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May 14, 2010

Oh, Wouldn't it be Ugerly


I'm back.

Thank you for all your kind words about yesterday's video.  Sadly my vaudeville career came to an abrupt end last summer after a tragic case of mistaken identity resulting in a tone-deaf chicken and a parrot with very little white meat.  A setback.

My mother seems to be better; she suffers from a bit of vertigo now and then -- most unwelcome when you're 80.

So I came home yesterday to another lovely vintage pattern in the mail (the dress/jacket combo I showed you on Monday) and I started thinking about all the less-than-lovely patterns out there  (I'm sorry, I care.).  You know the ones; you've seen them, again and again, sitting on Etsy month after month, no price reduction sufficient to find a buyer, alone and unloved.

I decided it was time I did something about it.  So I combed through the Internet looking for the absolute worst patterns I could find.   My goal: to choose the one that's most appalling, purchase it and stitch it up.  Cathy will model it whether she like it or not.

There were a few ground rules: no maternity patterns, no wedding gowns (though maybe something bridesmaidsy if suitably nauseating), and no costumes -- just dress patterns.  Here's my top twelve.  Are you sitting down?

PLEASE NOTE: Some of you may find these patterns attractive, and/or own/wear them yourselves. My choices reflect only my particular taste and that of the vast majority of style-conscious earth dwellers.


























OK, it's over now.

As you can see, there is no shortage of unloved, abandoned patterns of yesteryear.  They represent many decades of style (?)  though perhaps one decade is overrepresented: can you guess which it is?  (Hint: it's not the Seventies.)

I'm still hunting of course, as a few of these outfits tread that fine line between outrageously awful and in-a-dark-room-on-a-cute-hipster-just-maybe chic.

Perhaps you can steer me in the direction of something even worse.  Maybe you own such a pattern yourself, alone-but-not-forgotten, in the belly of your sub-basement.  As I'm not ready to do any major alterations, the pattern would have to be a 36" chest.  (Postage would be your gift to me, oh, generous ones.)

What do you think, wise readers?  Do they come worse than these?  Do they bring back scary memories of proms/dates/job interviews past?  In your opinion, which is the most deserving of a second chance to be mocked?

I leave it to you.

UPDATE:  You can see which one I chose here, modeled by lovely Cathy Lane.

64 comments:

  1. Simplicity 9102, for sure. '80s excess to the max, lol! Peter, I think we're about the same age ... don't you feel bummed sometimes that the fashions of the '70s and '80s (our formative years!) were sort of dreadful in retrospect? The only saving grace is that there were no cameraphones or internet, and I can hide the negatives of all the photos of me in awful outfits of the past!

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  2. I vote for the cowgirl dress. Some of the others I kinda like, it's all about the fabric choices.

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  3. I want to see #2, Simplicity 9102, please! I think it's awesomely hideous...something I would wear to a family reunion.

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  4. I vote for the the Vogue sack jumper, or the Butterick with dropped waist.
    In python, please

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  5. While Simplicity 9102 makes me shudder at the same time I can see it is meant to be a bridesmaid dress so I can almost forgive the awful puffiness about it. The cowgirl dress is pretty bad - those shoulders look to be so wide I'm wondering how the poor gal fits through the door? Or does she live in a barn?

    The Simplicity 5828 is the worst. The shorter hemlength is meant to be for ordinary daily wear, perhaps on a date or to church or even to work. So the excuse of one-time wear bridesmaid dress can't be used here. The designers honestly thought that if you made this dress, you'd wear it more than once. Those fake Victorian leg of mutton sleeves plus shoulder pads plus big 80s hair hair make it look so godawful costumy, unflatteringly matronly and just down right horrible.

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  6. See, the thing about 9102 is that it really relies on one main element for its horribleness -- those puff sleeves. Without those, it's just a basic princess bodice with a gathered skirt -- not that bad. (OK, the boobage bow is badly executed, but I could see it working if you rocked an Emma Pillsbury vibe.)

    9519, though? Especially the right-hand view? That thing has it going on. Split, gathered boob cups, choke-tight mandarin collar, awesome bell-bottoms under an A-line tunic -- AND puffed sleeves.

    Or maybe you could make 9519 WITH the sleeves from 9102, for extra puff.

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  7. I think I have the McCalls jumpsuit one (with no number visible), plus some of the others look familiar. What can I say, I collect patterns, plus my local thrift store used to sell them for 10c each. I like fit & flare styles, plus if you do it right, scarves can work nicely.

    The sack, otoh, would do nothing to make me look good & the cowgirl one is a bit too kitsch as it is shown. It might look ok as evening wear, in satin, with the wider skirt. It looks unbalanced with the narrow skirt & all those ruffles.

    And speaking of ruffles, I like them, but even I am beginning to feel that it's time for today's fashion to back off on them. :-)

    Beth

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  8. the mccalls cowgirl dress - and cathy must wear the matching big hair.

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  9. An embarrassment of riches, to be sure. I vote for the Vogue pattern on top, but only if Cathy is willing to experiment with a little 80s styling in hair and makeup.

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  10. McCall's 9519: "Please allow me to present...MY BREASTS." Not gonna lie, I kind of love it. Also totally (I think unironically!) love the short-shorts-sailor-playsuit option, especially with those black tights. Could see that whole outfit on some hot young model wandering SoHo any day.

    My real vote is for the McCall's "fashion basics" gaucho...pants...elementary-school-teacher-from-1982-dress...thing. Cathy will LUV it.

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  11. OMG, I needed a good laugh today and I'm getting one. I think we should refer to that McCall's jumpsuit pattern the "Elaine Bennis" -- Seinfeld fans will know what I'm talking about.

    It's actually McCalls 6688.

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  12. Every one of these has some detail of normalcy and something that could be appropriated to another pattern- (personally I would make up the duster and go military rather than nautical with the detailing) except for the very first one. With that skinny tie the only thing that popped into my mind was it looked like a male maternity jumper..

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  13. I actually like one of these. As in, a lot... I'll refrain from saying which one to save face :-)

    I think Cathy should model 9102. V.I.L.E

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  14. Tough choice. #1 The Sack is just so sad. Does the awesome shirt come in the pattern or is this a sack only pattern?

    Butterick 5624, The Sack With Ruffles is horrible and I can't think of anyone, man or woman who would look good in that dress.
    The Annie Oakley cowgirl dress is hideous and costumey.
    The Hello Sailor hot pants and maxi coat is just bizarre. Seriously, what were they thinking?
    9102 or the McCall's jumpsuit is what I would like to see Cathy model most of all.
    Mermie

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  15. You know, Peter, some of these patterns could be sooo much worse. The Simplicity dress with the bow at the bust - well, that's actually inspired in comparison to what was standard for the period, which was a huge bow at the butt. It all depends on one's point of view. These may be awful and laughable -- but consider how much worse they could have been.

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  16. Two words for the worst pattern I've ever seen-- "Apron chaps". When I first discovered Gertie's blog she was doing a fantastically awful pattern search and I believe that was the top one...

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  17. Apron Chaps for sale, and here's the original post on Flickr.

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  18. Simplicity 9486 is so bad, it might be rad. I mean, Cathy in a prairie outfit? She is urbane and modern that it might cause one of those paradoxes in the space-time continuum that Doc Brown was always going on about.
    Butterick 5624 might actually work in an unexpected way with Cathy's svelte figure.

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  19. The first one might be really chic when all stitched up, a little 80's Paul Poiret.

    Anne Shirley would approve on 9102. Oh puffed sleeves!

    The sailor suit is a cute 1970's version of Little Lord Fauntleroy. Makes sure you have ringlets and a lollipop on hand if you choose that one.

    Plenty of 'I give up dresses', like the McCalls jumpsuit 'fashion basics'. That one might be my choice or the 3264, which is so Dynasty!

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  20. McCalls 3264 view C is the one that makes me the most nauseated. Mauve, the color of my nightmares, high neck with front tie, long sleeve, sack shape with a twirly skirt. This screams "I'm a 48 year old virgin and I intend to stay that way!" Seriously I don't think anyone could look good in that dress. I imagine it with a full body girdle (although I have no idea why anyone would bother) and some nice beige soft soled lace up shoes. Don't forget the matching bow artfully clipped to the top of a low pony tail.

    I'm going to lie down now.

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  21. so, i'm pretty sure that Cathy needs to have the little sailor-inspired ensemble, and then once done with the pattern, needs to send it my way, because from the waist up, it's exactly like an amazing little 50's dress i wanted on my birthday, that just didn't fit, and now i need to make one myself.
    and besides, i can just see Cathy in a little sailor-romper, perhaps with matching sailor hat, waiting for the sailor boys to come home....
    cute, no?

    but the real winner of awful is #7417, no redeeming qualities that i can see!

    p.s. i've been lurking for ages, and just wanted to say how amazing it is that you're a man who sews, and sews awesome things. my husband has been wanting to learn, but gets frustrated with it all too easily.

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  22. I'd go with the "fashion basics" jumpsuit- if only to see it reincarnated; I wore EXACTLY the same thing for my Confirmation, mine had buttons all up the back and I remember the bottom two kept popping open all through the service, I was so worried about everyone in church seeing my undies. It was purple with teeny flowers...

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  23. Are you and Cathy having a bit of a fight or something? You can not send her out into the city wearing any of these outfits!

    I had fun in the 80's but seeing it in retrospect is terrible. My husband also points out it was one of the worst decades for music. Synthesizer sales must have plummeted in the 90's.

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  24. My vote for "ugliest" goes to the western shirtdress with the ruffles. But I'd like to see Cathy in the sailor suit. I actually think that pattern has potential and could be a nice look for her!

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  25. I would love to see Cathy in the 5828 Simplicity dress (the 4th option) In my opinion it represents the 80's without being silly :P
    and my second choice goes to Butterick 5624 (the 10th option)

    No matter what you choose I think Cathy is going to have fun wearing something from those years

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  26. OMG! I had that Vogue pattern! I don't remember if I ever made it, though. Gosh, I hope not.

    The Butterick 5624 is nothing short of horrific. As my mother would say: GAD!

    I loved the big shoulder patterns. I have broad shoulders and it meant I didn't have to alter anything. Ha!

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  27. That McCall's jumpsuit with the big collar. It's horrible.

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  28. Wow, I remember all of those styles when they were the height of fashion, and I remember seeing them worn (I did not -- because I was never in sync with the height of fashion -- probably a good thing, in retrospect).

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  29. Oh. Dear. Gawd. They all belong in the Fashion Hall of Insane. Don't forget to use the favorite fabric of the 80s era--shiny polyester. In fuchsia, teal and black. My retinas are already burning.

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  30. Can't we equate these with drunk dialing or bad oysters and pretend they didn't happen?

    Surviving the 80's was like surviving fashion Falujah but each decade has it's own special bombs.

    If I have to choose it's the Vogue - it's like wearing a fabric barrel.

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  31. I think the first one is by far the worst. Some of the others actually have potential, at least a little.

    Sophie
    filasewphie.blogspot.com

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  32. I know I'm weird, but I think the Butterick sailor outfit (view C) would make an adorable bathing suit cover up. As for my opinion on which ones of the rest of them would be the worst, it's a tough call, but I'd have to say....either the first picture of the vogue suspender-pantsuit thingy or the Simplicity 9102 below it where she has enough fabric there to literally flap her arms and fly away if she so desired. *shudder*

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  33. Some of those are really bad, but don't knock the Gunne Sax pattern. It is a pretty dress, though not wearable today, unless you are into prairie garb. When I was a young teenager, those were so in. The breast-showcasing 70's one or the Vogue sack are bad. The one with the pinafore apron S9486 isn't too bad, just not suitable today. The McCalls fit and flare is not bad either (the one after the Gunne Sax). If you have to choose a "bad one", cowgirl, sailor, or the sack.

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  34. I believe I actually owned one of these, not sayin' which one, mind you. It has long since left my pattern collection though. I always thought that the 70s were the worst fashion decade, but they're growing on me, now that you present these lovelies. :-P

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  35. The Sailor Suit, long version cut up TO THERE. Please.

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  36. Oh dear, the Vogue jumper with shirt (included in pattern). You can't hear me now but I'm making the same sound Lurch made on the Adams Family when called: uuuuhhhhhh.

    I might have to disqualify the sailor outfit: I'm starting to think it's cute.

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  37. I think the first one is the most hideous. It looks like something I would have worn in the eighties. The eighties is definately the most awful fashion period in my opinion. Cant wait to see which one you make!

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  38. I don't know what all you haters of the Vogue sack jumper are thinking. I would SO wear that. Different top of course but I would definitely rock this sack look.

    Helen

    PS: I am not being ironic. This is sincere.

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  39. I laughed...I cried. And then I thought, what happened in the 80's to make so much of fashion so bad? Yes, I was born in the 80's, but I refuse to believe that has any sort of causation on the following patterns.

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  40. My mother used to dress me with patterns similar to these. There is no need to wonder why I sew for myself now. Good luck picking the worst one. I think it's a tie for all of them.

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  41. Simplicity 9712 - well if it wasn't this pattern it was very like it - and my sister and I had matching Holly Hobbie print dresses!
    I loved it, but I was about 9 at the time...

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  42. How about an ugly pattern of today? These spring to mind:
    http://voguepatterns.mccall.com/v1181-products-11089.php?page_id=858 (Apparently Vogue is designing Snuggies now? "Evening" Snuggies, at that! Can you just see someone going to the opera in that?)
    http://www.burdastyle.com/patterns/burda-style-magazine-03-2010-jumpsuit

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  43. I bought the nautical pattern myself, recently. I found the short version of the top would be very cute with shorts (any european fashion blogger would be thrilled to possess the whitte ensemble). I'd selfishly love you to make it, and to add a tutorial for a little sailor cap.
    But as this would certainly not suit your purpose, the last and the first one are really, very ugly to my eyes...

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  44. So many of these choices should be marked "suitable for brides of Warren Jeffs."

    I still think one of the ugliest dresses ever is the pink Frankendress in Pretty in Pink. Two perfectly adequate garments sacrificed for THAT? But I think the McCall's 3264 is probably closest to that particular monstrosity. And if Cathy goes on a bit of a bender, no need for a girdle, or indeed any fitting at all!

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  45. I've sewn the 5th one. That exact pattern.

    My vote is that the last two are the worst.

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  46. I totally made that McCalls Fashion Basics one, with the wide leg culottes and lace-up back detail in school :)
    The first one's the worst of the bunch in my opinion, I'd like to see Cathy rock that one!

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  47. Nothing beats the Vogue plastic grocery bag jumper. Not even that cowgirl with a ruffled tablecloth around her neck.

    My mother owns not one but TWO of these: the one Brian and Tasia sewed (must have been popular!) and Simplicity 9712. She bought them in good faith when they were new and she was young, poor thing. The last time she tried to sew anything for me, it was a bright blue fake-dotted-swiss sailor tunic (thin, stiff calico, white collar) from a "middy blouse" pattern very like the one here. I was sixteen. It was 1992. Not a success.

    To be fair, sometimes my mother accidentally sews something quite attractive!

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  48. "My real vote is for the McCall's "fashion basics" gaucho...pants...elementary-school-teacher-from-1982-dress...thing." I totally concur with Jessica.

    But you have to make it in a big flowery chintz print so that Cathy will look like she's wearing someone's curtains. And you may have to modify the collar to a hideous Peter Pan version to be more "authentic". Thank god I somehow missed being taken in by this "look" in the 80s!

    If Cathy needed an FBA I would vote for Simplicity 9519 for pure hideous unsuitability. But it could actually be cute on her boyish figure.

    As for the Butterick sailor suit, I think it should be out of the running. Too possibly Sailor-Moon-cute if made short enough, with long enough legs.

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  49. I had a couple of dresses back in the day that were almost just like Simplicity 5828. I pretty much rocked them. I think Cathy would too.

    My bridesmaid dresses were just a touch scaled back from Simplicity 9102. I made them from a soft rose and lavender print taffeta. Fabulous!

    I have to vote for Butterick 5624 as the worst, though I think Cathy would be incredible in it.

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  50. Simplicity 9519 for sure, those weird little bust pannels couldn't be attractive on Pam An

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  51. I have to go with the cowgirl outfit, too. But it makes me sad that the clothing of the 60's, 70's and 80's are seen as laughable. At the time, we thought they were great. I remember thinking my wedding dress was soooo timeless. Now it just screams 60's! But a couple of decades from now, we'll be laughing at the clothing of the "naughts." Personally, I loved the 80's and except for the linebacker shoulder pads, I don't think the clothing was ugly. I know I'm sticking my neck out, here...

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  52. Looking over the patterns again, I think the worst of the lot is the Burda. I mean, a skirt that snaps down the side? Ugh!

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  53. Oh god...I've got that McCalls 3264. I think I made it too....1989, friend's wedding. Bright blue floral fabric. I thought it was just beautiful. Oh god.

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  54. omg. the McCall's Fashion Basics jumpsuit with integrated kerchief collar.

    How that is labeled a fashion basic, I have no idea....

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  55. I bought the Vogue jumper pattern shown at the top after a college roommate (1986) sewed it up in a wool doubleknit large-scale plaid of jeweltones. She paired it with jewel-toned blouses in fine cotton, which she also sewed.

    She was from Lagos, Nigeria, incredibly slim, with a graceful carriage. She had the most exquisite fabric collection of the best from Africa, India and England, and the stuff she picked up at her part-time job at Poppy Fabrics in Berkeley.

    The jumper looked fantastic on her, so I tried it, too. It looked ok on my, but not as good as it did on her. I wore mine with a black turtleneck and belted it.

    Like I wrote in http://badmomgoodmom.blogspot.com/2010/05/vogue-8657.html
    "The 1980s was an awesome decade for flat-chested girls. I could sew Calvin Klein and Perry Ellis patterns right out of the envelope."

    Now, I can't buy RTW because they expect everyone to have massive boobs. I even have to adjust nearly all the patterns for smaller cups.

    I've shown sewing projects made from 1980s projects many times.
    http://badmomgoodmom.blogspot.com/2009/11/time-in-box-and-statistics.html
    http://badmomgoodmom.blogspot.com/2010/05/1984.html
    http://badmomgoodmom.blogspot.com/2010/02/time-machine.html
    http://badmomgoodmom.blogspot.com/2009/07/unsuitable-for-plaids-or-stripes.html

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  56. The Simplicity patterns are the worst, I think. Your top contenders list just confirms that my sister and I were right to boycott Simplicity for over three decades, from the early 1970s when we were sewing as teens right through to the present. The bibbed jumper with the applique heart is hideous.

    I was wearing a dress similar to the Vogue jumper when I met my dh, I looked HOT! Super comfortable too.

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  57. That sack-like McCalls thing makes my eyes hurt.
    I have vague memories of most of the other ones being very popular.
    Having just inherited quite a number of '80s patterns from my aunts and grandmother - I feel it was a dark, dark time in fashion. So glad I wasn't learning to sew back then

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  58. Simplicity 5826 is ugly enough to be a polygamy dress. All you need is the long unkempt hair. If Cathy wears it she will look like someone's 13th wife in Southern Utah.

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  59. That first one is by far the worst. It looks upside down!
    I am kind of insulted about the Gunne Sax pattern being on there (Gunne Sax still sell at about $100+ on Ebay, so they're still in demand), but as my mom reminded me, you did put a disclaimer.

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  60. Phew - Simplicity 9712 is mighty horrible. The only way it might work in some parallel universe, is if you are a milkmaid transported through time and space from the 1920'es Bavaria to a costume party among blind people!

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  61. Whoa. I'm pretty sure my sister had to wear Simplicity 9102 as a bridesmaid in my cousin's wedding. (Or it was very like)

    Does anyone else find it hilarious that McCall's 3264 says "Petite-able"? Yeah, 'cause that'll solve the problem of drowning in fabric...-

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  62. Sorry Peter but that Sailor Suit is HAWT!

    Simplicity 9519 could actually be worn by a hipster with the right fabric though the boobage cups are strange.

    I swear I've seen Simplicity 9712 on girls in Japan.

    I vote for Burda 7417.

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  63. I actually *like* Simplicity 9486. I guess I have no taste :)

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  64. I think I made Simplicity 9712 in a purple poplin, with purple gingham over apron in 1973 when I was 13. I felt like Alice in Wonderland in it.

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