The Dilemma of the Vintage Homemade Dress

An amazing home-made couture mesh dress.

What is it about the vintage home-sewn dress that turns people off?

Growing up in the 70′s in a cash strapped New York City, home-sewn clothes and hand-me-downs were the staple. More than 50 percent of my childhood wardrobe was home-sewn and not always well. My grandmother took stabs at knitting but always looked like she had been drinking, and probably was…

If garments were made for me, I considered it a great honor. Even at a young age I understood that construction was difficult and required skill. I remember a lovely pair of pants made by my Puerto Rican babysitter, pale pink and burgundy chevron-striped bell-bottoms. Sigh. I loved those pants.

I started to care more about my bizarre wardrobe when designer jeans in a label conscious society became the rage. I did not last long on that ship, I let it sail away without me.

What did I care? I was just going to get it dirty anyway!

Somewhere in the sea of crappy home-sewn garments made from polyester double-knit, the custom made dress has lost it’s luster. In my shopping travels I am uncovering many of these gems. In my mind each dress has a story. I find charm and love in the home sewn dress. Some are indeed couture pieces. Having a seamstress or an advanced sewer in the family is not as common today, but ask your Aunties! Chances are they know someone who is or was an expert.

I long to see the home sewn dress elevated and give her a little more street cred. My wedding gown was proudly home sewn by a friend of the family who is a skilled seamstress.

Detail of the bottom section and bow-work.

Detail of the bottom section and bow-work.

Take a look at this beauty for example. All completely hand sewn. Mid 1960′s Mod, most likely influenced by the Youthquake designers. The previous owner must have been quite a head turner! White open weave mesh dress lined in white silk organza. So simply constructed. Masses of white organza bows along the bottom. This dress is to die for. An amazing imagination.

The dress was a little sad when I got her, very dusty and crazy hanger burn on the shoulders. NEVER store delicate garments like this on wood or plastic hangers, padded hangers if you must. Storing them flat in a proper acid free box will add years to it’s life. It took a little work, hand cleaning and a little patience and all without a huge dry cleaning bill (which would have been would have been over $50!) I did this all at home.

A simple cool water wash in the bathtub. Generic Woolite works just fine and is way cheaper. I added a scoop of dissolved Oxy-Clean to a half-full bathtub.

Let it soak, no rubbing or wringing. You can add a dash (1 tbspn)of white vinegar in one of the rinses to neutralize the soap. Rinse well. Let dry.

After the dress was completely dry it was put on a dress form inside out to assess the damage to the silk organza. Whole sections had completely come apart from being stored on the hanger. I matched the color of the fabric and hand-sewed patches of organza to the trouble spots. The outermost fabric gave me a little freedom to hide the stitches! All of the bows were removed, pressed and re-tied.

Isn’t she lovely!


Available for sale in my Etsy shop.




Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a Reply