Mad Men first arrived on UK TV at the same time as I was learning to sew. I had no idea what I was doing so rather than spend money on expensive fabrics, I’d cut up my husband’s worn work shirts and use the big pieces to make dresses for our daughter. These would be typically toddler in style, with voluminous skirts and puffed sleeves. We called them her “Betty Draper dresses”.
Five series of the show later and dear daughter hasn’t seen a single episode, yet she knows all about the stylish Mad Men ladies, thanks to Julia Bobbin‘s Mad Men Challenge. Many times I’ve found her studying last year’s copycat creations, so when she asked if I would make her a sixties-style dress and Julia very wisely initiated a second Mad Men Challenge, it seemed a heavenly match!
This print with its ‘mid-century-modern’ colours struck me immediately as a perfect fabric for the job – it’s actually a quilting cotton from Jeff Rosenberg. But we struggled to find a dress to copy. Sally Draper’s wardrobe is rather frumpy compared to her mother’s: collars seemingly inspired by Oliver Cromwell; dull fabrics as favoured by religions that forbid frivolity in dress. What to do? My daughter knew what she wanted: a full skirt, none of that Swinging Sixties Psychedelia, and – here she was adamant – “no collars”. I was insistent that the dress had to be for parties and play, not merely for a photo-shoot. In the end, I designed a pattern with a tentative link to the series and took most of my inspiration from this blogger lady in her beautiful dress from Shabby Apple.
Everyone loves the results. I’m mostly proud of the pleated waistband: the colour is a vibrant contrast to the grey and the pleats just beg to be played with. If you’re wondering how such a waistband is constructed, my trick was a strip of interfacing fused at the back and hidden by the bodice lining. The sleeves were made quickly and easily with casing and gathering elastic. It’s a good little girlswear technique I picked up from Akiko Mano’s book. Tutorial below.
Tutorial for Short Sleeve with Casing for Elastic
1 If your sleeve has a gathered head, begin by sewing two (or three) rows of gathering stitches. If you’d like a fuller sleeve, you can add height to your pattern and easily gather the extra: just remember that adding a height of 2cm to the pattern will give you only 1cm extra since the top of the sleeve is folded in half, as it were.
2 Stitch the underarm seam. If you’re using 0.7cm elastic, stop stitching 2cm from the end, leave a gap of 1cm and stitch 1 cm to the end. Edge-finish and trim. Press open.
3 Fold under 2cm. This has now formed an opening on the inside of the sleeve.
4 Fold seam allowance in half and stitch 1mm from edge. Attach the sleeve to armscye as per your usual method.
5 Thread the elastic through the casing with a safety pin and sew the edges together. If you allow an extra centimetre or two of the elastic, you can let out the sleeve later when the child has grown.
6 Slipstitch the opening closed.