Colorblocks at Work- Jane’s Wiggle

I thought it would be fun to document a few of my favorite outfits from Mad Men as I re-watch the series.  Last week, Betty fluffed and gossiped in a sensible shirt dress.  By the way, did you see Mena’s Mad Men fashion forecast post?  It’s interesting, but I wonder if I’ll keep watching the show as the fashions drift towards the 70’s.

For now we’re firmly in August 1962.  In episode 9 of season 2 we see the secretaries in the office gathered around weeping for Marilyn Monroe, clutching newspapers with headlines that read “Murder or Suicide?”  I find this detail rather touching- these girls felt like they knew Marilyn and mourned for her as they would a friend.  It has rather the flavor of human decency.

I can’t help but notice a marked contrast between Jane and the rest of the secretaries.  For one, she’s not wearing a fussy blouse and jumper like the others.  She’s wearing a simple dress with kimono sleeves and I believe the patches are actually pockets (check the arrow).  She takes a little extra care with her hair, too, adding a little spit curl to her updo.  It’s obvious she’s not a “lifer,” she’s passing through on her way to bigger things- like marrying the boss.

The patches make a bold but pleasing visual on the plain and simple cream dress.  I’d cut the pockets in squares the size of my hand with the fingers spread- perhaps 7″ square.  From there, it’s a simple matter of turning under the raw edges and applying them as pockets or appliques.  The bright patches of color are what “make” this dress, neat edges and precise pressing is a must while applying these pockets.

The front also features a thin yellow tie belt…

…Which does not wrap around her whole dress.  The back has a tiny midriff band, perhaps to help create a flattering shape?  I like seeing this dress on a person, with the obvious marks where she’s been sitting.  It gives me a much more realistic expectation for how a dress like this should look.

I think any simple wiggle dress pattern could be used to make this dress.  I’d look for one with kimono sleeves and a round neckline like the dark pink version of 4022.  For Jane’s look, I’d try a crepe.  Alternatively, for a “smarter” updated version of Jane’s dress, why not use a nice cotton sateen with a hint of lycra to cut the crinkling?  I would also use an invisible side zipper- but maybe that’s just me?

What do you think?


  1. I loved this dress, but I remember having issues with her bra- it was making unpleasant- tho perhaps historically accurate lumps in there. Joan would have never allowed such breastal unruliness!

    • Funny- I waffled about mentioning that and decided I must be too picky.. I had the same thought- Joan would never stand for that… ;)

      I hate that, too… Very irritating.

      • I noticed the lumps from the bra too! More than other things initially. I think this is to do with my hatred of these pointy(ish) type bras. The scary thing is some manufacturers still make and sell these bras, and people (i.e. my mother) still buy them because they like them. She has been wearing this style since I was a little girl in the 80s! The day I convinced my mother to get a seam free bra to wear under her t-shirts it was a miracle! Other than that I quite like the simplicity of Jane’s wiggle dress (new term for me). This week I have been teaching my Year 10s about how to read pattern envelopes. Much time was spent discussing the images used (the most obvious thing to them). I too like to see what a garment is like on a real body, but haven’t gone so far as looking at the creases from sitting. We even discussed the pattern review website and how you can see the versions of the garment that other people have made. Some of them were most intrigued. Hopefully they all got the message that they don’t have to have a body like the ‘Barbie’ girl featured in the pattern drawings. Thanks for another lovely post!

    • I can’t help it really– reading the creases and so forth. For me, it lends more depth to the character… Jane looks like she’s been working in an office all day, not like an actress who put on a dress to play a part… It’s a small thing I suppose.

      I think that’s a great message, and since you’re a highschool home ec teacher you’re well placed to plant that idea in young minds through their sewing work. Lucky them!

    • “breastal unruliness” <– snicker. Yes! That would be the one thing that would drive me crazy about vintage foundation garments. I like smooth lines.

      The dress looks like it's about to go mod… does anyone know if her character tends to be the most modern?

  2. Errm…I just can’t get past the colours of the blocks. I do like the overall silhouette though. And I would totally make it in wool crepe.

    Funny that everyone mentioned the bra. The first thing I noticed were here scary bumpy nipples poking through the gap between the pockets. Not a good look!

    • What about blue, turquoise and red? Or amythest, emerald and yellow gold? I like the concept of the dress, and I think it could be very easily tweaked to suit the wearer’s taste….

  3. Since invisible zippers were not used until the 70’s I think this dress was made to reflect the available notions of the era. Thankfully we can make clothes with them and eliminate those thick flaps.Those belts also came out in the 70’s but may have been seen sooner. The dress must have been lined but even then that pointy bra distorts the fabric…but then we all looked like that back then. Panti-hose was not popular or affordable until 1962 so garters would have shown through tight skirts. The pockets are intriguing!

    • Ooh thanks for the insight- “we all looked like that back then.” I had wondered if it was the kind of thing that was pretty normal (it happens a lot with knits and things nowadays, even since the advent of the seamless bra..) or if it was lazy wardrobing… Maybe it was actually brilliant wardrobing by Janie Bryant… Hmm!

      The “vintage” styles I make use modern methods and notions, so I thought I’d mention it. :) I find if I stick to certain vintage techniques, my finished garment isn’t everything I want to be and zips is definitely one where I prefer to go modern.. :)

      • Actually, I have a couple of early 1960s invisible zips with metal teeth. No idea why they didn’t become popular sooner, but using them isn’t completely a-historical.

      • Really? I’m intrigued.. I wonder why metal was abandoned? Do the teeth bend easily? I should think they’d need to be very fine…

  4. Every fashion age has a look that isn’t ideal. 20 years from now the young girls will say that their low riding jeans made every one look like they had a muffin top…even if they were a size 2 and the low riding crotch made everyone look like they were wearing diapers. (You knew they weren’t because you could see the underwear at the top of the jeans.)

    I like the concept of the dress. I wouldn’t do it in those colors…and I’m fairly sure the belt would not help me much. But super cute on the actress even with the wrinkly boobs.

    • It’s not 20 years from now and I’ve been saying for years that low riding jeans were gross…;) Not necessarily on everyone, but they’re just not good on the vast majority of people and I hope they continue to disappear….

  5. I like the style of the dress, but for me the colour blocks are a bit much, maybe all in one colour might look better. I’ve seen those little pads for connical bras mentioned on WKD, did many ladies wear them though? Hmmm…

  6. The lumps are definitely accurate-I remember them even from the 70s. The effect was usually caused by a kind of lumpy lace overlay on the bra cups, which were sometimes fiberfilled. Sometimes the cups would cave in a little too. The lumps were something that I was particularly horrified by and upon being forced to buy a bra (didn’t want one) I demanded a seamless, no-lace no-pad type. That was not something that was easy to find, even by the mid to late 70s. Lumpy boob show-through was pretty common in the era of stretch poly blouses. I guess all that lace was supposed to feminize the device–but you know, I can only say that they must have all been designed by a man.

    Actually, I don’t watch this show. It’s only on pay-for cable in the U.S. and I don’t have that. It’s been kind of interesting to observe the interest in 50s fashions again over the last few years. I saw that as a kid in the mid70s too, and then again in the early 80s. Man do I sound old, but I’m not really!

  7. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of the pockets, but that’s just not my style. Objectively though, I think it’s an interesting touch on a basic dress. Are you going to try to recreate this look at some point?

    • I might, but probably not this dress. I’m picking ones I *could* easily recreate, but without actual plans. Unless something takes my fancy entirely- then it’s MADE. ;)

  8. The bra texture issue is why I always put my top back on over the bra when trying it on, to see if it looks right UNDER something. The bra she’s wearing is possibly lace. A very common menace! aLthough not one I noticed first time through reading!
    I like the idea of the dress but I don’t like the natural colour with the super bright colours even though they are warm. I think it would be intriguing in a range of different natural linen colours on linen – sort of low contrast colour blocking.
    Also, I reckon that the pattern would need to have a darted waist, not a gathered on one, for the first pocket on the skirt to sit properly.
    So, does anyone watch MadMen for the programme and story itself, or is it all about the frocks? I’ve never really read anything about the show that isn’t frock related! heheeh

    • That’s a good idea, I’ll have to remember that…

      I thought it looked more like lace, too, but it’s impossible to know. Just like the Kate/Duchess of Cambridge “was she wearing a bullet bra” debate… ;)

      The low contrast idea is intriguing but I have to admit I’m really attracted to bright pops of color at the moment… Maybe it’s a passing madness.

      I’m sure people do watch it for the storylines. I don’t really… I think a lot of people like to watch it to see how these clothes move and breathe a live, but I can’t say for sure.

  9. Pingback: The Transformation of Peggy- In Color « 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World

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