Fall Sewing Inspiration–Vintage School-Girl Dress

I know its still summer (it barely quit raining here last week), but planning for upcoming garments is half the fun of sewing. In the spirit of inspiring  upcoming Fall projects, I bring you this school-girls dress, circa 1969, made by my Grandma E.
Back when my Mom was a school-girl and my Grandma was getting kids ready for back to school, there was back-to-school shopping, but there was also a lot of back-to-school sewing. My Mom had two younger sisters and either the dress code of the school or the culture of the time dictated that the girls wore dresses to school not pants. Jeans were worn at home for chores, but at school they wore dresses. Because she is incredibly talented, and because clothing was not nearly so cheap in 1969 as it is now, my Grandma made most, if not all, of her kids school clothes. Amazingly, some of my Grandma’s homemade school-girl dresses have survived being worn not only by my mom and her two sisters, but also by me and my three sisters. This one is currently hanging in G’s closet, waiting for her to grow into it.

What on earth did my Grandma do that made these dresses last and last? Firstly, it might have helped that my Mom and aunts had designated school dresses and different clothes for at home, so maybe had fewer washings and less opportunities to get torn/stained. Secondly, it probably helped that many of them were from fabric that pre-dated the permanent press era, so they weren’t worn nearly as much by myself and my sisters as they would have been if they didn’t spend time on the ironing pile. Still, she did a great job with sturdy construction and quality fabrics that have stood the test of time and wear.

Detail on the front. Basically almost like a collar with a long placket in the front, topstitched all around.
View of the back. Perhaps a good pressing was in order before I attempted photos.
Closeup of the stitching along the lapped zipper. Not sure pressing would have helped, the stitches seem to want to pull together.
Topstitching along the back trim and the collar. Really straight topstitching.
This is amazing to me. No serger, no fancy heirloom techniques. Just zig-zagged edges and the facing is catchstitched to the shoulder seam to hold it down. the facing has no interfacing, and doesn’t seem to need it.
This shot shows that it isn’t exactly in pristine condition. See those stitches holding the edge of the facing turned under? They have some breaking going on. You can also see the metal zipper. That zipper won’t be wearing out any time soon. I think she used the selvage of the fabric along the center back under the zipper, because there isn’t any zig-zag stitching there.
I love the drop-waisted style of this dress, but might not have the figure to pull it off anymore. If I were to try to include some of the details from this dress into a current project, I would definitely include the plaid/solid combo with the skirt fabric being incorporated into the top neckline and down the front of the dress.

4 Comments

  1. HeathersSphere

    Vintage school dress with lots of character! Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  2. Carolyn

    Wow. That is an incredible story! Amazing that the dress has stood up to the test of time so well, and it still looks in perfect nick! Your grandmother made a truly wonderful garment 🙂

    Reply
  3. Tanit-Isis

    How cute—and so much fun to look at the old details. My grandma still has a few things she made my mom and my mom's sister when they were small (in the fifties)…. now I want to go dig them out. I particularly recall some sailor dresses in the dressup box…

    Reply
  4. Haylee

    I love this dress, such a pretty color and so much love going into every detail. That's one thing I think that is so sad about today's society, How our clothing is never handmade anymore and instead just bought and forgotten so quickly. Sure it's easier and faster but it takes so much meaning out of it, you know? This dress is beautiful though, it makes me want to make my little girls' school clothes someday.

    Reply

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