Dress Like Your Grandma '18 - Floral Edition

Posted Wednesday, 30 May, 2018

Hello sewists!

It's been a busy month or so out here. We took a trip down to Canberra to see friends, do some shopping and revisit autumn. Nowhere in Australia is autumn as beautiful as it is in the ACT and surrounding region. There's just something about it, (although I know that Victoria is glorious this time of year as well, so some people may disagree with me on this point). In typically "me" fashion I neglected to stop and take photos, putting it off and thinking that I’d do it later. Or tomorrow. Obviously this didn’t eventuate, but there's always next time…

Instead, the photos in this blog post aren't associated with Canberra at all, rather, they're shot at the Alice Springs Telegraph Station. A wonderful piece of history and an icon for the town (which I keep parroting, but it’s true). This was for my entry into the "Dress Like Your Grandma" challenge hosted by the wonderful Tanya Maile, a vintage loving lady who has been sewing her own wardrobe since 2011 and lives on a cattle ranch in Northern California (!). I’ve chatted a bit with Tanya throughout this challenge and I absolutely love her aesthetic and vintage finds (1920’s cloche hats, anyone? So dreamy). I’m already looking forward to seeing what people sew next year!  You can go to Tanya’s blog "Mrs Hughes" to find out more about the Dress Like Your Grandma challenge and see what other entrants have sewn up (Tanya has a compiled a full gallery of all submissions), as well as having a gander at what Tanya herself has been making. She been really loving patio dresses lately, which makes me want to sew patio dresses, and google patio dresses, and possibly just go to some sort of square dance, which definitely isn’t my thing, but patio dresses……

Anyway! In case the title wasn’t enough of a giveaway, the “Dress Like Your Grandma” challenge is centred around the idea of sewing something up to either emulate a specific vintage dress or something that a family member (i.e. your grandma) wore. If you don’t have family photos or something specific from another era in mind, that’s fine too. The idea is all about drawing inspiration from the past and recreating those vintage looks!

I chose to go with a dress that was worn by my Gran, probably in the late 1930’s – early 1940’s. We ended up back at the Telegraph Station for the photos because it was the closest “period appropriate” location in town. The original photo looks as though it was taken at the old family property in Victoria. There would have been a vast difference between the two locations in both architecture and climate back then – pretty much the same as now, really. Finding a location sympathetic to the above photo was actually the most difficult part of the challenge!

Taking into consideration my current maternity needs, I decided to reinterpret Gran’s floral shirtdress as a floral 40’s inspired shift. It was the neckline in Gran’s picture that made me immediately think of Jennifer Lauren’s beautiful “the Afternoon Blouse and Shift Dress” pattern. This also led me to do a bit of reading on Jennifer’s blog about the creation of this pattern. All in all, it’s so lovely. I’m thinking that I’ll keep an eye out for suitable fabrics and perhaps make a maternity-friendly Afternoon Blouse.

Cover art for the Jennifer Lauren Afternoon Blouse and Shift Dress

Fabric-wise this pattern is very versatile, pretty much any woven fabric is suitable. I went a bit out of my usual comfort-zone and made this dress up in a quilting cotton – which is good for when you’re first learning to sew. For me now though, I tend to avoid it as I feel that it can lend an overtly “homemade” look to my clothes. The only exception to this being circle skirts. I do love a circle skirt in a novelty print, quilting cotton or otherwise.

If you do find yourself sewing clothing with quilting cotton, the big positive is that it washes very well and doesn’t tend to fray too badly. I finished all seams with pinking shears (overlocker is still very dead), telling myself that this finish was very period appropriate for the challenge! This dress has now been through the wash a few times and the seams are holding up very nicely.

L to R: Pinking and Bias Binding sewn on for elastic

I also had to make a bit of bias binding for the dress as it has a sweet bit of shaping to the back, thanks to the little channel for elastic that it creates. This is a clever design feature as a) it looks sweet and b) stops the shift from moving into “sack” territory. I don’t like making bias binding, but I hate the store-bought stuff and like the finish, so I have promised myself that I will be making it more often. 

This dress has a faux-button closure affixed to the front (as per pattern instructions), but it would be so simple to just make a functional buttonhole which would be more baby/post-partum friendly.

Speaking of closures, this button was an Etsy find – I wanted something that would suit the fabric and this oversized daisy in milk glass was perfect. I don’t know how old it is (it was listed as “vintage” but that can mean anything, really). But it’s cheerful and a bit special.

So that’s it! I loved taking part in this challenge, and I should mention that it's now finished for 2018 - keep an eye out for next year! Although it wasn’t a “competition” some entrants were randomly selected to win prizes from event sponsors. I seem to be on a bit of a Jennifer Lauren Handmade kick at the moment, as I won a free sewing pattern of my choice! I selected the Gable Top and Jennifer was generous enough to include the expansion pack for me. There are now Gable tops and dresses in my future!

Has anyone else recreated a garment based on an old picture or family member? I’d love to know!