sewing patterns from the 90s – part 2

This series is already a success, because a friend has let me know that her 11th grade prom dress was probably based off Butterick 6406.

I wasn’t sure what to focus on for the second post, but decided to keep riding the 90s Prom theme.

Butterick 6394

I can NOT get over the idea that Jennifer Aniston is wearing the black and white version, even though the model looks nothing like her, facially.

I think it’s more of a Rachel Green look than real life Aniston, though, because I did some image searching and found this red carpet ensemble, which amazingly enough might have been the reason I bought this pattern. Check out this prom picture, from my first year in college, when I drove home for the weekend (16 hours roundtrip?) to go with a friend who was getting over a break-up and really needed the cachet of a cool older woman for a replacement date. The commentary in the tags of that photo says everything I will ever need to say about that outfit. (Though, somehow I forgot to draw attention to the stretchy elastic pink choker, which was braided, I believe. That…happened.)

Have you noticed that I’m sharing discreet links to the photos that are embarrassing? Hoping that you click away and laugh, but hiding them away so you can’t judge until I think you’re sufficiently prepared. Thankfully, I have ONE AND ONLY ONE prom photo that I am not afraid to post here.

Best senior prom picture.  Ever!

No, I didn’t make the dress. I just can not resist sharing this photo.

AND the success of the dress was the reason I bought this pattern:

Butterick 6404

I have only had two versions of this dress. One, made by my mom (my recollection that Mom didn’t sew anything for me after 9th grade is turning out to be spectacularly wrong), for no particular reason that I can place, was formal and two-tone, and eventually shredded to pieces so I could “model” for a roommate’s photography class.

The other, sewn by me, was made entirely out of denim. Because of Britney & Justin.


I never wore it anywhere – somehow no event in my life was well-suited for a formal denim gown. I have one photo of myself wearing the dress, but I’m not going to share it because, really, isn’t it enough to know that I made this? That it once existed? (I can’t find this unicorn of a dress anywhere, which means I must have thrown it away or recycled the fabric or burned it sacrificially in hopes that JT and Brit would get back together one day.)

Friends, these patterns have now fulfilled their destinies. Now that I’ve blogged about them, they’re both going into the trash/recycling bin.

sewing patterns from the 90s

In an attempt to stop myself from impulse purchasing while at work and unable to flip through my patterns (we’ll call this The Shirtdress Problem, since I currently have three shirtdress patterns…with no shirtdresses made to this day), I have taken photos of every pattern I own, and uploaded them to flickr for reference.

The most hilarious/heinous realization from this is that I still have patterns from when I was learning to sew. In high school. And at this point, not only do they not fit me (because I didn’t know about tracing sizes), but they are a glorious feast of 90s fashion, which doesn’t get better with age, but is far less painful as years pass.

[Sidebar: when I re-watched Buffy a few years ago, I was able to let go of so much embarrassment related to high school photos of me, because I realized that Sarah Michelle Gellar looked just as hideous in those clothes as I had. Pop culture history can restore self-image – you heard it here first!]

Let’s start with the oldest:
Butterick 6406

This was my 10th grade Homecoming dress! My mom made it, and it was one of the last thing she ever made for me because of how traumatic the experience was for both of us. (The trauma was because of a 15-year-old’s discomfort with her changing body.) If you want to see the dress, and some 90s hair realness, check this out. (Bonus points for the clunky/sensible dress shoes that vaguely  match those on the Butterick model. And for the awkward hand-holding.)

Speaking of 90s realness, can we just catalog everything 90s in these photos and illustrations?
-the romantic curls
-the fancy, probably french-twisted, updo
-that crazy curly topknot!
-Sharon Stone hair?
-the chokers!
-the matching silk stoles (and the fact that I KNOW THAT WORD because it was a thing in the 90s)
-the weird kitten heel
-the clunky/sensible heels
-the sheer black pantyhose

What am I going to do with this pattern? TOSS IT! I have no reason to hold onto this, even though that pink version is vaguely tempting. (I can’t resist a tea-length princess seam dress. And everything about that sketch. She is essentially the hot nemesis in every 90s Teen Movie, right?) But I recall, now that I’m wandering down memory lane, that Mom and I revisited this pattern, and she made me an adorable tea-length white eyelet version of this dress…the summer after I graduated from college?…and though I willingly wore it in public without a Modesty Cardigan, the shape of this pattern was much more boxy than hourglass. It would take a lot of tweaking to make this pattern work for me, and besides, I already mentioned having a weakness for a tea-length princess seam dress, didn’t I?

So, of course, I have other patterns that fit that description:Butterick 6534

I made the tea-length version of this in college, cutting it out and sewing it on the gross carpeted floor of a dorm room one hot summer when I stayed on campus. I made it out of a cheap black cotton, and lined it with something equally cheap. The seams were unfinished (they always were, until recently), but I wore that dress to PIECES. I called it my Audrey Hepburn dress, and I always felt SO classy, even when the black fabric started to fade and the unfinished seams kept trailing loose threads. I might still have it stored away, ostensibly to be used for scrap fabric, but more realistically because I wouldn’t be able to part with something so well-loved, even if I can’t wear it in public any longer.

Untitled Untitled
Untitled Untitled

I found some photo evidence!
-The black dress when it was literally falling apart and I would wear it “casually” with a tank top and flip flops.
-A brown linen-like version I made, with the bow-band, which made the dress slightly too long in the torso. I still have that version, and if it weren’t for the long torso, I’d probably wear regularly. (I had done some extra fitting on the top of the dress, adding a band to help it fit closer. Unfortunately, I hadn’t made pattern pieces or notations of these alterations, so they weren’t reproducible.)
-A green version, with a monstrous skirt and petticoat, made with something like 10 yards of cheap cotton fabric, to emulate this short-lived dress trend. It was comically huge, so huge that I had to learn what a tuffet was, so I could describe it more effectively. I wore it once in public, and have recycled the fabric for many random projects.
-Another green version, made years later, which was the death knell for this pattern in my life. The problems were: the fabric (another lightweight cotton), the construction (VERY RUSHED = no attention to things like those horrible puckered seams), and the pattern (no alterations from previous versions, so first it was too large and then, after quickly taking in some side seams, too small).

At this point, the pattern pieces are practically in shreds, and I know the bodice ALWAYS needed to be extended, but I had never marked or remade the piece to indicate what should happen. I could probably reclaim this, if I went through a few cycles of pattern drafting and muslin-making for the bodice, and the idea of re-creating that Audrey Hepburn dress magic is still tempting. But, realistically, I don’t wear strapless dresses anymore, and I’m not sure this will have the same charm with a thicker strap.

So, if this blog series is an attempt to not only document but discern my feelings about old patterns, and make choices about what to do with each one…
Butterick 6406 – Toss it. No regrets. I only held onto it so we could enumerate the 90s-ness of the illustrations.
Butterick 6534 – Hold on to it. If I don’t re-make the bodice pattern in the next year, will someone please force me to throw it away?

a list of sorts

Once upon a time, my blog was full of lists. Of course, this was back in 2002-2003, when my blog was a xanga site and my life was consumed with questions about what I wanted to do with my life (zomg graduating from college) and what I needed to accomplish on any particular day (aka: Learning to Adult). It was literally nothing but lists.

There are a few lists living on this version of the blog, but most of them, if I’m honest, live in email drafts to myself. Millions of emails to myself, over the years. Lists seem far too mundane to share with other people.

[Speaking of mundane, I’ve already said “lists” so many times that it is an nonsense word. Lists, lists, lists. LISTS! (No wonder I only post things in strictly structured formats – my unfiltered thoughts veer into absurdity.) (And interruptions.)]

But I love reading the mundane things on other blogs. I love being invited into their processes, instead of being presented with a fully-formed creation. I want to learn how to think alongside other people, to think about things the way they do, to try on their brains for a moment and figure out if my brain could benefit from their practices.

So, here’s a list of things that I tend to talk about with myself. And a vague intention to talk about some of them (speak up if you have any preferences) on the blog.

[I’ve done this vague intention thing before, perhaps around a New Year (yep), and I don’t believe much developed from it (nope). The blog isn’t the boss of me, but merely, to quote my old tagline, “the thoughts that fall out of my head.” So let’s just see what happens.]

-Budgeting! You guys, I am OBSESSED with my budget, and in the most surprisingly positive way! I can’t stop talking about my budget, and how fun it is, and how freeing it is, and how EMPOWERED I feel now that I finally have the tools to be in charge of my money. And…I never ever EVER thought I’d be this person. I used to be the person who “focused on money stuff” maybe a few times a year, and felt so much sadness and confusion and shame and…just avoided it. Always. Thinking about money brought up feelings of inadequacy and shame that I wasn’t doing better. So I want to let everyone know, in more detail, that YOU TOO CAN BE EXCITED ABOUT YOUR BUDGET. If you don’t want to wait for me to get my act together and talk about this more, check out this awesome software, sign up for their 9-day email course (which explains their budgeting guidelines, and sets you up to understand the software more intuitively), and try the software and app for a 34-day trial if you’re not entirely sold. Once you’re mildly convinced that it is awesome and will change your life, use this referral link to save yourself $6 on the software (I also get $6 in my pocket for sharing). Oh man. I could keep talking about this right now. I could go on. MULTIPLE friends have experienced my gesture-filled ravings about how much this software has changed my relationship with money.

-Budgeting. That rant wasn’t really what I’m emailing myself about. It’s more, like, ideas for how to maximize what I earn, how to keep focused on my priorities, how to motivate myself to save and to talk myself out of impulse/comfort purchases. So, life planning goals-type lists. Those are the content. I’m just stunned that I feel confident enough with my baseline budget (after only a few months using YNAB) to make adjustments like this.

-Capsule Wardrobes. I know! This is all over the internet lately. It’s very much the trendy thing to do. Please allow me this hipster moment, to mention that sewing bloggers have been thinking and talking about it for the past year. Maybe longer. I might finally have some thoughts worth sharing. (One of them – spoiler alert – is that planning a capsule wardrobe is VERY SIMILAR to planning for a multi-week vacation. My Spring 2015 Capsule Wardrobe is eerily similar to my June 2014 in Europe Packing List.) Though really, now that I think about it, aren’t Capsule Wardrobes just a variation of Wardrobe Remixes? Do we have to find new and interesting approaches every few years? I don’t know if I want to blog about something so trendy, but I should at least admit that I’m thinking about it. A lot. And trying to use those concepts to direct my sewing plans.

-Obsessive research on the confusing interpersonal dynamics of romantic relationships. Wait. No. I’m NOT going to share that publicly. Unless, you know, I happen to read a BOOK on the topic and have to admit it to the blog. (But maybe if you want my advice or some resources, know that I love trying to think my way out of a complicated relational scenario. And then we can talk about how maybe thinking about it isn’t nearly as effective as discussing it with whomever you’re in a relationship with.)

-Sewing! Things I’ve made. Things I want to make. Things you want me to make? Patterns I own and reasons why I should get rid of them. Patterns I own and reasons why I should get over my fears of buttonholes and just make something already. Maybe this is the rationale I have for talking more about capsule wardrobes. Maybe I should remind myself that clothing doesn’t have to be frivolous, but is a valid art form, and a very real tool for expression of self. And it’s totally Pioneer Bad-Ass to make your own clothes, and isn’t Pioneer Bad-Ass one of my personal benchmarks for whether something is worth pursuing?

Okay, that’ll do. And since I hate text-only posts, here’s a photo of what I look like this week.


I know! My hair IS getting long! I’ve been growing it ALL WINTER!

a list of existential thoughts

(compiled in the middle of the afternoon on an uneventful day)

Who am I?  Why?  How does that express itself?  Are any of these expressions unhealthy?

What am I doing?  Do I want to be doing this?  Does that matter?  What else would I be doing?  Could I?  What’s standing in my way?  Is it merely fear of failing?

What other fears are holding me back?  Do I really want to ask that question?  Can I take it back?  No?

Why can’t The Internet entertain me sufficiently?  What is this big gaping hole I feel in my heart right now?  Is it supposed to be there?  Or is it leftover from something?  Did I put it there?  Did someone else?

Can’t I just take a nap?

random list

…of things I still can’t bring myself to throw away, found in a box that had been sitting in someone else’s basement for a few years…

-Film strips and test sheets from a black & white film photography class in college.

-High school yearbooks. (I really *want* to throw them away, but it seems wrong for some reason.)

-A copy I made of my application to CCC staff in 2003. Haven’t read the main contents yet, but the psychological survey reminded me how carefree and easy my life was (and still is, in so many ways).

-Sheet music from that time I was in a white suburban gospel choir.

-My favorite Exploding Dog comics.