Red, White, and Blue {Modern Dress Diary 1}

Although it may not be obvious from what I usually post about, I actually do sew quite a few modern garments for myself.

Particularly dresses.


And the time has certainly come for summer dresses! (Well…mostly. It’s still a tiny bit rainy still her in the Pacific Northwest.)

Most of the dresses currently hanging in my closet are me-made and, considering the size my fabric stash has grown to, I hope to complete several more by the time summer and sunshine are through.


As I was sewing this one the other night, I thought back to when I worked with this pattern last summer and wished I had written down my notes. A year later it was like I was starting all over again and the only thing I had to go off of was the pattern pieces I’d already cut out. (I couldn’t even find the instructions.)


So this series is born out of a desire to share some of what I wear everyday and to keep a record for myself.


The bodice is Simplicity 1418 and the skirt is just a large rectangle gathered and sewn on. I made the proper version of this pattern last year out of purple linen and it’s been a staple in my closet since. This time I wanted something less streamlined, and more floofy, so I gathered as much fabric as I could into the skirt.


And I’m so pleased with the result!

It’s sparkly and billows when I twirl – what more could I ask for??



Material: 3 yards printed cotton

Pattern: Simplicity 1418 for bodice (size 18), none for skirt

Time to complete: 10 hours, give or take

Notions: side zipper

Likes: volume of skirt, fit of armscye, length of skirt, height of neckline

Dislikes: waist can be taken in and lengthened 1-2 inches, neckline gapes slightly

So here’s to the start of summer! May everyone wear great outfits and have great fun! What are your sewing and/or travel plans?

Pink Renaissance Day Dress

Today I took my first foray into self-portraiture and the complexities of using a remote shutter control in order to take some pictures of my latest sewing project.


It involved a lot of running back and forth in the woods (and hiding from hikers behind trees) but they came out pretty well for my first try!


This dress was born out of curiosity a few months ago when I was scrolling through Italian renaissance portraiture on the internet and it struck me how, basically, those painted images are the only visual source we have left to study. There are very, very, very few extant garments left from the late 15th/early 16th century.


By having only those paintings, what we have to go off of (from the perspective of historical garments) is, for the most part, stylized versions of the upper class’s best clothes. So what about the rest of the ladies?


This dress is the first step in a long journey to try to answer that question.


Conceptualized as a work/day/house dress for a lady who was middle class or lower in station, I whipped up a chemise to go underneath it. I’m still deciding on the design of the sleeves so those will come in time.


I relied heavily on a book called “Dressing Renaissance Florence” by Carole Collier Frick in my research for this ensemble. It had a ton of fantastic information in it and was super helpful. I’ll go into more detail about my research and the actual making of this dress in a later post.


But, because I found so much inspiration in her research (and the primary sources she cites), I’m putting this dress down as my entry for the Historical Sew Monthly challenge this month – “Literature.”


The Challenge: Literature (HSM #5)

Fabric: Pink linen, brown linen, white cotton.

Pattern: Self-drafted from my red renaissance dress

Year: c. 1500

Notions: Thread, embroidery floss, brass lacing rings, lacing cord

How historically accurate is it? Quite. Entirely hand-sewn, even!

Hours to complete: Worked on it off and on all month.

First worn: Today!

Total cost: About $10 for both pieces together.


Construction details coming soon!

Rosy 1920’s Dress – An Unfortunate Outcome

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Oh, this dress.

This dress was supposed to have been for the first Historical Sew Monthly challenge for this year, procrastination, but in the true spirit of the prompt it’s not going to be finished for a while longer.

This dress has been in the making for about a year now. Last year I frankensteined  together a 1920’s dress from a Simplicity pattern and a t-shirt that ended up being super comfortable for summer-wear. Lightweight + no waistline = the perfect breezy lounging dress. Around August I started planning another version of the dress that would be basically the same shape except sleeveless. I sketched out my design, envisioning small, pink roses embroidered at the neckline on a background of pale blue.

Well, the fabric and the sketch languished in the back of my closet for months. Summer slipped away and making a dress for the warm weather slid down to the bottom of my to-do list. In the new year I thought this would be a good project to take up again, especially in anticipation of spring being on its way.


I cut it out and stitched it up a couple weeks into January and was making good progress until I got side-tracked by working on my first commission (yay!) so it wasn’t until the last day of the month that I revisited the dress.

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Turns out my hasty work wasn’t all that well thought out – the top is too tight – so I set it aside to work on later while I mull over ideas on how to fix it.


There isn’t much fabric left so my plan is to cut out a U-shape that echoes the shape of the godets in the skirt. Then I can cut a slightly bigger piece to insert, probably embroidered with the roses I had been planning, that will give me more room. I’ve got to think it through a little bit first, though, since I’ve never run into this problem before.

What do you think? Do you have any ideas for how I can remedy this situation? Any suggestions would be most appreciated!

1920’s Day Dress – (HSM #3)

I spent a long time thinking about this month’s challenge, stuck for several weeks. While I had plenty in my stash that I could draw from, I had a hard time finding any inspiration. I can’t tell you how many times I sorted through my patterns and pinterest boards, looking for something that would spark my interest. 

Then, about two and a half weeks in to March, I happened upon a new show.

There are two seasons on Netflix and I’m already on my second watch-through.

It’s about a female detective, Phryne Fisher, who solves crimes in 1920’s Australia with the aid of her wonderful friends, the local police, and Detective Inspector Jack Robinson. The show is filled with fun mysteries, lavish sets, and some of the most amazing chemistry between I’ve ever seen. Not to mention gorgeous costumes.

And so I decided that for the third HSM challenge, I was going to make something from the 1920’s. I have a set of instructions for the infamous “One Hour Dress,” but I’d made it once before a few years ago and I wasn’t happy with how it turned out. So, I turned to the internet to browse for a new method of construction.
I was a big fan of these dresses and I had a pattern in my stash that I could adapt to make a similar skirt.

Simplicity 1802. Last night I spent twenty minutes cutting out the three pattern pieces that I would use and sorting through my stash to pick out the fabric.

In doing so, I discovered that most of my stash is made up of quilting cotton, which was too stiff for this project. I wanted something sheer, but, in the end, went with a length of green fabric that I’d forgotten I had. I have no idea as to where it came from or its content, but it drapes nicely and I had enough of it to get a dress out of.

Fabric up close. It’s less olive-y in person.

I used the bottom half of the pattern, dropped it down a few inches so it would start around my hips, and drafted the top part of the dress from a loose-fitting t-shirt that I have.

I cut it out in two pieces, front and back, plus the four u-shaped godets. Then, this morning, I sat down to sew.
It went pretty quick and I had it done early in the evening, though I would have been faster if I hadn’t been distracted by TV while I was working. After a while I turned it off and put music on instead and worked much more efficiently.
Trying it on to check the fit of the top.
Trimming the bottom.
By the time I finished it was dark, so there wasn’t enough light inside to get good photographs. But phone pictures will do until I’m able to take proper pictures of it with my Nikon.

It’s a very simple dress, but I like it. It went much better than the last ’20’s dress that I made (too tight across the chest) and is very comfortable, especially with summer around the corner. It’s nowhere near as fancy as Phryne’s outfits from the show, but I could see her companion, Dot, wearing something like it.

The Challenge: Stashbusting (HSM #3)

Fabric: Green knit

Pattern: Part of Simplicity 1802

Year: 1920’s

Notions: Green thread. No closures or anything; it slips over my head.

How historically accurate is it? Ummmmm, 50%? That would be my guess. I went for more overall aesthetic than accuracy on this one as true ’20’s styles don’t tend to be very flattering on me.

Hours to complete: About 7.

First worn: Tried it on to take pictures. I will probably wear it on Thursday.

Total cost: Since everything came from my stash, $0. (I don’t remember what I got the fabric for when I bought it but I know that I got the pattern for $1.)