Sewing Circle: Betty Draper, c. 1963: that long, bold geometric dress!
Q: I am absolutely in love with this dress from Mad Men Season 3. I know a big part of making it will be finding the right print fabric, but do you have any recommendations on patterns or fabric type? My guess is that it's a reasonably simple bodice shape with a gathered skirt (the article says pleated, but it definitely looks more gathered to me), probably made in a silk fabric. Have you seen any patterns that have a similar bordered bodice, or should I just draft my own alterations from a regular bodice?
A: First off, wow, that is an amazing website/blog. They have analysis of so many costumes and movies! So much fun for someone like me!
But, the dress. It’s very cool that they did an analysis/description of it, very helpful—you’re right, the skirt is definitely gathered, though. Looks like two long rectangles, so you don’t need a pattern for that part. I think I’ve seen patterns for a similar bodice, although never anything exactly the same! You’re right that you could modify, but I wouldn’t start from a basic dress pattern; I’d get as close as possible and then draft things like the scoop back and center front slit; pretty easy. Here are my top suggestions:
Vogue V8574. Very similar, except it has a full back and no waistband/midriff panel. You could easily add some rectangles to the front and back for the wide waistband!
Simplicity 1881. Very similar except the halter back. Could be modified…
Simplicity 2588 or New Look 6799. No slit, different back, but basic yoke. Could add a slit in the center front.
Simplicity 2180. Also a different back and no slit, but it’s a lot of fun!
Simplicity 2692. Also a different back and no slit, and gathers under bust instead of darts (you could dart it) but great for a knit—the hot pink on the bottom left is closest.
Simplicity 1803. No yoke, but has the back you want, and an opening in the front like the original.
Butterick B5353. Princess seams and different back, but yoke:
Whew! Well, that’s quite a lot of not-quite-there to start with!
As for the fabric, it may be silk, but that sounds expensive, and a silky poly would cling to your legs annoyingly, I predict. I’ve seen some really bold print knits at JoAnn before; maybe a lightweight knit would work? Some of the patterns above are also perfect for knits. And what I’ve seen of originals from that era, knits were very popular.
I’m sure that gives you some things to think about.
Readers, what would you do? None of these patterns were perfect, so do you have any ideas, or would you modify one of the ones I listed? What parts would you tweak??