Next up: The Picnic Dress

It might not be picnic weather anymore – ok, not even close! But when it rolls around again next Spring, I have just the thing to wear. Inspired by Betty Draper’s pretty pink and white floral dress she wears to a picnic in season 2 of Mad Men, I’m making my own Picnic Dress!

I’m making Simplicity 3965 again, the same pattern as the Twin Spruce Dress. Since I’d tweaked the fit on the first muslin, I’m betting it will be easy to whip up another version! It’s nice to sew confidently, knowing it will fit when it’s all done.

Here’s Betty’s version, shown in some rather blurry screenshots. You can see the summery, pink floralness of her dress:

And here’s my fabric – pretty close, don’t you think? Not only does it have that same pink and white floralness, but the scale of the flowers is even similar!
The fabric is real vintage 1950’s taffeta of some kind – it’s a synthetic but I’m not sure what, perhaps acetate? I bought it back in April and posted about it here.

It’s interesting to see how long fabrics actually sit in my stash before they turn into garments.. I didn’t even realize it had been sitting on my shelf for six months already! If you click on the April post link, you might notice I haven’t cut the other two vintage fabric pieces, either.

I love the idea of making this dress again in plaid still, so don’t worry, it’s added to my sewing wishlist! Plus, there are extra challenges in working with plaids that I can share tips on.

A couple of people asked me about construction on the Twin Spruce Dress, so I’m going to elaborate this time on the zipper and the waist stay. I’m going to find a way to make the waist stay properly, so that it hooks around the waist and supports the skirt.

Is it completely crazy to make a summer dress as winter approaches? Do you sew seasonally, or whatever catches your attention? I am planning to make warm things too, but since I just finished this dress once and it was successful, I wanted to make it again! It’s like listening to a new favourite song, I play it over and over on repeat! “That was great, let’s do it again!”

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25 Responses to Next up: The Picnic Dress

  1. Irene October 28, 2010 at 6:15 am #

    I’m all about instant gratification. Sew it – wear it. If something doesn’t get done in time for a certain season, and there’s still quite a bit to do, I’ll pack it away for the following year.

    As for fabric lying around for a while – some of mine has been “aging” for decades. I still love it. I just haven’t found the perfect project (or the nerve) to sew it.

    Your dress will, of course, be absolutely stunning! Love the flowers!

  2. Claire (aka Seemane) October 28, 2010 at 6:17 am #

    Tasia, I think the new dress will look splendid in that fabric! Have you pre-shrunk it already? I’d be worried in case it had any rayon/viscose in it that could potentially shrink your garment post-construction :(

    I shall also be keen to see how the waist-stay goes in – it’s something I think should probably be in all dresses with a waist-seam that can take them, it just makes perfect sense to me :)

    Will you be tapering-in the shoulder-straps to match the narrow ones on Betty’s dress at all please?

    Many thanks,
    Claire :)

  3. Patty October 28, 2010 at 6:38 am #

    pretty pretty pretty! I love floral dresses! and wide skirts!

    I’m struggling right now with dress-making. I would like to make a few more in ‘heavier’ weights – winter dresses! But Brrrrrr!!! What to wear on my legs and as shoes? I picked up a pair of leggings yesterday at Target that are in a cute cable knit – I thought those with tall boots would work for a few looks, but I’m not super-duper fond of tall boots with a lot of fabrics. Ho hum. I wonder if my husband would consider moving to accomodate my taste in clothes? I keep telling myself to make more pencil skirts, which work much better in the winter with boots, but I just don’t listen to myself!! She’s a silly girl and doesn’t know a thing…

    I am totally guilty of instant gratification sewing, which means I’m left not having what I need. I don’t think of sewing pretty, light, summer dresses until it’s 90 degrees (32 Celsius) out and I’m just plotting on starting my WARM coat, and it was 38 (3C) degrees when I took the dog out this morning.

  4. Tanit-Isis October 28, 2010 at 7:16 am #

    Like Patty, I’m influenced by the weather in what I sew… it was REALLY hard to make myself work on my winter coat back in August (much easier in September, though). That being said, I am a big fan of repeating patterns, so I totally get the desire for an instant replay. Will you mix it up this time by using one of the other backs on the envelope? (I love them both, although I think the cowl would look NIFTY with a plaid…)

  5. eilane October 28, 2010 at 7:30 am #

    Hello Tasia, the print is just perfect for a dress so delicate and fresh. I believe it will be beautiful.
    you will use the same method to highlight the bodice?
    And the correspondence of sewing patterns do not ever scared you?

    Eilan Vida

    (sorry any clerical error, do not speak their language and use a google translator.)

  6. Mary October 28, 2010 at 8:16 am #

    Hi Tasia, Love the vintage fabric. If it is acetate do not wash it. You will lose all the body in the fabric. Remember the floor length blue acetate taffeta skirt.

  7. Tasia October 28, 2010 at 8:47 am #

    Uh oh, thanks for the washing warnings! I’m betting it must be acetate, since I’ve already washed it (had to get rid of that musty smell!) and it was paper-stiff before and now it’s a little softer. It still has a nice crispness though, so I’m happy!

    @Mary: I forgot about that skirt! Oh man, I loved that skirt so much… and then it got completely wimpy after washing, how unfortunate!

    @eilane: Hi Elian, the translation makes sense! You’re asking me whether the instructions in vintage patterns scare me at all, let me know if I am wrong. In this case, the instructions are very easy, so there are no problems! Plus, I already made it once before so I have the first dress as a reference. Thanks for stopping by!

    @Tanit-Isis: I’m being a complete copycat and making the exact same back.. hopefully that’s not too boring for you guys! Because this fabric is still quite stiff, the cowl wouldn’t drape very well, likely it would stick out and not look cute. I’m really fond of the wide open back neckline. I totally want to sew winter things too just because it’s cold out! But I also wanted to show you guys the waist stay and the zipper construction, the parts I skipped over on the Twin Spruce Dress.

    @Patty: I know the feeling! I’m still planning to make a coat this winter but I’m so worried it will be March before I finish! I try to sew what I’m most excited about, so that I feel good and enjoy the sewing process. Whenever I ‘make’ myself sew something, it’s never as much fun!

    @Claire (aka Seemane): I did pre-wash it! I usually pre-wash everything, and especially vintage fabrics because they tend to have a bit of a musty ‘been in storage for ages’ smell. Thanks for your concern!
    I’m actually making the bodice exactly the same as the first Simplicity 3965 – Betty can’t wear a bra with hers, the straps are too narrow… and I’m small on top so I much prefer to wear a bra! Unless it’s ridiculously hot – and then I don’t want that much fabric touching my skin anyways. It was mostly the vibe of her dress I was inspired by – who wears a dress like that to a picnic? It’s so ultra-girly, I love it.

    @Irene: I have fabric I’ve had for ages, too! I’ve had this one piece of silk brocade for almost ten years. For me that’s a long time.. and it’s just too pretty to cut! One day… Oh and I do have some summer projects stashed away to work on later, when it gets nice out again.

  8. Darci October 28, 2010 at 10:19 am #

    Follow your (sewing) bliss, Tasia! If you love that dress and you’re feeling motivated, I say, “Go for it!” It’ll be cute, cute, cute!

  9. Tasia October 28, 2010 at 10:25 am #

    Thanks Darci – I will! Even just sewing with this fabric makes me feel ultra-girly :)

  10. sisters4saymoreismore October 28, 2010 at 10:40 am #

    oh my goodness… i cannnot WAIT to see this one!!!


  11. ruby slippers October 28, 2010 at 1:18 pm #

    Perfect for a picnic! I think it will be gorgeous the fabric is so pretty :-)

  12. Gail October 28, 2010 at 8:23 pm #

    This will be very pretty and romantic. I think the cowl back version is lovely. But perhaps given the coming cold, you should plan a matching cardigan. Cardigans don’t sit well on cowl backs, I’ve just found this out via my B&W dress.

  13. Tasia October 28, 2010 at 8:39 pm #

    Ah, very good point! Thanks Gail! Plain back is much better for layering, especially with thin knits. If you always wear a coat then mayyybe you can get away with layering over cowls. Oh and your black-and-white dress is very pretty!

  14. Haylee October 28, 2010 at 8:49 pm #

    Wow Incredible job at finding a similar fabric. They’re like identical! This dress is going to be gorgeous, I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

  15. Tasia October 28, 2010 at 8:55 pm #

    @Haylee: Thanks Haylee – I’ll be posting as I work on this dress so stay tuned for more!

  16. SewLindaAnn October 29, 2010 at 4:35 am #

    I work on what’s in my head at the time regardless of the time of year. Sometimes you just feel inspired by fabric or a pattern. I’m new to garment making, and haven’t turned out anything wearable yet. I joined a couple of swaps this qtr. and have learned that “having” to complete something in a given time-frame is really hard – so now I really admire anyone artist, sewist, etc. who works with deadlines. I’m looking forward to getting your blouse pattern, it’s a really sweet design. I enjoy your blog too!

  17. Tasia October 29, 2010 at 9:22 am #

    @SewLindaAnn: I couldn’t agree more! I’d rather sew when inspired, than work on something because I feel like I have to. No deadlines, if you don’t have to! And thank you so much for the compliments on my blouse design! I’m working hard to get the pattern ready to print. When it’s finished, If you have any troubles at all with it (since you’re new to garment-making) feel free to give me a shout!

  18. Cassandra October 30, 2010 at 1:45 am #

    I sew off-season! I think it just takes a while for pattern + fabrics + alterations and thinking about how something would fit into my wardrobe ideas to float around in my head that by the time I’m finished something it’s out of season.

    Cast in point: I’m about to add fastenings and elastic to finish off a light coat (the romantic Burda WoF 117/Petite from a couple years back) and I’m well and truly into my summer singlets and shorts here atm.

  19. Becky October 30, 2010 at 6:20 am #

    I usually sew seasonally, or at least in preparation for the next season. Like I started sewing things that were more fall-ish, or at least could be worn as such, at the end of the summer. The project I’ve been muslining and tweaking lately is a 3/4 sleeve jacket. It actually had been unseasonably warm here, so I thought I’d be good on time, but autumn came back with a vengeance as of yesterday and I’m not sure I’ll finish it in time that I’ll actually be able to wear it before I get too cold. That makes me kind of sad– I do love to wear my creations right away! But for more involved projects, I’ll plan in advance. Like I made a winter coat a few years ago, and was sewing that in the summer so I’d be sure to have it by the time I needed it.

    I’m also kind of chuckling about your comment about 6 months being a long time for a piece to languish in your stash– if I use a piece of fabric within 6 months of getting it, I’m doing really well! Said jacket that I’m hoping to get cut out today is a piece that’s been there for 2-3 years. I have plenty of stuff that’s older. And one of my more recent projects was from a piece that had been languishing in my stash since college! (To put that in perspective, I graduated about 8 years ago.)

  20. Kelly October 31, 2010 at 3:17 am #

    Looks great Tasia, can’t wait to see the finished product. And feel free to do more summery dresses since we’re just going in to summer here in Australia. I’ve been looking like crazy, but haven’t found a good summer dress pattern for me yet (I need easy and super casual).

  21. louise November 2, 2010 at 2:51 pm #

    hi tasia,
    this post ( was in my google reader today and i immediately thought of you! great work on the dresses, both this picnic one and twin spruce one.
    oh and i think you were talking about what to wear over vintage style dresses the other day? same post i was just reading has a lovely little bolero style jacket that would look lovely over dresses – could even make it in something neutral so could mix and match
    hope the behind the scenes at sewaholics patterns is coming together for you :)

  22. Tasia November 2, 2010 at 3:27 pm #

    Ooh.. thanks Louise! That dress is super pretty and so much like the one I’m working on! (And there’s lots of other pretty, inspiring vintage pieces to sigh over as well..) Thanks for passing it on!

    I love the idea of a little bolero jacket – something that could look equally cute over a vintage dress or with a white tee and jeans. I’ll keep my eyes out for cute vintage patterns!

    Behind the scenes at Sewaholic Patterns, things are going really well! It’s all coming together and I just can’t wait to start sharing more on the blog.. In the coming week or two I should have more to share! Thanks for asking!

  23. Susan May 24, 2015 at 5:17 am #

    Hi Tasia!

    Wow, this dress is so beautifull and I really really want to sew this, too.
    It would be the perfect dress for a wedding I’m invited to in August.

    But I can’t find the pattern anywhere – not on etsy, not on ebay, nowhere :-(
    Can someone help me? I’d pay for a copy of the pattern, of course!

    Thanks in advance!

    • Tasia June 1, 2015 at 11:34 am #

      Hi Susan! Thanks so much, it does make a great dress for a wedding! (I wore it to a wedding the next summer in fact.) I’d suggest looking on etsy or ebay with the search terms ’50’s full skirt dress’ or ’50s prom dress’ or ‘full skirt dress’ and see what comes up. It may be hard to find the exact same pattern, but there are likely very similar patterns with the same shape and style lines! Good luck!

      • Susan June 13, 2015 at 8:28 am #

        Thanks Tasia!! :-)