This is my latest dress, to complete the outfits I’ve made for my niece’s wedding next weekend. I found the pattern in a bundle donated to the school where I work. It seems a local lifelong needlewoman and seamstress had given up sewing due to ill health and had decided to bequeath all her patterns, ribbons, sequins and more to the textiles department. Always delighted to have a look through dress patterns, I was thrilled to discover patterns from the fifties through to the eighties. Although they were not all in my size (it was usual in the old days to buy a pattern for a specific size, whereas now each pattern is good for multiple sizes), this pattern caught my eye as I love the glamorous lines of seventies evening wear; this probably comes from the fact that I used to enviously watch my mother getting dressed up to go out in the seventies when maxi was the “in” length for skirts and dresses. I did some research into this pattern and found that it was available by mail order via newspapers and magazines. The Prominent Designer range produced patterns from the 1950s to 1970s; I can date this one to 1976 as I was able to view a page from The Salt Lake Tribune published on July 18th in that year, and an advertisement for this very pattern was there in black and white. I had less luck with Orsini; I couldn’t find out who s/he was, but the name has strong links to the fashion world still today. I found a tie manufacturer and vintage clothes shop and a flower power men’s shirt on eBay, all carrying the Orsini brand, but couldn’t find a dress designer from the seventies.
The pattern is number A584 in the Prominent Designer range, and comes with an instruction sheet with just 11 steps to finish the dress. Everything was quite straightforward, and I had no problems with construction. I’ve found that hand-sewing was much more of a thing in the old days, slip-stitching bindings or linings for instance, but I am always keen to use the machine wherever possible, and find it perfectly acceptable as long as the stitching line is accurate. The challenge I faced with this dress was the fit – although it is stamped with “size 14″ (bust 36”) it came out very small in the mid-section and I had to be creative. I overcame the problem by sewing a satin ribbon to both sides of the back opening, then sewing my zip to the ribbon, which gave a much needed extra inch or so around the midriff. Luckily the dress has an integral scarf attached to the neckband which ties loosely behind and obscures the whole zip, so the emergency insert is not glaringly obvious and could even be seen as a design feature (blue sky thinking has always been one of my strengths). My colleague took some shots in the classroom at lunchtime today – this is not how I usually dress for school!