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Were you sewing in 1968???

GailAnn's picture

In the late '60's, on the cusp of the miniskirt, I remember making, wearing, and LOVING what we called then, "the shift dress".  Straight or A-line, zip up the back, "french darts" into the front side seams, not so short that I had to listen to a lecture prior to leaving the house.  It looked pretty good on almost everyone, certainly all my friends in high-school looked great!   Their mamas and grands wore them as well.

I'd like to have a few casual dresses for the Summer of 2009.

I'm having a bit of difficulty finding the appropriate fabric.  Most of mine were of an inexpensive 100% cotton, but a heavier weight than today's quilting cotton.  Oh, yes, the fabric required pre-shrinking, but it wore well, without too many wrinkles.

I think we called it "PermaPress Cotton", and I had one or two dresses in "Hopsacking".  Anybody have any idea what these fabrics might be called today, or where they may be found????


Edited 1/14/2009 3:01 pm ET by GailAnn

damascusannie's picture

(post #28479, reply #1 of 205)

PermaPress was used for cotton/poly blends. The poly is what made it permanent press.

Annie in Wisconsin, USA
~~Doodlestein Designs Quilt Patterns
~~Finely Finished: Machine quilting worked on a treadle sewing machine.
See patterns, quilting, and National sewing machines at:

Annie in Wisconsin, USA ~~Doodlestein Designs Quilt Patterns ~~Finely Finished: Machine quilting worked on a treadle sewing machine. See patterns, quilting, and National sewing machines at:
woodruff's picture

(post #28479, reply #2 of 205)

A designer named Lily Pulitzer sort of made her name with shifts like these. She's still in business and those dresses are still part of her line:

And yes, I was sewing then. I don't remember looking for a particular type or name of fabric. I simply chose by feel, looking for a good cotton with a tighter weave and more weight, as you note, than quilting cotton. One of my wealthier friends was proud of her floral shifts made from French Boussac cottons.

I also recall underlining a lot, because that was a technique used in many, many Vogue patterns at the time, which gave the fabric more heft (and less show-through with the dresses).

Ocrafty1's picture

(post #28479, reply #3 of 205)

LOL!!!!! My first dress for 4-H was from that pattern! AND I still have it.....I loved that dress. Mine was also 'permanent press' and was a particularly lovely paisley in gold, orange, purple, and green. I had my school pix taken in there is evidence that I actually wore it. LOL.

I know it was a cotton/poly blend, and have seen some similar fabrics at JoAnn, although it is usually in the spring and summer. I'd start looking...that fabric type is coming back.  I searched for some late last spring and most of it was already gone.  I made a tote bag for a dear friend who is a teacher and used the directions that were in Threads to do it...FUN!!!

Thanks for the giggle.


Thimblefingers's picture

(post #28479, reply #4 of 205)

I believe the PermaPress Cotton was a cotton treated (with formaldahyde) to resist wrinkles, if my memory serves me correctly on the history of fabrics.  I believe the cotton/poly blend came a little later. 

I was sewing in 1968 - made my first dress - I was 10 years old.  It was a front button a-line shift out a navy permapress cotton with big yellow daisies that had bright pink centres.  I also made a little purse and one of those little triangle hats we wore that tied under the hair at the back of the head.  The hat was trimmed with yellow bias binding.  Unfortunately, I don't have ay pictures of it. 

To this day, I have a "thing" for navy fabric with yellow daisies!   

Sancin's picture

(post #28479, reply #5 of 205)

In 1968 I was sewing maternity clothes. As a 30 year old woman I was considered old to be having a baby. Most of the maternity clothes around were for young women and just too cutsie for me. I had sewn a lot up until that time and always sewed Vogue on the Featherweight that my grandmother had given me. We moved to a new city and I had quit my job as a university teacher and my husband had taken a pay cut in his job. Money was VERY tight. I tried to find some simple patterns from the other pattern companies but there were the cutsies again. Vogue only had 3-4 maternity dresses. I bought one pattern, a fairly dressy one as we were still going out. Going out in those days meant dressing up. The pattern did have a jumper pattern with it so I had a lot of jumpers, through the seasons!! Looking through the pattern books these days and watching pregnant mothers that look like grandmothers in the stores, I almost wish I could have another baby - not.

FYI I wore shifts in the early 60's when living on the west coast. I wore mini's from the mid 60's to mid in Montreal and people were shocked when I moved back to the west coast as they were just coming in. It was the Mary Quant period and white stockings were in. As a nurse I refused to wear white stocking out in public!!

Edited 1/14/2009 8:19 pm ET by Sancin

rodezzy2's picture

(post #28479, reply #6 of 205)

1968 was my junior year in school and my second year of sewing and cooking classes at Three Rivers High School in Three Rivers, Michigan.  giggle.  The first semester was sewing and the second semester was cooking.

My teacher was Mrs. Langworthy and I loved her.  Our first project (sophomore-1967-68 year) was an apron made of 100% cotton that was torn into the three pieces needed to make the simple apron.  One piece with the body of the apron the second narrower piece was the sewn on top of the wider piece for pockets, two seams, three pockets.  The third piece was cut in half and used to put on the end corners for the tie. 

My junior year (1968-1969) we made an A-line skirt with a zipper in the side seam and a waistband.  Mine was navy blue.  That was the semester we learned about using patterns. 

I don't remember where, how or what was involved, but my mom got me a Sears, Singer sewing machine.  I can't remember if she had it or what.  She didn't sew.  But I took off sewing for me and Cynthia (my sister/friend) for all of the special events at school.  By our senior year, I was making look-a-like dresses, maxi pants, midi pants and other major pieces for our dress-up days and school dances.  With the help of one of my fellow school mates, I made my gown for the Miss Three Rivers contest.  I won second runner up.  Those were the days.  It was lavender, I believe.

Edited 1/14/2009 10:18 pm ET by rodezzy2

Edited 1/14/2009 10:19 pm ET by rodezzy2

Edited 1/14/2009 10:19 pm ET by rodezzy2

GailAnn's picture

(post #28479, reply #12 of 205)

Meanwhile, just a few miles away in Dowagiac, Michigan, I was doing just the exact same thing!

Well, not that Miss Dowagiac part, although I do still remember the girl who won. 

Both beautiful and sweet, she deserved it.

High praise and many thanks to Michigan's fine HomeEc teachers of the 1960's!  Without their help and attention I wouldn't have the life I have now.

In fact, after I learned to read, every other important thing, necessary to enjoying a  real life, I learned in Home Ec. 

Yes, I hold those fine teachers in very High Esteem!


Edited 1/15/2009 10:31 am ET by GailAnn

Edited 1/15/2009 10:32 am ET by GailAnn

Ocrafty1's picture

(post #28479, reply #13 of 205)

Jr. and High School home ec was a waste of my time.  I had been sewing since I was 9 and our project was to make a poncho with wool.  You cut 2 pieces, sewed them together, then sewed 1" from the outside edge and fringed it.  Wow!!!  I had mine done before the first week was done, while almost everyone else in the class was struggling to pull a thread to find the straight of grain. (there was another girl who was in 4-H too) I made 2 jumpers during that semester.  The foods part was just as bad.  They were making cookies, while I was already making yeast rolls. Besides, I was the oldest of 5 (at that time...eventually of 7) and since Mom worked, my sister and I cooked dinner every night...and we made MEALS.  I hated those classes.  I wasn't smug or anything, but these girls were so far behind me, that it was embarrasing.  I never took home ec unless it was was an easy A though.


sewingkmulkey's picture

(post #28479, reply #59 of 205)

Oooh Deb I felt the same about Home Ec in Jr. H.S. as I, too, had been sewing since I was 9.  Our sewing project was a bit more advanced (a fitted dress with set-in sleeves) but the shocking part was all the notions I had to buy that I had never used before nor since.  My Mawmaw taught me to sew and she had been through the depression making women's suits out of discarded men's suits so she knew what was really necessary and what was not!  And, all the unnecessary steps we were required to go through was absolutely ridiculous.  It's no wonder many girls failed to get the "sewing bug" that I already had. 

I did take a tailoring class in 12th grade that I thoroughly enjoyed.  It was taught by a dressmaker turned teacher and she knew how to handle varying skill levels which made all the difference.

Back on direct subject manner -  I well remember shift dresses, sewed many of them, and used various types of fabric but, as I recall, all of them had enough "body" to support that style.



Mlknorr's picture

(post #28479, reply #89 of 205)

You told my story. I walked into my first grade 8 class in 1965 wearing a suit I made over the summer. We were told we were going to make aprons. I asked, "What will we do tomorrow?" My teacher and I never did recover.

On to the shift dresses, I made two or three every summer out of a heavy cotton, I think some of it was called poplin. I prided myself on making each dress for under $5.00 and everyone thought we went to the city to buy my clothes. I bought some of the fabric out of the catalog (Eatons or Simpsons). Such a great trip down memory lane.

I have found a couple of similar patterns in the Burda magazine which includes patterns in the centre of the magazine. I love the choices.

starzoe's picture

(post #28479, reply #90 of 205)

Just back from the fabric store and a look at the new Spring pattern books - shifts are all over the place, exactly like the '60s, some even down to the French darts.

GailAnn's picture

(post #28479, reply #91 of 205)

Yes, yes, I saw the one with the French darts!  I'm so excited and eager to get started.  It is supposed to be in the 70's here tomorrow, then snow over the week-end.  Definitely time to Sew Spring!!!!   Gail

Ceeayche's picture

(post #28479, reply #105 of 205)

My story too!  Quite tragic actually.  Mom's theory was that my skills at 12 were better than the Home Ec teacher.  But I still have my sewing tools (most of them) from that class.  She did teach us the importance of taking good care of our tools.  I still use the T-square.  And I still have the left handed shears-- I later switched back to right handed (that's what public schools do for you).

Greet each day with Joy.  Embrace your blessings.

Greet each day with Joy.  Embrace your blessings.

rodezzy2's picture

(post #28479, reply #30 of 205)

What a co-incidence..You are from Michigan too.  You guys made the same projects?

Edited 1/15/2009 7:33 pm ET by rodezzy2

GailAnn's picture

(post #28479, reply #40 of 205)

Did the apron ties go into a channel at the top of the apron skirt, so it could be gathered and adjusted for every girl?  I think my project #2 was a skirt that wrapped to the front and closed with 2 buttons on the waiste.  Gail

rodezzy2's picture

(post #28479, reply #56 of 205)


GailAnn's picture

(post #28479, reply #57 of 205)

Then I'd say the statewide Home Ec cirrulum was fairly standard.  Gail

rodezzy2's picture

(post #28479, reply #60 of 205)

I guess. 

GailAnn's picture

(post #28479, reply #11 of 205)

Weren't we all just the CUTEST!!!

I think you might be right about that formaldahyde thing.  I was pretty sure it was some sort of surface treatment.


GailAnn's picture

(post #28479, reply #10 of 205)

Underling is an excellent suggestion, thank you.  Gail

sewist's picture

(post #28479, reply #86 of 205)


I still underline light weight fabrics to this day.  You are right about the term -wrinkle free==cotton/poly blends today.   Yes I have been sewing nearly 70 years.   

sewnutt1's picture

(post #28479, reply #142 of 205)

Oh yes!  I remember the Lily dress she first introduced.  I still have an article from Life Magazine about her work.   Could not afford to buy a Lily then but made many a shift dress during the 60's!   I have had a Lily Pulitzer garment in my wardrobe since then and they have been favorites.   I do, for some reason, think a manufacturer has purchased the rights to the name and expanded the line in recent years.  They still feature the beautiful designs and colors and the full linings.

In the late 60's, I was studying Home Economics Education at Eastern Michigan University.  Around 1968 took a wonderful course called Experimental Clothing under Dr. Betty Bornemeier.   She was so knowledgable and taught us all so very much!  My garment was of deep teal blue wool with a full silk lining.  I used a Vogue pattern and was able to make my muslin out of a brown textured cotton blend, thus having two garments to wear for Student Teaching.              Dr. Bornemeier did a lot of instructing but we shared a lot of information in sessions to examine fabric, construction, and fit.   What a taskmaster and outstanding instructor!                                                                                              

I also did a lot of sewing when home with my family.  I could make a mini-skirt from less than a yard of wool and would manipulate patterns on fabric to make it fit with minimal yardage.  I remember buying fabric very often for $1.00 a yard or less!    I bought a used portable machine for $32.00 that would do buttonholes and had a zipperfoot---I was in heaven!                   Also, this was about the time polyester doubleknits appeared (remember the Leisure Suit?!) and clothing design softened and construction changed.  Poly blends made sewing trickier but life much easier.

JunkQueen's picture

(post #28479, reply #143 of 205)

What a wonderful experience for you to have had that class. Expands the mind and tweaks the imagination.

You just HAD to remind us of leisure suits, didn't you? Their only redeeming quality was that their popularity was short lived.

I remember buying 1-yard remnants of double knit fabric for 50¢ to make pants. Being long-legged, this presented the challenge of not being able to get enough length. I solved this by making faux cuffs. There was enough fabric because these lengths were always 60" wide, and I bought solid color fabric. Fortunately cuffs were in vogue then. I did make a couple mini skirts, too.

Cityoflostsouls's picture

(post #28479, reply #144 of 205)

I remember when knits first arrived on the scene there were classes everywhere teaching people how to sew knits.  The trick then was how to set up your sewing machine for knit sewing.  Now the stitches are all in front of you!  Just pick one.

Palady's picture

(post #28479, reply #147 of 205)

>> ... 1-yard remnants ... for 50¢  ... <<

The posts on buying fabric for $1.00 & $0.50 took me back to the early 1960's.  My daughter & son's wardrobes were sewn from a penny/yd fabric from the Rose's Variety stores. 

To be sure those prices are likely gone forever.  But for yard or second hand sales that is.


JunkQueen's picture

(post #28479, reply #148 of 205)

Indeed! My remnants came from a now defunct store called TG&Y. I bought Buster Brown seconds/irregular shirts and short pants for my son there. Usually you could determine what the irregularity was, but once I bought him a striped tee-shirt and could not for the life of me see what was wrong with it. Until I had his picture made in it and saw the defect when we got the pictures back. One sleeve was not cut on-grain and the stripes ran almost diagonally on that one sleeve.

GailAnn's picture

(post #28479, reply #149 of 205)

My sister worked in the fabric department of T.G.&Y.  Often very nice fabrics.  She was faithful to alert me to the best deals. Gail

JunkQueen's picture

(post #28479, reply #150 of 205)

Small world. I really liked that store and was sorry to see it close here.

Palady's picture

(post #28479, reply #154 of 205)

>> ... defect ... got the pictures back. One sleeve was not cut on-grain and the stripes ran almost diagonally on that one sleeve. <<

The adage - a camera doesn't lie - applies here to be sure!  My mother worked in the fashion industry many years.  From experience she knew the shortcuts taken to make the most of productivity.

When the line went awry, or to make the most of the fabric on the cutter tables, any part of one size would be used in another size.  Sometimes by as much as 2 sizes!Collars.  Sleeves.  Cuffs.  Front or back waists.  Wasit to skirts.  Vice versa.   And indeed, cross grain in place of length grain.  With some manipulation, the more attuned operator was able to carry off compeleting the garments.

There are drapes in my living room that were bought as seconds.  They hung for years before anyone else in my family but me recognized the pattern in each of the 2 panels went in different directions.  




JunkQueen's picture

(post #28479, reply #155 of 205)

Re: any part of one size would be used in another size. Sometimes by as much as 2 sizes....

And we wonder why we need to try on every RTW garment before we buy it! Skilled sewers can make-do, as most of us know from our own sewing experiences.

Thank you so much for sharing that piece of insider information.