Buttoned-up Dress from 1964 – Simplicity 5399

I finished my Colette Hawthorn last weekend (just getting pics together) and I’m already on my next dress. This 1964 vintage pattern, which I’ve been crazy about for years, is finally getting made. I can’t find anything on the internet about this dress. Do you know if anyone else has made it?

Simplicity 5399Of course when I envisage myself wearing this, I’m walking along tree-lined boulevards in dappled sunlight, wearing gloves and heels and maybe carrying a small bunch of flowers. My reality is more about dragging a heavy bag of marking through tube stations whilst getting elbowed by the commuters because I’m heading the opposite direction to everyone else. It’s not that bad, going the opposite way to everyone else means I get a seat at least.

Extra points if anyone can guess the station.

Going against the flow.

Lucky for me, I have a week and a bit off so lots of time to sew. I started cutting this out on Tuesday night and spent Thursday assembling it. I don’t want to jinx anything but I’m really surprised with how quickly it’s coming together.I won’t go for a contrasting collar, that’s certain, I left the collar reversed so it would “read” in a picture. It also helps me get an idea of the shape and size I want for the finished collar. It probably won’t look like this.

Simplicity 5399The skirt has an underlay at the back, which is something I hadn’t encountered before but proved to be pretty simple. I have a long-standing love affair with asymmetry , especially on collars. Big, asymmetric collars, I love ’em.  I’ve already cut out the original collar but I don’t think this process is quite over yet. We shall see! The fabric is a heavier cotton so it’ll be perfect for the cooler weather, I even managed to squeeze sleeves out of the fabric (from Wimbledon Sewing Centre).

Emil pointed out that this pattern is almost 50 years old. According to Laver’s Law, that makes it “Quaint” – or maybe Mary Quant ; )

Laver’s Law ascribes adjectives to fashion trends. For example, something 50 years after its time, like this dress is considered “Quaint”. Interesting but I’m not sure I completely agree with this. Things have changed so much since this was written in 1937, fashions changes much faster and people tend to not be so constrained by what they “should” or “shouldn’t” wear. I’ve been reading a lot of books on this stuff lately but more on that later.

Indecent 10 years before its time
Shameless 5 years before its time
Outré (Daring) 1 year before its time
Smart Current Fashion’
Dowdy 1 year after its time
Hideous 10 years after its time
Ridiculous 20 years after its time
Amusing 30 years after its time
Quaint 50 years after its time
Charming 70 years after its time
Romantic 100 years after its time
Beautiful 150 years after its time

Above table from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Laver

original source – Laver, James, Taste and Fashion, chapter 18, (London, 1937)

(edit- Had to reference that with slightly more detail. Can you tell I’ve been marking a stack of academic papers?)


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 ------> smittenness@gmail.com
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3 Responses to Buttoned-up Dress from 1964 – Simplicity 5399

  1. Amanda says:

    I love the pattern and the dress is looking very well at the moment. Can’t wait to see it finished. I really could picture that boulevard…….perhaps you need to organise a French Exchange visit?? Haha.
    Keep sewing!

    • smittenness says:

      An exchange? Why ever not?! I was looking through your blog (couldn’t figure out how to comment) I bought that Simplicity 1587 just the other week, so lovely. That New Look 6723 is fab on you.

      • Amanda says:

        Thanks. Not sure about the add a comment part…. It’s all abit beyond me still! Lol
        Yes, I think I am going to do the Vintage dress for the Monthly Stitch -Froctober. Although not sure about fabric choice. What are you going to choose? I might be asking for advice so don’t go on foreign exchange just yet!

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