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Jul 25, 2019

Sewing a Summer Dress for Cousin Cathy!

As most of you know by now, my cousin Cathy gets annoyed with me if I don't make her at least one new outfit every season.

Since I never do, she's annoyed with me often.  She still hasn't forgiven me for the four year break between July 2014 and August 2018, but I had other priorities and, frankly, so did she though I'm not authorized to share hers with you here.  Anyway, I seem to have missed this last spring, so I'm whipping her up a little something for summer.

I recently purchased Vogue 7935 (above), a vintage A-line one-piece dress pattern from 1970, for her on eBay.  There was something about the style that appealed to me.  Now let me say a few words about "Very Easy."  I did not find this to be a very easy pattern to make, especially not in the fabric I chose.  True, there aren't many pattern pieces, but the dress still required a great deal of careful construction.

My fabric is a poly georgette print I bought roughly eight years ago at Fabrics For Less, a fabric store in the Garment District that is today sadly defunct.  I liked the colors a lot and the print reads mod to me: perfect for a Sixties or Seventies ensemble.  Georgette is very lightweight fabric (not as light as chiffon but close) and it's not very easy to work with.  I found I needed to lower my thread tension considerably on both my Singer 15-91 and my Brother 1034D serger to prevent puckering.  Once I did that, however, both machines handled this delicate fabric beautifully.

Stitch sample: once I lowered my thread tension on my Brother 1034D serger, it handled the georgette quite well. 
A few words about my pattern.  What looks like a neck scarf is actually attached to the neckline and closes the long keyhole in front.  The front of the dress is one piece (with a faced keyhole) and the back two pieces.  The back closes with an invisible zipper.  As usual, I used Kenneth King's excellent invisible zipper installation tutorial on YouTube, which always yields great results.

I didn't want the bishop sleeves and gathered sleeve cap to droop, so I needed to use something to give them some stiffness and fullness while still retaining the soft drape of the georgette.  I ended up underlining each sleeve with soft nylon tulle and adding a layer of slightly stiffer net to the sleeve cap area.  It worked beautifully.  I was able to gather the cap easily and the gathers keep their shape.  The nylon is soft enough that it doesn't catch on the fabric or feel uncomfortable when worn (or so my cousin tells me).

A peek inside the sleeve cap.

The nylon tulle also gives the bishop sleeve fullness.  You'll see what I mean when I post the final photo shoot, which should be sometime in the next week.

Gathering my bishop sleeve before adding a narrow cuff (not part of the original pattern, which calls for just a casing with elastic).

This is a bit of a departure for Cathy.  It's been many years since she's done a Seventies look and we're all hoping she can still pull it off.  Stay tuned.

Happy sewing, everybody!


  1. My first thought when the top picture came up: "High School". Sure enough--1970!

    Thanks for the net tip for adding body to sleeve caps! I'm betting Cathy still has the chops to do this dress justice.

  2. I love this dress and would definitely wear it. I expect Cathy is looking as good as ever and will model it to perfection, lucky girl Cannot wait for the big reveal!

  3. I didn't think it was possible for Cathy to look anything less that fabulous in anything she was wearing!

  4. gorgeous choice of fabric and dress - I am sure Cathy will pull of the look with her usual style and grace.... those vogue patterns are my favourites as I just adore those illustrations. looking forward to seeing that sleeve....

  5. You can also install a sleeve head -- a piece cut in the shape of a football, with a curve that mirrors the top of the sleeve. Cut it on the bias. Fold it in half, and sew the long curved edge into the armsceye. In effect, the sleeve head rests on your shoulder, allowing the gathered top of the sleeve itself to soar to worlds unknown.

    With the addition of the netting you've already added, the sleeves will never give Cousin Cathy a reason to fret about the Dreaded Sleeve Slump.

  6. Love your attention to detail with the sleeve. That pattern and fabric takes me back to my 70's heyday!

  7. Are you kidding? The 70s are really Cathy's decade.

    'Very Easy' usually relies on a superior fabric choice, which I think you've made here. What I want to thank you for is your process, and recording and sharing it here. That tulle/net combo is brilliant. It will remain a lightweight and summery dress without droopy sleeves. And it's a technique that's going in my repertoire this weekend (going to unpick a dress that needs its pleats to poof). I am so sorry that I cannot be at MPB Day to thank you for this in person, but thank you again.

  8. I love that idea to add tulle to the sleeves.

  9. Oh Peter! Thanks to you once again, Cathy is going to look just groovy! I can hardly wait to see the reveal! --Erik in NW Ohio

  10. Can't wait to see Cathy wearing this. Any chance I could meet her when I visit next month?

  11. A summer dress in polyester, with long sleeves? That's cruelty.

  12. This article is really impressive to all the embroiders for developing their skill, I really liked your writing & creativity skill now left chest digitizing with quality is possible by using our service.


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