20th Century, Textiles & Costume

A fairytale 1970s frock

For the most part, I make my own clothes.  For the most part, I don’t wear original vintage clothes.  For the most part, I don’t like synthetic fibres.  And for the most part, I’m not particularly interested in post 1960s fashions.

But, most of all, I’m a creature of contradictions and am not adverse to breaking all my rules.

Meet my original vintage, very 1970s, totally synthetic, covered it enormous orange flowers, and yet somehow still gorgeous and me and wonderful to wear, ‘Fairytale’ dress:

1970s fairytale frock

Isn’t it fabulous?    Can’t you just imagine a 1970’s fairytale book featuring Rapunzel wearing this exact frock?  Possibly a feminist re-write of fairytales where Rapunzel rescues herself. (Hands up: Who else’s favourite children’s book was The Paper Bag Princess?)

1970s fairytale frock thedreamstress.com

I found the dress  at an op-shop for $6, and though all my normal impulses said “Are you crazy?”  I had to buy it.  And it’s fantastic!  It’s the very best expression of ’70s fashion: incredibly flattering, incredibly comfortable, and made from some incredibly variety of dead dino that feels like you are wearing spun air and floats around you like a cloud of butterflies.

1970s fairytale frock thedreamstress.com

While you are admiring the dress, can we take a moment to talk about how awesome my husband is?  When I put this on and said “Hey, let’s go for a drive and a photoshoot’ he didn’t say (as you would expect) “What on earth are you wearing and NO, there is no way I will ever be seen in public with you in that.”

Possibly he’s just so used to the weird stuff I want photographed that this seems positively normal to him.

1970s fairytale frock thedreamstress.com

Also, while I bounced around the Sir Truby King house and gardens and skipped and frolicked and gamboled (Honestly.  All of those.  Sometimes at the same time.) he just waited patiently for me to stand still long enough to actually get a photo instead of telling me how weird I am.

1970s fairytale frock thedreamstress.com

If this is a fairytale, he’s definitely the hero  – even if all he needs to do is wield  the camera while I use the Frying Pan of Doom (hands up, who else get’s that reference?  Hint, it’s NOT Disney) to rescue  myself!

1970s fairytale frock thedreamstress.com

Now I just need a real-life event that I can get away with wearing this dress to…

1970s fairytale frock thedreamstress.com

And also, a photoshoot where I actually wield the Frying Pan of Doom.  I wonder if the Wellington Airport would kick me out if I showed up in this dress with a cast iron frying pan and started posing next to Smaug?


  1. Lynne says

    There are some things you just make exceptions for! That is a lovely dress, and it suits you so well. I can just see the floatiness. Some synthetics were actually okay – hard for me to say that, too. I wore similar styles. Any evening – from barbecue to formal. Drift around home in it.

  2. I love that dress (but I am sucker for wide flowy 70s dresses anyway…). The photos are very pretty and now, I’ll have to get myself “The Paper bag Princess” and read it.

  3. I love it to heaven and back. And you DO have an event to wear it to – Dead tragic! Take a look at the Facebook images of the costumes, 70s glamour is TOTALLY appropriate! xo

    • PS Should I feel old that the very first wedding dress I ever made was this pattern in every way but the length of the sleeves? 🙂

    • Haha I did totally think of that actually! I am so evented out at the moment – and have 5 events next weekend, so am torn between REALLY wanting to see it, and REALLY wanting to be a serious hermit!

  4. Tiffanyyyy!
    I’m still not convinced she was the first, though. I have a feeling I’ve seen it used in something much earlier. It’s actually a logical choice of weapon.

    I love 70s styles like this. I don’t love synthetics, so I can very well relate on that front. And I can very well relate on the front of loving this dress! It’s a delight.

    • Not Tiffany! I’d forgotten that she also wields a frying pan! No, before Disney, and before Tiffany, there was an actual Frying Pan of Doom!

      And than you!

  5. (And you should totally dig up Three Hazelnuts / Three Wishes for Cinderella somewhere and fall in love with LibuÅ¡e Å afránková’s horse-riding, crossbow-shooting, prince-taunting Cinderella like the rest of the world.)

      • I realised I forgot to mention it’s a film. 😀 A 1974 Czechoslovakia-Germany coproduction, a well-loved Christmas fare in a number of countries. With a horse-riding, crossbow-shooting, prince-taunting utterly lovely Cinderella played by LibuÅ¡e Å afránková (who actually did ride that horse).

  6. Grace Darling says

    The Frying Pan of Doom? That’s a Six Feet Under reference methinks….

    I admire your husband for being way ahead of the game and knowing how to work the Sugar Train.

    If I gave you the wool, could you knit me one just like him?

    Let’s hear it for the boy!!

    • Definitely not Six Feet Under. I’ve only seen two episodes, so I can’t even imagine where it would have happened!

      My husband, alas, is definitely a one-off, knots in the wool and all!

  7. Aaaahhhh Patricia Wrede! I loved the Dealing with Dragons series when I was young and was thrilled to find the Book of Enchantments when I was older. It’s rare to find people who know her work, though, which is a pity since she’s so great.

    That dress really is the best of the 70s…perfect for swanning about in! Great find.

    • And we have a winner! I should have known that if anyone would get the reference it would be you!;-)

      I have a love/hate relationship with Wrede, because her Lyra books freak me out, but I really enjoy the Enchanted Forest books (except Talking to Dragons, because the whole waiting for 16 years thing is crap). And the Cecelia & Kate books are cute, as are the Mairelon books. She’s improved a LOT as a writer over the years, which does excuse Talking to Dragons a bit.

    • I loved Dealing With Dragons! Cimorene is awesome! There should be more princesses like her. I haven’t read any of the other books because the school library didn’t have them. Thank you for reminding me! I’ll have to go look at the public library.

      The dress is lovely, which is certainly strange for something so 70’s. It suits you very well, especially with your hair this length.

      • They are fantastic! Except the ending of the third and all of the last one can be very aggravating (trying to warn you without spoiling it). She is a great subversion of the princess trope!

        Thank you about the dress! There are actually a lot of great ’70s fashions, they just sometimes get lost amongst the awful ones. There are so many fantastic ’70s fashions that I love watching the early series of The Love Boat just for the amazing clothes.

        • Grace Darling says

          You have to watch “Fantasy Island” for some classic
          70s outfits. Also the 1970s wimmin’s shows, like Cagney & Lacey, Police Woman, The Bionic Woman and, for cringing good fun, the Dukes of Hazzard.

          My style icon was Susan Saint James (Sally of McMillan & Wife); wonder where she is now..

  8. Now, I’m a confessed lover of the 1970s fashions (minus polyester itself, yuck), so I’m biased, but I am absolutely in love with this dress! You’re lucky you’re halfway round the world or I migth come try and steal it!

  9. Oh my word!! I would wear that dress Every. Single. Day. I hate synthetics, but i do have a growing passion for 70s styles. (And the Paper Bag Princess is one of the greatest children’s books of all time.)

  10. What a great dress! That super soft 70s floaty mystery fabric really is wonderful. The feminist fairy tale image is spot-on. I haven’t read enough Patricia Wrede to get the reference, so now I will have to check out the series that I haven’t. I enjoy her worlds and sometimes get hung up on the writing. Are you a Robin McKinley fan as well?

    • I am a MASSIVE McKinley fan! Wrede falls under ‘authors I enjoy’, McKinley is in my top three! The only problem with her writing is that it is so immersive that I get dragon headaches reading Dragonhaven and itchy skin reading The Hero & The Crown. 😉

      And thank you! I’m so pleased with the dress!

      • I love McKinley’s writing for so many reasons, but now that I’m thinking of it in this context so much of the clothing she describes would be fun to make….and I completely relate to the itchy skin problem.

        • I guess it isn’t exactly clothing, but I’ve always loved the descriptions of Aerin customizing her dragon-hunting gear, sewing and re-sewing the saddle. Definitely a maker.

          • That’s a good one! I really like the clothes descriptions in Spindle’s End – Katriona’s travelling dress all sewn with charms, the ‘sheath no bigger around than your waist used to be’ that Ikor says the magicians would make for the Queen when she was expecting, and (most of all) that silver sleeve!

    • Elise says

      Ha–mystery fabric is the Salsbury Steak of thread content!

      • I am absolutely certain of it. I am absolutely certain I must have encountered it in something even older than Dealing with Dragons seems to be. I just can’t remember what it was, because yes, it really is a logical choice of weapon, so in that particular work it wasn’t even commented on or anything.
        It may have been an obscure Czech TV fairy tale or something to that effect, though.

        • … in retrospect, Tangled’s biggest problem – as much as I liked it – was its constant need to point it out. When, in retrospect, it wasn’t really a big deal. Heavy metal object, duh. Even the Punisher uses cooking utensils. (And now I retreat from the off-topic conversation, pondering my atrociously eclectic film viewing records.)

  11. Frances says

    It is fabulous! It suits you, and should be worn! Any evening party/dinner/barbecue/book group etc etc etc. Please wear it, it looks sensational on you.

    • Yeah, I’ve seen lots of 70s stuff but most of it leaves me cold in the fabric, though the pattern illustrations make me swoon! This looks just like a pattern illustration though!

  12. In terms of Rapunzel saving herself you should read Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon Hale. She also wrote Princess Academy which I’d recommend as well.

    • I shall have to look them up! I love McKinley’s fairytale re-dos, but I’ve really hated a lot of the other ones, so don’t tend to pick them up.

  13. Actually there are LOTS of gorgeous 1970s dresses in this vein – I think you probably would have loved the whole British Seventies thing with all the ’40s influences and floaty fabrics. This reminds me a lot of some Jeff Banks and Bus Stop dresses I have in my collection – and they weren’t all made of synthetics either!

    • The British ’70s thing was quite beautiful! And I have seen quite a few dresses like this, but most of them just don’t do it for me. I do LOVE the pattern envelope illustrations for this type of dress though. So glamorous!

      Do you have photos of the ones in your collection for us to drool over 😀

  14. Lylassandra says

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE Wrede (have you read her new Frontier Magic books?)

    I have to say, the 16 years thing bothered me as well… and then I realized that Talking to Dragons was actually published first, which makes the whole flow quite different. Daystar and the happy ending up front, and Cimorene and Mendenbar as essentially flashback– though apparently Wrede must have fallen in love with them as much as we all did, since she wrote a whole lot more about them!

    I’m also an enormous fan of Trina Schart Hyman, who did the original covers. If you’re not familiar with her work, it’s a treat.

    • I haven’t read any of Wrede’s recent writing (try saying that three times fast!), but will look out for them.

      I feel you can really tell that Talking to Dragons was written first – even polished, it’s so immature and clunky compared to the later books.

      I read a lot of children’s books illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman, but I can’t for the life of me remember what the covers of the Dragons books I read looked like!

Comments are closed.