Writing left handed

Dress #1, #2, and possibly #3

So, getting back to wedding dresses. Those of your who read my Wedding Twins post last week were probably wondering why I haven’t ordered a dress yet, especially since I’ve been chomping at the bit to get married for the past, well, a long time.

But, if you’ve been with me since the beginning (or at least since I was featured on Good Morning America as their token “Single Bridezilla”), you know that I already have 2 wedding dresses. That’s right folks: 2, you can read all about them (and the rationale behind them) here.

One is my paternal grandmother’s; she died years ago and the gown was passed down to me from my father’s youngest sister, who wore the gown for her first wedding. It’s a beautiful satin gown from the 1940s with long sleeves and a gorgeous train and, because my grandmother was rather busty, it actually fits (which is unusual for me and my gigantic ribs when it comes to vintage dresses).

(Said ribs really give me an edge in yoga though. I can say “om” longer than any of my classmates. Not that’s it competition…)

wedding dress

Anyway, I was told I could do whatever I wanted with the gown (which is shown on the left above) in terms of alternations, provided they were done with respect, but my dream dress isn’t from the 1940s. It’s from the 1930s, and if you know anything about vintage fashion, you know that this is a huge difference, and that you can’t easily reverse those crucial ten years in between.

1930s gown

I mean, you could—anything is possible with a good tailor, and in South Philly, there are plenty—but you can’t do it respectfully. And the historic preservationist in me just couldn’t pull the plug. Besides, a fitted satin gown with a sweetheart neckline and shoulder pads will never become the sleek, bias cut sheath that you’ve had your heart set on ever since you became an official costume history nerd in 7th grade and starting drooling over Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion

(Yes, I was just as cool then as I am now.)

janet arn

But before I get started on dear Janet though, let’s talk about Dress #2 for a minute.

Dress #2 (which is pictured on the right at the top of this post) was the steal of century. Seriously. It was $12. Although I should probably say the “the steal of the last century” because I bought it years ago when I was still dating anything with a pulse…

It’s a great dress though; it was great then and, unlike my confirmation dress (which I also purchased years before the event in question), it is still great today. 

It’s a fit-n-flare (which I feel comfortable discussing on my blog because PIC doesn’t know what this means) and it’s– dare I say it?– rather timeless.

That’s right folks: I scored a timeless, brand-spanking-new wedding gown at a bargain basement in South Philly for $12.

I’m pretty sure it’s in my blood…

Anyway, the only problem with Dress #2 is that it’s not my dream dress. It’s just a good enough dress that I bought as a back up. I figured I could wear it to a Halloween party someday if worse come to worst, and there’s no way that I, Kat Richter, reformed manthropologist, amateur costume historian, and once-aspiring fashion designer, can wear a $12 could-be-a-Halloween-costume-gown to my wedding.

This, on the other hand is my dream dress. Courtesy of Miss Arnold:


The only problem with Janet Arnold dresses is that they’re a wee bit tricky. By which I mean you can’t just pop over to your local JoAnn Fabrics, grab an It’s-Sew-Easy pattern, and get to work. Instead you have to scale the patterns up from those printed in her books. Then you have to make a muslin mock up and fit it to yourself. Then and only then can you select your actual fabric and get started.

It’s not impossible but it’s difficult. And by “difficult,” what I really mean if meltdown-inducing.

Plus, I’ve never seen the actual gown off of which this pattern is based and its hard to tell from a black and white illustration. I did some googling to see if anyone had reconstructed the dress and found this, which was created by a woman named Kate Natlie Cox:

It looks great (she did a fantastic job) but even so, there are a lot of weird wrinkly bits. And although I know that weird wrinkly bits are par for the course with this type of gown, I don’t want them. And I’m pretty sure my version would be even weirder and wrinklier.

My version would probably end up looking like this:


And although this is a valiant effort, no. Just no.

So stay turned folks, because this whole dress thing is turner out to be a bit harder than I thought it would be.

17 Responses to “Dress #1, #2, and possibly #3”

  1. Wendy

    Oh Kat, I’m sure you can do it. If I was able to figure out and make Alissandra a Robe à l’anglaise for a fifth grade project, I’m sure you can just throw together your dream wedding gown. Have you tried a dress maker? Or a costumer? They may be able to do it with some ease.

    • Kat Richter

      Well, as much as I appreciate the vote of confidence, 18th century construction is waaaaay easier than early 20th. (More time consuming because of all the layers but since everything is cut on the grain and relies on all sorts of undergarments to get the right fit, the outer gown is actually less complicated than those darn bias cut sheaths I’m in love with). I saw the pics of Ali’s outfit on FB- very cute, btw.

      • Wendy

        Oh I didn’t realize there was bias cuts involved. That’s one of those four letter words in my house that we try not to use! I really feel your pain. But still you can do it!

  2. The prof

    Not sure I like the frills in the front, it is rather fussy and the skirt would look good the same all round….

  3. GirlAstray

    Oh, wow! I see what you mean by “different wedding” now! Well, good luck! You still have plenty of time to get the dream-dress so I think you will eventually get the perfect one.

    • Kat Richter

      Haha, yeah– as much as I like to think I’m a non-traditional bride, I love weddings and all of the paraphernalia and always have 🙂

  4. no longer her landlord

    I will say this a thousand times, whatever you wear, you will look fabulous. You are one of those lucky people…so instead of stressing for perfection, be thankful you have a figure that will do any gown proud and be happy with your choice.

  5. Lacie

    Hello Kat – I recently discovered your blog and have been completed entertained! So this morning when my almost 2-year-old woke me at 6 a.m. and proceeded to watch episode after episode of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood I found myself catching up on your blog and following link after link and reading post after post! I’ve thought for a while that you may be the most accomplished “plimtern” and now after reading about your appearance on Good Morning America ( is that clip available?) and your op-ed piece in the Baltimore Sun I think that might be true!
    Concerning this post I can imagine the Kat of 10 years ago – can you believe we interned at Plimoth nearly 10 years ago? – not walking down the aisle in her dream dress! Is there some untapped potential or connection from Plimoth Plantation that you can use? Those women know how to recreate period clothing!? Plus the 30s dress is so so pretty!
    Can’t wait for the next up date on you, PIC and your exciting life!

    • Kat Richter

      Lacie! My goodness! So great to hear from you (and yes, I do occasionally stalk you on Facebook so although I may seem “the most” accomplished of the Plimterms in some senses, being a mom and wife is nothing to sneeze at!) The GMA clip is out there somewhere although I’m afraid to see I again (I’m pretty sure my future MIL found it though). And that’s too funny that you suggested the Plymouth wardrobe folks- my mom said the same thing! I’m still in touch with a few of them (Jill in particular, who reads this every once in a while- hi Jill!) and for a while was thinking I’d take my grandmother’s dress up there for a road trip and say “Help!” But I just don’t want to hack the poor thing apart 😦

      • Lacie

        You’re too sweet. I love being a wife and mommy. We’re all in such different place… I think time has been kind to all of us. Are you in touch with any of the other plimterns? I wish we could do a 10 year reunion!

        • Kat Richter

          I know, right? I met up with Kate for a hot minute in London but that was at least 5 years ago now, maybe 6 or 7 actually… 😦

  6. casespace

    I love the last dress and I really hope you can find a way to create it. I have to send this post to my mom. She loves elegantly sewn looks like that.

    • Kat Richter

      Yay! Yeah, I think they’re super pretty. But I have definitely been very tempted by that 1950s retro style that you seem to like (if Pinterest is any indication… lol)!


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