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 ♪

17 comments:

  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.

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

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  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!

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

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

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  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!

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  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!

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

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

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  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!

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  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 ♥

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  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!

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  13. Ah yes, that would be it!

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  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.

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  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.

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  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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