Design Inspiration: Horseshoe Necklines and the Dickey

I haven’t made a Design Inspiration post for a while!  I’ve been focusing so much on “business” work I haven’t had a chance lately to let my imagination wander as it pleases, so it was fun to take some time out earlier today to hunt vintage pattern inspiration…

I have this pattern and a favorite black dress made from it.  Very sharp.

I have this pattern and a favorite black dress made from it. Very sharp.

Dickeys are common enough in vintage sewing, in fact several of my favorite dresses feature dickeys.  A dickey uses very little fabric, and even when the entire thing is hand-sewn it takes little time to create.  It’s a small way to add interesting detail to an otherwise simple cut (or go nuts on the cut and throw in a dickey!  that works too!). It’s also a great way to use a pretty piece of fabric that might not work for an entire garment.

click for source

click for source

But first- the U-shaped neckline.  It’s steeper than a standard scoop, which perhaps allows it to reach just a little deeper- or maybe that’s a visual effect.  (Is that a roll collar on the blue?)

click for source

click for source

The envelope back description reads:

Butterick 5826; ca. 1951; One-Piece Tailored Dress: Bias Bodice. Wonderfully slim dress that will do just the right things for you. Horseshoe neckline bodice teams with a wing-collared dickey which contrasts the dress in (A). Contrast cuffs on three-quarter sleeves (A). Long sleeves (B).

I love this description, especially the phrase “horseshoe neckline..teams with a wing-collared dickey.”  I prefer “horseshoe” to “u-shaped,” don’t you?  Winged collars are easy to sew and look enchanting.

click for source-  Etsy

click for source- Etsy

This dickey-bodice combination is a little wider, and looks heavily pintucked.  I like pintucking, myself, but I think a plain or even a lace piece could look quite pretty.

I’m also fuller up top, and can say from experience that anything to break up the bulk without adding to it works really well on my figure.  These envelope ladies are a bit slimmer, but it still looks nice.

click for source

click for source

Advance 5605 carries on the pleated-dickey-tux vibe, with the inclusion of some shaped lapels.  A dickey paired with this type of collar was super popular in vintage patterns from the late 40’s to mid 50’s.  I don’t love them, but don’t hate them either.  What do you think?

click for source

click for source

Moving away from pleats, this inset/dickey from the early 60’s creates extra visual interest in a wrapped dress.  To me, this looks like “desk job/smart clothes” more than something I might wear every day…

click for source

click for source

At first glance, this horseshoe-neckline-dickey might also seem unsuitable for day wear.  But strip off the gloves, fancy fabrics and accessories.  Imagine a very lightweight dickey fabric and a simple, secure edging.  Can you see it?  Do you like it?

click for source- on sale on etsy

click for source- on sale on etsy

This dress (another Advance, I love their work) shows that the neckline works both with and without its dickey.

Simplicity 3441

This dickey, like many others, is completely detachable.  I assume with snaps sewn to the inner neckline.  The cuffs are also detachable.  I did this on my McCalls 3370 (pictured above at the top of this post, pre-blog) and it worked pretty well, though it took extra time to dress in the morning.

click for source

click for source

In fact, dickies under other names have been around for centuries.  I well remember making Elizabethan partlets for historical re-enactments and theatre.  Click here for an interesting read on men and women wearing dicki- I mean, partlets through history.

click for source

click for source

A close relative to the dickey is the bib-front.   As far as I can ascertain, the difference between a bib and a dickey is both depth and detachability.  Perhaps bibs should also be made of a similar fabric as the rest of the blouse, while dickeys are intended to replicate a layering effect?

click for image source

click for image source

This is a modern bib-front-dickey-peter-pan-collar-lace-and-rickrack thing.  Despite myself, I find it rather charming.  Perhaps green with a white contrast and pink accent, or any shirt color other than that despondent plum.

What do you think?  Have you worn/sewn dickeys before?  Did you like them?  How do you like the Horseshoe Neckline? For a look at more of my recent inspiration images, check out my pinboard.


  1. I don’t love buttons, so that part of a dickey is not my favourite – but I’m thinking something like that would be a great way to go with my next dress, a good way to raise the neckline for my everyday comfort! I love so many of the patterns you posted, all those details, that I can’t even list any. Except for that wrapped dress (I think it’s a faux wrap) – that stands out as truly exquisite to me!

    And yes, as I read though it, I thought the dickey was an heiress to the humble chemisette. :-)

    • Yes.. I’m already thinking sweater weight with a shawl collar… Those are so cozy.. And a lace option, oh lots of things besides buttons… We’ll see, I need to keep playing and imagining. Might come to nothing, but you know me…

      Chemisette! Another word for it. I wonder how many names that useful piece of fabric has? :)

  2. Peter @ Male Pattern Boldness is currently making a dress very simIlar to these – have you checked it out?

    • I like both of those, too…. :) Sewn as-is though, I think it might take me into “stunt dressing” territory… Maybe… Hmmm…

  3. While I’m not a fan of dickies (having worn them in middle school while being tormented by a sniggering older brother), I am enchanted by the phrase “despondent plum”. It’s my favorite color, and I’m going to describe it that way from now on.

    • Oh dear, older brothers can be so mean. Meh. ;)

      I’m glad you like despondent plum! I see that color around, and while it doesn’t really excite me, I suspect I’d be more into it if I could wear the color well. hehe. Do use the name, for sure.

    • Oh, I have not noticed! Desponded plum, hehe, love it too. I like the colour, when paired up with other colours than black and white, it can look good. With that sharp contrast, it’s sadly boring.

  4. I think bibs go on the outside of your shirt and dickies peek out from the inside. Either one can be matching or contrasting fabric

  5. Dickies were common in the early 70s too–often in turtleneck form. That way one could wear a turtleneck under a jumper (dress) or blouse without adding bulk. Personally, I did not like the look. I also had at least one dress with a bib, made by my mother in about 1974/75 or so. It was a harvest gold dress with a white bib edged in rickrack. I didn’t like that one either! The pre-70s ones look a little nicer though.

    • Ah yes. I ran across a LOT of that type of dickey while I was scrounging, but it didn’t do much for me, either…

      Sometimes I like to think of the 70’s style as “30’s with polyester and a harvest palette” because there’s SUCH similarity in cut. In fact, about half the time when I wear something 40’s cut, people see 70’s and say so…

  6. I must admit I kind of flinch away from the dickey… it goes in the same category, to me, as fake pockets. That being said, I like the LOOK, just not that it’s achieved by means of a faux inset rather than an underlayer. And i know there are perfectly good reasons for not using a whole underlayer, especially for a LOT of the designs you list. It just rubs me the wrong way. ;)

    I love the first pattern you posted, though—the layers of criss-cross remind me of traditional layered kimonos. There’s a vest with that look in Inception that I will someday knock off for my husband… someday…

    • Ah- you hail from the Great White North, so layering makes more sense for you. Hmmm… I get the faux thing though… I’m not a big fan of fake pockets, I’m only just bringing myself around to the idea of decorative buttons (as opposed to functional ones) but I doubt I’ll ever love purely decorative flourishes as much as I love working ones…

      Ooooh sounds like a cool vest. I need to see that movie…. The dress is very very sharp, I always feel very much like a put together lady when I wear it…. Should maybe put it on and take a few photos…

  7. Ooh, I love these “horseshoe” necklines! I’ve never tried to wear anything like that, but I’m curious about them now! I’ve never worn a dickey (well, unless we’re counting the terrible turtleneck dickeys that my mom used to make me wear under sweaters), and I’m not sure I would. They seem like something that would be loose and disheveled looking on sloppy ol’ me. :)

    • Well- I was trying out the horseshoe to see how the binding process went and etc. Being pretty slap dash about it, I like to try just slapping something together to see how it works before I add in all the finishing. Anyway I was wearing one of those testers and the husband commented on it…. Usually, he only comments on things that work pretty well so we’ll see..

  8. Must say thank you to you Steph! Since from this post I know that part of the dress is called “dickey”! (I’m not a English native speaker!) I once saw a pretty vintage dress in a book, but it is worn by a vintage-lover lady and there’s no information about the dress. I’ve always been thinking what it is and trying to search patterns on etsy but there are so many and hard to figure out! Thank you so much! I will also send you an email with the picture I took from the book.

  9. “As far as I can ascertain, the difference between a bib and a dickey is both depth and detachability.”

    Very true. I ascertain the same thing.

    I don’t have a feeling one way or the other. Probably cos I was brought up on another planet. or a cave. Maybe it was a cave. Wool rectangles. That’s what I got. All kidding aside, I think I’ll use this dickey idea on one of my uipcoming costumes. I was trying to figure out how to get a layered effect without layering. It’s hot on the con floor. thanks

  10. Pingback: Finished Object: The Hummingbird Dress « 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World

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