How to Sew 70s Dresses

Written by calandra cooper
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How to Sew 70s Dresses
Dresses of the 1970s offer the seamstress a lot of creative diversity. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

A far cry from the '50s and '60s, whose fashions revolved around tiny waists and tight-fitting dresses, 1970s dresses took on a carefree and less restrictive appearance. Women stopped wearing girdles, showed more skin, lengthened skirts or wore them extremely short.

The '70s offered designer Betsey Johnson's girl-next-door look by way of short ruffle-filled dresses; designer Emilio Pucci's hip-sexpot look by way of slinky psychedelic-coloured skin-bearing maxi dresses, and designer Diane von Furstenberg's look of sophistication by way of the soft, alluring wrap dress. Dresses of the 1970s were diverse and offered something for every woman of the time.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Fashion magazines and resources
  • Tape measure
  • Fabric
  • Sewing notions and accessories
  • Muslin
  • Pins
  • Scissors
  • Marking tools
  • Sewing machine

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  1. 1

    Browse old magazines and sewing books published during or just before the 1970s to determine which dress styles best fit your needs. Magazines and sewing books are good resources of information on style, line and fabrics common to the decade.

    Public library archives of fashion magazines and reference books such as "Vogue" and "Harper's Bazaar" are good resources.

  2. 2

    Take your body measurements using the help of an assistant. The fit of the completed dress relies on accurate and careful measurements. Wear any undergarments normally worn with the selected dress style such as a slip, bra, panties and girdle.

  3. 3

    Purchase a vintage sewing pattern manufactured in the 1970s of a desired dress style. Vintage sewing patterns are available through online sewing pattern sellers. If you are uncertain about the date of a particular pattern, ask the seller. You may find vintage sewing patterns from the 1970s by attending estate and yard sales.

  4. 4

    Purchase fabric and sewing notions based on suggestions outlined on the back of the sewing pattern envelope. During the 1970s, brightly coloured polyester, jersey, velvet, corduroy, wool and blended cotton containing zany patterns, shapes and designs were popular fabrics, as were plaids and stripes. Select fabric that best reflects the era and that works effectively with the selected dress style, line and shape. Select notions and accessories based on suggestions outlined on the pattern's envelope. Keep in mind that dresses of the 1970s often contained heavy embellishments, topstitching, rick-racking, braiding, edgings of lace and ruffling, as well as fur, metallic trim, jewels and other embellishments. Vintage and retro fabric, notions and accessories are available from online sellers and by browsing yard and estate sales for finds.These nuances help acquire an authentic '70s look.

  5. 5

    Compare your measurements with those of the sewing pattern and alter the pattern carefully after constructing a basic and before cutting into your final fabric. A basic is a partly finished trial garment made of cotton muslin used for the purpose of taking any uncertainty out of size. Make adjustments on the basic; then apply those changes to the actual pattern pieces.

  6. 6

    Lay out and pin the pattern pieces of the dress onto the fabric after altering the dress pattern. Follow layout instructions outlined on the pattern's instruction sheet. After cutting the dress pattern pieces, mark the pattern pieces using tailor's chalk, tailor's tacks or a tracing wheel and carbon paper.

  7. 7

    Prepare the cutting surface, the sewing machine, ironing board and gather all of the materials needed for construction of the dress. Test stitch length, pressure and tension on a piece of the fabric selected for the dress. Sew the dress according to the sewing pattern's instruction sheet. Press the dress when complete.

Tips and warnings

  • Follow the instruction sheet carefully. If you cannot find vintage fabric, look for styles and colours that evoke the feel of the '70s.
  • Don't over-fit your garment.

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