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Gunne Sax Dresses From the Seventies

Updated on January 1, 2018

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!

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

Gunne Sax Dresses on eBay

Find a gently used dress at a great price. Be sure to contact sellers about dimensions of dresses--ready-to-wear dress sizes are not the same today as they were decades ago.

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

What do you think of vintage dresses?

See results

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.

Comments from my Guests

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      Inuakuma 3 years ago

      I just ordered this book from Amazon today! : )You are guoregos..then and now. I well remember those dresses. In 1974, I was graduating from HS. I had several dresses like that...back when I was thin and leggy and had long hair. That seems a lifetime ago!I love the SF area and those great houses. I agree with Andrea's comment...that bed looks like one you would do. Heck, you are just as grand a design diva as Jessica in MY book! Okay, when can I buy YOUR book!?Have a sweet weekend!Hugs,Sue

    • scrapquilter profile image

      Myreda Johnson 3 years ago from Ohio USA

      I never owned one then but I remember Gunne Sax very well. Remember Old Edwardian?

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 3 years ago

      Ah, this takes me back to some fond memories! I wore a few of those.

    • April Wier profile image

      April Wier 4 years ago

      I haven't thought about these for years. I'll have to search for some patterns.

    • profile image

      MarcellaCarlton 4 years ago

      I wore a dress I found, by Jessica McClintock, at a thrift shop to my wedding. It was a beautiful cream lace. It only cost $20.00. It was gorgeous--I passed it on to my neighbor for her wedding.

    • paperfacets profile image

      Sherry Venegas 4 years ago from La Verne, CA

      My Gunne Sax had lace. It was the dress I saved for dress up occasions. It was dark brown in heavy polyester with a collar treatment like the black dress above, but very narrow off-white antique lace for the square and lace added to the neckline. From there it hung straight to the hip with a very slightly gathered skirt that ended a couple inches above the knee. Did I shorten it? I can not remember.

    • kimberlyschimmel profile image

      Kimberly Schimmel, MLS 4 years ago from Greensboro, NC

      @Cynthia Haltom: I hope you still have pictures of yourself enjoying them!

    • TreasuresBrenda profile image

      Treasures By Brenda 4 years ago from Canada

      Thanks for the introduction to Gunne Sax dresses!

    • Cynthia Haltom profile image

      Cynthia Haltom 4 years ago from Diamondhead

      I used to have several dresses and a blouse.

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 4 years ago from Arkansas USA

      I was married in a Gunne Sax dress! Still love the style. Last time I tried to fit into it, my ribs were too wide. Having babies does that to you. (That's my story and I'm sticking to i!)

    • Katie Hazel profile image

      Katie Hazel 4 years ago

      I had no idea what these things were called until I read this lens. I have seen this style before and always found it interesting. Now I know what it's called and a little more about it. Thank you :)

    • kimberlyschimmel profile image

      Kimberly Schimmel, MLS 4 years ago from Greensboro, NC

      @sybil watson: I would love to have a complete collection of all the patterns from Simplicity--just to enjoy looking at them and remembering the styles.

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 4 years ago from USA

      I don't remember these dresses, but do like some of the old styles.

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      sybil watson 4 years ago

      I still have two Gunne Sax dresses in my closet - one was from my junior high graduation and one was my senior prom dress. You're right, they're very well made and are still beautiful.