Sweetness and Light

by Erin on July 31, 2012

So I finally, finally, found this pattern in my size:


Fear not, I will not be making View A OR View C, because puffed sleeves give me hives. Unless the puffed sleeves are little pockets of lighter-than-air gas that I can control as a flotation device/personal aircraft, and unfortunately the lab prototypes have not really panned out in full trials. (“Oh the humanity!”)

But *without* the puffed sleeves (or, as I like to call them, “arm excrescences”) this dress is gorgeous, isn’t it? I’ve been looking for it for a while, and I’m thinking about making it in this blue gingham shirting that I jumped on a while back. Too Dorothy? Actually, scratch that, I don’t care.

In this illustration, what’s up with Black Chiffon? Did she not get the “Dress Code: cotton” memo? Has she been embarrassingly interrupted on a walk of shame? Is she the “evil twin” of the woman in the blue dress? Is she an official-and-licensed Black Widow and thus compelled to wear fancy black dresses at all times, as a warning/enticement? Or, as I like to think, just someone who really likes that dress and thought “I don’t care that it’s Saturday morning and I’m on my way to the grocery store: black chiffon it is!”


{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathy July 31, 2012 at 9:23 pm

I kind of like the long sleeve black chiffon.


Stef July 31, 2012 at 9:36 pm

Black chiffon looks fierce! I lover her devil-may-care pose, I think we could be best friends!
Also, there’s no such thing as too Dorothy! Any and all Dorothy is always good!


Monabel July 31, 2012 at 10:42 pm

I agree unless the puff sleeve grows into a Delores Del Rio-in-Flying-Down-to-Rio BIG sleeve! Awesome!Poweful!


Joni August 1, 2012 at 3:03 am

This dress just calls out for a floofy crinoline petticoat!


Nadine August 1, 2012 at 3:18 am

I don’t know, but all the women look like Trouble to me.


sweetie August 1, 2012 at 6:15 am

Ok. Make the dress, but this time, make it more fitted than you usually do. You have a beautiful figure, but you always make your dresses a little bit too big. Show off your figure! You are still young! I’m just saying, nip in that waist a bit more. Vintage styles were made for women’s curves, so show yours off.


Hana - Marmota August 1, 2012 at 8:37 am

I love view A, black chiffon and all. I’d totally wear that. Even though black is not really my colour.


Diane August 1, 2012 at 2:51 pm

I too thought that the puffy sleeves were awful. View B is is, then. And Floofy (from another comment? That’s a great word!


Mimi August 1, 2012 at 3:47 pm

I’m thinking cotton organdy for the top of that black dress. That makes it more practical… and I kinda love it!


QuiteLight August 1, 2012 at 6:42 pm

… You can do that?! I CAN DO THAT! I can wear glorious dresses to the grocery store!! I will look devastating! Especially next to the people in pajamas!

Now… I will need glorious dresses… I have none, this site is my dress-fix. ONWARD!


LinB August 6, 2012 at 3:14 pm

My sister wears a tiara and (home-made) pageant sash to the grocery store sometimes.


Erin August 6, 2012 at 4:22 pm

I think I would like your sister very, very much. :-)


Lynn August 9, 2012 at 4:20 pm

If I ever appear on PeopleOfWalmart.com it will be because I am overdressed.


Jen O August 1, 2012 at 10:06 pm

I love that black shirt dress! It’s the perfect LBD for the gal who doesn’t want to expose her arms. The sheer part brings it over into the cocktail category very nicely (throw on pearls and you’re ready to go).


Lisa August 2, 2012 at 2:26 pm

I feel Ms. Black is confronting Ms. Blue about the lack of memo, Ms. Blue is surreptitiously blaming Ms. Print while lamenting not getting the memo re: Puffy Sleeves and trying to grin through the shame, and Ms. Print is mocking both of them smarmily. Just look at the sassy-britches way she twitches her skirt at Black and Blue!


Donna in VA August 2, 2012 at 8:23 pm

Grocery shopping in those heels? I don’t think so…….


Cal August 3, 2012 at 2:37 am

This pattern would be terrible on me on many levels, but I think it is super cute and look forward to see it made. I am curious how the sleeveless version will look in real life. Also, I agree that the black chiffon is very cool.


Evlayn August 3, 2012 at 5:54 pm

I think the sleeveless version will be great – I’m beginning to love cap sleeves, and I think this pattern will work very well. The yoke is probably made with a lining or double thickness of fabric; just press the seam allowance to the inside (between the layers) of the yoke and topstitch around. I think the design is sophisticated enough to over come the Dorothyness of the fabric, which I love because…gingham!

I do think the black chiffon number is fierce – very cocktails by candle light.


Silver August 3, 2012 at 11:36 pm

I think that A and B are making snide remarks about the odd quadruple-bosom effect created by C’s puff sleeves being aligned with her bust.


floribunda August 6, 2012 at 5:47 am

great profile of you in the Chron this morning!


Joanna August 7, 2012 at 3:42 am
Erin August 8, 2012 at 2:19 am

I think these two would be the simplest (especially the second one):


have you sewn many dresses before? You might want to make a list of things you’ve done, like:

buttons & buttonholes
set-in sleeves

and see what practice you might need on each. Or just dive in with some inexpensive fabric!


Erica August 7, 2012 at 6:02 pm

Erin: do you still have a link to your stories from the point of view of the dresses? I want to know if I could download a short one and share with my students in a lesson about point of view, inspiring them to write one about an object. My other example is “Unprotected” in the New Yorker (July 30) from the condom’s pov. Thanks.


Erin August 7, 2012 at 6:19 pm

Oh, I’ve been lazy about putting those links back up! I’ll do it tonight.

I *loved* that NYer piece … so funny and oddly sweet.


Karin August 8, 2012 at 7:19 am

Am I the only one ready and willing to stand up for puff sleeves here? I love them and put puffed sleeves, or at least puffed shoulders, on almost everything I make. I prefer high, structured 40’s puffs to this kind, admittedly, or even 40’s shoulder pads, but being a busty girl I love the way they balance my boobs and extend the hourglass shape to my shoulders. I wouldn’t mind trying the short, dropped puff sleeves of view C either, actually; hopefully it would turn out something like this. http://pimpinett.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/3202335688_b94d9fce48.jpg


Vicki August 8, 2012 at 3:55 pm

I agree with you about puffed sleeves! LOL

I vote for the black chiffon too. Will be fab!


Erica Brown August 9, 2012 at 1:49 am

This might possibly be some kind of breach of blog etiquette, but… I just finished reading “The Secret Lives of Dresses,” and I was so thrilled to realize that you had a blog so that I would have an opportunity to tell you just how much I enjoyed it! I got to the end, and I was literally in tears. It was beautiful. It was personal. My dad died when I was a baby, and my sense of having questions unanswered, unanswerable, has always been a piece of who I am. You captured that feeling with such grace, and without undue sentimentality, I might add. On a lighter note, I absolutely adored your line about graduate school as hitting the snooze button on what to do with one’s life.

This is not something I typically do… seek out a writer and gush about how much I enjoyed their work. But, I think sometimes we all could do with a little unsolicited praise.


Lynn August 9, 2012 at 4:17 pm

Oh lovely! Darn. Now I have to try to find it in my size.


Cecily August 9, 2012 at 4:39 pm

I only go to the grocery store if I’m wearing black chiffon. Then instead of buying food, I just walk around looking down my nose at all the poor saps who aren’t wearing black chiffon.


Melody August 11, 2012 at 3:23 pm

I LOVE the extended yoke on that dress!! and who new poufed sleeves could elicit such emotion :)


Joni August 28, 2012 at 3:53 pm

Here’s an incredibly similar pattern – same company and probably the same year. I’ve noticed that Butterick tended to re-use their design elements! Sadly not my size, or it would be mine.


Meghan September 20, 2012 at 5:05 am

I love the imagined lives you’ve created for Lady A. I think she’s going to a funeral for a woman she never liked, and is hoping to marry the widower. She’s keeping it sexy with the chiffon sleeves.


evilincarKnit January 26, 2013 at 8:33 am

I am SO with you on the puffy sleeve thing. And why are they in so many otherwise adorable vintage patterns? There’s almost never a good time for a big ball of puff on your shoulders.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: