3 July 2013

An "Homage To A Mad Old Lady" Dress

NOTE: This was supposed to post on Saturday but something went wrong, so here it is now! 

Years ago, when fabric shopping, a kind yet mad woman wrapped me up in a makeshift sari, telling me that I would look make a "beautiful bride" for her son. I laughed the whole thing off, insisting that I was involved, unwrapped myself from the fabric and bought what I needed.
What I hadn't seen is she'd thrown in a length of the fabric she'd wrapped around me, and told me "not to tell her husband." I was confused at the time, but once I'd got home and seen the fabric, I promised to make something pretty out of it and fondly remember the crazy woman.

Approximately four years later - I've finally used the fabric in a dress!

This dress uses the bodice from Butterick B5880, omitting the neckline notches, and has a pleated dirndl instead of the sarong skirt - and pockets!

All photos are taken by my boyfriend in his parent's house in Onchan, Isle of Man.

I'm going to assume the fabric is a voile of some kind, and it's frankly slippy as f-. Trying to get the checks to line up was a time consuming and ultimately fruitless labour of love.
But the fabric itself was nice to work with - it presses really quite crisp, isn't so bad for fraying and my favourite part - you can shove it in a washing machine with no problem!

The dress itself, I love. This is my favourite make so far, if I'm honest. The bodice is roomy without making me look frumpy - and it surprised me by being a high neckline and not looking horrible on. And the pleated skirt I'm impressed by, I'd never made a pleated skirt before this, and it went by with only one problem - I had to take out pleats in the front for not having enough fabric! But it worked out nicely, I like the flatter front as it doesn't make me look pregnant, which is always a bonus.

This is one of those dresses that works nicely on a night out, but also for day activities if you fancy a little luxury in your day! The only problem is that this fabric completely absorbs sunlight, and whilst I was standing directly under the sun whilst on the Isle of Man, I was certain I was going to end up catching fire.

  • Fabric:
    Black and silver check voile [stash]
    Black cotton [stash]
  • Pattern:
    Butterick B5880
  • Pattern Alterations:
    Omitted neckline notches, Replaced sarong skirt with pleated dirndl and patch pockets.
  • Notions:Invisible zip
  • Make again?:
    Definitely! The whole dress is so comfortable, hangs beautifully and feels like a dream to wear! The bodice is roomy without being unflattering, which is so nice.
  • Total price: £0!
FINALLY, I've managed to tick off one of my Sewlutions - A patterned dress for once!

Melody ♪


  1. I swear I saw this post on Sunday!

    Great dress, and a lovely story to it. It's a beautiful homage to the Mad Old Lady.

  2. LOVE THIS! You look amazing in it. I definitely need to start sewing again...

  3. Darling, you look fabulous!! It is a wonderful dress and the crazy lady who gifted you the fabric would be proud of what you made of it!

  4. That crazy lady had good taste! Lovely dress your whole outfit and hair look amazing!

  5. Well she may have been a bit potty but she picked you out some pretty awesome fabric Melody! Gorgeous dress :)

  6. It looks fabulous! Thank you Mad Old Lady, haha. I prefer pleated skirts to gathered too for the reason you mentioned- having already actually been pregnant once I don't want my voluminous skirts leading to awkward questions. Though they're a pig to iron. My last pleated skirt had 3 widths of fabric in it, and about 40 pleats, and took me about half an hour to iron nicely. It doesn't get washed often!

  7. You possibly saw it on We Sew Retro? I try and post my most vintage-looking stuff on there around the same as putting it up on here, and that went through with no problem - but it never went live on this blog!

    But thank you so much! I like having stories behind clothing, especially ones that include Mad Old Ladies!

  8. Thank you so much! And yes, yes yes you should!! Get on that machine!

  9. Thank you - and I'd like to think she'd still try and marry me off ;D

  10. I think so too! At the time I was going through a Japan-Punk stage and was all "ugh this is so feminine." But I'm glad I waited to mature a bit to use it, because the finished dress is easily my favourite!

  11. Potty is definitely the right word! I'm so glad she was, or else I wouldn't have such a lovely dress. And thank you ♥

  12. Thank you! And definitely a thank you to the Mad Old Lady! I only wish I could meet her again to show off what I did with it.

    I'm so glad someone else understands my grief on looking pregnant - I wore a gathered dress the other day and had two people give up seats on a busy tube, and someone actually said "should you really be smoking in your condition" so that killed my self esteem a bit...

    The break in pleats work really well, for being a complete accident, and the pockets don't stick out quite as much as they would if the whole front was pleated, which makes it quite nice.
    But i totally understand about ironing! I hate ironing with a passion [yet I'll happily iron six meters of fabric after pre-washing?] Sadly I'm lazy and open the skirt out, then give it a quick press over the pleats!

  13. Ah yes, that would be it!

  14. I love the black and white with the red contrast. What a wonderful gift. I am currently working on a black swiss dotted chambray dress that I will pair with a red belt and shoes.

  15. Thank you! This is my default colour combination, I'm trying to get out of the habit!

    I'm so happy I've inspired you to go with this colour co-ordination - and that dress sounds beautiful! I can't wait to see it.

  16. Wowzers!!! Your dress is gorgeous! The fabric is fab (crazy lady had great taste) and I love your hair. Lynne


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