Thursday, January 5, 2012

A New Year, A New Hope: My Retro Star Wars Dress

Star Wars dress, made from a vintage pattern using vintage sheets
Is it unfair that it's January and 80 degrees out? The gorgeous red autumnal leaves belie the fact that it feels like summer right now.

When I gave the Celebrational Osier Dress to Shayna, she gave me an even better gift in return: original 1977 Star Wars sheets! These are Star Wars sheets from before Episode IV was even named A New Hope. It's great to get vintage sheets that are 1) thrifted, and therefore given a new lease on life, 2) for a fandom I love (because face it, while Batman and Superman are awesome, Star Wars Episodes IV-VI were what I watched every weekend in elementary school; now they just need to make Firefly and LOTR sheets), 3) a complete set (twin fitted, twin flat, and two pillowcases!), and 4) free! Thank you, Shayna, for being the best sheet supplier in the world. I think even the Selfish Seamstress could condone this type of relationship.

I briefly flirted with the idea of using a 1977 dress pattern to make this up, but face it, I'm not excited by long shapeless bells, so I just used one of my vintage patterns, Butterick 9569. I love how elegant the ladies on the cover look, with their perfectly coiffed hair and little white gloves. Also, it declares itself to be quick and easy! Oh, excuse me, quick 'n easy.

At this point let me pause and publicly declare that I do not need anymore boat/bateau-neck sleeveless dresses with fitted tops and full skirts. I've already made more than I can reasonably wear, and I really need to branch out into other styles. Also, I need to start trying dresses with more embellishment -- so far everything has just been the fashion fabric, lining, and a zipper, accented with my ubiquitous black belt or a tied sash. It's time to dress things up with piping, lace, cording, color-blocking, something. Also, dresses with a midriff band (is that's what they're called?).

Consciously thrusting my shoulders back.
Once I sewed it up, I wasn't thrilled, actually, which is sad since I love the fabric. My pattern is a size 14, which is a size bigger than I usually make in vintage patterns. I was hoping that since the bust measurement was 34, my actual measurement, it would be okay, but I've got a lot of ease even after taking in the sides and back. The waist ease I can deal with, but I feel like the bust area just looks silly. Compounded with the fact that I lined it with another sheet that has a lot of body, and it looks like I've got an awkward box hovering over my bust area. Also, I am always forgetting to make the front of the armscye bigger, as that part is always bugging me on all my dresses. Maybe I just have a particularly fleshy not-quite-the-bust-area-not-quite-the-underarm-area? It's okay when I'm conscious of holding my shoulders back, but then I feel like I'm being forced into uncommonly good posture. Which is maybe what the pattern companies are going for. It's all a big conspiracy, people!
Darth Vader front and center on my Star Wars dress.
Gaah, that hem is slightly uneven to boot!

C3PO lined up on both shoulder straps!
Okay, enough about what I don't like on this dress. I do like the ease in the waist, as normally I make my dresses to fit like gloves. So this is a nice change for sitting down. And eating. The back is nice and um, aerated. I do love a good dip in the back neckline; this one is just high enough to cover the bra strap, which is the perfect height in my book. I also love this circle skirt pattern -- even though circle skirts take so much fabric and take forever to hem -- I need to remember to utilize this style more often! The skirt skims my hips so nicely and is lovely and swishy. I shortened it by at least five inches, of course, to update the length.

What's better than a Star Wars dress? A Star Wars dress that twirls well!
So twirly!
I love that I can sit down and have the skirt make a nice little circle on the ground!

See, a circle! Unfortunately, it's pretty obvious here that my skirt is uneven, even though I let it hang overnight before hemming.

Can eyes even do that in real life??
I did my best in laying out my pattern pieces to showcase the best parts of the fabric in the dress. I did want to be economical, though, and save as much fabric as possible for my future children whom I will force to love Star Wars (but only Episodes IV-VI; God forbid that they should love the travesty that is Jar Jar Binks, or the terrible dialogue when Hayden Christensen is called on to be amorous). Anyway, Darth Vader's head is front and center, but it unfortunately leaves a demented-looking, loose interpretation of Princess Leia's face right over my left breast. I managed to get a C3PO on each back shoulder strap, though!

"But Master Luke!" Also trying for more romantic hair.
In my quest to try something new with this dress, I opted to finish the waist seam with some of my new vintage seam binding instead of a waist stay. This dress doesn't really need one (not that any of mine have really needed them), and seam binding is faster than slipstitching. Soooo...I discovered that it's really fiddly to sew in a straight line on it. Or I'm just bad at it. But it really adds almost no bulk to seams, which is important when you're trying to fold and press six layers of thick-ish cotton-poly. I look forward to finishing more seams this way, but only for really ravel-y fabrics. Most of the sheets I sew with are fine with just pinking. But oh! for a serger!

I only had green with me. I'm still waiting for my brother to drive down the rest of my Christmas haul.

Fabric: 50/50 cotton-poly blend sheets for both the shell and lining
Notions: a 14" zipper, hook and eye, seam binding
Hours: 7? Curse that cursedly long circle skirt hem, so foul and cursed! Also my slow handpicking of the zipper, for which the Helvetica font documentary is partly to blame.
Techniques used: Nothing new, really. Using seam binding hardly counts.
Will you make this again? Not really. Aside from the fact that I already have a slew of similar dresses in my closet, the bodice is too big and I already have a couple of nicely-fitting bodices in my stash that would be my first choice even if I were to make this again. But I will definitely use that circle skirt pattern again!
Total cost: Out of pocket, $2 for the zipper! But Shayna paid $8 for the sheets, and I used about half of them, so we'll say about $6 in actual materials.
Final thoughts: I do like the dress, even with its issues. I mean, Star Wars fabric! And since the fabric isn't being used as actual bedlinen, I don't need to worry about their compatibility with a good night's sleep; Darth Vader's eyes can stare at everyone else as I wear the dress.

Black & white! For the ummmm...dark and light sides of the Force!

Since most of my dresses this last year have involved a lined bodice with a center back zipper, I'm pretty bored of this sequence of steps. Time for something new and totally different! Maybe some knit dresses? Or a separate? Or maybe I should tackle drafting that qipao...

Linked here.


  1. Wow Star Wars sheets! Awesome! I am rather envious of your rapidly growing collection of hero dresses. :-)

  2. Love your dress and fabric is awesome! Even if you indicate you had some fitting issues, you look wonderful wearing this dres. Love the back!

  3. You have the best luck, that fabric is awesome!

  4. Love the back - great placement of the prints with this dress. And from sheets...unreal!!!

  5. It's so cool! I love the back and the twirliness.

  6. Awesome fabric placement. And you look really good-- I would never notice than the hem is perhaps slightly imperfect and the bodice not as fitted as it could be. It's hard being a perfectionist, isn't it? I mean, I'm super critical of my own stuff too. But trying to be less so.

  7. Strangely enough, I was home with my son today (no school until Jan. 10th!?) and decided to get some take-out sushi and introduce him to episode IV. He was transfixed, but I had to keep explaining to him why they were fighting, why Darth Vadar was such a bad guy, why the rebels were wearing storm trooper armour, etc. (he is only 6 after all...) Then he spent the rest of the day making armour out of cardboard boxes and drawing up plans for his starship that "could never be bombed because it wouldn't have that little hole".
    I'm downloading ep. 5 for tomorrow's lesson. ;)

  8. Wow that dress is gorgeous! I love the material and it is beautifully cut. The best made thing I've seen in a long time! The sash around it goes so well too and the neckline looks so cute with the bow. Congratulations! XxxX

  9. Fantastic! And for what it's worth, my dresses all lack embellishment, too.

  10. I walked away from a set of red Darth Vader sheets at the thrift store the other day, and thought of you. I would've bought them, but they were rather faded and the fabric was really nasty---beyond even the usual cotton/poly sheet feel.

    I think what you're describing at the arm is a teeny forward-shoulder alteration, which is pretty common among those of us who spend perhaps a little more time than we should in front of the computer or sitting at desks. Basically you shave off a bit from the front arm seam, and (if you have a sleeve) add it on to the corresponding part of the sleeve.

    It looks great, anyway. I love (the original) Star Wars... :)

  11. Thank you for your kind comments, everyone! And all the Star Wars love!

    @Tanit-Isis It warms my heart to know that someone in Canada thought of me when they saw DV sheets, however nasty. And thank you for the very helpful information about the shoulder adjustment! I always see information about FBAs and SBAs, but not FSAs (?) floating on teh interwebs.

  12. Love the dress, if you find a style that works for you and looks good, stick with it, this style certainly suits you.

  13. I completely love this dress! The Darth head fabric placement is inspired and the black sash (I would call it a cummerbund)really works well. I am always looking out for old sheets for funky dresses but then get too scared to cut them up!

  14. What a great dress! You did a great job of cutting and positioning the characters. I have to brother had those exact same sheets growing up. I wonder if my mom still has them???:)

  15. LOVE the dress! And I SO appreciate the kind comment you left on my blog ( That was so nice of you!
    I'll be passing the link to this post along to my fellow GeekMom writers. They're going to be so jealous of this dress. And it fits you beautifully! You are way too hard on yourself. I love to sew also, and have not 'found' the time in recent years. Once the moving truck finds us, and I have my sewing machine and serger (!) back, I'm going to jump in. Thanks for the inspiration!


  16. Wow! I am constantly looking for Star Wars sheets to do just this with. What an amazing job!

  17. Within minutes my fellow GeekMom writers agreed that we'd love to do a post about you on GeekMom. They all love your dresses! Would it be okay if I wrote one up today?
    You can email me at


  18. I'm not a Star Wars fan ::ducking:: but I think that dress is pretty freaking awesome!

  19. Love the back!!!!!!!!! Your dresses are incredibly originals.
    Great job!

  20. I totally WANT that dress!! It's amazing! Now I will have to hunt every thrift store and garage sale until I find that exact sheet! lol. Thanks so much for sharing.

  21. A very flattering dress. It sits and hangs beautifully and the dark coloured sash looks so good. I would love for you to share this (and any other dresses you have made) at my ongoing linky that's exclusively for Women's Dresses...

  22. Oh my gosh it's just amazing. I swear if you make a Dr. Who dress I'll probably just propose to you.

  23. Firefly sheets, indeed - if only...
    Wonderful creation. How inspiring this is. I'm sure Darth Vader would be flattered to have been placed at such a prominent location.
    Thanks for sharing!

  24. I am a Star Wars and vintage clothing geek, and I raised my daughter to be so as well. We were sent a link to your blog, and we are so in love. However, I don't sew a stitch, so I can't steal your ideas and make my own, so I say this to you: you could make a million (well, okay, good money) selling these creations. I would pay some rather large bucks to have that dress in my size - and would have been none the wiser that it was made from sheets!

  25. I don't sew, but I like scientists! This is quite charming.

  26. I love it. You need to open an Etsy shop!

  27. how much would you charge to make me one?

  28. Oh I LOVE it! Retro and geek are my favorite things. The sash (I think that's the word you were looking for) is great with that style and it compliments the print nicely. You did a great job! =)

    (I just realized I'm even wearing one of my Star Wars t-shirts today!)

  29. I missed this when you posted it back in January, but I just have to say I love how you also get everything lined up so perfectly! As in, I love the Vader on the front and the C3p0s on the back.

  30. Very Awesome!!! Will we be able to spot you at Comic Con in that dress ;)?

  31. I really love this! And, I have those same sheets. Too bad I can't sew. :-)

  32. I just saw this and I am OBSESSED! I am such a huge Star Wars nerd. I may or may not steal your idea. I hope that's okay...

  33. I'm not handy or crafty or anything, but I am a nerd! I love this dress and your sense of humor (I got directed here via a Facebook friend's post). I'll definitely be checking out your blog.

    Take care,

  34. I just came across your site. I NEED the Star Wars dress for my daughter. And she loves circle skirts too. Do you take commissions?

    1. Thanks for asking, but I'm not in a position to take commissions right now. There are plenty of SW dress sellers on Etsy, though!


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