it has been a pleasure to discover that it's not as hard as I remembered. You can do it!


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