1974 Revisited

Hands up…who remembers Gunne Sax by Jessica…the long flowing lace embellished voile prairie dresses that were everywhere hippies gathered?

So, just when I think the bridal season is coming to a close…in walks a treasure. A wedding dress that now has to be transformed into something larger for the 40th anniversary celebration. Here we go…parents shield your children’s eyes:

P1180374P1180373P1180372 copy The story goes like this:

Back in 1974, when this bride was about to walk down the aisle she realized that her father would have a heart attack if she was showing cleavage for the church ceremony so her sister noticed a pair of lace panties on the bed and she grabbed them and hand stitched them to the deep V for modesty. Everyone knew but her father.

Now 40 years later, the dress has been resurrected to make an appearance at a gala celebration in Seattle on New Year’s Eve. The bride says she may wear a shrug as the weather will be cold…if you have ever been in the Northwest on Jan 1, you would be a lot better off in a parka! So from the back view you can see we need 12 inches of something to fill the gap. The corset back idea is not what she wanted, she said I could find fabric and “tuck it in” back there, she even brought along an old lace camisole to show me. My magic wand was no where to be found so I said I would remove and open the 2 sashes and flatten them out to make some panels to add the 12 inches we needed in order to close the zipper from armhole to past the hips.

Let’s get busy…P1180382P1180383 Well, well, someone has been here before me! Look at those raggedy side seams! Someone took in those puppies and did not own a serger.P1180384

The zipper has been messed with and does not line up.P1180387P1180386

The more I investigated, I realized that someone who tried on this dress before must have really forced the zipper to open wide and the teeth have come away from the adjoining teeth so it leaves a hole when zipped…great…let’s sort that out first…realign that and everything else will fall into place…fingers crossed!

Let’s make some panels and interface them.P1180392 Can you see the chalk marks on either side of the ruler? That is the basic shape of the new seam lines needed to fill the gap.

Where are they going? Here:P1180394P1180393 Notice as well that the last seamstress cut away the lining for some reason..nice touch…that will need patching too. But the one good thing in this mess is when I opened up the side seam…out flopped 8 inches of sleeve underarm that was just folded and sewn into the side seam. No wonder the biceps were so tight!P1180390P1180391 So with this extra 8 inches and the extra 6 inches of the bodice, all I have to do is some gentle gathering of the sleeve when sewing it to the new underarm top edge…I’m so excited! I am restoring the dress back to the original shape and size!P1180395P1180397P1180399 and from the outside looking in:P1180403P1180402

OK, sleeves sorted out lets see those panels. I made sure I had a new center seam so it did not look like there was just a huge patch put there and if she ever wanted sashes, there would be a place to attach them.

P1180400P1180401 You may notice the panels are whiter than the dress but interfacing had to be used and she will have her arms and sleeves down and they will be covered.

With the panels all basted, the client returns for her final try-on:P1180435 P1180436-2 In the last photo, you can see how far her original side seams slid forward to accommodate her bust. Now the side panels can sit on her waist and the new sashes can be attached further back.

Things are pretty much good except the dress is now 3 inches too long and I suggest we remove that lower ruffle. Then the bride says, “I want a bow in the back like 40 years ago so make that narrow ruffle into sashes and attach them.” Great…now I wish I could have just done that in the beginning but we didn’t know the dress would relax and be too long. Once that is completed Cinderella can be off to the ball.P1180450

If you are wondering if Mrs Mole wore this type of dress back then…yes, I did but I wore it as a maternity dress waiting for my first-born to arrive, which she did, 6 weeks early…she has always been in a hurry.

Merry Christmas everyone !



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51 Responses to 1974 Revisited

  1. sewbusylizzy says:

    Amazing. You are really a magician.

  2. Tammy Randall says:

    I think this is my favorite alteration you’ve done in 2014. Such a sentimental story – and you saved the day!

  3. Marsha says:

    My hand is up for remembering Gunne Sax fondly. I was a young teen in 1974 and loved dresses made in the Gunne Sax style. In fact, my 1982 wedding dress was made from a Gunne Sax pattern that Simplicity published. I can still fit into my dress; if anything, if needs to be taken in. (Don’t be impressed; I was a fat bride!) But I can’t see myself ever wearing it for an anniversary celebration. That which looked wonderful on a fresh-faced 22-year-old would not be suitable for my current self, no matter how gracefully I’m aging.

    • mrsmole says:

      Marsha, you may change your mind come 2022, and wear it just for a hoot! I remember making my girls Gunne Sax dresses from those patterns and I think I probably still have some in my pattern boxes…waiting for a revival?

  4. robindrush says:

    Ahh, yes, I am old enough to remember Gunne Sax dresses. They were all the rage for us young hippie types (who could afford them). Mrs. Mole, you are indeed a miracle worker of cloth. When I saw the first picture, I said to myself, ‘no way’. Then at the last picture I said ‘wow’.

  5. Barbara J says:

    I wore a Gunne Sax dress as my wedding gown, too, in 1974. I bought it off the rack at a now long gone department store, on sale. The creamy colored with lace dresses had been hugely popular for prom that year, thus the good deal for me when prom season ended. As much as I loved that dress, it was a style both for the time and my younger self. I don’t think that prairie lace look would be flattering now at 62! It’s in the closet, though, and will stay there.

    • mrsmole says:

      You never know when the idea might hit you to re-create that memory…scary as that is for most of us over 60. Some of the skirts were very pretty with layers and layers of lace and ribbons and could be “re-cycled”?

  6. Susie says:

    My first “formal” school dance was in a Gunne Sax. Not just for hippies, it was a phenomenon. This was a great story…my daughter is home from college and we enjoyed reading it together. It’s great you were able to help her wear it again.

    • mrsmole says:

      Only wish I could be a fly on the wall for the celebration as her husband has no idea what she is cooking up. He gave away his wedding suit, a plaid one with bell bottoms and wide lapels and vest so she is going to tease him that she can still wear her dress from back them.

  7. fabrickated says:

    I was astonished with that first picture and could not believe that anyone of a certain age or size would want to wear such a dress. But you did a nice job, as ever, and I think the final version is very becoming (although it does look a little bit like a nightie). The story of using a pair of lacy knickers as a modesty panel is hilarious. A nice one to end the year on. Have a well deserved rest, and lots of fun with the family.

    • mrsmole says:

      Thank you, Kate…my sewing room has walls again and no white alligators waiting to be wrestled with!!!! More posts in the pipeline…no rest for the wicked…more stories to share and laughs so beware!

  8. Tina Kempa says:

    I also wore 3 of these dresses as bridesmaid ! They are iconic..amazing job as always.

  9. Tia Dia says:

    Wow! 8 inches tucked into a seam? That’s crazy! But good news, in this case. If you need to “age” the side panels, you could carefully paint them with medium-strong tea until they tea-dye the right shade (probably about 5 minutes or so, depending on your tea).

    Speaking of the 8 inches hidden away, what do you do with alterations to make a dress smaller, yet when you want to leave enough to alter for later?

    And a Merry Merry Christmas to you, Mrs. Mole!

    • mrsmole says:

      Thank you, Tia for the tip…I would have had to tea dye the interfacing in advance and I had just enough time to pre-shrink that stuff before fusing it on and getting it out the door. In wedding dresses and formal wear, I sometimes leave 2 inches of extra fabric in the side seams or center back zipper for the next seamstress. If the fabric is not too think, I serge the edges and press them flat and sometimes just tack them to the lining. If they are bulky, I fold them back on themselves and consider the extra as a replacement for boning and the added bulk will actually make the dress fit better. You can even slide boning up inside of the new “tube”. It all depends on whether the lining covers all this mess or not and how wide the seams are…some, as you have seen are 4 inches wide which means I trim off half that amount and then decide. If the seams are curved like the center back area at the waist, you have to release any waistline seams to get the fabric to lay flat inside but I figure the next seamstress can re-stitch that back together and be happy I left it there. I tell my brides, “You never know who will end up owning and wearing your dress, so be kind and leave a little something in there for her.” Merry Christmas to you to, Tia and to your family!

  10. June says:

    Freaking amazing, Mrs. Mole! I thought there was no way, but you found one! I remember the Gunne Sax label from lace-encrusted prom dresses in the late 80s and early 90s, so it’s not just Prairie lace dresses.

    Have a wonderful holiday and a well-deserved rest!

  11. lisa g says:

    I’m always in awe of your dress alterations. Just amazing!!

  12. I think it turned out very well after alot of patience on your part! The magic wand quip made me smile – as I have sometimes been heard to say “I own a sewing machine , not a magic wand”, when faced with a strange request 🙂

    • mrsmole says:

      Great response! So many of my brides enter the front door asking if I have my magic wand handy…expecting I have one at the ready….I should decorate my fly swatter with pearls and gems and shiny ribbons and ask, “will this do?”…ha ha

  13. BeaJay says:

    I think you did have your magic wand with you. Fabulous job.

  14. mrsmole says:

    Maybe the good fairies had a hand in this or the promise of a rum and Diet Pepsi was enough to get it done…from the moment she entered the sewing room I just couldn’t wait to get it back out the door and a post to share with all of you. Happy Holidays, BeaJay!

  15. Sharon N. says:

    That, Mrs Mole, is very impressive! Awesome save! I wore that style of dress in the early 70’s too, although I don’t recall that brand. I lived in a small town and apparently didn’t get out much. Lol.

    Btw, I was born about 4 weeks early and my mom said I was always in a big hurry to get nowhere. Uh,okay mom. 😁

  16. Nancy says:

    Ah, Gunne Sax! I had several that I bought from their outlet store in San Francisco ($25 each) and then I made quite a few of them for myself and my sister from those Simplicity patterns (which I still have, waiting for a revival apparently). I can’t believe how many miles of lace and ribbon I sewed on those suckers……and I had the EXACT lace they used on the store bought ones because I worked for RB Howell in Portland (a craft and bridal store) and I was able to order a bolt of white and one of ecru from the manufacturer. (I still have some of that left, too, waiting for said revival!)

    Love your posts! I have only done a bit of bridal sewing in my past but I can’t imagine doing it now. I want to enjoy sewing.

  17. mrsmole says:

    Well Nancy, I hope you have stored that lace in a good aging closet waiting for just the right moment to emerge and start a new trend! How cool is that? Bridal sewing can be fun if you get past all the ridiculousness of being a princess for the day. I just think…the rest of your life you will be washing his underpants and socks and I sure hope the romance lasts!

  18. You know I think I had one of those for my Graduation/Prom dress! My daughter asked me once “What are you wearing?” (when she saw the photos). I told her it was a hippy dress, because it was stylish then. Oh the memories! You definitely brought it to life again!

  19. sewruth says:

    You certainly found your magic wand again, or else you cast some frogs’ legs and dead man’s fingers into a cauldron! Amazing fix.

    • mrsmole says:

      Frog’s legs and fingers? Is that what creates the magic in your fabulous wardrobe, Miss Ruth…I gots to get me some of that! Panels, wedges, corset backs…it’s all you need to squeeze your backside into a dress and feel pretty. People actually pay me to do this day after day instead of buying a dress that fits…go figure?

  20. JustGailj says:

    I remember those, never had one, must not have been my style. Still not my style 🙂 . That first photo made me wonder how you’d pull this one off, I guess sometimes (or at least in this case) it’s good that whoever worked on the dress before was a bit lazy and saved that fabric hidden away in the seam.

    • mrsmole says:

      It is always a treat to find stuff in the seams and hiding in the linings and discover the history lurking there. I felt blessed to discover it and make it all work. Thanks for dropping by, Gail.

  21. Jane Urbach says:

    What a good job you did, People will hardly notice, and the dress hangs really nicely. If I were to try and get into my First wedding dress (1961), one would certainly have to do things like that. But since I made the dress. I saved the extra fabric and lace (1 yard, $125 in San Francisco) and the all silk shantung has all turned from white to a tiny bit blush. I don’t think anyone is ever going to wear it, I could not even get my daughter-in-law to carry my Grandmother’s handkerchief in her pocket, let alone use any of my MIL’s 1930s veiling that I used part of for mine. My daughter had a garden Wedding in her own backyard, so the white dress had no place there, instead I made her peach silk Tea length gown. Now, I look at that 1961 gown and wonder at the ego that allowed me to start such a project at the age of 20.

    • mrsmole says:

      Oh Jane, it seems a shame that no one wanted to wear or alter your beautiful wedding gown. I’m sorry that it could not be re-used and worn again but to have it and even the lace you used after 53 years is amazing! I donated my first wedding dress (purple velvet top with floral polyester floor length skirt) to a local museum to display or give to a local amateur theater group.

  22. lin says:

    Awesome save just wanted to wish you a very Happy Christmas

  23. EasilyAmewsed says:

    Yet another amazing save. I had a Gunne Sax dress for prom long, long ago. Not sure where it went, but I remember being uptight all during dinner about getting a stain on it. ; ) Merry Christmas to you and yours.

  24. mrsmole says:

    Funny what we remember about a certain dress. Maybe you have a photo somewhere that you can dig out and rekindle the feelings of that night. Memories are wonderful things! This year create even better ones with your family and friends!

  25. Marti Rumley says:

    So enjoy and relate to your blog. Thanks for putting many smiles on my face!

  26. Shari says:

    Thank you for the blast from the past! I drooled over those dresses in the store windows in Vancouver in the mid-70s. I think I’ll make a caftan today…which reminds me- I have a remnant of psychedelic paisley velour somewhere…
    All best to you for 2015! Wishing you many sewing adventures to share with us!

  27. KarenW says:

    Thanks for the blast from the GunneSax past, I wore one to my college graduation (under the gown) and one I made from a Simplicity pattern to my husband’s graduation. Still have that one stored away! Love reading your alteration adventures!

  28. You did an amazing job! I got married in 1975 in a cream Gunne Sax dress and I felt like the little hippie princess I was that day. I loved that dress!!! I would not ever want to try to wear it now, even with your amazing saves. Nope, there is no imaginable way that it would be the least bit flattering. Thanks for the trip down memory lane..you work wonders!

  29. symondezyn says:

    I admit I audibly snorted when I read “in walks a treasure” – oh how I love your snark ^__^ Pretty dress, but perhaps not… ummm… age/body appropriate for the lovely lady? Still, magnificent work making the save – you always do!! 🙂 Side note: I doubt my mum ever owned such a thing (not the frilly lace hippy type, my mum ^_^) – she got married in a hand made pants suit which looked amazing on her, and which i still admire wholeheartedly today 🙂

  30. Annie says:

    I’m amazed at your brilliant save of this dress. I should have died laughing if someone of that size and age turned up asking to have that dress made over but you made it work and actually look quite nice. Who’d have thought?

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