Gunne Sax and Safety

Hands up…who remembers Gunne Sax wedding dresses from the 80’s?

Here are 2 patterns popular during that time:


Yes, women could not get enough ruffles and ribbons and pearls all crammed unto a prairie-type dress with long sleeves. Here are some still being sold: 

So, my next bride brought me a tiny dress with a 6 inch gap where the zipper should close. The only hope was to make a corset back to get it to fit properly. I wish I could have added panels to the side seams as they were sloping towards the front but as this dress was bought in a thrift store, adding the corset loops was the best solution as she needed 6 inches across her upper back and neckline too.





I didn’t get a “before” photo as she had brought her groom along and I didn’t feel right doing it. But you get the idea with this “after” loop photo.



There will be a modesty panel to cover her underpants from the waist down. The tiny ribbon bow at the neck will be removed.






























What dresses like this also include is a torn section of lace at the hem and in fact this dress was shortened by the last seamstress by making a 1 inch tuck all around above the lace edging. My bride is tall so I was able to release that wad of fabric only to find some tattered lace sections to repair. First I placed the lace strip on some organza before mending.

We will need to find some small pearl buttons to replace the 2 missing ones.

The left sleeve has all the buttons in place.

So some of you have asked if my brides have cancelled their plans and the answer is …some have…some have rescheduled for Sept (going to be a busy month!) and some have just hired a minister to marry the couple in the forest. Two of my April/May brides had location weddings planned in Hawaii and Ireland so those were scrapped. Another bride planned her honeymoon for a month in Europe so she changed that for later.

With 4 wedding gowns still waiting to be finished this month, I have had some time to answer the call from local hospitals and clinics to make masks.

I am sure many of you have already seen all the videos and links to all the different types as I have. Depending on who is wearing the mask you get to choose to use elastic or ties. With a nationwide shortage of 1/4 inch elastic, you can also use 1/2 inch elastic (EL22 braided polyester) and cut it in half. Here is a photo of a roll I bought from Wawak earlier in the year.And here are some of the many masks I have made using both elastic and ties and given away:

The shaped masks go fast but the pleated ones can fit over other masks.

I have also made pleated ones that have a place on the back to insert another filter. Either kind just need two 6 X 9 inch pieces of fabric so a good way to use up scraps of cotton fabrics. It makes a nice change for me to escape the ivory satin and tulle for a while. If you fold your rectangle in half and half again and press the folds, you can make the pleats even as you sew the sides. No need to make  pressed folds in the lining as it just adjusts to the right side fabric.

Anyway, we have been staying and germ free and today we have 2 men trimming down our 7 foot tall pyracantha hedge so the new back fence can be spray painted. We are so lucky to have handy men who don’t mind getting stuck with all the thorns! You can see on the left side of the photo what the height they started with!

So, if you are self isolating like us or have to go to work, I wish you peace and understanding because we sure do need it right now!


This entry was posted in challenges and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

38 Responses to Gunne Sax and Safety

  1. I used to love that kind of dress–Gunne Sax and Jessica McClintock (was that the name?), and Laura Ashley. I hope the pyracantha comes back–I love that kind of bush/tree. Good for you for making all the masks. Stay well.

    • mrsmole says:

      Thank you Donnalee, the bushes are very tough and no matter how many times we trim them back, they grow back with a vengeance. The berries are loved and eaten by all the Cedar waxwings in the fall but I don’t think there will be many berries this year. Those oh-so-feminine dresses were really the style! I made my girls small dresses just like the grown up versions…in fact I still have one in my cedar chest.

  2. Angela Slama says:

    5217 was my prom dress in 1975! Loved that dress.

  3. Barbara Bachmann says:

    So the elastic doesn’t ravel, fall apart when you cut it? I personally prefer the 1/8” elastic for comfort but can’t find that either. May have to get some 1/2” and cut it.
    Stay virus free!

    • mrsmole says:

      So far the elastic is doing OK, Barb. I have been holding off putting the wire nose guards in knowing that the hospitals cannot wash them.I think I will add them to the personal masks I am making and I was able to snag a few twist ties at Safeway today in the produce section…hooray!

      • Barbara Bachmann says:

        I use pipe cleaners for the nose guard. It can be removed for washing. I am impressed that you are making bias for the ties. I finally got out my clover bias tape maker that I bought about 20 years ago and never used! I will happily return to quilt making after there is no longer a need for masks.
        Thanks for sharing your bridal gown alterations with us. Always something interesting.

      • John Yingling says:

        I have been developing masks during the hunkering down time. For nose bridges I have been using 18 gauge aluminum wire left over from a previous ballet costuming project. I insert it in a narrow tunnel at the top hem of the mask. It’s pliable, and holds a shape over the nose without irritation. Another solution I have been using is tightly folding up aluminum foil, finishing at approximately 3/16″, and inserting that into the same tunnel. Again, soft and pliable, but holds a nose shape, and it won’t rust!

  4. Trish says:

    I’ve seen some unattractive wedding dresses on your site before, Mrs Mole, but that’s one of the worst. I just hope it looks better on the bride than it does on the hanger!

    • mrsmole says:

      Yes, the dress looks charming on the bride and I would have had a photo of her but she has a cough and graciously decided not to visit me and self quarantine for 2 weeks.We do appreciate a thoughtful bride!!!

    • Tammy Ruble says:

      I think the dress is sweet and simple, and far more attractive than some of the strapless horrors that display all there is to see that are around these days. I applaud the bride for her good taste in both modesty and a classic looking dress.

  5. MelMc says:

    My high school graduation dress was from a Gunne Sax pattern. Similar to the pattern on the left above except short sleeves and shirt. My mother swore more at all the insertions and pipings and ruffles on ruffles. The non-functional corset front almost defeated her. Those patterns were not for beginners.

  6. mrsmole says:

    I remember having to stitch narrow strips of satin ribbon too…what a pain!!! But at the time those RTW dresses were crazy expensive and in limited colors so moms just bit the bullet. Do yoiu have a photo of you in the dress???

    • MelMc says:

      I’m not sure if there are any surviving pictures (quickly caught roof leak that destroyed only the pictures in the top rows of the albums leaving a spotty collection of childhood photos) I do still have the dress in my cedar chest and the pattern. It was Simplicity 5361. I was a late bloomer who grew four inches in college so the dress was only worn the one time.

  7. Karen in PA says:

    I had a Gunne Sax dress for my college graduation in 1983, corset front and all — boy I loved that dress! And a Laura Ashley style that my mom made on my Sweet Sixteen. I loved them but in actual fact I think I looked like a chubby milkmaid in both. AND a real Laura Ashley wedding dress (surprisingly budget-friendly) in 1985, but I lost enough weight to look charmingly 18th-century (it had a hoop!) rather than bucolic. Good memories, thank you!

    • mrsmole says:

      Looking back with photos of past dresses and styles must be fun and the memories attached to them like graduations and weddings. I can remember making long prom dresses and the cummerbund to match for the escort back in the 80’s.

  8. Martha in NC says:

    Your work is always lovely and very appropriate. Those styles do bring back memories. What size rectangle do you cut for the mask?

  9. says:

    I’ve been making the pleated masks. They have a dart at the nose and the chin so they fit closer to the face. They are so time-consuming to make! I plan to use narrow strips of cotton jersey for straps, and to knot slip knots on the back of the head. I think that will be faster and easier than tying. I understand elastic around the ear can get painful.

    • John Yingling says:

      An alternate elastic insertion is to sew a 13″ long piece at the top to go over the crown of the head, and sew a lower 10″ elastic to go around the neck. This is the arrangement the 3M N95 masks use. It won’t irritate the ears, but it has the potential to mess up the do!

  10. anne stevens says:

    I think the dress will be lovely – and your alterations will be just right. How helpful that it had been shortened with a tuck. I made three bridesmaids’ dresses for my three daughters (then 17, 15 and 7) for a friend’s wedding in 1987. – fitted bodice, full skirts, scooped neckline, very puffy sleeves with a ruffle just below the elbow with a wide lace ruffle over that and round the neckline. It was an autumn wedding and the dresses were a lovely burgundy colour with cream lace. Despite all the modern styles I still think the dresses were beautiful and appropriate. I am so pleased you and your bride still like the style and your work is always exquisite. Keep safe and well.

  11. upsew says:

    funny to look at some of the fussier dresses and big looks of the 80s, especially as some of the looks are coming back now. lovely work on the corset closure instead of zip -I have started back on my garden here, although I really do so very little veg. I still wait till after 17 March here as worst frosts are over to dig anything (its a bit of a tradition here to plant out first potatoes on or after ‘paddys day’). Glad to hear you are keeping well. take care

    • mrsmole says:

      Thank you, upsew, we can’t plant out most things until May when the danger of frost is gone but this week I took a break from the masks to plant out onion seedlings and baby spinach and lettuces that don’t mind cooler nights.

  12. Kathi Giumentaro says:

    Simplicity 5217 was the pattern I used for my prom dress.

  13. SusanfromKentucky says:

    I came across this post in Bloglovin’ and had to check it out. I always loved Gunne Sax dresses when I was young. How surprised I was seeing the pictures of the patterns at the top of the post. The white dress on the right (Simplicity 5217) was MY wedding dress, made for me by my best friend. She made it in ivory per my request. I ADORED that dress. I have it packed away in my trunk.

    • mrsmole says:

      Your dress can live on forever! When I tell the brides that they never know who will wear their dress again, they tell me that no one ever will, but this dress was bought in a thrift store so it has has a real journey.

  14. Tina says:

    Hi Jo ann,
    Where did you find the fitted face mask patterns?

    • mrsmole says:

      Please just type in fitted mask into Google and you will see loads of videos and website posting the shaped patterns.

      • LinB says:

        Two things about wearing this style of mask (which is actually quite comfortable, and offers better coverage than the pleated rectangles, I think):

        1. Don’t put on lipstick or lip balm before you wear it. I only realized that the first time I tried mine on for size — it can prove a laundry nightmare.

        2. If you wear eyeball glasses to help you see, you may find that your eyeball glasses steam up so badly while you wear the mask that you cannot see to walk. Or to do anything else, including admire yourself in the mirror wearing your mask.
        I plan to cut in the curve between my nose and the side of the mask on the next round of making these, to see if that alleviates the problem.

    • Susan Hart says:

      I found this pattern for fitted masks here:

  15. Karen Mulkey says:

    I can’t begin to tell you just how many Gunne Sax dresses I made for my daughters. Even after my huge down-sizing for a move I managed to save 2 of their dresses of this style. They were made for Easter and I feel so sad that this Easter will not be the same. My grandmother felt that one should wear everything new to signify a re-birth/ resurrection. Please stay safe.

    • mrsmole says:

      After enduring the Lenten season, I would always make Easter dresses for my girls as well. It was lovely to see all the fluffy pastel dresses on girls at church. When i was a girl, we wore hats and gloves to church and most likely the hats were straw with flowers and the gloves were pristine white cotton or lace.

  16. Val says:

    I just finished 40+ masks to donate using a “shaped” pattern, ( But I made a small modification: I inserted ribbon in the side channels instead of elastic. Ideally you would use round elastic in these masks but there is NO elastic available except what’s in one’s stash.
    I like these fitted masts better than the rectangular “pleated” masks because when you tie the mask on, (back of the head & back of the neck) the side of the mask gathers up and it makes for a tight fit at the side of your face. The problem with the rectangular, pleated masks is that the sides always seem to “pucker” and gap.
    These masks take a lot of time what with the topstitching (which I wanted to do) and finished the sides of the lining and outer fabric separately. However it leaves the lining free at the sides so a user can insert a surgical mask or some sort of filter type stuff if they choose.

    • mrsmole says:

      Isn’t it great they we have so many options for making masks? The pleated ones can fit over other ones to keep them clean the others have pockets for a lining filter. Like you say, they all take time to make them right and without a supply of elastic folks are resorting to shoelaces, t-shirt tube ties and clothesline strings.
      I found that the link did not work for me so I tried this one:
      Her photos and directions are great! I have been using narrow folded aluminum foil for the nose piece instead of wire and that feels nice and flat while wearing.

  17. JustGail says:

    I finally overcame the indecision (so many conflicts on materials and style) and made the mask at 7 Pine Design. It’s a hybrid of the shaped and pleated mask, having 2 origami-ish folds at each side. Making the ties took nearly as long as the rest of the mask, until I remembered the bias binder foot. I used ties because of not enough elastic, and reports of irritation, fit or latex issues.

    I remember those dresses, and had a few patterns (not the real thing) that I got rid of when I realized I’m not a ruffles person. The bride’s dress is not bad – that little bow does need to go. No froth of ruffles, not strapless, and not see-through is a great start IMHO.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s