Wearable Work In Progress: Bladvass Dress

My friend Em, her son and I went op-shopping today.  We were already in The Gabba for Voodoo Rabbit’s opening (more on that tomorrow), so took the chance to play dress-ups in the enormous vintage storehouse in the area.

I wore my Bladvass Dress.  Em spotted a beautiful Sampan hat perched atop a pile of suitcases on a top shelf- I’ve been looking for a nice solid one for longer than I care to admit.  This dress was only just wearable this morning, so I left off the pockets and tied it around my neck.  I like to “test drive” a garment before I finish it completely.

I came home and pottered around the back garden with my husband.  He planted these sunflowers for me, a perpetual summer bouquet.

The bodice on this dress feels great.  It’s solid but not hot.  It hugs my body but doesn’t cut into my flesh.  In the middle of sewing, I rather feared I was once again over-engineering a casual garment- it was weighty.  Once I put it on, it felt like a second skin and I forgot about it.

This feels like “early 50’s casual in the garden” wear to me.  While Dior unleashed his New Look in 1947, I find most early 50’s fashions and photos have fuller skirts without petticoats, which results in a gentler silhouette. “High Fashion” at the time may have had the petticoats and padding, but the post-war trickle down of fashion took a while to gather steam.

I’m not so sure about the pocket.

After I saw these photos, I knew I should do something with the back.

Ah yes. Much better.  Securing the ties this way also helps the front lie closer to my body.

I feel like I’ve seen some picture very similar to this- I can’t find it and it’s driving me nuts.  Maybe I was already there.  Does it ring any bells?

I nearly fell over trying to get a “swirl” shot on my ridiculously steep driveway when I realized we hadn’t taken any and the sun was disappearing.  We had a laugh.

Pocket or no pocket?  They’re useful, yes, but I don’t know if I like it.  Besides, I wear light sun jackets with pockets.

Uneven hems nearly always look better in my mind’s eye than in reality.  Should I trim this or leave it?  As for Terra Incognita, I used my serger to make a tidy rolled hem.  It’s so light and tough!

All in all, I’m very happy with this dress and think it will make a useful addition to my summer casual clothes.  I used a few arcane “engineering” tricks that I’ve been itching to try out.  I’ll write more about that when I know how well (or not) they work.

If you’re interested, check out Leimomi’s post on revealing clothes, modesty and personality.  Her post is intriguing, and the discussion is lively..


  1. I read the heading of this post without my glasses and thought it was ‘Badass dress’. whatever it is it looks great and the whole post makes me homesick for an Australian summer

  2. I love the straps, too!

    If it were me, I’d try to do without the pockets (but then, I’m always leaving the pockets off dresses and regretting it…)

    And that hat is insanely fun! :)

    So glad it fits so well and supports everything as well as it does! :D

  3. I love the straps crossing at the back – not only does it help with the front (as you said), it makes the back more elegant, while still having a halter feel to it.

    Not sure how I feel about the hem. Maybe it’s just the photos, but rather than seeming intentional, it seems accidental. I’m thinking that it may be due to the colour of the lining (even though you’ve tied it in with the pockets). In my mind, if the lining was the same colour as the flowers on the dress (black? brown?), the contrast of the darker colour, along with being a matching colour would help with it looking more intentional.

    Pockets…I’m not sure! I think it’s an awfully cute pocket….and they are one of my favourite things about vintage dresses and skirts in general, you just don’t really see those details today….(could it be because we all carry huge bags instead, and no longer need pockets?)

    I enjoyed reading “Why loving your body doesn’t have to equal revealing your body” – thank you for pointing us to it. I’m no prude and I do celebrate and embrace my shape, however, I’m also extremely modest with regards to dressing (although I never hesitated to breast feed without a cover in public!)

    Oh – and last thing – My friend and her mother are actually on the waiting list for having a booth in the Woolloongabba Antique Centre! I have to laugh about them mentioning that it’s Air Conditioned though. I’ve been away from Brissy for so long that I don’t recall whether it was the norm or not for these places to have A/C?!

    • The flowers are blue, but if I lined it with a darker fabric it would darken the white. I like yellow and blue and white, maybe that’s a quilter’s thing. :)

      I don’t know about A/C or how common it is.. I was horrified when I moved here about the lack of it, but now it seems normal. Some places do, some don’t. I absolutely don’t understand the way many stores blast their A/C and leave the front doors open. What a waste of energy….

      • When I moved to the US, I was shocked that practically every house, apartment, etc had A/C! I lived pretty much my entire life without it at home only to be blasted with near freezing temperatures when I lived in South Florida! My ex-husband would go ballistic if I turned the A/C off! It was difficult to adjust to, strangely enough.

        With regard to the flower colours – holy pathetic monitor, Batman! It wasn’t showing blue for me at all. You probably mentioned it in the post and I completely glossed over it. Regardless, I think the general colour combination of yellow, blue and white is absolutely lovely and perfect for Summer – I’m just having a contrast issue to which you are absolutely right – a darker colour would show through the white. I do think it’s a gorgeous colour for a lining, especially if one catches a slight glimpse of it. In trying to think of ways it may possibly work, I could see both the outer and lining layer trimmed with the same trimming may help, but then, that’s most likely adding weight to a Summer dress that doesn’t need it.

      • Nah, I’ll probably leave the hem… It has a certain awkward charm that pleases me. :) And I’m lazy. Though I guess if I want to wear it out in public much I should take the advice of the thoughtful commentators who are telling me to fix my hem. :)

        Well… There’s a reason that the United States is a leader in energy use per capita. I have to say, I learned a LOT of lifestyle-sustainability type habits when I moved here and I’m glad of it. Some of it is stuff that almost every australian does (hanging out the laundry on a washing line, for example.) Other stuff is more unique to the lifestyle my husband and I strive for (tiny garbage cans, composting, thoughtful consumption). Most of these changes are rather small once you get used to them, and I don’t find they impact my quality of life except in a positive way.

        Though I must say, I find the heat very difficult to deal with sometimes. I think it’s at least in part due to the metal roof- we cook on a sunny summer afternoon, but if the sun isn’t out it’s not so bad. And we can always go to the library or somewhere for A/C.

      • It’s funny you mention hanging clothing out on the line. It’s something I used to cuss about when I was younger, but when we were in Australia in 2010 – I hung my washing on my mother’s line and BOY! I totally did not expect to miss that! Not only is it energy saving, there’s just something delightful about air-dried clothing…the texture…the smell… But also, it’s much gentler on clothing. Sure, a dryer is convenient, but the heat is rather rough and damaging in short time.

        I often wonder how I’m going to handle the heat when we eventually move back. I personally want to live in Melbourne, but my mother would be terribly upset with me me if I don’t live in Brisbane for a few years irste (11 years is a long time to be away from home and we miss each other dreadfully). Miami was tough, but I managed for 6 years. I just feel terribly spoilt by the weather here in San Francisco Bay Area. Sometimes it feels similar to Brisbane, but then in the evenings we get a gorgeous marine layer coming in which cools everything down – something Brisbane doesn’t have.

      • I believe Melbourne is hotter than Brisbane as a general rule during the summer. It’s something I keep an eye on. Of course, they also have something like a proper winter…

        SF sounds wooooonderful. At the risk of upsetting the other Brisbanites, I must say I can’t imagine why you’d switch. (Well, I guess family considerations would be important…And the universal health care here allows for such peace of mind…)

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  5. Love the dress! I quite like the pocket. I love having pockets for my hankies and tram cards. But if you don’t need a pocket for those things…I’m sure the dress would look great without one too. ;)

  6. Love the dress, love what you have done with the back! I don’t think the pocket is working – the rest of the dress is too elegant, and it just seems out of place. Any chance of setting pockets into the side seams?

    I also don’t think the variable hem is working. I agree with Naomi that it seems more accidental than intentional

  7. Lovely sundress. I’d probably never take it off all summer! (What great huge sunflowers, too! I’ve never seen them in pots here before.) I might leave the pocket off too, but that’s me; for some reason I never put my hands in patch pockets.

    • Oh… They aren’t growing in pots, they’re growing out of a little bed my husband made with compost and soil. I don’t know if sunflowers would work in pots….?

      Thank you. :)

  8. What a difference those straps make. You must feel more ‘secure’ and carefree.

    I ADORE the pocket. If you think you will use it then my vote is to keep it. It adds to the charm of you in the dress IMHO. But then I would buy a pattern if it contained only vintage pocket patterns so I’m not sure I should be considered impartial. I have a serious crush on pockets.

    • Really? You’d buy a pattern of only vintage pockets? Heh, I guess when you come to it, I would too. I’m a sucker for them, especially patch pockets with interesting shapes or details… Oliver + S makes awesome pocket patterns (hopscotch skirt, ice cream social dress), I don’t let the fact they’re for kids clothes deter me… ;)

  9. Love the crossover straps, not keen on the pocket, and I think the photo is reminiscent of an Audrey Hepburn one I’ve seen, somewhere in the mists of time!!!!

    • I think it’s a pattern envelope illustration… Oh well, I’ve exhausted myself digging through inspiration files. Maybe I’m making it up. Maybe I should just do my own drawing and then claim that as the inspiration… ;)

  10. Hiya, been away all weekend sewing. And I wore cotton maxi dresses all weekend because all your talk of dresses has gotten into my head! It was so nice, and up the coast here it is much hotter and more humid than in Welly. One is a remodelled garment, the other a new purchase from the UK, which I will be using as an inspiration, because I have had so many compliments when wearing it! So thank you for setting my sights for summer on a sensible pathway :)

  11. Steph to me, the pose you feel is familiar looks rather Norman Lindsay-esque. (Australian artist/author of ‘The Magic Pudding’ fame but also much more.) Dress looks great and I keep reading it as Badass too, but only cos I want to.
    The single large pocket has an apron-pocket-feel to me so while I adore pockets in general, I’d prefer side seam pockets in a dress like this.

    • I never heard of him (well except for magic pudding), but a quick google image search has shown me you’ve introduced me to someone I’ll find very interesting and inspiring. Thank you!

  12. I actually really like the uneven hem there.. but possibly only because the yellow is echoed in the pocket. I might not like it so much if the pocket wasn’t there and there was no other yellow.

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