“Retro Forward” Burda Style – “Hot Stuff” Cocoon Coat and Poster Dress

What you wear says something about you, whether or not you want that to be the case or whether you even want to get anything across.  How would an army-to-army battle be fought in the buff without clothes to identify sides of the combatants, after all?  How else did the upper classes of the past undemocratically distinguish themselves from their peers not so well off?  Well, since the last 50 years clothes evolved into something more…as an opportunity to purposely, inaudibly, make a message, declare a challenge, signal protest, or be the spark of a conversation using written expressions.  Today, more than ever, fashion is re-imagining the 1968 poster dress, slogan tee, and op art garment trends in its own way to truly make powerful statements with what is worn.  You can literally wear your heart, your convictions, or your idealism on your sleeve nowadays for all to see, and we don’t realize how lucky we are for this, something we take a bit for granted in an era where every tee or pants bottom has a slogan.  It’s the golden anniversary of this freedom, and I’m celebrating with a fun, mild little version of my own.

Not too often do I go for shock value…with what I have said above, now I have a good reason!  Under my cool and classy ice blue coat is a silk dress printed with advertising labels containing four letter words (“Well I feel damn sexy today!), even though a bit subdued due to their small size.  This is the outfit of bold contrasts and complimentary contradictions.  My dress is light, airy, and flippantly playful in earth toned silk, leather, and an A-line silhouette.  My coat is lofty, warm, dressy, and feminine, as sharp as an ice crystal, yet made out of one of our modern era’s most crafty, over-commercialized material – fleece!  My coat is definitely not body conscious, with its voluminous shape silhouette concealing, while the dress is practically the opposite, with more leg and general skin baring than is my norm.

 As I said, I was inspired by some strong 60’s trends here – both the in-your-face poster dresses as well as the shape-disguising cocoon coats made popular by the likes of Balenciaga and Cardin, the Après ski culture, and popular movies.  Using two great Burda Style patterns, I have now come up with an outfit that is part 2018 and part retro flower child era, all the while designer inspired.  This post is part of my ongoing “Retro Forward with Burda Style” Blog series as this is a modern take on 60’s styles.

Our home town’s downtown was the appropriate backdrop for our photos.  As a river city town, we have a long levee wall to keep the water at bay.  Along that wall, there is a concrete ‘canvas’ (allowed by the city) open for graffiti and street artists.  It is a wonderful, organic, and ever changing platform for a very interesting, creative, and sometimes rebellious way for expression.  This medium doesn’t always have a mainstream outlet, so it attracts quite a number of visitors and quite a variety of talent, as you can see.  For an outfit centered on the 60’s idea of self-expression in a semi-shock value sort of way, I couldn’t think of a better equivalent in the built environment of the city than our river levee graffiti wall.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  The Coat – The outside is just your basic anti-pill fleece, and the inside is fully lined in flannel backed satin…yummy warm!  The Dress – a 60% silk, 40% cotton blend semi-sheer fabric, lined in a soft finish crepe poly.

PATTERNS:  Burda Style’s “Long Coat” #104B from December 2015, and their “Sixties Shift Dress” #106 from July 2016.

NOTIONS:  Amazingly, the only thing I specifically bought to finish this outfit was the plastic “crystal-look” buttons for the coat.  Everything else (notion-wise) was on hand – a 22” invisible zip, thread, snaps, interfacing, and bias tape

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The coat was finished on December 7, 2017 after maybe 20 to 30 hours.  The dress was made in about 10 hours and finished on January 20, 2018.

THE INSIDES:  Both the dress and the jacket are fully lined, so…what insides? I don’t see ‘em!

TOTAL COST:  The light blue fleece was bought probably 6 years back on deep discount for a few dollars a yard, so I went crazy and bought 6 yards of it and I only used 3 for the coat…so I have plenty leftover still.  The silk was bought online at an Etsy seller and the faux leather is leftover from this 40’s purse project.  Other than these fabrics, the linings were bought at Jo Ann’s fabrics specifically for my project.  I’m supposing my total is about $10 for the dress, and $20 for the coat…what a deal!!!

Both these pieces were time consuming and challenging, but they were so satisfying to make because I was making a creative idea from my head a reality.  Making a coat is necessarily labor intensive, but the dress and some of its detailing took more time than I expected.  However, I like a garment that I can be just a proud of inside as well as out, and I want my clothes to last, so I feel they deserve the extra time and I deserve finding a way to take my time to enjoy my sewing better!  Rome wasn’t built in a day and a good garment isn’t either without something being sacrificed, I would think.

Now, as for any Burda Style pattern, printing and/or tracing is necessary to have a usable pattern to lay on your desired fabric.  My patterns were traced from the inserts in the magazine issue, but they are also available online as a downloaded PDF that needs to be printed out and assembled together.  What works best for me is to use a roll of thin, see-through medical paper to trace your pieces out.  It’s at this preliminary step that you pick out your proper size and add in your choice of seam allowance width.  A scissor with a magnetic ruler guide helps immensely to quicken along the step to getting a finished pattern prepped.  Sorry to repeat something you might already know, but this is just an “FYI” for those that don’t.

The sizing of both garments was pretty much spot on, without much extra fitting needed, yet I did  some departures from the original design lines.  I’ll start with discussing the coat, and firstly, the sleeves. They were so very, very long, just by leaving off the additional cuff piece they came to a good length on my arms.  The sleeves do have the most beautiful seaming, though, especially where they join the body of the coat.  At the top sleeve panel, they are “epaulet style”, continuing the sleeve to run right along the shoulder top into the neckline.  But then the bottom panels join in as a raglan style to make a sleeve that has first rate seaming and is gently set-in the main body.  What an unusual but amazing combo!  Many cocoon coats, especially the ones first created by Balenciaga in the late 40’s and early 50’s, and many of the others made by his fellow couturiers, all had deep cut kimono or dolman sleeve, or at least a sleeve that had a similar silhouette that tapered into the waist and offered generous ease of movement.  This was part of the reason they were so popular with the Après ski culture that exploded in the 60’s when people saw movies such as “Charade” with Audrey Hepburn, “Help” with the Beatles, or the James Bond escapade “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”.  These coats are easy to move in yet look good on their own accord, and offer full movement.  The excess material around the body only keeps the wearer warm.

The back bottom hem panel to the coat was also very long in length, so I cut that down by half in order that my coat would end at my knees, what a proper longer length cocoon coat should do.  Thus, my coat ends up being a length which is in between the “A” short version and the “B” long coat of pattern #104.  The idea of the general shape of Balenciaga’s cocoon fashion was to liberate the waist with flowing lines that carry their own beauty in the tailoring and shaping of the garment itself.  The defining points to a cocoon coat, however, is the neck and the knees, the two ends where the coat tapers in to slenderize the legs and highlight the face.  This coat has great design lines that do just that with the front French bust darts, the horizontal back bottom panel, and the angled, sun-ray style darts which radiate up and out from that.  From what I have seen of cocoon coats, many have an open, basic neckline.  Nevertheless, I added a small self-drafted collar at the neck because there’s no use for a warm and cozy coat that lets my neck freeze!

The pattern called for giant patch pockets to be added on the front of the coat, but that would ruin the classy streamlined look I was going for with it.  So I added pockets that were set into the French darts!  I think this one touch was the best thing I could have done for this coat!  The pockets also end up filling out the coat right over the low hip area so that it has more of a cocoon shape – this was a bonus I did not see coming but I really like it!

This coat was a project on my backburner queue since the pattern came out in 2015.  However, it wasn’t until I saw light blue coats popping up everywhere this past Fall-Winter season, at different stores, from different designers, and even on the back of one of my favorite actresses, Hayley Atwell, that I realized now was the time to pick up that idea and make something of it!  This Versace set from their Spring 2018 Ready-to-Wear collection, with its ice blue coat and Vogue poster print dress, was the first real impetus that inspired me to pair two 1960’s trends together in a modern way.

The leather piping is the most obvious out-of-the-ordinary addition that I made to the dress, yet I think it also was the best touch.  It brings to attention the awesome geometric cut to this dress that wraps around my arms, over, and down the back of my body, as well as bringing out a whole different “feel” to the general color scheme and texture.  I did take out the horizontal waist seam all around the front and back, mostly because I did not have much fabric to work with (only one yard) but also because I did not want to mess up my silk’s print with extra seaming.  As my dress is fully lined, I did not have to bother with using any of the facing pieces the pattern provided.  The full lining not only made my dress opaque, and covered up my seams inside, but some leftover scraps of it were also used to add in some small side pockets.  My pockets are basic and in the side seams to (again) not cut into the print, since the instructions directed to add welt pockets into the front.  Welt pockets are not my favorite thing to do, anyway, but I did install an invisible zipper down the back!

The faux leather neckline detail has that hint of a plastron-armor type of feel to me, but it does make for a lovely neckline or at least a good place to highlight a statement necklace, as I have done.  Beginning circa 1967, fashion was all about experimenting with novelty materials, and mixing them with contrasting traditional fabrics.  They did have many plastron front designs (I’ve made one myself) and several armor-like dresses in the late 60’s – especially when it came to the metal and chainmail garments of designer Paco Rabanne  or the plastic armor in the film Barbarella.  For the neckline addition, I made it slightly different than the pattern.  Mine is wider and more geometrically simple to match with the dress, versus the curved, tiny design as what the pattern originally planned.

I have worked with many 60’s patterns and this Burda dress felt like a true 60’s pattern, I must say.  I’m impressed!  It has the angular corners that the late 60’s loved (thanks in part to Pierre Cardin), the traditional pair of small back neck darts, and the normal, lovely, A-line silhouette with ever so slight body shaping that I enjoy about fashion of the flower child era.  I know certain “dress doctors” mourn the 60’s loose and youthful styles as the end of tailoring and the introduction of sloppiness.  Often these kinds of fashions were part of a certain desire to stand out, be different, or perhaps a bit rebellious, and are certainly not for everyone.  They are nonetheless a significant part of history.  Text and wording on these fashions didn’t come until about 1968, but even before then they were a statement in themselves.

Now, I’m not saying that wording isn’t to be seen on what people wore before the 1960’s.  Yes, there were many novelty prints in the 1940’s and 50’s that discreetly hid small doses of words which were often song lyrics or famous persons’ names (see this vintage pj top or this Elvis skirt for only two examples).  There are cultural uses of text in traditional African khanga to list out proverbs or words of wisdom to suit special occasions.  Earlier in the past century, women who were protesting the First World War or standing for women’s’ rights had sashes, ribbons, and badges which sported the words of what they believed in.  However, the wording was never (to my knowledge), before circa 1968, directly on the fashion garments themselves, and it was never before advertising or a personal or highly political statement.  The paper poster dresses where the first wave of this methodology – with the Cambell’s soup dress, ‘Nixon for President’ dress, the Newsprint dress, and the op art dresses.  The trend has spread like wildfire since.  Beyond the paper poster dresses, about the same time Pierre Cardin borrowed from the Lacoste crocodile logo idea that started in 20’s, and began the now universal practice of visible designer logos announcing themselves on clothing so one can obviously brag who ‘made’ their clothes and how much they spent.  We now have words, messaging, and advertising overload everywhere.  What would 21st century life be without your basic favorite printed tee?!  As New York-based artist Susan Barnett has said in her interview with “The Guardian”, “slogan T-shirts…tell us about the wearer’s identity. ‘It’s about how people use their bodies to send a message about who they want us to think they are.’”  Thanks be to what was going on in history and who was alive doing the moving and the shaking 50 years ago.

We should all be aware of the power that fashion has nowadays with the black dress code for the Golden Globes.  But it’s becoming more than that, in a way that reflects upon the wearer as well as our unconscious perception of the wearer, even if their clothes are not so subtle.  Just a year ago, Dior’s first female artistic director, Maria Grazia Chiuri, had her first collection begin with a basic white tee printed with the slogan “We should all be feminists”.  Now, there are even collections so overly cued into the political climate that the newspaper garment has official made a comeback!  See my picture of the newspaper Poster dress 1967 next to Alexander Wang’s “Page Six” collection for Spring/Summer 2018.  If this keeps up, I wonder when fashion will need to be protected by the laws of our First amendment right for freedom of speech.  Just like in the 1960’s, it seems as if these collections are catered to the younger crowd, our Millennial age group, the 18 to 35 year olds.

My own advertising dress is nothing so serious or political.  There isn’t any such a thing as “Bonobo Jeans and Underpants” that I can find before 2007, so this print is a spoof.  Making something of it is meant to merely push my boundaries so that I can understand history by making my own small part of it.  Besides, the print does make me laugh and blush at the same time in a way that I uniquely love.  “I can clean dishes and wear tight edgy underwear!’’, “Designed for fun!”, and “We shape nice butts” are all on there.  I love how I inadvertently had “Somewhere beneath” with the masculine eyes along the bottom hem – it’s too funny.

Finally, this brings me to explain my title.  One of the logos on the print is, “Hot stuff for all to see!”  Yes indeed, I do feel like the dress is pretty close to being hot, and it’s so thin and lightweight it’s definitely made for hot temperature days, anyway.  The coat is so warm and cozy, it is better than our best bed comforter at insulating.  I’m supposing it’s the flannel and the fleece together, with the satin to keep the heat in.  I suppose a man-made, non-breathable fabric is good for something after all!  I certainly do need to dress for summer underneath this coat, otherwise I’d burn up.  It’s unexpectedly the warmest coat I now have, so it deserves to called “hot stuff”!

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