Three Generations Dress. Vintage 60s Pattern – Style 2978 (aka Happy Birthday Mum)

Today is my mum’s birthday! So today I’m posting my three generation dress.Fabric bought by my nonna, pattern from mum, sewn by me.

Excuse the glazed expression. This was taken on my 34th birthday.

This dress is based on this wonderful vintage pattern my mum bought way back in the day – Style 2978. I’m not sure of exactly when it was printed but it cost 90 cents. 90 cents!

Style 2978

My mum has such a fantastic stash of old patterns, I can’t help raiding them every time I go back to Australia. This design is very flattering, very feminine and gives cracking cleavage. I think I must’ve “liberated” this pattern in 2008. On that same trip back, my very-much-missed nonna took me out to Spotlight and insisted on buying me so much fabric I had to take a second bag back to London.

I love the idea that it’s been so well-loved and used that it needed sticking back together. Look how worn and soft the paper is! I also love to think of my mum’s hands unfolding and cutting and sewing all way before my sister and I were born. One day I’d like to make this on my nonna’s old treadle sewing machine for the next generation

At last count, this dress has been made by mum and myself at least 7 times! There’s a lovely photo of my mum and dad out on a “date” in the 60’s. They’re both beaming and she’s wearing a full-length, lined, silver and pink brocade version with a matching stole. She also made it in orange and covered it in green and yellow daisies for her engagement party (heartbreaker). I was thrilled to discover these dresses in her wardrobe in the 90s. So thrilled that I chopped off the length and wore them as mini-dresses. Sorry mum!  It’s also been a wild paisley version in the 90s and a floral-version for a 15-year-old me. I’ll eventually round up pics of all of these dresses and do a separate post. Meanwhile, here’s another version I made.

Here’s one I made in cotton in 2009

This is what the pieces look like when cut out. It’s fairly straightforward – empire line cut with a zip up the back, four pieces, four darts in the front bodice, two in the back. I used facing round the neckline but you can fully line the bodice (top two pieces) if you like. I didn’t because I’m lazy like that, it didn’t need it and, most importantly, why make life more difficult for yourself?

Of course, as most people will tell you, these vintage patterns are sized slightly differently. What that basically means is that you have to go UP a size. Depressing? No. Women in those days wore stays and loads of other scaffolding under their clothes to get those shapes. It’s also important to remember that fabrics have changed a lot too. A lot of (all?) these patterns are pre-lycra and made before any kind of stretch. Do be extra careful with dart placement and beware of straight bust darts! More often than not they give you dangerously and ridiculously pointy boobs. It’ll look hilarious but it’s probably better to curve any darts. curlyxrt on Burdastyle has written an excellent tutorial here . Really. What was up with that bullet bust fad?


Yay! Another dress.

I should mention that, luckily, this is one of the few patterns that didn’t get caught up in the cat-pee marathon of 2010. Jack was spayed shortly after that. He then pulled his stitches out and had to be upgraded to a dog size buster-collar. Those were a few disgusting and expensive weeks. Little monster.

Satellite cat.

Satellite cat.

Special thanks to my incredibly talented mum (below) and nonna for encouraging me and patiently answering all my sewing questions. Happy birthday mum, you’re wonderful x

Scan 13

PS. Mum, I have your purple hat.

Like mother, like daughter (if I'm lucky)



About Vanessa

Sewing and assorted nonsense. For reasons that escape me, I left the sunshine and beaches of Australia for the crisps and glitter of London in 2001. I now live in the middle of some kind of feline drop-in centre in East London battling for space to make costumes and clothes. Over on twitter and instagram as @smittenness Email over here ------>
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15 Responses to Three Generations Dress. Vintage 60s Pattern – Style 2978 (aka Happy Birthday Mum)

  1. vivjm says:

    I love this dress & I love that it spans the three generations!

  2. sewexhausted says:

    I recently made a dress for my daughter that my aunt had used the same pattern for back in the 60’s! It makes the dress so much more special! Love your version!

    • smittenness says:

      There’s something so warm about patterns spanning generations. I love being able to ask my mum about the pattern, and it gives me a kick knowing she was younger than me when she made it!

  3. Margaret says:

    Hi there, I made this dress in 1970 out of a gold brocade for a ball. looked fantastic. I would like to make another one for my granddaughter but cant get hold of a pattern for it, if anyone can help, I’d be eternally grateful.
    Thanks and I love that this beautiful dress is still out there.

  4. Margaret Oxley says:

    Hi Smittenness,
    I have sent you an email. many thanks

  5. Margaret Oxley says:

    Hi smittenness, thanks wait your reply eagerly

  6. Margaret Oxley says:

    Hi smittenness,
    just wondering if you have had any luck with the vintage style pattern 2978?

    • smittenness says:

      Hi Margaret, have had a lot going on and my laptop crashed so I’m only just catching up with things now. Might have time to see to it in a couple of weeks when term is out.

  7. Margaret says:

    Hi Smittenness,
    Just wondering, any luck with the pattern? I do so want to make it for my granddaughter, hope you had a lovely Christmas and new year, Margaret

  8. Margaret says:

    Great, looking forward to it.

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