Fabulous Find: Jean Louis 1960s Chevron Day Dress

The Mad Men series finale was Sunday night—I loved it, but I’m also in mourning for the show’s passing. My brilliant plan (as of about two weeks ago) was to create a 60s or 70s-style garment from scratch, using a vintage pattern and vintage fabric, by the time the finale aired. Not only did I not finish, I did not even begin. Not only did I not even begin, I picked out neither pattern nor fabric. I will get it done! Later this summer I will get it done. I hope.

I did, however, hit up the Vintage Garage flea market here in Chicago on Sunday, where the theme of the day was Midcentury Modern. Very fitting!

My sister snagged this amazing dress from the 60s:

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Even pulled on over her clothes, it looks both chic and cheery.

Can’t you picture sassy 1970s Peggy Olson wearing this?

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We did a little bit of research once we got home and discovered that the name on the label—Jean Louis—is that of a renowned and prolific twentieth-century costume designer. A thirteen-time Academy Award nominee, Jean Louis Berthault dressed dozens of starlets, from Katharine Hepburn to Judy Garland. Perhaps his most famous (or infamous) designs are the barely-there gowns of Marlene Dietrich and Marilyn Monroe, including Monroe’s slinky “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” number. The Naked-Except-For-Strategically-Placed-Sparkes Look continues to be relevant today. Unfortunately. Looking at you, Beyonce, Kardashian and Lopez.

MarleneDietrichAndMarilynMonroeInJeanLouisGowns

Sources—left to right: Pretty Clever Films | alwaysmarilynmonroe.co.uk

On a less dramatic note, Jean Louis started his own ready-to-wear label in 1961. We are guessing that my sister’s dress is from one of those collections. Most of what we could find online was evening and cocktail wear, so this day dress seems like kind of an anomaly. Read more about Jean Louis here.

Dresses from Jean Louis’s Label
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Also worth noting—the geometric color-blocking of this dress is in line with recent trends too.

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Well done, sis!! What a find!!

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Less is More

Julia Bobbin's Mad Men Challenge
After seeing Julia Bobbin’s Mad Men challenge, I decided to create a look inspired by Megan Draper’s bold, graphic day dresses.

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Geometric and colorful.

This bright print seemed perfect.

Fabric: geometric, striped cotton

Fabric: geometric, striped cotton

I picked out a pattern from 1970. I know, I know. MadMen is only up to the late 1960s. But this illustration is enough in line with Megan’s style not to seem anachronistic.

I think.

McCall's 2386, 1970

Pattern: McCall’s 2386, 1970

Anyway, I started to make Option A, the dress on the far right with the high collar and sleeves.

It did not go well.

original

Even with only one sleeve half way done, I could tell that this dress was going to be crazy ugly.

Hells no.

I removed the sleeves and collar and decided to simplify. I used the facing pattern pieces to make up a Peter Pan collar. It didn’t turn out half bad.
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Mad Men dress

I originally thought I would belt the dress, as in the pattern illustration. Then I accidentally hemmed it kind of short (as I have a tendency to do), and now I think the proportion works better just as a trapeze dress.

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Peter Pan Collar

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Perfect for summer shopping. Assuming summer eventually makes an appearance.