Apparel · Dresses & Skirts · Sewing

My 70s Dream Dress Fulfilled: Vintage Gunne Sax Sewing Patterns

I did it.

After many days–months–years–I finally have the ultimate 70s Dream Dress in my wardrobe!!

As you very well know by now, I love the whole 60s-70s boho/hippie/folk/flowerchild fashion era, and I’ve always ooh-ed, aahh-ed, and coveted all the twirly, airy, flowy, flowery tunics, skirts, and dresses from that time. One type of clothing in particular that I obsess over constantly are Gunne Sax dresses. I don’t know, I just can’t get over how lovely and beautiful they are.

image via Pinterest

I only wish I could own every single one! But alas, finding the perfect vintage Gunne Sax is not always in my best interest. For the most part, they are just not affordable, and moreover, very rarely come in my size. My best bet would be to get a hold of any of the vintage GS sewing patterns, but even finding those in my size is super rare these days.

However, as you know from my post title, I have found success. Actually, I have hit the motherlode! I searched and searched and searched for a very long time, and was finally rewarded with not just one, but several Gunne Sax brand and Gunne Sax-inspired patterns IN MY SIZE. I’m completely elated.

Here are the patterns that I got:

These Simplicity patterns have the “official GS stamp” on the covers, but that doesn’t mean you have to use them exclusively to make a Gunne Sax repro dress. There are several great ones from other pattern brands like the ones I have here:

The McCalls 7376 has the same sweetheart neckline, and the bodice is also similar in cut and design as the GS patterns. I love how the Butterick 6085 are separates–I can make just skirts or just a top with this one. I actually already had the Simplicity 9486 in my stash, but added it here because I recently saw a Gunne Sax dress that was very similar to version 2 with the front apron piece.

I forgot to add this one to the picture because I also have this in my stash already, but the Mccalls 3898 is a great Gunne Sax-inspired pattern. It’s similar to the Simplicity 5362, which is an official GS pattern. I love the square neckline with the gathered front. I plan to make an all white version of this dress very soon.

So now that I had my sewing treasures in my possession, of course I set about sewing as soon as I could. However it took a little while to do so because I had to find the right fabrics, and start a stockpile of all the needed notions first, since I honestly had nothing to begin with. I think out of everything I’ve ever sewn to date, this dress took the most time because of all the collecting (finding the right embellishment lace took a lot longer than I anticipated. Also, finding the right kind of fabric and matching prints became overwhelming at one point. More on that below), and fitting–I made sure to make several muslins before cutting my fabric and doing actual construction. I guess I just really wanted this dress to be perfect, considering it is my Dream Dress after all.

Fabric & Trims

It was easy finding pure white lace trim. However, for this particular dress I wanted to use ivory. This is why it took a while to collect. I had to make sure to get the right colored ivory–not an easy feat when you have to rely on getting trims online and a seller’s version of what they consider ivory shade is different than yours. I lament the fact that my hometown is severely limited when it comes to independent fabric and trim shops. In this case it would have been nice to be able to see and feel all the notions before purchasing. Oh well. The lace on the left was so pretty, but didn’t make the cut on the final dress because it is obviously a darker shade than the rest. I’ll have to use it somewhere else. TBH, I looked at so much lace I forgot where I got each one, but I believe all of them except the third lace are from various shops on Etsy. The double lace I was able to find in person at Joann Craft.

For fabric I already had my blue floral Kaufman lawn. I knew I wanted to use some velvet for parts of the bodice, and found some great velveteen (also Kaufman) at a very reasonable price. I like how Gunne Sax dresses tend to have a third coordinating print in their designs and wanted to use one for my dress so I spent quite a bit of time browsing patterns and prints before settling on a really nice navy plaid that I thought went well with the floral. Again, I was at a disadvantage not being able to see fabric in person. When my plaid arrived, I knew right off the bat that it wouldn’t work. Boo!! At this point, I was too exhausted and overwhelmed in my search and was anxious to get sewing, so I decided to just let it go.

Style & Sizing

Usually I stick to a 16, but have been able to get away with a 14 lately, so muslins were a must with my Dream Dress. I made a total of three. With vintage sewing patterns in general, I find that sizing can be all all over the place depending on the brand, so its a good idea to take notes on your personal fit with each brand, even if you’ve mastered your personal measurements already. I found that Simplicity patterns are mostly true to size for me in all areas. Vintage McCalls patterns are less accurate. I ended up doing a straight 16 and it fit well. My final bodice muslin consisted of a mash-up of the Simplicity 5093, Simplicity 5879, and Butterick 6085. Quite a bit of Frankensteining there, but everything worked out beautifully. The bulk of my dress except the sleeves and the lace-up bodice came from the s5879. I used the b6085 sleeves because the Simplicity ones were a little too poofy and “bridal” for my taste. I could have gone either way with the button up or the lace-up bodice center, but whenever I think of Gunne Sax dresses, I always envision the romantic, Renaissance lace-up bodice first, so I went with the s5093. I’ll use the button up placket for my next dress.

Sewing Notes

I really took my time planning out and sewing my dress because I wanted to get all the little details right. Changes I made to my dress include:

  • Grading the side and back pieces to accommodate the Butterick sleeves. The armholes on the 5879 had to be re-drawn to properly fit the shape of the Butterick sleeves. I just drew the bodices on some tracing paper, overlapped them, and re-drew the 5879 bodice shape with the armholes of the 6085.
  • Shortening and reshaping the bodice to add a waistband. The waist on the s5879 curves down to a very subtle v-shape, and sits low on the waist. I liked how the s5093 has more of a higher waist and has an added waistband. I wanted to trim the waistband with satin ribbon, so that’s why I went with it instead. (You are probably wondering why I didn’t just go ahead and straight sew the s5093. The reason why is because the bodice of the 5093 doesn’t have the top shoulder portion where the arm holes would be and the sleeve gets sewn into, It basically stops at the chest area, and then the sleeves are then sewn on and hang on the shoulders as well as “finish off” the square neckline. The part of the sleeve that hangs on the shoulder of the 5093 are elasticized, so they can go off the shoulder, as seen in the printed version of 1 on the envelope. In my first muslin, I made the 5093 bodice entirely, and didn’t quite like the elasticized sleeves because they kept wanting to slip off my shoulder. I didn’t want to be constantly annoyed with this on my Dream Dress, which is why I opted for the more stable version of the 5879.)
  • Cut front bodice pattern piece for mixing fabric prints. Mixing fabrics and prints are trademark for Gunne Sax dresses, so in order to do that, I needed to cut the pattern pieces where I wanted to sew on a different print, and use it as a separate pattern piece to pin on and cut my fabric out of. However, you can’t just cut out your main pattern and go right to pinning. After cutting you have to add back in the seam allowances wherever you made cuts so that when you go to sew your two different prints together, it doesn’t alter the size of your pattern piece. Not adding back your seam allowances will result in a smaller sized, unproportioned garment, and you don’t want that!
  • The usual cutting and slashing of the skirt pieces for height adjustments

When it comes to the construction, I noticed a few things. For one, it was the first time I’ve ever worked with fabric with nap (more specifically, velveteen.) I did my initial research before purchasing and found that velveteen has it’s perks over velvet because it is cost efficient, durable, and is fairly easier to sew. You do sacrifice a little bit of that luxe when choosing velveteen, but I wasn’t too picky.

Well, long story short, I realized one major thing about velvet/velveteen (and I suspect any other “nap” fabric as well): They are absolute DIVAS when it comes to sewing! Man, was I frustrated with that fabric! I realized from researching that a walking foot is essential in these instances, but seeing as they are an investment ($$$) and I didn’t have one at the moment, I would just need to make do with what I had. This was another reason why it took me longer than usual to finish sewing. IMO, baste stitching velvet fabric is a must if you want to get straight, neat stitches. That and a whole lot of pins. and PATIENCE. I admit there were a few times when I wanted to stomp all over my velveteen, but I knew I couldn’t do that, so I persevered. And won.

Meet the Diva: Navy Velveteen

On the opposite spectrum, my other fabric is cotton lawn, and one of the most delightful fabrics to sew with.

The fun part of course, is getting to place all the lace trims. Again, there was a lot of hand sewing that needed to get done, and although it’s not my favorite thing to do, it was a labor of love. I did all my lace while binge watching Stranger Things. For the satin ribbon trim, I was able to do it all by machine.

My finished top half of the dress

Construction time, from start to finish, this dress took about 2-3 days. In reality, between collecting lace, fabric, daily duties, family time, and living Life in general, it took about a month for my 70s Dream Dress to become a reality. I forced myself to work slowly and carefully, and little by little, my dress came to existence, and although I hit a few snags along the way, I’m so proud and happy to say that she is finished, and ready to wear!

I had to show some restraint, because I didn’t want my dress to have too much going on. Although I would have liked to have had a third coordinating print in the skirt, I just didn’t have the patience to wait any longer for new matching fabric, so I went with all floral. I still love it though. Often times, simple is best, right?

My favorite part of the dress, naturally is the lace-up bodice. Sewing was fiddly at times, but worth all the time and effort. Being the perfectionist that I am, I nitpicked at my little imperfections with sewing, but am learning to relax and enjoy being in the moment, and not constantly judge my skills as a sewist.

I decided last minute to hand sew some lace to the cuff, just to give the sleeve a little more character. I’m honestly not a huge fan of these kind of sleeves in general, but they are so charmingly Gunne Sax that how can this dress not have them?

My sewing labels from Etsy. They’re so cute!

I may not have an actual vintage Gunne Sax dress to fawn over, but being able to sew my own reproduction is still a great accomplishment for me. I’m so happy that I was finally able to make my dream come true and have my own GS-inspired dress that actually fits me and I can wear whenever my heart desires!

That’s the beauty of sewing, right there.


Ok, on a totally different note, I just had to put this out there, but does anyone remember this YA horror book by Lael Littke??

It’s about a girl who is taking care of an elderly lady who happens to have this dress in her closet. The girl needs a dress for her upcoming prom and sees it and is totally mesmerized by it but is told by the lady not to touch it or take it out and wear it. Well, what do you know, the Dress That Must Not Be Touched happens to be the PERFECT dress that she has been searching for her whole life. But she must not touch the dress. But she wants it soooo badly! And well, I’m sure you know what happens next….

Anyway, I remember reading this in my teens, and as I was sewing my dress, it just randomly popped into my mind. Can you imagine someone owning a cursed Gunne Sax dress?? The horror….


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