The space age cocktail dress

6 Jun

Pattern: Simplicity 2497

Fabric: Poly Shantung, 2.5 yards

Notes: I was just complaining to my husband the other day that there are a distinct lack of cocktail parties in my life.  Why have they gone out of fashion?  I must admit that I’m not much of a party person, at least in the modern sense of the word – I’ve never gotten much joy out of loud music and our collective national obsession with beer pong.  So I say we need to bring back the cocktail party!  We can serve vodka gimlets (my favorite) and whiskey sours, listen to some fab music at a reasonable volume, and wear cute little cocktail dresses like this one.  Seriously, people… I must have a reason to indulge in my obsession with formalwear!

Ahem… anyway, this is a modern pattern, but I was attracted to it because of its resemblance to some great 1960s patterns.  Apparently the neck ruffle was big (and this one is very big!)  I chose to use this fabric because it was in my stash, which isn’t the best reason.  For polyester it’s really not bad, though it did want to fray like mad, so I serged around every edge before I started sewing.  It’s a little more shiny than actual shantung, and I would have rather used the real thing, but I was anxious to use up this fabric.

I made significant alterations to the bodice of the pattern.  I cut a size 6 for my muslin, and it was enormous through the chest and shoulders.  I decided that a 4 would fit in the shoulders, but I wasn’t happy with how sack-like it was.  So I graded it down another size in the bust, and 2 sizes toward the waist, giving it a bit of shaping rather than just being a rectangle.  This brought it in enough for me, while retaining the blousy detail.  Something to keep in mind if you are small framed.  The skirt is a straight size 8, with the only alteration being length.  It came out way longer than the envelope showed, so I cut 4 inches off – due to the lack of shaping it was not flattering longer.  The waist is between the size 6 and 8.

The star of the show is obviously the ruffle!  I thought I would go mad baby hemming the entire thing, but I couldn’t find any matching serger thread, so a rolled hem was out.  It all went together rather smoothly, with my only issue being how to keep the fabric from puckering at the seams (I did pretty well, though there is a little bit around the side zip.

I searched through my vintage costume jewelry collection for some pieces from the same era as the ruffle neck patterns I found.  I came up with this piece, which I never, ever wear because it looks totally silly with a simpler neckline.  Seriously, is that the largest chain you’ve ever seen or what?  It weighs 10 pounds, I swear.  I actually have the matching earrings too, but it is way too much look together… so I used them on my shoes instead.  Now I only need somewhere to wear this look… Mad Men viewing (cocktail) party anyone?

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38 Responses to “The space age cocktail dress”

  1. Amanda S. June 6, 2010 at 4:57 pm #

    Love it! You did a great job making it into a flattering fit, and the color is really beautiful. I don’t recall EVER being to a cocktail party, now that you mention it. And I’ve nowhere to wear formal stuff, although every so often I buy a pattern because the dress is too gorgeous to pass up.

  2. rita June 6, 2010 at 5:26 pm #

    Epic ruffle win!
    The whole outfit looks very lovely… the ultimate cocktail party attire.
    I wouldn’t think of wearing any necklace, but that vintage number visually complements the big ruffle and the earrings-as-shoeclips is just ingenious

    10 out of 10.

  3. martha-caknitter June 6, 2010 at 5:34 pm #

    It’s beautiful on you and yes, please, someone bring back the cocktail parties. Maybe you can restart the trend with your cocktail dress.

  4. Cheryl June 6, 2010 at 5:49 pm #

    the dress is fabulous!!!

  5. Kristen June 6, 2010 at 5:56 pm #

    Beautiful dress, definitely deserves a night on the town. If I were having a cocktail party I would invite you and the dress!

  6. SewBissy June 6, 2010 at 6:04 pm #

    Looks so cute on you! I love this pattern–I made it in three shades of purple silk (minus the ruffle but plus the sleeves) back in winter and still haven’t found an excuse to wear it…Hope you have a chance to wear yours out sooner!

  7. Amy June 6, 2010 at 6:16 pm #

    here here! for the cocktail party! I was just thinking about that myself! Glad I am not the only one!

    I love the green on you and the ruffle is fabulous.

  8. purl2tog June 6, 2010 at 6:19 pm #

    i love cocktail parties and cocktail dresses! i agree that we need more of them. i am so jealous of your crafting abilities. look at some of my knitting projects at

  9. jayayceeblog June 6, 2010 at 6:31 pm #

    Love the color, it looks great on you and the jewelry is perfect. You’re right … there is an unfortunate lack of cocktail parties in this day and age where you can wear delicious little cocktail dresses!

  10. angie.a June 6, 2010 at 7:27 pm #

    Ooh, it would be a perfect Mad Men viewing cocktail party dress! (that’s a mouthful. :D ) Very cute. The color is pretty too!

  11. Ann S June 6, 2010 at 8:11 pm #

    Here in DC cocktail parties have been renamed “receptions,” and your green dress would be FAB-U-LOUS at any reception here!

  12. Jessica June 6, 2010 at 8:12 pm #


  13. Tonya June 6, 2010 at 8:19 pm #

    I was recently telling my husband that I need a job that allows me to wear cocktail dresses, since SAHM/knitwear design doesn’t have that exciting of a wardrobe. Love the color on that dress, and your sewing aesthetic overall – keep the dresses coming!

  14. Amy June 6, 2010 at 9:55 pm #

    I’d attend a cocktail party like that! Sounds fun. Your dress is gorgeous.

  15. Cora Rose June 6, 2010 at 10:03 pm #

    I shit you not; this is my wedding dress. The long version, in rust-colored crinkle-silk, with a less dramatic ruffle. So happy to see it made up; I’ll have to show this to my mom, who is lovingly crafting mine as we speak!

  16. Amber June 6, 2010 at 10:47 pm #

    Beautiful! That is a great color on you. You made some great changes to give it a real custom fit. I agree with you about bringing back the cocktail party. Even with my husband’s line of work and all of the parties we have to attend, they are still rarely something that requires a cocktail dress. :(

  17. Sherry June 7, 2010 at 12:11 am #

    Gorgeous colour on you!
    I would turn up in this dress to any party – and make those slackers feel so undressed they try harder next time :;

  18. Sherry June 7, 2010 at 12:12 am #

    Oops! – I meant ;)

  19. Stacey June 7, 2010 at 1:38 am #

    Stunning! Can’t wait to make one!

  20. Giselle June 7, 2010 at 5:14 am #

    That ruffle is a knock out! Fabulous!
    The pendant goes very well with it, but personally I just LOVE the earrings on the shoes! That’s just genius. I tried this before with some bow clips I had and it dressed up a plain pair of shoes to perfection. Must look for those clips again…

  21. Knittripps June 7, 2010 at 7:50 am #

    Bring back the cocktail party! That is a fabulous idea.

  22. Brandy June 7, 2010 at 8:49 am #

    Perhaps you will have to host your own cocktail party, to prove to your friends how fun they will be. Who knows, you may start a new trend!

  23. Rebecca in NC June 7, 2010 at 9:03 am #

    Love it! It’s gorgeous!!

    I agree on the lack of cocktail parties — people should have little get togethers like that more often.

  24. Phyllis June 7, 2010 at 9:04 am #

    Awesome, awesome, awesome.

  25. Yarnhog (Suzanne) June 7, 2010 at 9:45 am #


    We actually do go to and host cocktail parties. We have the sort of neighborhood where the kids all play together and the grown-ups socialize. Someone always has a party coming up. I’m not a social sort, but I do love living in a neighborhood where I know all the neighbors and kids run in and out of everyone’s houses.

  26. The Cupcake Goddess June 7, 2010 at 10:28 am #

    It’s GORGEOUS! I love the ruffle! It completely makes the dress! You look so fantastic in the whole thing too! That green is just to die for on you! I really like the fabric too! Lovely jewelry and just the perfect touch for the dress!

  27. Julie June 7, 2010 at 11:56 am #

    I love the neck ruffle, it’s so pretty! and the necklace/shoe clip combo- gorgeous.

  28. Tasia June 7, 2010 at 3:58 pm #

    Gorgeous neckline! Your dress looks fantastic and I love the necklace with it! So pretty.
    You’re right about there not being enough cocktail-type parties, as I wouldn’t want to ruin such a lovely dress playing beer pong either… time to throw the right kind of party to go with the dress?

  29. Debby June 7, 2010 at 6:10 pm #

    I’ve always wished we had a dinner club who took turns hosting formal dinner parties at home or even a local restaurant that required dressing up and offered dancing, like the dinner clubs in the old black and white films. Our anniversary is coming up this week, and I long to get dressed to the nines, but there don’t seem to be many local restaurants where that wouldn’t look out of place. Sigh.

    Your dress is absolutely beautiful, and hopefully you will have some musical events or another party for which it will be the perfect outfit.

  30. Antoinette June 7, 2010 at 9:20 pm #

    So beautiful! The ruffle is fabulous — worth every bit of effort, I hope! Thanks for the extra notes on fit.

  31. HLT June 8, 2010 at 8:11 pm #

    Wow, you really made the ruffle pop with this color and fabric! It’s beautiful without being crazy over the top!

  32. scotty June 10, 2010 at 4:55 pm #

    Wow, that dress is stunning and it fits you perfectly. You are sooo talented!

  33. Elena June 14, 2010 at 9:52 am #

    This is awesome!

  34. Zoe June 16, 2010 at 6:13 am #

    It’s sooo nice! Stunning colour and looks so incredibly well made! Will we be seeing this during Self-Stitched-September? x

  35. Karin van D. June 26, 2010 at 12:19 am #

    I say: Start throwing cocktails parties yourself and bring them back in fashion. Hmm.. maybe I should too. I love that idea! I’ll let you know, maybe you can hop on a plane and fly here with your gorgeous dress. The necklace looks great with it, but oomph, that heavy? No dancing with that, I guess, eh?

  36. Adventures in Dressmaking July 7, 2010 at 1:25 pm #

    Nice! I have and love that pattern, too. I found it snug across the boobs so I think I’ll add to that area next time I make it. I wore it to my birthday dinner last year but used a bias ruffle strip instead of the ruffle they give a pattern for… I was in a hurry, I guess!


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