With the amount of vintage fashions that I make and wear, you’d think I’d have enjoyed Halloween in some wearable holiday-themed outfit from one of the popular decades of the 20th century – but no! I always seem to do a fictional costume, or something historical, or just plain fun. I haven’t ever done anything quite spooky ever, either. In all, nothing is ever really a garment that I can include as part of my everyday vintage wardrobe. All that has changed this year with a circa 1949 sultry femme-fatale outfit! Using Gertie’s newest print, reproduced from a true vintage fabric, and scroll-work felt combined with raw buckram to make a curiously detailed hat, my ensemble is perfect for a jaunt out in the dark, rainy, and mysterious evenings of fall!
This is one of my very favorite, luxurious, and completely unique garment projects. It was so fun to make a novelty outfit which is not just for an event but also for a season of the year. The hat was super-easy make, and should work well for other outfits of any season, but truly compliments this set in a way far better than I had imagined. However, if it wasn’t for the roses in the dress’ print, however, there is probably no way I would be even so much as trying anything with a spider theme. The buggers creep me out!
The irony is that I added to what the webs were missing with my jeweled brooch – a vintage-style “Webster” pin ordered through “Nicoletta Carlone.com”. He is not hair-raising, but rather cute (weird for me to say) and definitely glam. After all – a web without a spider is a home without a tenant, right?! All other accessories are true vintage items.
FABRIC: Dress – 100% cotton sateen, “Kiss of the Spider Woman” 2018 print from Gertie with a sheer black chiffon for the neckline and a sweet pink broadcloth for the bodice lining; Hat – a felt placemat, buckram hat base crown, and black tulle netting
PATTERN: Anne Adams #4696, circa early 1950s for the dress…self-drafted hat
NOTIONS: I had all the black thread and bias tapes I needed, and the modern tiny ball buttons (not vintage) were already in my stash. I only had to buy a zipper for the side seam waist closure!
TIME TO COMPLETE: The dress took about 15 hours to make and the hat was made in an hour and a half. Both were finished on October 26, 2018.
TOTAL COST: About $35 was spent on the Gertie fabric alone, $5 on the chiffon, $2 on the zipper, and $8 for all the hat supplies (placemat from the arts and crafts store Michaels, and the buckram base from the Etsy shop “DanceCostumeSupply“). $50 is my total.
This is my second time working with an Anne Adams vintage sewing pattern and what I found out from the first time rang true again. Their designs seem to run quite small. Just like before, my Anne Adams pattern was a size too large for me according to their chart, but it tuned out fitting me perfectly with 5/8 seams rather than the instructed ½ inch. As unpredictable as vintage patterns are regarded by many to be, there are benchmarks to be found the more you sew with differing companies and various decades. I’m not for certain that all Anne Adams will have their sizing off, but two times around is a pretty good confidence booster to know what I’m working with! Size up with this brand, just in case.
Now, I did start with an early 50’s pattern, but I slightly adapted the design lines to make it more like a 1949 silhouette. Post WWII fashion is remarkably similar between 1948 and 1952, minus slight differences. All it basically took to change the date to this dress was eliminating the three paneled skirt front as designed and cutting out a slimmer, swinging, bias cut one instead. The longer and leaner lines with a longer hem are trademarks of1949, whereas after 1950 there was more emphasis on a tiny waist and full hips (below the bust). I was mostly copying off of an Aldens Department Store advertisement from 1949 (dated using the 60th anniversary emblem) by doing my adaptation, but nevertheless – the defined spider web print needed as few seams as possible anyway. This pattern could certainly give what the fabric needed in my mind, which was minimal seam lines with no compromise on lovely shaping for a sultry air to the whimsical vintage print. This dress sure delivered!
I can’t believe the neckline on this is original vintage. The cheeky and bold taste that was around back then is much more alluring and lovely in my opinion than the modern baring-it-all fashion that leaves nothing to mystery. The pieces for the bodice were so very basic, early on I was so doubtful that they would work out at all. At the waist of the bodice, there are two sets of three stitched-down pleats in the front, and two small open pleats in the back but somehow they do their job turning odd shaped rectangles into something special. There are small gathers at the shoulders too, though it’s not very noticeable in the sheer material…it just sort of helps to wrinkle up the front neckline a bit.
French seams are the strongest seam possible in such a lightweight and unsupportive fabric as chiffon, so that is what is holding the shoulders – and the body of the dress – together. Fully lining the bodice not only gives body to the soft fashion fabric but also is a great way to cleanly finish the wide arching neckline where the sheer and the printed cotton meet – with no seam there, it lays nice and smooth. A little sneak peek of pink that can sometimes be seen of the inside makes it so worth it, too.
The upper bodice from behind is, to me, a very slight call back to Victorian times, when the necklines were high, severe, and replete with a multitude of tiny buttons. During Halloween, Victorian times seem to be what is stereotypically associated with haunted mansions and creepy, cackling women in frilly black dresses. There are only 5 buttons here, but still – the difficulty it presents to dress yourself is a goth reference to decadence and stuffy society. I hand sewed thread loops along the edge to catch the buttons.
I suppose now is a good a time as any to talk about what’s on my head, now that you can see the full details from the back of my hat! Yes, as I mentioned above, I started with a placement to decorate a dining table, but in my defense it was thick, dense felt after all, too similar to hat material to ignore doing some Halloween shopping one night. It was on clearance too! I have always admired the wide hats of the mid to late 1940s which have decorative ‘windows’ or fancy cut outs in their big brims. Such vintage hats I have seen are either too costly for my wallet or disappear too quickly to act on buying them. So, as I do with most else in my wardrobe, I make my own version!
The place mat was slightly oval but so is the buckram crown (luckily on hand…I do keep a stock of hat bases “just in case”). Luckily the crown was just enough to replace the skeleton head cut out of the center! Before hand-stitching the place mat’s inner edges to the wired crown edges, I did add a double layer of tulle to the top (upper) side to stiffen it up. The tulle adds a mesh look that compliments to raw buckram plus it makes to hat brim flat and not wavy along the edges like a 70’s slouch hat. I merely hand tacked the tulle halfway through the felt all around the outer edges, kind of like a very tiny pad-stitching. Most of the time, the tulle and the buckram base used for my hat are only foundation materials which are not meant to be seen, only hidden under other, better, fashion fabrics to achieve a final end. By leaving the raw supplies I used exposed, the effect reminds me both of the fragility of a spider web and the physical decay we frequently revel in around Halloween.
Spider web prints seem to have exploded in the vintage fashion scene. They are incredibly popular and collectable today, so it’s no wonder that several retailers are reprinting such fabric. It’s a good thing for those of us who sew because we can provide ourselves with what we cannot get our hands on – vintage spider web dresses! These prints can be found starting in the 1940s, or very late 30’s at the earliest. Spider web prints seem to have had their high point between the mid-1940s and mid 1950s, but still quietly persisting through the 1960s and 70’s through the work of some bigger named designers. For some reason, though, the form of stylized web-and-roses print that I have used from Gertie is the one that is most frequently seen.
Although I and the world of today tend to automatically associate spider web anything with the holiday of Halloween, if you look closely at the old original vintage advertisements for such spider web print dresses they specifically are for spring, yet also mention that it is an “all year design”. I have a whole Pinterest board dedicated to “Spider Web Clothes Vintage and Modern” so please visit there and look closely to read for yourself. It is so interesting to look at the primary sources for this new vintage trend, because when you do, you realize we are looking at it quite differently than they did. Spider webs for spring? As lovely as my own dress and hat turned out (if I do say so myself) and as wonderful as it feels to wear this swingy and sexy little number, I think I’ll take any and every excuse to wear this as much as possible!