My in-laws recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. They asked everyone to dress from the era (1966). A few months back I ran some ideas on this blog, but in the end settled on a very different, much simpler dress. Little did I know when I selected it, that it would connect me once again to family – this time my father’s mother.
While we were traveling, I fell hard for the Marfy re-release of their first pattern. I didn’t feel ready for a Marfy dress, so when I got home, I looked through my pattern collection and found Vogue 1415. It was perfect, even though it’s a simple shift dress.
I didn’t know my grandmother well, though I wish I did. This is a picture of her as a young woman. It’s her senior yearbook photo when she was at Duke University. She graduated in 1927. She loved history, and was in the Women’s League of Voters at Duke. According to the yearbook, “she was the embodiment of dignity and modesty, and hers, too, is that rarest of womanly virtues, silence. When occasion demands, she talks and what she says is well worth listening to. That she will be a success is a foregone conclusion.”
She died when I was just 13, of heart disease. Most of my early life I lived far from her. I did get to know her husband, my grandfather. Even after she had been gone for 20 years, he still spoke of her with respect. I didn’t really know her, except that I admired her. She was elegant, sophisticated and an amazing cook. We took walks together whenever I visited. But I never knew she sewed.
So when I opened Vogue 1415, which was her pattern, I was surprised to see her fitting notes on the pattern pieces. I made version E, the print dress on the right in the photo, the same one she chose. I don’t know if she made this dress for herself, or for my Aunt, who would have been in her early 20s at the time. (I’ll never know as my Aunt and grandfather both passed away in 2003). But I felt connected to her in a way I hadn’t before.
I used a silk/wool sharkskin suiting from Emma One Sock. This fabric can have a fair amount of luster, depending on the light. Because this is a superfine worsted wool, I decided to underline the dress with silk organza. Though the dress didn’t call for lining, I used black silk crepe de chine to line the dress. Both lining and underlining came from Gorgeous Fabrics.
My first lesson on this pattern… 1960s sizing with a modern body. I made a muslin first: the pattern envelope had the right measurements for me, but I’ve been having fitting issues of late. This is bustier than I expected – the darts and princess seaming were difficult to adjust just right. If the girls weren’t high, the dress itself had all kinds of drag lines. So, I found a bra that did the trick. (My grandmother noted that the bust darts seemed high).
Though the muslin fit well otherwise, it was very fitted, so I used 1/2 inch seams. This gave me a bit more wearing ease, though the fit is still off a bit. In addition, there was a fair amount of easing to do in the princess seams, and I’m glad I discovered this in the muslin first.
The second lesson was the fabric. Worsted wool requires tailoring skills – and that means proper pressing skills. I made good use of a press cloth, steam and clapper to get the seams to lie flat. Still, the final pressing was problematic. Why? I didn’t finish sewing in the lining or the hem until after we got to North Carolina. And the folks at the airBnB had a fantastic collection of movie memorabilia, but only a miniature iron:
I had better success using my flatiron and press cloth on the hem.
Overall, I was pleased with the dress. I wore my grandmother’s pearls and an old pair of Betsey Johnson platform heels.
Some parting photos: