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Tag Archives: 1960s fashion

My Cassini Style Easter Dress

For Easter in 1963, Jackie Kennedy wore an Oleg Cassini dress made in pale pink linen. Fifty years later, the simple style of her dress is still beautiful, and I’ve wanted to copy it for myself for years.

This Easter I finally did.

Side by side in black & white
My dress and Jackie Kennedy’s as pictured in the Palm Beach Daily News.

I first fell in love with her dress when I purchased the book Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years, which I was lucky to find at my local Half Price Books for only $10. It is full of wonderful photos specifically of her fabulous clothes.

Book cover and the Cassini Easter dress pages.

While I love everything about her dress, I knew I would not look good wearing such a pale pink. I look better in warm colors, and let’s face it, I am the opposite of tanned. (I’m bordering on vampire pale.)

I already had a large stash of 100% linen in an ivory color left over from a wedding dress I once made for a client. So I decided to dye some in a color I can wear.

It took me at least 6 attempts to get the final color. I almost stopped at this shade of orange, which was just a little too yellow:

I love this color orange, but it isn’t the best for me to wear. It’s a little too “naked” of a color.

Thankfully, one of my coworkers at the time is a dye expert, and she was able to tell me what color to over-dye my linen to make it a better shade of orange. (Thanks, Susan!) I also dyed my white cotton/poly underlining fabric a similar color to prevent seams from showing through. (I checked the linen with the undyed white, and there definitely would have been some color difference around the seams had I left it white.)

My fabrics: final peach color of linen & underlining fabric with beige lining fabric.

After studying the photographs of the Cassini dress closely, I chose McCall’s 7158 from 1963 because the style lines were the most similar. (I didn’t even realize the pattern date was the same as the Cassini dress until just now when I checked!)

Dress Pattern McCall’s 7158 and a close up of the Cassini dress.

The pattern needed a lot of tweaking. You can see how I fit the mockup in this post.

Once I had made the appropriate pattern alterations, I cut and assembled the lining first so I could double check the fit. Then I cut my linen and underlining fabric and basted them together.

Linen basted to the underlining.

I also made matching linen bias for the “quatrefoil motif” and to finish the arm and neck edges. (I generally dislike facings and try to eliminate them whenever possible.)

Linen bias tape.

My favorite part of this build was creating the single decorative detail near the neckline of the dress.

Careful ironing to shape the bias tape and then lots of pins & hand-stitching.

My least favorite part of this build was making the bust darts cooperate – I almost gave up and threw the dress in the trash because of them. When stitched in the linen, they wanted to be extra pointy and I really wanted to avoid an Anne Hathaway dart dilemma.

Had I not wanted a new Easter dress so badly, and if so many people (online and in real life) had not known about me making it, I doubt I would have been so determined to finish it. (And yes, I did have to remind myself of the advice in this old post.)

I fought those stupid, hateful darts for at least 2 nights after work. I ended up shaping them slightly and stitching them by hand because it was easier to do the minor changes by hand.

Ultimately, I found the biggest improvement to the pointiness was stitching the dart fold down to the underlining to control them. (In hindsight, I probably should have reduced the length of the darts on the pattern before I cut the linen.)

Bust darts, my nemesis of the build.

They still aren’t perfect, and they really bug me because that’s all I see when I look at the dress. I’m hoping that by the time next spring comes around, I will have had enough distance from the dress for the darts not to bother me as much.

Somehow, I can make nearly perfect things for others, but when I try to make something couture for myself, it’s never quite right. I know part of the problem is that fitting and seeing the design elements on your own body is nearly as hard as cutting your own hair – it’s hard to back up and see the full picture.

So during two short breaks and part of my lunch break every day for a couple weeks, I did as much as I could to build my dress during my time at the opera. Then I continued working on it at night when I came home. But I managed to complete it in time for Easter Sunday.

Here’s the abbreviated summary of the build, through photos (as usual, click to enlarge):

Seam allowance of the dress was cross-stitched to the underlining without catching outer layer of linen. I did not bother to stitch the seam allowance all the way down the skirt.

I stitched all the seams except the center back where the zipper went. The center back seam was pinned with a tapered seam allowance during the final fitting for a custom fit, and then the zipper was inserted along that tapered line. (I’m still amazed I was able to find a matching zipper!)

Finished handpicked zipper.

Hem was also cross-stitched to underlining without catching outer layer of linen, which makes it a completely invisible hem. (Later, the lining was slip-stitched to the linen hem about half an inch up from the bottom edge.)

Lining & dress were built separately. Then the lining was dropped into dress and basted together at neck and arms.

Neck & arm edges were finished with bias strips, seam allowance trimmed, and bias was folded to the inside of the dress and hand stitched only to the lining for an invisible facing.

The finished dress inside out.

Easter morning was quite chilly where I live, but since my dress was three layers, I was rather warm even without sleeves.

Since we got out of church before the rest of my family, I ended up taking most of the photos by myself using the camera’s self-timer while I warmed up the food for lunch at my parents’ house (my husband went back at our house to attend to other things).

It was so stinking bright outside, I could hardly keep my eyes open and I was almost crying. I captured lots of photos of myself with my eyes closed or really weird expressions. I did manage to take a few decent shots though.

Outdoors in my parents’ backyard. (I almost feel like I should add vampire sparkles to this shot.)

Indoors, I’m a little less washed out.

I had hoped to take some better pictures with my husband’s help later, but nothing turned out any better. He did take a photo of the back (something I had forgotten to do):

Back of the dress. (It’s really wrinkled from sitting.)

And I shall end with a close up of my favorite part – the simple decoration:

Bias and a single covered button give a minimal design a touch of elegance.

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My Vintage Pattern Collection: 1960s & 1970s

More vintage pattern show-and-tell… (vintage patterns from the 1940s here and 1950s here)

While I am partial to the cheerful girliness of 1950s styles, I find myself gravitating to the styles from the 1960s as well. To me, Sixties fashion was when Fifties fashion “grew up” and sort of branched into two groups: simple sophistication – think Audrey Hepburn & Jackie Kennedy (both women seemed to bloom into fashion icons during this decade), and artistic “Mod” – think modern new things like Star Trek, The Beatles & Marimekko prints.

We will start out with two of my favorite patterns, which are both from the year 1960:

McCall’s 5688 Dress and Simplicity 3463 Wrap-Around Dress
I’m working on mockups of both of these.

Then there is one more from 1960, but it’s a bit “costumey”:

Advance 9399 Dress
It makes me think “Little Bo Peep”

The seams are so interesting on this dress from 1961:

Butterick 2502 V-Darted Dress
The long-sleeved version has zippers at the wrist.

Then I have a girls’ dress that doesn’t seem to exist anywhere else on the internet. The year is unknown, but it has to be from the Sixties:

Simplicity 4414 Girls’ Dress

My reasons for thinking that it belongs in the 1960s are:  the price (45 cents) is similar to the prices of other early Sixties patterns; the hairstyles on the girls look ’60s; the colors match the previous pattern’s; the floral print looks correct for that decade; and the skirt of the dress also has an inverted box pleat like the previous pattern. I’d say it’s pretty safe to assume it belongs at this point in the timeline – do you agree?

Here’s another girls’ dress and a wrap skirt from 1962:

McCall’s 6384 Girls’ Dress with Attached Petticoat

McCall’s 6665 Wrap-Around Skirt
I think it’s interesting that so many types of clothes wrapped in the back in the 60’s.

This next one from 1964 epitomizes the sophistication of Sixties fashion:

McCall’s 7349 Dress
Very Audrey Hepburn!

A more formal dress from 1965:

Simplicity 6219 Coat & Dress
The long version makes me think Jackie Kennedy.

Then the Mod Styles really start showing with these next few. 1960s (specific year unknown):

Butterick 3580 Dress and Butterick 3325 Dress & Jumper
I’m thinking Mary Tyler Moore, especially with the plaid jumper.

A mini-dress with shorts for beachwear from 1967:

Simplicity 7136 Dress or Beach-dress & Shorts

My one vintage pattern from 1968 has incredibly interesting style lines, and it’s Karen’s fault that I had to have it because she talked about it on her blog:

Vogue 2040 Molyneux Dress
I think I want the short-sleeved version – now I just need to find the perfect solid color fabric to show off those lines!

This pattern is from 1969:

Simplicity 8436 Mini-Dress & Pants

The date on this next one is unknown, and different sources put it in different decades. I can’t decide if it’s late 60s or early 70s:

Butterick 5800 Dress & Pantdress

The overall shape is Sixties, but the big collar and one-piece “jumpsuit” version seems rather Seventies. Even the hairstyles are in that transition stage.

The 1970s get a bad rap because of awful plaids and horrible-feeling synthetic fabrics, but I’ve always loved the style-lines (especially on women’s suits) and how slim & leggy they make people look. (I’m glad I can say I was born in this decade and not the Eighties, which I think was the ugliest fashion decade ever!)

I have a short list of vintage patterns from the Seventies starting with 1973:

Simplicity 6039 Jacket & Pants
I really need to make this suit for myself!
I’m thinking brown corduroy.

And another suit pattern, also from 1973. I actually just have a self-traced brown-paper copy (with Xeroxed envelope & instructions) of this one because I found in my size in a theatre costume shop’s filing cabinet:

Simplicity 5918 Jacket, Pants & Skirt
Years ago, I made a mockup but never finished fitting it.
I still really like it and need to make it for real.

This next jumpsuit pattern from 1977 was so hilariously 70s that I had to keep it.  Cue The Carpenters!

McCall’s 5421 Jumpsuit & Hat
If I ever need coveralls for work, I will be making one of these because the style-lines are really flattering.

I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing some of my vintage patterns. I’ll be sharing some of my current projects using a few of them in the weeks to come. =)

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