Design Inspiration: Fine Batik Cotton and 50’s Halter Dresses

We have a dinner this week, a “dressy casual” at a nice-but-not-snooty restaurant for my husband and his fellow thesis-finishers.  I have many dresses- cotton day dresses and silk cocktail dresses, but somehow nothing seemed quite right.  It’s not a silk crowd.  A lady should always be suitably dressed for a given occasion, right?  I trolled The Vintage Pattern Wiki for halter dress inspiration.  Click an image to visit its wiki page.  Please enjoy the eye-candy!

I feel a batik obsession coming on after the Not-A-T-Shirt.  A shop around the corner from my house (I used to work there, it’s Sewco Sewing Centre) carries a decent range of fine batiks, unfortunately only a few are online.

The batiks come from Indonesia.  Though large wholesalers handle the export of the fabrics, many of the batiks from Indonesia support local village handcraft.  I like that.

I also like the crisp, fine cotton fabric.  It feels delicious and cool in the heat.

Then I thought- it’s the perfect excuse to call the batik-tiki-halter 1950’s style dress into being!  She sashays through the edges of my imagination and has for a few years.

Luckily, I found the perfect batik- a sharp print in black and blue.  Tropical but not tacky.  I had my eye on it for a long time.  It’s an extra-wide fabric, 240cm (roughly 2.5 yards), intended for a quilt backing.  It’s a tight, dense weave, yet light and airy.  I only needed 1.3m for a great big 50’s-style halter dress!

Which design elements appeal to you?  Pert collars, petal hems, ingenious wrap treatments, or sweet simplicity? There’s so many ways to design a halter, I think I may need to make several of these dresses before the summer is over!


  1. I love the Advance pattern and the McCalls 4331 dress too. With the McCalls dress it is that extra bit of detail in the straps that I like (oh and the midriff band). With the Advance pattern I like the gathered crossover detail – it is something you hardle ever see. This could be lost in the beautiful detail in the batik though. I hope you enjoy playing with your fabric – looking forward to seeing what you create!

  2. Yay!! My favorite of all s McCall’s 9508, it’s so elegant and youthful at the same time … I think it would be fine with the fabric you chose, only the problem of wrinkles is the counterpoint of cotton, I’m anxious to see this project to light ….

    • OOoooh the fabric… *swoon* Sewco has the same print in blues and greens, I think I want to do an encore dress… It’s sooo comfy in this weather we’re having.

  3. I like them all. And in batik, the dress will strike just the right note.

    I’ve been reading about your tshirt, which by the way is fab- can’t wait to try it, while I’ve been away, but have been unable to comment. Well done you, it’s great and a little different from what’s available at the moment.

    • Thanks. I’m really enjoying the process, though I had to learn to draft in a CAD program so I could put them up electronically.. I can pick up that type of thing, but I need a few hours of my life blocked off so I can FOCUS and get it done! :)

  4. I really like the bodice of that first pattern, (although not so much when used as a vase). 4331 also has a cute bodice treatment and the back neckline looks as if it would be very cool and comfy.
    I would be constantly tugging at the front wrap of that advance pattern- things wrapped up against my neck like that bug me. I like the way the designer of 1163 handled that better. That’s just about The Classic halter dress and would really let the fabric be the star.
    It will be interesting to see what you come up with.

    • Hehehe, I’ve seen a few with flower-vase-decollete, but I haven’t ventured there myself…. Still, with the right flower, the right fabric, and the right occasion, you could make a splash with something like that…

      Yes, my aim was definitely to let the fabric be the star… I haven’t copied any of these dresses (though I’m sorely tempted) but I think I captured what I wanted to with my dress…

  5. I think Butterick 1163 is my favourite, though not sure how that would look with a large bust. I have been thinking recently that I need more dresses in my work wardrobe, but the airconditioning in the office is so cold, I would freeze. Love your work, can’t wait to see the shirt pattern :-)

    • Yes… I was kind of shooting for frisky with this dress… The hemline could use some attention perhaps, a colleague warned me it’s approaching “back alley slut” territory. ;) Ask for an honest opinion, get an honest answer, right?

  6. I’m loving the McCall’s 4331. Halternecks always make my neck feel horrible but they look so good on other people that I keep being tempted to try, just one more time.. and that one is seriously calling me.

  7. Pingback: Finished Object: Terra Incognita Dress « 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World

  8. Pingback: Halter Tops, Trailer Trash Barbie and Grace Kelly « 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World

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