A Swingy Sundress // Vintage Butterick 4634

Vintage 60s Tent Dress // Boots & Cats

Ahhh! I am finally back in the land of the living…er blogging. After being away in California for a week, we then celebrated Rory’s 30th birthday (with a robot-themed costume party) and the wedding of one of my closest friends, all in a short window of time. It was totally exhausting, to the point that I barely wanted to move, so it took a little while to recoup.

Luckily, I sewed up this summery frock right before the madness, just in time to wear for another wedding the day before departing to Cali. The perfect kick-off to my summer sewing.

Vintage 60s Tent Dress // Boots & Cats

Amazingly, some of the balloons from Rory’s birthday are still floatin’ around so I thought I would take them with me for the photos. It was pretty funny, this shoot. I decided last minute to venture out and in the morning everything looked beautiful and sunny. I went and curled my hair, did my makeup and and set up my camera remote, and as soon as I got dressed to go…it was raining. AH the most frustrating feeling, no?

Luckily it was one of our usual summer rains and was gone nearly as quickly as it came…but it left the wind behind. My normally peaceful walk to the university campus was, as I am sure, wildly entertaining for any passerbys. These balloons deserve a medal for their fortitude. Whipping around, getting tangled, and getting pulled by the wind at full force. I basically had to hug them to keep things under control.

At our destination, they were mildly better behaved, though when I wanted to take shots without them my weight wasn’t weighty enough and I had to run down the sidewalk chasing them like a loon at least 3 times. But look how cute they are!

The things we do for our blogs, eh?

But I digress. About 5 years ago, I raided the sewing spaces of both my grandmothers leaving with a huge file box full of their old sewing patterns. I remember that summer, sitting on the floor rifling through, knowing I couldn’t take them all and trying hard to choose what to keep. I immediately grabbed dresses, both full skirts and shift dresses, mostly from the 60s and early 70s. It was, however, easy to leave behind a large stack of frothy garments from the 80s.

Vintage 60s Tent Dress // Boots & Cats

This was around the time of my sewing renaissance, near the end of high school and my skills were definitely lacking. The first pattern I made from the stash was a late 50s circle skirt and was way too heavy with the fabric I chose, and I did not know how to properly fit the waistband. I wore it once. The second was a cute 60s shift that I made in a pink plaid… quilting cotton. I wore it twice. (and years later noticed the bias binding was done laughably wrong and I managed to fix t up a bit for MMMay ’15). After that, the vintage patterns lay dormant.

When I was fabric shopping for Martha, I came upon this blush floral fabric and fell immediately smitten. It has a crepe paper-like texture that I hadn’t seen before. Though it didn’t make the cut for Martha, I asked for a humble 1m, knowing I would find something for it this summer. Around this time, summer wedding invites flowed in, and I couldn’t help think that this fabric would be so nice for a wedding. I stared at my pattern shelf and couldn’t see anything that suited the fabric or what I had in mind. I dug out the file box and this tent dress jumped out at me. A match made in heaven.

Vintage 60s Tent Dress // Boots & Cats

The pattern is Butterick 4634 and from what I assume is the late 60s. I scoured the envelope and instructions to find a printed copyright date, but for some reason Butterick and Simplicity patterns don’t seem to have it. It is a one-piece dress, meaning that it is cut on the fold and is seamed at the shoulders and centre back. The pattern has lots of options, such as a high collar and various sleeves. I opted for view F, sleeveless with the collar.

Now, tent dresses like this eat up a LOT of fabric, which at the moment, I did not have. I measured the width of my fabric and carefully took in volume from both sides and under the armscye until I could squeeze it onto my fabric. This left the dress with a softer, more a-line shape. I also just squeezed out the collar, leaving nothing but fluttery scrappy bits behind.

Vintage 60s Tent Dress // Boots & Cats

The sewing itself was a breeze, and at this point I find I can intuitively figure out most of the steps (especially now that I understand how bias binding works.) The instructions for sewing on the collar were really helpful and easy. I really like the finish. I did have to adjust the size of it though, because the collar was HUGE. It was so tall it looked like a neck brace and I shaved off about half the width. (As I look at the pattern envelope now, I realize you are probably supposed to fold over the collar. D’oy).

The pattern  called for a zip closure at the upper back neck, but since my fabric was so light, I opted to leave it open as a keyhole, and just close the collar with two buttons (and Tilly’s elastic loop trick). At the end, I noticed the dress had a slight high-low hem effect happening, which was a happy surprise and played well with the overall shape. I attribute the shift because of my pattern meddling earlier.

Vintage 60s Tent Dress // Boots & Cats

I am so happy I was able to eek this dress from the fabric I had. I have two more weddings this summer that I don’t need to worry about finding a dress for. Ha.

After my month-long stitching hiatus I feel like I have my sew-jo back, just completing a Papercut Patterns dress yesterday and another project cut and ready to go! I know some sewists find it hard to make things in the summer, but I really enjoy that there are usually plenty of occasions happening to wear new creations almost immediately.

This has really helped me get motivated to look back into the vintage pattern box more frequently. I was pleasantly surprised to notice that I have the pattern for the jacket Jade made for 1960s week on the Sewing Bee… I smell an autumn project on the horizon.

Vintage 60s Tent Dress // Boots & Cats

7 thoughts on “A Swingy Sundress // Vintage Butterick 4634

  1. Thanks for the reference to your early sewing mistakes. I just had to admit to myself that my first skirt project was doomed due to a foolish mistake I made. Onward to the next. It’s helpful to know that even the accomplished had those moments at the start.

    Love that dress!

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