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Gunne Sax Dresses From the Seventies

Updated on June 21, 2019

Vintage Velvet Dress


Old-Fashioned Dresses for Modern Girls

This cat is pictured with a matching vintage, black velvet and white Venice lace Gunne Sax dress by designer Jessica McClintock. The author found this treasure from the late seventies/early eighties at a thrift shop for $1! This was a dream come true for someone who could only dream of owning a genuine Gunne Sax dress in her high school years (1977-1981.) They were a bit expensive compared to most formal dresses, but the detailing and workmanship were so exquisite! A few lucky girls got to wear these creations to special dances.

The iconic old-fashioned dresses designed by Jessica McClintock in the seventies are collector's items today. Back when they were new, they were the most desired prom dresses of a generation of high school girls. Gunne Sax dresses were also seen at weddings of the period, on both brides and bridesmaids. Many dresses survive today because of the excellent workmanship that went into them and because their owners valued them.

Note: Photographs in this lens are the author's work.

From the Author's Closet

Black Velvet Gunne Sax Dress
Black Velvet Gunne Sax Dress | Source

Still Beautiful Fashion

Buy and Wear a Vintage Dress

Because a Jessica McClintock creation is so well made, many survive to this day in good condition. These were dresses for special occasions, so they did not wear out. Lucky is the modern girl whose mother saved her Gunne Sax dress and protected it from dust, moths, and sunlight!

Online auctions and vintage clothing stores may have genuine Gunne Sax fashions for sale. If buying a vintage dress from the sixties or seventies online, keep in mind that ready-to-wear dress sizes have changed over the decades. If you are a size 6, for example, you might be a size 10 in vintage clothing. Swallow your vanity and order the size that fits!

Be sure to check actual garment measurements against your own body measurements if you must buy without an opportunity to try things on. Older garments can be taken in if necessary, but letting them out is risky business. Take it from an experienced alterations specialist: better too big than too small!

A full-length view of the vintage black velvet dress shown above. Isn't the collar just lovely!

Make Your Own Dress

Vintage Gunne Sax Patterns

At the height of Gunne Sax popularity, Simplicity included a line of designer patterns from Jessica McClintock. Seamstresses with advanced sewing skills were able to produce dresses that imitated ready-to-wear. A Gunne Sax dress was a great project for the advanced 4-H Club member who wanted to show off her skills at the county fair.

Jessica McClintock also designed dresses for girls. These patterns are still great for special occasions. Look for vintage patterns at estate sales and online auctions, or ask an older dressmaker friend if she has classic patterns you can borrow.

I like to make simplified versions of Gunne Sax dresses for costumes. Many of the Gunne Sax designs are perfect for a pioneer, Victorian, or Edwardian costume. Just select a period-appropriate fabric.

Vintage Dress Poll

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Where to Wear Vintage Clothing

And How to Accessorize

Wear these classic styles to a friend's wedding, a garden party, or out to dinner. For a retro wedding, dress the men in pastel tuxedos with ruffled shirts and/or big bow ties for an authentic late seventies look. Be adventurous and mix old with new for a unique fashion statement.

Consider adding some antique jewelry to a Gunne Sax ensemble. Pearls, cameos, and antique lockets are all appropriate. A crocheted shawl is also nice for chilly evenings. Shoes can be anything from strappy sandals to ballet flats to old-fashioned, lace-up boots.


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