Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane

Sewing the 70s


When the 1970s started I was seven; when they finished I was 17. The world was going to hell in a handcart (not much changed there then) but they were the very best years of my life (so far)…..

I began the decade as a child and left it as a teenager on the cusp of adulthood. These were my formative years – personality, temperament, style, likes and dislikes were all set in concrete during the ’70s. – which might explain a lot……  My happiest and lasting memories were formed and the trials and tribulations of the world did nothing to dissuade my youthful, energetic optimism for the future. Years and years later, my optimism is still not dampened although it’s not so youthful nor energetic these days. God bless all of you who marched for Women’s Rights this weekend! Thank you. I think we will be marching a lot over the next four years…..


Recently I watched Divorce (HBO) on TV. The storyline is not the most addictive aspect of the series, however, Sarah Jessica Parker’s clothes are. I watched every episode just to see her wardrobe. Apparently, they bought genuine vintage 1970 dresses, ripped them apart and remade to fit SJP with slight style updates for 2016.

This is also a Sucker for Sales post – Craftsy had a January sale and usually I ignore all offers from America because of the import tax. There was a time about six years ago when I started sewing seriously again that I, and I alone, managed to sustain the UK economy with my fabric purchases from USA. Every. Single. Time. All my packages were caught at customs and wouldn’t be released until I paid the import duty. Then I found some UK and EU fabric sites and used these instead. This time next year I might have to leave off the EU sites as there will now probably be import duty applied to all purchases from Europe – thanks everyone who voted Out!


Anyway, I got 3m (sorry, yards) of three rayons for a song and reckoned that if I had to pay the tax, it would still be a good deal. From a great distance I psychically draped a tax-invisibility cloak around the Craftsy box and it worked! No tax, no import duty, just delivered virgin-like to my home.

Way to start 2017!

I might be a wee bit stupid here but can we get rayon in the UK?

This fabric is fab. Drapey, robust, opaque with deep printed colours, presses well, slight fraying but nothing excessive – I love it.


This one today is an Italian crepe in green with a blue border print. Just had to put that border print to good use….

If you’re still with me at this point, here is the actual sewing inspiration in a nutshelldscn6856:

1. 1970s

2. Sale fabric

3. Wardrobe from Divorce

Not having a genuine 1970 dress pattern at hand I hacked one together. There are certain characteristics that define The Dress and I tried to incorporate these into my (first) Sewing The 70s frock. Based upon extensive Internet research these are the essentials for an authentic 1970 frock –


  1. Patterned fabric – no solid colours
  2. Flared A-line skirt – tending towards half-circle, although gathered/pleated skirt is also acceptable
  3. Neckline detail – collar/tie/lace
  4. Defined waist – two-piece dress in other words
  5. Belt – covers the waist seam and helps 4
  6. Sleeves, preferably gathered/puffed – full

I took Kwik Sew 3782 imgres-1for the top and a four gore skirt using the border print at centre front and just stuck them together literally with the sewing machine. Had to shorten the top and used the skirt waistline as a guide.DSCN6852.jpg

I also used the border print at sleeve hems for a bit of continuity and at centre back on the button belt. The neck tie is cut from the blue border too. I also added a few other things.

Single welt front pockets, with inside stays to stop them from flopping around inside the dress. Secured at side seams and across the centre front.



Can you see the pockets?

Changed the length; because I like this midi length, it suits my legs and the 1970s either had very high or very low, so a little bit of of the 21st century added.


More 21st century with an invisible side zip closure.


Additionally I made a button belt to cover the bodice/skirt seam. Just completes the dress somehow although a purchased belt would also serve the purpose just as well.


Finally, I just had to have new shoes that reflect the 1970s aesthetic and match my new dress.


1117035Clarks Cass Pop in bottle green and I really do hope they are named after Mama Cass – a V&A 1970 inspiration style and, of course, bought in the January sales.

Oh and green tights to match….


The first of my Sewing the ’70s. What’s that you say? Are there more……?


Shall we start a sewing challenge Sewing the ’70s? (motivation/inspiration)



47 thoughts on “Sewing the 70s

  1. Not sure if I am right, Ruth, but my understanding is
    Americans call it rayon, the English call it viscose?

    • I know it to be viscose as well. It is rayon here in Canada and it really is pretty lovely fabric. Good colour, drape, etc. Love your outfit – I’m more of an ’80’s girl though (just a year younger than you) – especially the tights! I remember Dotty P’s used to sell them in every imaginable colour, tights and stockings. Great outfit!

    • Thanks Sheree. That clears things up a bit.

  2. Another breakfast cuppa spilling and spluttering post – I love it! The 70’s saw me wearing the peasant style flared 4 gore dresses and skirts and I still have some of the patterns that my mother used. Please let us sew 70’s!

  3. I was 12 to 22 in the 70’s and apart from my school uniform and the aforementioned bridesmaid dress, I only wore extremely tight non stretch (not yet invested stretch) jeans. No dresses. Nice work on your 70’s inspired dress.

  4. I’m a bit meh on the 70s being only 14 at the end of the decade and having to wear a lot of my older cousin’s hand me downs from the 70s in the early 80s. And she was not the most stylish of cousins. Hard to get over that association of out of date! And at the time of life when one was dreadfully conscious of how one looked.
    However. My daughter adores the 70s and your dress is delightful. Also coloured tights. They bring back great memories and those shoes are fab.

  5. I have similar thoughts to Elaine: I love the shoes (I always receive these useful tip-offs from you then go take a look!). The colours in the fabric are perfect but I feel the blue stripe lets dress down; I prefer the top half.

    I wish I could watch Divorce. SJP was very likeable in SATC and she wears her clothes so well being half-woman half-whippet.

    Happy inauguration day (she says sarcastically). President Tweeter is ready to take us to “hell in a hand cart”. One of my favourite expressions, along with ‘give ’em enough rope’ but I might tire of it once we’re firmly established on that particular journey.

  6. I was 15 when the 70s started, not really interested in fashion. Possibly due to lack of availability. Improved later at university, though no money (but a lot more than students have now!).
    Rayon and viscose are the same, cellulose based.
    I think viscose has improved from the 70s. I recall a fabric that creased like mad, shrunk and which I avoided. Was in a lot of the cheap clothes I bought. That isn’t the case now.

  7. Not all of us think the women movement is valid. You hear bits and pieces that is sent out, but most don’t dig to the bottom of what was really said or done. Some of us actually feel Trump will be a great president if given the chance. We need to work together, not let the big cities rule us all
    I enjoy your blog.

    • Thanks Kathy. I truly and sincerely hope Trump will be a great President.
      It is not in anyone’s interests that USA has a ‘bad’ president.

    • Thank you, Kathy!
      This is a positive new government with hope for all!

    • I just returned from the inauguration and it was a fabulous event! I pray that President Trump is very successful and I feel nothing but excitement and anticipation at the many positive changes ahead for our country. All the events surrounding the inauguration were so well done. Very elegant, but not in a show-off kind of way. It truly was a celebration by and for the Americans. Loved the parade participants (Girl Scouts,tractors, etc.). A real cross section of America and lots of military.

  8. I agree with Kathy about giving Trump a chance and I believe he is sincere in his hope for America!
    These sewing blogs should not be political platforms, but I get tired of being silent. Want to say more,
    but it is inappropriate when I should be congratulating Ruth on her new 70′ garment. Bravo!
    Look forward to your blog, always!

    • Hi Peggy. I too believe Trump has great hopes for America but I am slightly worried about the rest of the world as a consequence.
      Anyway, no more politics – just sewing. Thank you

  9. Lovely 70’2 maxi look, Ruth. Look forward to seeing more rayon/viscose (my favourite fabric)!

  10. Love your blog when it comes to fashion and sewing projects. Have bought your new book and look forward to creating from it. Please don’t be one of the anti Trump haters. Give this administration a chance.

  11. I was 15 at the beginning of the 70s, and in my memory I remember the 60s fashion influences better (mini skirt/maxi coat/knitted scarves that grew during the day) but Laura Ashley stands out and I did sew my own flowery maxi skirt and matching halter kneck too to go out in (my dad had a fit). Amazing dress, love the border pattern, quite different for you but suits you. X

    • Hi Mags – everything is relative, isn’t it? 70s for me, 60s for you and for others, the 80s or 50s are the formative years.
      Back in the 1970s I went to London for the first time ever and I headed straight for Laura Ashley because we didn’t have a shop here in Belfast. I was IT!

  12. I love the print on this and even love the stripes (think the sleeve cuffs give the vertical stripe context). I do in general love the seventies though and made up a YSL pattern for a dress such as you describe last year (puffy sleeves, neck ties; two piece, buttoned top; slightly flared bottom). I had not heard of the SJP series but I like the wardrobe. I have had a theory for some time that one’s favourite fashion decade is the decade in which one turned 7, although many would disagree. The 70s were that decade for me. My mom wore terrific clothes during that time and my parents were young and lighthearted, so all those factors probably collude to give me this feeling. Oh and the feminist vibe of the period well and truly got into my bloodstream…

    • Hi Stephanie, there are well documented and ‘proper’ philosophers that declare – give me the child until 7 and I will give you man!
      In our case, independent thinking women – hooray!
      Thank you.

  13. I think I saw a 1970’s Burda special in the newsagents the other.

    Lovely dress

  14. I need absolutely no encouragement to sew the 70s, and have two 70s style dresses floating about my head at the minute. Your dress is amazing, the border print is fab, and welt pockets in rayon?! You are a sewing ninga!!

  15. We seem to be exactly the same age, Ruth! I was part of the Women’s March in Denver and truly hope that the advances started in the 70s aren’t eliminated. Love your dress, love your blog!

    • Thanks Ellie. Some people think that the Women’s March was organised to coincide with the USA pres inauguration but I think the former was arranged well before the later and some people do not know that it was global, not just Stateside.
      Thank you very much

  16. Wow, Ruth, that is one fantastic dress, it ticks all the boxes for you I think. I absolutely luuurve Divorce and despite paying for pay TV couldn’t watch the 2nd season, but never mind, I got around that hitch! POstage is frankly ridiculous and your own dear GB is probably one of the worst to Australia I’m afraid. I had purchased 3m of gorgeous fabric from an eBay seller $35 postage – crikey. I figured oh well if its going to be that much I might as well buy more since I’m already taking out a 3rd mortgage for the postage. Bought another 3 metres of fabric and this time he was going to charge me $40AUD for postage. So $75 all up. I refused to pay and received a strike against my name – actually my son’s account he set up when he was 10yo! Kept shopping and the Hong Kong govt. must be helping their businesses because postage from Honkers was .99c. Governments need to realise that e sales are legitimate business and that screwing customers over won’t help their economy when we shop elsewhere! Mwah x

    • Yep, the world is no longer a single country.
      Thank you very much Sew. Also have to say that shipping from Aus takes weeks and weeks and weeks…,,,,

    • It is a very long distance from UK to Oz. I’d expect postage to reflect that. Wish it’s possible for us all to get fabulous fabrics locally. HK is one funny place (not really a country is it as it’s officially part of China). Not only is postage for goods from HK generally lower, frequently there’s no customer charges either. How does that work? (Not that I’m complaining of course!) Not sure postage cost is entirely sending government’s fault though. Surely postage proper is set by the postal company. UK Royal Mail is now privatised isn’t it?

      • Not really sure about Royal Mail but Auspost is private though I’d think the rates are limited to what is tolerable to an ombudsman. Correct, Hongkers is a ‘special region’ belonging to China since you guys had to give it back!!

  17. Fantastic fabric and use. But the shoes are the piece de resistance; bottle green–I’m so jealous! May have to shop across the Pond too, only the other direction.

  18. That is one fab print! Rayon may be listed as viscose. I’ve seen that listed on many UK fabric sites. Maybe not as fab as this one. But begged chooser etc.

    Hopefully we will have at least 2 years before any custom charges get slapped on EU fabrics. But better yet no custom charges on fabrics from anywhere in the world. Too many tempting options from the US & even bits from Canada. Strangely some things I’ve ordered from abroad attract that dreadful custom charges & other don’t. And it’s not even always correlated with value of the pkg. Prepare for the worst & pray for the best?

  19. Love the colors in this 70s dress! I made one similar to the pattern Fairy shared, but with a gathered peasanty-type bodice. I think I wore the poor thing threadbare. I especially love the fabulous green shoes!!
    The world-wide participation in the Women’s March was so heartwarming and uplifting! It’s been wonderful to see posts on blogs, facebook, instragram offering support and love to us in America. We live in a global society and we can all help each other up. So thank you to all!

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