Vintage 90’s Swing Dress

Technically this pattern is from 1989 but I think it’s fair to put it solidly in the style of the 90’s- that close fitting, raised collar, that back tie, and that high, curved waistline are just so reminiscent of babydoll dresses- it all screams PAIR ME WITH SOME DR MARTENS! Which I have clearly not done, hahaha. The 90’s is nowhere close to my favorite decade for fashion but because I was in middle and high school during those years, the nostalgia bug bites me all the time when I see styles from that era. I was very into babydoll dresses back then, paired with those flat velvet mary jane shoes with absolutely no arch support or cushion for your feet, so this dress is a nice throwback that I think still works well for my current style.

My favorite design element of this pattern is the swinginess of the full skirt. Tent dresses can very easily engulf my short frame and make me feel like I am swimming in fabric, but the draft of this dress is perfectly proportionate to my height and size. I was a little concerned about the dramatic curve of the bottom of the bodice at first because, oof, that is also not my favorite design element in dresses, but the seam’s curve is much more subtle when the dress is sewn up than it looks on the pattern envelope. Strangely, the bodice has very slight gathering under the bust which does not show up in the envelope illustrations- not sure if that was a ME-stake or an oversight with the pattern translation, but it’s something I will pay attention to when I make it again. The pattern has deep pockets that don’t jut out at the hips, most likely thanks to the fullness of the skirt, and it also has a lovely squared armhole shape that I rarely see in patterns today.

While I love the final result of the armholes, I thought the construction for the bodice left much to be desired, mostly because you are made to use facings to finish the armholes. Unfortunately those facings want to flip out at every opportunity, despite the fact that I tacked them down on the inside wherever the facing intersected with a seam.

just a little bit of deodorant remnants, don’t be alarmed lol

The next time I make this I will draft a lining just for the bodice that will eliminate the need for the button band and armhole facings, and will also hang loose in the back, since the back of the dress doesn’t have a waist seam to attach it to (I’m not sure if “waist seam” is the appropriate name for the bottom of this bodice since it hits closer to the bustline than the waist, but you know what I’m talkin’ about)! This will give the armholes a much cleaner looking finish and will also eliminate the tendency for the facings to bunch up and poke out of the armholes.

The fabric I chose for this make is a beautiful sandwashed rayon I found at Promenade Fabrics in NOLA, and I absolutely love the color and the texture, although it seems to behave more like a silk and soak up oils very easily, which means it just gets washed more frequently than most of my makes. Because this dress needs a surprising amount of fabric for the full skirt, I think that sticking to a light-to-midweight textile is smartest, otherwise it will get weighed down and feel too heavy (linen and silk would also be gorgeous in this pattern).

Other than my issues with the facings, this dress was incredibly simple and quick to make once I adjusted the sizing. I graded down all the pieces using the difference in measurements between the nested sizes, which was time consuming, but easy enough. The fit is snug at the bodice and neck but comfortable, which I think is why the design looks so dynamic- that ultra-fitted shoulder and neck area contrasted with the full skirt is just ACE. The back ties give you wiggle room to adjust the fit at the bust and also provide a pretty but simple detail to highlight the back of the dress.

I am super into this make, I think it’s beautiful and it’s so very easy to wear- I wore it in a short horror film that a friend and I made together over the summer and it really seemed to glow onscreen. I absolutely plan on making this dress again- a similarly casual version in linen would be beautiful but I also think a floor length version in silk would be pretty dynamic, too- somehow a floor length version of this design feels very 60s all of a sudden!

Thanks as always to Claire for these cute pics!


12 responses to “Vintage 90’s Swing Dress”

  1. eimearg Avatar

    its perfect – love the shaping and the pockets – looks great

  2. emily Avatar

    Wow this looks so great!!! What a unique but practical pattern. I totally agree with you about tent dresses.

  3. Kathryn Marie Heppner Avatar
    Kathryn Marie Heppner

    Love vintage dressing…. it’s awesome. More please.

  4. Genevieve Avatar

    So pretty! I love the details of the neckline and armholes. It looks lovely on you.

  5. Ann Avatar

    Love it. Think I would just make the arm holes round and use bias tape.

  6. Deb Avatar

    It IS a very cute pattern & looks good on you.

  7. Linda M Seifert Avatar
    Linda M Seifert

    I think this dress is so sweet. Adorable, comfortable and stylish. Love the color!

  8. Lisa Avatar

    Just beautiful! A great job!

  9. Kate McLoughlin Avatar

    I love this! I am really drawn to late 80s early 90s patterns lately. Idk something about the carefree ugliness is doing it for me. Not to say this is ugly! You know what I mean (I hope??) That awkward trying-too-hard and yet somehow working feel.

    That colour is so lovely and the square armholes are just [chef’s kiss]

  10. Mel Avatar

    Gosh, I love this so much! I searched eBay for this pattern but no luck. 🙁 Any chance at all you could please send me a picture of the pattern piece overview/the cutting layout so that I might have a go at drafting something similar myself…? I would be rather grateful for something to do during lockdown! <3

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