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Conversational Threads

Are DRESSES really making a comeback?

GailAnn | Posted in General Discussion on

Good Morning Friends:

Late August and even though the temperature is in the 90’s, I’m thinking Fall!

I feel ready to make a change……been wearing separates for so long, I’ve nearly forgotten how nice, clean, and easy it is to wear dresses.

Back in the “day” (late 60’s early70’s) I had a wardrobe full of beautiful dresses.  Do you remember those intricate seaming details?  Loved them!  Felt all grown up and put together!  Some of them challenged my skills, talents, and abilities.  BUT  —  The ones that turned out, were fabulous!  Many I completely wore out.

My figure has just about doubled since “The Summer of Love”!  Still, I find myself longing to feel “grown up and put together” just one more time.  This is the year!

I am eager for suggestions!  Can anyone suggest a few good patterns (new), for a few good dresses, for a 56 year old, size 22 lady, busy with church, family, and volunteer work?  Gail


  1. user-51823 | | #1

    i've discovered the sundress this summer, at age 51. love 'em love 'em love 'em.
    a good pattern for you depends on a few more specifics about your figure. it's easier if you are a medium to small bust, IMO. larger busts (which i am) can be tricky to flatter. i recently discovered reducing bras, which make me like my figure a whole lot more.

  2. DONNAKAYE | | #2

    I'll get right on this challenge -- from one fifty-ish woman to another.....d.

  3. fabricholic | | #3

    Hi GailAnn,I like your "summer of love" title. I have just about doubled in size, also. I bought this Vogue pattern, but have not sewn it, yet. http://img.sewingtoday.com/cat/20000/itm_img/V8386.jpg The pattern V8411 looks good to me. I haven't made either of these, though.Marcy

    1. GailAnn | | #4

      Thanks!  What a wonderful walk down memory lane!

      I made that very same dress in the early to mid-80's!  It was made of the softest imaginable while handkerchief linen, (with a leno-like white stripe), lined with barely pink silk.  Then I made a braided belt from tubes of the self fabric, long tails with mietered ends tied in back, then fluttered to the hem.

      The skirt swirled!

      I felt like a princess!

      I used to love, love, love, to sew very special things! 

      Whatever happened? 

      How did I ever manage to get so stuck on boring casual clothes?

      Did it happen to any of you?

      I want to go back!  Gail

      1. fabricholic | | #5

        Wow, that sounds beautiful. I wouldn't mind having my old figure back, but I don't want to go back. I like the wisdom I have acquired.Marcy

      2. adelia | | #8

        I know what you mean!!  I am 69 and I remember cocktail dresses and long dinner dresses, most of which I sewed!  I worked in offices where pants (even pants suits) were not allowed.  When I retired, I had so many suits I began giving them away.  I still wear a nice dress to church -- sometimes a shift dress with a jacket.  As far as I'm concerned, the dress never went away!

        1. GailAnn | | #9

          Love your name!  Named our daughter Colleen Adele!

          I've been wearing denim skirts and casual dresses to church (No I don't wear pants to church, either.) for so long, not sure anyone would recognize me in a nice tailored dress or suit with hose........................This year I want to take the chance!  I want to make the change back to "Good" clothes for Sunday and "Good" occasions.

          Now that we've walked down memory lane a little.............Is anyone old enough to remember when traveling by Air or Rail we were made to feel like Honored Guests?  Recently flew from Denver to Kansas City.  Arrived home needing a shower, feeling like a suspect in a line-up, from a gangster movie circa 1939.

          All I want is a fresh doilie on the back of my seat, a satin eye mask, soft slipper sox, a clean pillow and blanket in a sealed little baggie, and a warm, lemon scented, washcloth before landing. 

          Am I showing my age or what?

          1. adelia | | #11

            Yes, I remember flying wearing a suit and 3" heels.  Once I even flew home for Xmas wearing a fur coat (fake, of course) plus a hat.  We're not out of step -- the youngsters just never caught up with us!  The good thing about being my age is that no matter what "they" say the latest style is, I've probably already worn it.

          2. Tatsy | | #12

            I got ready to sew clothes for school and realized I had my choice of 60's or 70's styles.  I actually like the 60's clothes better but the 70's outfits had less tailoring and were quicker to sew.

            By the way, have you heard teen girls and 20-30 year-old fashion editors referring to those below the knee pants as "petal pushers"? Is that supposed to make it more girly? Bet they haven't been on a bike since they were ten.

          3. Crazy K | | #13

            You mentioned 'petal pushers'..........I clearly remember 'pedal pushers' from grade school.  They were a big thing then.......way back when.  After the pedal pushers there was a brief stint of 'knee knockers'........at least that's what I remember them being called.  It could have been a regional thing......midwest.  They were just a bit shorter than pedal pushers but a bit longer than the next newest......the bermuda short.

            Guess this has nothing to do with dresses but is a nice way to reminisce some of the older styles with the crazy names!  What goes around.........comes around and it seems the styles are still doing just that.


          4. Tatsy | | #14

            No mistake.  They were called pedal pushers, but the young fashion editors don't know they were for riding bicycles without getting stuck in the chain, so they call them petal pushers because girls wear them. I remember ruining too many pairs of pants to mix up the d and the t.  My mother talks about wearing bicycle clips to keep her trouser cuffs turned up.

          5. GailAnn | | #15

            O.K. love both your name and your attitude!

            One of the ongoing "discussions" I have with my daughter (married, a nurse, age 30) when we travel together is:  I think it is appropriate to 'dress-up' a little for the journey and she would travel anywhere in her jammies/sweats and shower and dress when she gets wherever she is going...................

            Dresses are more comfortable and, certainly, easier to wear and pack than separates.  The last few years that I worked in an office, I had a blue silk shirtwaist, dress that I loved!  I wore it, at least, once a week, traveled, even to Europe with it, and washed it out, by hand, in the sink.  It was truly THE PERFECT DRESS.  It lasted for years, but I finally had to patch holes under the arms with the self-lining from the pockets!  Eventually it wore out across the bust, and I couldn't think of any way to resusitate it.  Gail

          6. adelia | | #17

            We are definitely sisters-in-sewing!  I'm trying to get myself to attempt to teach a basic sewing course at our local community college, just to get some younger people interested!

          7. GailAnn | | #18

            Way to go Adelia!!!!!!!  

      3. rodezzy | | #19

        Yes, I remember wearing wonderful dresses and twirling under the sun to light summer breezes.

        What happened to me was marriage, children, work, divorce and other challenges with weight.

        I've bought several dress patterns (and everything else) and have yet to make one.  Last year I only made coats (seven to be exact), because I decided it was too hard to sew for my 50+ out of shape body.  I basically just make coats and accessories to create a splash in my wardrobe.  I crocheted coats and made unlined coats of fleece. 

        1. GailAnn | | #20

          Here in Missouri there aren't too many occasions to wear coats.  Maybe a month or six weeks, at the most.  Boiled wool jackets usually suffice for me.

          I keep remembering my Grandmother who was both my age and my SIZE in the 1950's and 60's.   She made all of her own clothes.  In my memories she was so beautiful!  But you know what?  Looking at old pictures, so wasn't slim or beautiful, barely even attractive, but she was always "well turned out".  What she was may have been described better as 'stately' or 'regal'.  Those who remember her with more accuracy than my childlike memories refer to her as a "Handsome Woman".

          So there is my new goal......to be a "handsome woman", instead of the ragamuffin, I've been the last 15 years!  Gail

          1. rodezzy | | #23

            That's what I've been trying to achieve, a more put together look.  As if I actually thought about getting dressed in the morning to come to work.  I am an office coordinator/administrative secretary at a plant where I work in dusty conditions from our product, but my office is clean and has been redecorated.  I've been dressing better, and making knock out, unusual coats, shawls, ponchos and jackets that help bring me to the forefront.  Basic skirts, pants, tops can surfice.  But add a splash of the different and flashy with a jacket, shawl, or poncho and I get all the attention.  Did I tell you I work with all men, only one other woman in the office and not on my floor? 


      4. Ralphetta | | #21

        As an older, heavier woman I find now that semi-fitted jackets and pants with really, really high heels give me an elongated more slender look than skirts do.  I still like skirts, just don't think they are as flattering on me. 

        Anyone remember when you always wore gloves if you dressed up?  White ones with summer dresses to go shopping at the "good" department stores? 

        1. GailAnn | | #22

          Oh, my, Yes!  I have a shoebox full of them, just waiting for a come back!  Many of them are white, but some are taupe, cream, even grey.  Some have a little button trim or a little bit of embroiderey, one pair even has a very fine quilted design.  I do still wear leather gloves for that one month or six weeks of the year that I wear a coat. 

          I remember the first time my mother bought my sister and I gloves that matched hers!  We were such fine little ladies.

          That same year we had "Spring" Coats to match our dresses and hats with ribbons down our back.

          I used to love high heels!  I Wore them every day to work for years and years.  But age and weight has taken it's toll on my knees.  Now  1 3/4" are about as high as I can walk in with any grace at all.


        2. DONNAKAYE | | #43

          I had posted a picture of me and my mother in downtown New Orleans in the late '70s or early '80s.  I think it was in the Pants Fitting chat (but if it's  not there you can search for my posts).  You'll notice in that photo that she was wearing leather gloves.  Mother still wore gloves whenever she went out in the wintertime, even if she had rings on.  She pased away in '96, and right up until then she wore gloves in the wintertime.  She had the tiniest hands.  I still have her gloves.  (Remember that really soft, luxurious glove fabric?)  She was Mrs. Louisiana 1965, and I still have all her arm-length gloves from the Mrs. American pagent, some satin with gathers.  I also have her gold lame pants suit she wore for the Mrs. America trip to Mexico.  She wore gold flats with rhinestones and those cat-eye glasses, in gold, with rhinestones.  The locals ran up to the carriage and pointed at her and said, "Movie star!  Movie star!"  My brother and I laugh about that still to this day.....

          1. solosmocker | | #44

            That is a wonderful memory, Donna. Thanks so much for sharing with us all that you have about your relationship with your Mom and how special she was. solo

          2. celkalee | | #45

            What great memories, your Mother was a real Diva in her day! Thanks for sharing. My poor Mother tried to sew, but just not her thing. She did do a great button application though.  My idea of a good glove is leather, snug fit with a cashmere lining. I have never even considered making gloves. Seems to me in a very long ago issue someone did a tutorial in Threads. A little research will be required. Maybe it wasn't Threads....???

    2. sewpro | | #24

      I made Vogue 8386 to wear to my niece's wedding in Tucson and I was really disappointed in how unflattering it looked on me. I knew better, really, than to wear a maternity style dress and hope to look something like the drawn models. It is always more flattering to wear something more fitted. I know that the classic Diane Von Furstenberg wrap dress is flattering on many figures, so my next dress will be in that pattern. Good luck! -Janet

      1. rodezzy | | #25

        The very first dress I took time and made for myself, I took all of my body measurements and found out that I had narrow shoulders.  I followed the instructions for fitting the pattern before you cut.  Find a book that discusses how to address your body measurements and it will help you discover what dress style is best for your body.  Sandra Betzina does a wonderful job in her publications of showing you how to sew for your body type.  She is in the Vogue Catalog of patterns.  http://www.sandrabetzina.com

        good luck

      2. fabricholic | | #26

        Thanks for the tip. I am an 18/20, so nothing is going to look that good on me. What pattern is the wrap dress you are talking about?

        1. sewpro | | #27

          I have a couple of old patterns that I'll use, but Butterick 5030 view E looks pretty close. Happy sewing! -J

        2. Gloriasews | | #28

          Sandra Betzina has a very nice wrap dress (on Vogue Patterns website, which I wasn't able to bring up just now to give you the pattern number - it said website unavailable).  The dress has princess seams on the front, a frill around the neck (which could be removed, I'd think), an A-line skirt & a vent pleat on the back bodice - lots of areas to make the pattern fit, especially with the princess seams at the front.  The back vent pleat no doubt prevents the front of the dress from pulling or shifting.

          Prior to seeing the Betzina pattern, I purchased Simplicity 3804, which is a very nice princess style.  There are 2 dress designs in this pattern - a wrap dress or a straight dress, both with flared skirts, as well as a wrap or plain top & separate skirt.  Take a look at this one & see what you think.


          1. fabricholic | | #29

            I like this S3804. It is beautiful. I will have to try this. Thank you.For those interested http://www.simplicity.com/assets/3804/3804.jpg

        3. rodezzy | | #30

          Take it back!!!!  I'm a volumptous big size 200+ woman and short (5'4") and I think I look very good in my clothes.  I'm constantly getting compliments on what I'm wearing and people greet me by calling me a "Diva".  If I make a comment on my size and how I feel I look, they admonish me and tell me that I'm beautiful and look good in my clothes.  People tell me that they look forward to seeing me because I always have on something interesting, pretty or just great that I've made or bought.

          So don't say that.  I've learned what looks good on me and I wear it.  Splashy colors, fine fabrics, crochet, knits, and I love getting dressed up. 

          You are beautiful too and I won't take any other answer from you missy!!!  Now sew something fabulous and wear it on that beautiful body.


          1. fabricholic | | #31

            Thank you Darling, I believe I will.Marcy

          2. solosmocker | | #33

            I have a longtime friend who is 5 ft tall like me, definitely over 200 #s, although she won't say how much, and ALWAYS looks like a million bucks. She wears only colors that flatter the heck out of her, gets updated hair styles, is not shy with jewelry and accessories, and in all the years I have know her, I have never seen her in a pair of jeans or sweats. She is also very confident and this comes across as part of what makes her attractive. So, I guess I am saying, like they do on What Not To Wear, dress for the person you are today. I think it is all just being "pulled together." Oh, she is pushing 60. For the record, I love dresses.

          3. rodezzy | | #42

            Yes, its all about looking the best you can for the person you are today.  I am 55 years old and glad to be alive.  I had sewn anything for myself in 20+ years prior to 2002.  Also, I became frustrated with the outer wear I saw in the big girl stores.  I gained about 35 more pounds when my right knee gave me problems.  I've gained full mobility in my knee now.  But I haven't lost the weight.  It put me in another size category.  At first I became sullen, and then I quickly recovered from that because I had too much to do and live for.  And being a person who likes to walk in a room and gain attention (shameless aren't I) I began my quest to make coats, jackets, ponchos, and accessories that demand attention.  I'll get those pictures done as soon as I can.  I'm slow with technology.  I don't even have a digital camera yet.  But with this new gathering group and a need to share my creations with you all, I will be getting one soon.

            I was going to use my cousins camera this weekend, but I couldn't catch up with her over the holiday, she let me use it for our Disney FL trip.  I have to get the pictures from July off the camera.  We are like ships passing in the night. (smile).  But I'll get it done, I'll just stop projecting a time. 

  4. Tatsy | | #6

    Guess I'm a little older.  I remember the sculptured, simple, straight line dresses that were inspired by Mondrian prints and space shots.  I remember buying clothes my senior year in college that were different from anything I had ever seen before.  One was a bright yellow plaid coat dress with a white collar, buttons like jujubes, and button loops like a bridal gown.  Another was a loud yellow wool A-line with bell sleeves, three huge buttons, and that brand-new detail: bonded interfacing.  Another was a bright, bright green dress with foam rubber to give it some bounce, but the most fabulous was a tan dress in boucle knit with  brown cowboy (Western) topstiching and bust darts that came down from the shoulders! I asked my mother if that was all right in the same tone we used to talk about girls who were not nice.  Boy, are those days ever gone.

    1. GailAnn | | #7

      "Those were the days, my friend, we thought they'd never end......."

  5. Teaf5 | | #10

    I haven't made it back to dresses yet, but I am getting back into skirts, now that flat shoes in flattering styles and colors have come back, too. Separates are more practical for my active lifestyle, not only because I can move in them, but also because I can launder the tops every time I wear them without wearing out a whole dress. I have see a lot of matched separates that look like dresses, though, and am thinking of trying some...Let us know what you find!

  6. sewelegant | | #16

    I too love dresses and I think one reason they may have disappeared from everyday use was because they became too boxy (no darts) and lost a lot of style,  and pants became so acceptable and comfortable.  Which makes me think... I'll bet that woman caught recently on tv being rescued from the flood waters by a helicopter was sooo... glad she was wearing pants!  I hope I never get caught in a situation like that because I always wear a dress.  They are now the Coni Crawford type, but so comfortable for my matronly figure.  I love Coni Crawfords a-line dress that can be done up in lots of different fabrics and combinations.


    1. AmberDee | | #32

      What is a Coni Crawford dress??  The "matronly shape" caught my eye since I fit the catagory.  I haven't found a style of dress I feel comfortable in yet. 

      1. sewelegant | | #34

        I discovered Coni Crawford through the internet via a link from another sewing site I was on.  That was about 6 years ago when she was in Sedona, AZ.  Her web page showed lots of examples of real, large size, women wearing her designs and I thought they looked nice.  She makes patterns from small to 6X size, but she is definitely there for the larger size woman.  Her drawings leave a lot to be desired, in my opinion, but I have made her lounge dress in a very drapey cotton knit and get a compliment almost every time I wear it.  The ones I've made from that pattern in a not so drapey fabric have to be relegated to housedress status, but I love them.  I have made the yoke dress, both sleeve and sleeveless and like the way it drapes and the way it hovers, but does not cling so it is comfortable without looking like a tent.  Her pants were something else!  I had noticed the pants I purchased that fit my 5' 2" 200 lb frame were higher in the back but when I tried to make a pattern from them, couldn't believe that was really how it should be.  In comparing my favorite purchased pants to her pattern, lo and behold ... almost a  perfect match... and I am very happy with the pants I make.  Just recently our local American Sewing Guild brought Coni to San Diego and I attended the seminar... it was well worth it for me.  Coni has moved to Washington state, but still has her web site and she now has a line of patterns in the Butterick catalog.  This is brand new, but if you want to see how they work for you check it out.  I am still hoping someday I'll magically get back to a reasonable size, but until then it's great to find patterns that work.

        This is Coni Crawfords web site:



        1. Josefly | | #35

          I'm so happy for your reference to this web-site. I love the "Fun Jumper" dress, and wonder if it would look okay over a t-shirt, since I prefer a sleeve? Any thoughts?


          Thank you.

  7. celkalee | | #36

    Hello everyone, I am a long time subscriber (from the beginning I think) and fairly new to the web site. I have tried to do some catch-up reading and have enjoyed the posts. This one caught my eye and typing fingers because at 59 I can so relate to the changing body and the lack of style and shape in today's store bought clothes. During the last 10 years or so I have been so busy that garment sewing was relegated to maybe 5-10 pieces per year, that included sleepwear. I saved my sewing time for quilting mostly. Now, however, retirement has opened a large window of time to return to totally rebuilding my wardrobe. I have closets full of clothes, wear the same things all the time! Does anyone else remember in the early to mid-eighties that Vogue Patterns ran, I think, 4 seasons of a wardrobe builder series. It started with basics in skirts, pants and dresses and all other pieces, including scarves etc, coordinated with the original wardrobe. It was a "builder" series, approximately 6 pieces for each season.  It also had cold weather coats etc. They listed color options with this as well.  I am going to sift through the old patterns to see if I still have any of them. I would be thrilled for another such series where all the patterns were coordinated and would result in a finished product that was age appropriate and no sweat shirt material was involved. Anyone know how we might persuade them to do this????

    1. sewelegant | | #37

      A tee would work just fine under the fun jumper.  I tried to send an attachment of a picture I have, but could not figure out how that works.

      In her earlier web site Coni Crawford showed this jumper being worn over a long sleeve tee and a skirt.  I have the pattern, but have not made it up.  I never have that many coordinating fabrics around and I am not a quilter so it has been a challenge I haven't accepted, but it was one of the first patterns I bought.  Like you, I thought this could make wearing clothes fun again.  By the way I think all her clothes were done up in rayon.  A few years back rayon was all over the place and now I cannot see it as readily in the places I have to shop.

      1. Josefly | | #38

        I'm the one who asked about the t-shirt under the "Fun Jumper". I agree that it's difficult to find coordinating fabrics for this pattern - especially in rayon. Cottons are fairly easy to find in coordinates, but I don't think they would drape nicely enough for this pattern.

        1. sewelegant | | #39

          I'm sorry, I realized my mistake right after pushing the send button, but did not think I could correct it so let it go.

          Have you seen the Bali Butik rayons?  I have purchased some of their yardage and it washes beautifully so I think it's worth getting.  It seems a little expensive so I want to make sure what I make is going to turn out.  Their web site does not sell retail, but here are some other sites I have seen it on.





          Have you seen the petite plus site?  She sews a lot of her clothes in the Bali Butik and they look wonderful.  I have most of her patterns, but have only made the gathered skirt dress. (about 3 times)  I still have to do some adjusting so it's a bit of a put off, but I found that dress fit almost perfectly. 


          1. rodezzy | | #40

            Thanks for all of the wonderful sites.  I've saved two.  I love the patterns from Sewing with Lois Ericson Design & Sew.  They are just my speed.  I love simple designs that allow you to let the fabric do the talking.  The In Studio -9 collection of vests and jackets are great.  I want that.  And the Studio - 4 poncho patterns are great too. Last but not least I want to get the Studio - 2 asymmetrical pattern.  Like that. 

            I'm going to pull some fabrics I bought last fall and check the yardage so I can pick out patterns to get started sewing.  It may be 88 degrees now, but it will be cooler weather soon, and I want to be ready with my new outwear wardrobe. 

            I'm a bit of a show off these days.  I'm over fifty and over the top!  It's good having talent like we ladies have.  We can dictate our own fashion and style.  And skip paying someone else hundreds of dollars for something beautiful.  I love it.

          2. Josefly | | #41

            Thank you for all those wonderful links. I had not seen the Batik Butik fabrics, and there are some pretty choices and possible coordinates there. It's also been awhile since I've browsed some of the other sites, so it was nice to reconnect - I've saved your message so I can refer to the sites again when I have more time. Thank you so much.I also tried to order the "Fun Jumper" yesterday, but the pattern has been discontinued and stock is limited to only 2 sizes. Fortunately, one of them will do for me if the sizes run like Big 4 pattern company sizes, but the pattern must be ordered by phone instead of from the website. And they were closed on Labor Day, of course, so I'll try them again today. I really want this pattern! - It'll make a great contra dance dress for me, unless there are too many layers of fabric, which might be too warm!

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