Monday, August 17, 2020

The Floral, Stretch Denim, 1970's Pinafore Dress

The first time I stepped foot in an antique mall again (after over a 6 month break from thrift stores and antique malls due to the pandemic), I immediately saw a basket full of sewing patterns, and made a beeline for it. I then spent a very enjoyable 10 minutes seeing what this basket had to offer, and went home that day with a very nice stack of “new” patterns.
Some of these patterns were from the 50’s, some from the 60’s, one was from the 70’s, and a couple were more modern historical costuming patterns.
I took these patterns home, put them away, and then kinda forgot about them as I made my way through my list of already planned sewing projects. That is, until one evening a few weeks later when I was looking for a pattern I needed for one of said planned projects, and the 70's pattern from that antique mall trip caught my eye.

It was Simplicity 7580, a pinafore/sundress pattern featuring patch pockets and a long row of buttons down the back. Suddenly, I wanted to make this dress. I figured it would be a very useful item in my wardrobe, wearable in all seasons - as a stand alone dress during hot weather, or worn over a top during cooler temperatures. Other projects on my list got pushed down. This dress was happening now - or as soon as I decided what fabric I wanted to make it out of. 

The pattern envelope showed examples of the dress made up in both a denim and a print. I really liked the idea of making my version out of denim, but I didn't think I had any light weight denim in my stash. Maybe a print version would be fun, but did I have any heavy enough prints? As I was contemplating this, I remembered the floral stretch denim I made my mom's Easter jeans out of last year. That would be perfect for this dress! I knew I had some of that fabric left over, but did I have enough?

I pulled the fabric off the shelf and unfolded it. 2 yards of 55" wide fabric - just enough! It was happening! 

The pattern was one of the early multi-sized printed patterns (As opposed to the earlier single-sized un-printed patterns.), and it came in two sizes. My copy was a size 10/12, and the measurement chart matched the modern Simplicity pattern measurement chart. In modern Simplicity patterns I measure a 14, but a size 12 usually fits me perfectly, so I was hopeful that a size 12 would fit me with this pattern. (And I figured the fact I was using a stretch fabric would give me a little bit of wiggle room as well.)

The pattern was uncut and pretty much brand-new, despite being over 40 years old, so I cut out the size I needed and was good to go. I sewed up the bodice and then tried it on to check the strap length before sewing down the neckline facing.

The straps were a couple inches too long so I shortened them accordingly. The bodice was also really loose above the bust so I took that in about an inch on either side.

Once I was sure the fit was just right, I sewed the facing down with gray top stitching thread.

I added top stitching along the edges of the straps as well to tie everything together.

I really liked the patch pockets the pattern came with, I just made mine a few inches deeper than the pattern indicated because small pockets are no fun!

The dress closes with buttons all down the back, and oh boy was it hard to pick which buttons to use! My facings and pocket linings are pink to match the roses on the denim, so originally I wanted pink buttons to match. My button stash was lacking a set of 10 pink buttons however, so something else has to be found. I considered black buttons, white buttons, bright green buttons, and metal buttons before I found a set of sage green buttons with a flower petal-like design on them which perfectly matched the green leaves printed on my fabric.

I'd rejected these buttons for several previous projects because I thought they looked dated, but for this dress they were just the thing!

Unlike my normal practice, I actually took the time to transfer the button placement markings from the pattern onto my dress, and sewed the buttonholes where they were *supposed* to be, rather than just winging it.

Was taking the time to mark button placement worth it? I don't know. It didn't take that much extra time, but it was king of annoying and I'm not sure the results are any better than if I'd just sewn the button holes where ever I thought they should go. That said, not having to guess on button placement was strangely comforting. So maybe I'll take the time on future projects to transfer button placement. Maybe.
The hem might be my favorite little detail of this dress. It was "Sew Something With a Unique Hem" week in the 52 week sewing challenge group, so I choose to use pink lace hem tape on the inside of my hem and I sewed it in place with gray top stitching thread to match the top stitching on the bodice.

The lace tape doesn't add any extra bulk the way a double fold hem would, and it's just plain pretty!

Lace hem tape, top stitching, all the buttons, patch pockets, and floral stretch denim.

It's different than my usual dresses, but I really like it!

I may not be sure if it was worth taking the time to transfer buttonhole markings, however I do know it was worth making this dress!

It's cute, comfortable, fun, and fits well. A very welcome multi-season addition to my closet!


  1. First of all you hair color looks great! Your dress turned out lovely. I have been making a lot of dresses lately that button all the way up the front using original 30-40's patterns. I look at the buttonhole placement they marked as a guide. I know how far I like having the buttonhole start from the edge so I measure and mark my own. Also one of the dresses I made I used buttons that were much smaller than what they recommended so I had to make my own markings. I love the idea of stretch denim. I just got some pieces of fabric from one of my on-line groups. Two of the fabrics although they look woven, they have stretch to them. I might have to make a dress/jumper too. BTW this pattern/style was sooo popular in the 70's I had many dresses this style when I was in High School many of which I made of course.