Finished Object: The “Ice Cream Social” for Women Dress

Or the “Social Dress.”  A few weeks ago, I bulk sewed a batch of Oliver + S Ice Cream dresses for my small daughter and toyed with the idea of a grown-up version.  I like the yoke feature, and I am sure it would be breezy on a hot day.  The cut screams for an interesting print.

The yoke is a biggish scrap leftover from making tencel cargo shorts for my husband.  A friend gifted me the printed voile- thanks, Enid!  The velvet spots on poly-organza came to me via another friend’s stash. Viola, pretty fabric for a classy mu-mu.

I drafted, cut, and stitched without permitting myself to ponder whether I should wear a Trapeze-style dress.  I know I should not.  It’s not considered “flattering” for many figure types.  The last time I could successfully wear a dress like this, I was reading Anne of Green Gables.When I finished the dress I slipped it on and immediately thought “There’s no way in hell I’m going outside wearing this.” I began plotting the ways to alter it…

  • Completely shirred waist section
  • Just a few lines of shirring to “help” the belting
  • Darts, tucks, or pleats.  This would work well I think, but I would need to insert a zip as well.
  • Cut it off a little above my waist for a breezy top
  • Cut a short-sleeved top from the main panel

Before I started re-fashioning my spanking-new dress I thought I should take a few photos.  For documentation.  Once I combed my hair, put on makeup, stockings, shoes and a belt the dress was transformed.  I even walked to the bottle-o for some port, so technically I wore it “out.”

We played with sparklers early this evening, and tried to explain the concept of “years” to the small girl.  She’s cavorting through almost every shot we took today, the monkey.

I remembered seeing pattern envelopes featuring similar “mu-mu to belted street dress” patterns.  Is this an interesting and practical lesson from casual vintage clothing? Or is a tent, even a pretty tent, still an unappealing article of clothing?  Would you alter?

Happy 2012, Sewing Peeps and Stalkers Friends!


  1. Belts! Fabulous things for making shapeless stuff fit, I’m a big fan even though my style is very different to yours.
    I make quite a few knit dresses, and prefer to leave them to be belted afterwards – wide belts with a proper buckle/holes etc at the front but an elastic back are my absolute favourites. Then if my knit dress shrinks slightly in the laundry or I lose/gain a bit of weight I don’t have a problem with where the waistline is sitting. I wouldn’t alter the dress, just make sure I only wore it belted!

    • Yes! I just never really understood that before.. It’s so weird! And great, because like you say, I’m unlikely to ever need to alter this dress for weight fluctuation (which is always good).

  2. I think it looks great with the belt. I mainly wear outfits with focused waistlines but I do have a couple of tunic tops that are more rectangular in shape. I always put a belt on when I leave the house but it is quite nice to be relaxed and billowy in the house sometimes :)

  3. Unless you are 9 months pregnant you shouldn’t wear that dress out in public without a belt. You are right when you say belting it transformed it!

    The old pattern looks like a maternity dress or a house dress. And the modern equivilant to a house dress is sweat pants, t-shirt, no bra. They are pajamas you can go to the front door in.

    • It’s good to know I have a backup maternity dress… A 20-something wife can’t be too careful… ;)

      I can see that about the house dress equivalent… I’m not the biggest fan of t-shirt, sweats and no bra so I’m always looking out for “easy wear” vintage designs that have a little more scope for prettiness…

  4. Big fan of belts here! Love the look with the belt, and it looks like it´s super comfy as a house dress without it. I say keep it as it is. :-)

    And happy 2012 to you too!

  5. LOve it with the belt, but you know that on those stinking hot and humid days you will wear this without the belt around the house and love it

  6. I just saw the first picture and said “Belt!” I wouldn’t do any more work to it. Fine as is. But I’m also a lazy sewer.

  7. I love the belted look! I’m a big fan of belts. I’m very curvy so off the rack (and vintage) pieces often are big at my waist. A belt is an instant fix. Plus you can swap out your belt for a different one and have practically a whole new outfit. I think this dress would look great with a pop of color belt.

    • Happy New Year to you, too! She kept running around in tight circles, sometimes little kids are exactly like any other small animal… like a puppy who is newly sure of her legs… ;)

  8. I like it! you could do so many different color combinations, and change out the belt to make the dress look different every time you wear it… then take the belt off when you’re in the house after a big meal haha!

    • Hah! Thanks.

      I don’t think I’ll make it again, it was one of those “I wonder if I can get away with this?” sewing projects… Ridiculously over-engineered dresses are my first love, even though I do flirt with simple shapes.. ;)

  9. Your little one is such a cutie pie! She is looking so much more grown up, just from when I started reading your blog a while ago. I think the dress looks good belted, but I also like the idea of a short breezy top. Happy new year!

    • Weird thought- You’ve been reading for about half her lifetime…

      I think the top might happen at some point… Maybe not from this dress, but another top in its own right…

  10. When I first opened this post my first thought was how much I liked that leather looking belt in the banner. I don’t think mumus were ever very attractive, only just comfortable if one was in a hot climate or hiding a belly. The only other excuse I could think of for wearing such a baggy garment is that I’ve read they are easier to garden in. One can pull the skirt up over the knees to kneel (presumably onto a cushioned surface).

    Seeing your daughter with a sparkler took me right back to my own childhood! Best wishes for 2012!! I hope one day to share some photos of my own sewing projects…

    • Thanks… I learned I can buy very inexpensive accessories at op-shops (might as well,they don’t have any sewing patterns), and so have spent a little time finding useful bits n’ pieces lately.

      She had so SO much fun with the sparklers… :)

  11. I too was enamored of the belted dress in the banner pic. I don’t wear belts often for some reason — they just feel sort of awkward? Maybe I should re-think that.
    I have several vintage patterns with belted versions similar to the one you pictured, and have always wondered if the massive fabric usage would be worthwhile. I love the idea of a big full comfy dress, then belting it for going out of the house. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • I don’t wear belts much, either… Except they can really “make” a dress, so I’m learning to use them more.

      If you make a similar one, do link me!

  12. Love the fabric, but I’m going to be the dissenter. I think you should re-purpose the fabric, or pack the dress up and wait for someone you like enough to give it to to get pregnant.

    Why? Without the belt it is simply dreadful, and with the belt it looks like a 1940s shirtwaist.

    The kind they advertised for ‘gracious ladies’ with sizes starting at 52″ busts.

    So, still a [i]million[/i] times better than most of today’s fashions, but not really doing your fabulous figure any favours.

    I’ve looked at those 1950s belted trapezes (I own at least one pattern in that style) and assumed they were meant to give figures like mine (small busted, not a lot of waist definition) a little oomph. And your figure doesn’t really need extra oomph!

    Also, are you implying that only wee young things read Anne of Green Gables? Cause I have news for you on that front!

    • You’re so refreshing, Leimomi. :) I think I’ll leave it as-is…. I have a LOT of “flattering” dresses. I kind of like knowing I have something pretty but somewhat awkward like this in my closet… Much like I rather enjoy wearing my ridiculously comical glasses from time to time. Besides, I have an awesome cool dress I want to finish today.. So it’s much nicer to dust off my hands and proclaim this dress complete… You’ll like the next one better.

      I’m actually on the lookout for a nice set of Anne books… I want my daughter to read them, and I’d like to re-read. Anne’s not just for little girls, but I haven’t visited her in a while.

  13. I’m in the camp for keeping the dress (but only with the belt) because why not. Its nice and I think you could go to town on the belt colour, depending on your mood and bling available to accessorize further! Why not hey? The one pictured looks good.

    PS love the pic of you lighting the sparkler for your gorgeous little Lila…. you must be concentrating and I wonder if you do the same thing when you are sewing tricky bits…

    My two want sparklers but its been raining for 3 days so they have to wait.

  14. I say shirr the waist line.The belt is fine but I am thinking of a hot australian summer (which is yet to arrive in NSW!) and it may get a little sweaty with a belt.
    Seriously I am trying not to stalk bloggers anymore so I may just have to join in from now on!

  15. I think it looks great with the belt—cinching doesn’t work for me (something about the combo of rectangular shape and high waist), but it sure can knock an iffy dress into awesomeville for a lot of people!

    I’ve been off the grid for most of the past week so I’m way behind on my commenting. Great posts!

  16. Pingback: Tencel / Lyocell Fabric: The Basics « 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World

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