Butterick 4887, what’s your motivation?

Whenever I work on a wedding dress for a friend, I ask the bride what her mom wore and if her mom has been saving the dress and if there’s any element of the mom’s dress we should work in to the new dress, and lately the answer I’ve been getting is “God No! I mean yes, she’s been saving it but it’s this awful 70’s polyester, like, Little House On The Prairie thing with a neck ruffle and these long puffy sleeves and a long skirt, like there’s just fabric everywhere, and what’s that thing where the waist is all weird and up high, plus the dress is like this big.” (bride holds up pinkie finger to demonstrate lack of bigness)
Basically they are describing this:    
the pattern
Butterick 4887 Misses’ Bridal and Bridesmaid Gowns
No copyright date. I’m saying late 1960’s early 1970’s.
I think this style of dress is super interesting, because to my modern eyes it is straight-up ugly. I wore nightgowns very similar to this when I was a kid, and they were ugly too, in plaid flannel.
But the bride who bought this pattern (and made it, the instruction page is missing and the pieces are cut) wasn’t trying to look ugly. She wasn’t thinking, “My bridal theme is wearing the world’s least comfortable nightgown while homesteading. Oh, and let’s Not show off my sweet 26 1/2″ waist, how about something in a nice empire.”
So what was she thinking?
Anybody?
I’ve got three ideas:
1. Rebellion—
against the tight-waisted full-skirted undergarment-requiring dresses of the generation before.
2. Romeo and Juliet—
Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet came out in 1968, the bodice of this dress is actually pretty similar in line to the one Juliet is busting out of on that movie poster. Speaking of bodices and Zeffirelli, a non-costume friend of mine once confessed that the only reason he knows the definition of the word bodice is because of that movie, because daaaaaaaamn, that there’s a bodice.
Also in support of this theory: View C is wearing a Juliet Cap.
3. That Pioneer Spirit—
The tv show of Little House On The Prairie came out in 1974. So maybe. But more likely that pioneer spirit as in let’s go live on a commune and build our own Little Cabin In The Big Woods and raise goats and babies.
Sort of a hippy home-made homage-to-simpler-times vibe, that, as it trickled down from edgy to mainstream fashion and then into affordable ready-to-wear, turned into my friends’ mothers’ polyester organza fantasy gowns.
When you look at it that way, it’s kind of a sweet and wonderful style.
Another thing: it’s easy to for us Modern Girls to forget that sexy wasn’t an adjective women of previous generations wished to evoke in their bridal gowns. Sounds like it was wildly popular back then to get married in an actual church (what??), where they have their own rules, such Cover Your Shoulders and Thou Shalt Not Flash Thy Cleavage About.
Sew It or Throw It?
I’m introducing a secret Third Category. Stow It. I’ll never make this (probably never) (I mean, can you imagine?), but wedding dresses are so interesting, culturally, they sum up so much about a particular moment in time, that I can’t get rid of them.

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11 thoughts on “Butterick 4887, what’s your motivation?

  1. Interesting, i think without any ruffles or the puffed sleeves this could be nice – I like the bib shape. But the ruffles are what make it, I suppose

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  2. You’re right, wedding dresses are such a snapshot of an era – think of the ‘Pippa’ pattern – was it a mcalls or Butterick? In 20 years time someone will be looking at that frock and thinking it hilariously dated….

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  3. Absolutely! Wedding dresses just share the best and worst of an era. I can’t stand the bustier and full skirt look that was so popular until very recently. But then I remember, as a child, thinking my Grandma looked preposterous in a 1920s style wedding dress.

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    1. Love fashion illustrations from the 1920’s, but such a hard transition from paper to a real human body.
      I’m sure the royal wedding has done a lot already to usher us out of the bustier and skirt moment and back into an era of sleeves.

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  4. My mother sewed this exact pattern for my eldest sister’s wedding dress in October 1977!! It was pretty much the bridesmaid dress on the envelope, sans buttons down the front yoke. Of course it was done in white mid-weight polyester organza!

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  5. I was recently asked to make a seventies style wedding dress, but more hippie type than little house on the praire. Just wait, they’ll be asking for those puffy sleeves soon enough:)

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