The One Hour Dress

I am deviating a bit from WILD today to bring you The One Hour Dress. Mary Brooks Pickens, author of The Women’s Institute Library for Dressmaking ALSO created three booklets called The One Hour Dress, with each booklet containing multiple variations and how-to’s on the cut and construction to get different garments from the same basic principle, all of which could be constructed in one hour. And she used to demonstrate this one hour constructions live at carnivals and shopping centers, to show how easy it was to construct a new frock in a limited amount of time.

So I wanted to see if I too could construct the dress in one hour as per her instructions. Mostly yes (more on that in a moment). The first 6 steps were pretty straightforward and easy to follow. When I lost time due to error on my part, I had to wing it a bit to make it under the hour. But here is the breakdown.

Step One: Take your measurements. The booklet contains easy instructions of the four measurements you need to construct the garment, with easy pictures to follow along with.

Step 1.JPG

Step two, measure lengthwise down the selvage the blouse length, cut or tear across the straight grain.

Step three: Cut out the belt and skirt lengths, dividing the skirt length in half again. Tear or cut all pieces as you prefer.

Step 3.JPG

Step four walks you through shaping the neck and sleeves in three images, stacked here for convenience.

Step 4.JPG

Step five is where I got off track. Step five has you using bias binding to bind the neckline and sleeve edges. Only I didn’t realize I NEEDED bias binding so I wasted a bit of time trying to fake it and make it before giving up and raiding my stash. Also, because I gut the sleeves on the selvage, I did not bind the sleeves.

Step 5.JPG

Step six is the next step that tripped me up. It’s not that it was particularly hard, I just sewed one of the skirt pieces on backwards so that the seam was on the wrong side, causing me to waste time with a seam ripper. Well, if you don’t have to rip out at least one seam, have you really even tried?

Step 6.JPG

From here, I started faking it. Steps seven, eight, and nine are all top stitching. And where we in the 21st century tend to sew by putting the right sides together so that the stitching is on the wrong side, the directions in the book were all fold edges in and top stitch, and when the side seams were stitched up, this would leave an almost piping effect on the outside edge of the garment. So for me, I flipped the garment right sides together and stitched up both sides as usual. Since the skirt also was torn with the selvage at the hem, this meant once the sides were sewn up, the dress itself was effectively done. Last thing to do was sew the belt together along the long side, flip right side out, and sew the ends closed.

I managed it in just 56 minutes, and if I hadn’t lost time with my mistakes, I probably could have managed to sew the entire garment in under the hour according to the full directions, complete with faux piping form narrow outside facing seam stitching. As is, we did record the whole thing. NOTHING is cut from the video, although I did speed it up 500% so that instead of a 56 minute long video, it comes in at 13 minutes and 37 seconds of speed sewing.