Eggshell Blue Bow Dress

Mod 60’s fashion is not automatically associated with a sweet and feminine style.  Yet, when on occasion it is juxtaposed with the ‘baby doll’ trend, you end up with a very serious, no-frills, freshly classic take on something overtly pretty – a nice combo.  The Netflix show “The Queen’s Gambit” presented a version of this style to perfection with Beth’s bow dress in episode 6.  Of course, I was then on a mission to find a historical benchmark for the outfit, and have since found a true vintage pattern from which to replicate my own version.  This is my second “copy” of an outfit from “The Queen’s Gambit” (my first one is posted here).  Being made in a luxurious wool crepe and in the prettiest pastel tone, I think this is the perfect outfit to present to you now for our chilly Eastertide.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a worsted 100% wool crepe with the black contrast being 100% rayon crepe lined in satin finish polyester interlock jersey

PATTERN:  Simplicity #6634, year 1966

NOTIONS NEEDED:  one long 22” invisible zipper for the back closing and lots of thread with a bit of interfacing for under the neckline contrast

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This dress took me 15 to 20 hours of time.  I finished it up on February 27, 2021.

THE INSIDES:  cleanly bias bound

TOTAL COST:  The fabric was $35 for two yards from this Etsy shop (highly recommend!).  All the contrast fabrics are being counted as free since they came from small remnants leftover from other projects

My mom made all of these!

I specifically chose my version of Beth’s bow dress to be a soft blue versus the original mint green.  In the Netflix series, mint green is the color of Beth’s childhood and when worn by her as a young woman it connects her to certain events as she is struggling to find herself.  The prevailing color of my childhood was a different pastel hue, and slightly cooler in tone – soft blue.  I have a small portion of my childhood dresses on hand, and a good number of them are a pretty blue (see picture).  I felt feminine in blue, and I personally sense it compliments my skin tone more than pink, which I have grown to love more in the last several years.  Before the 1940s, blue was traditionally considered to be the more feminine color over pink, after all.  Besides, I have other mint green dresses that I love and could never upstage (see here and here)!

Fashion historian Raissa Bretaña fact checks “The Queen’s Gambit” outfits in this excellent video (watch it here) at Glamour magazine and the mint bow dress is included (skip to the time of 6:02).  Raissa Bretaña agrees this outfit is pretty accurate except for maybe the lack dark stockings or tights, which I added for my iteration.  Happily, as I was searching through pattern images online one day, this particular pattern showed up and I instantly recognized it as a very similar base in seamlines, contrast details, and silhouette of both body and sleeves to Beth’s bow dress.  The story is set in the late 60’s during episode 6, and the inspiration for Beth’s bow dress was 1966 to 1968, so this particular pattern hit the right spot.  I love happy circumstances like this where what you are looking for falls in your lap…only this kind of thing is always a challenge with vintage patterns because it is gamble to see if one is for sale.  As you can tell, I found one and couldn’t be happier with my finished dress!

The original version of this dress (which can be seen in an online exhibit here through the Brooklyn Museum) was crafted in a crepe (click on the info button).  A wool crepe has more body than a rayon, so I went with that because I thought this needs to be winter dress.  It should be a flowing dress but being inspired by the likes of Pierre Cardin means that it should also have a bit of structure, too.  I splurged for my dress and ordered something special I have been wanting to try – worsted wool.  I personally find worsted spun to be less itchy than a regular woolen, and a crepe finish is so very dressy with its soft shine and pebbled texture.  I love this fabric.  Worsted wool is considered stronger, finer, and more substantial of a fiber coming from long-staple pasture raised sheep.  Worsted wool is more expensive on account of the labor intensive production – it is not simply carded like other woolens.  I find it didn’t shrink much in a cold water wash and needs hardly any ironing more than a touch of steam (very low maintenance).  I am a worsted wool convert.

The dress itself was relatively easy to make.  The pattern is pretty basic.  The wool was as soft as melted butter to sew through.  As I was using a fine fabric and the pattern had such clean lines, I took extra time on both the finishing details and the fit so my dress would look first-rate.  I did have a few issues with the sizing and placement of the bust darts.  At first, at the cutting stage, I had graded in some extra width to be ‘safe and not sorry’ later.  By the time my dress was finished, I ended up tailoring out the inch or so which I added.  Oh well.  The bust dart was tricky to perfect because it was an unusual curved, very long, French style one that joins the side seam below my hip.  This different French dart creates a beautifully simplistic front panel with gentle shaping.  I think this is the best feature to the dress, yet it’s only a very low-key element though. 

Lengths of both hem and sleeves ended up different than both what I had originally wanted and what the envelope cover seems to show.  I kept the ‘longer-than-your-normal-60’s-dress’ length because I think it makes my version of Beth’s dress more elegant and something not so youth oriented (like many Mod fashions).  I found the sleeves ending up as bracelet length, but I don’t mind this feature either.  They are very dramatic being so wide and bell-shaped, too.  I can clear off a table without even trying – it’s quite hilarious.  Nevertheless, these kind of sleeves are really quite part of the general flowing aura of this dress, I think.  Can I repeat myself, again…I absolutely love my newest Queen’s Gambit dress…it’s so different from my first one.  It’s remarkable how varied the fashions of the 60’s can be.

My chosen pattern was the shadow of my inspiration dress except for the neckline bow.  This was an easy addition but a bit complex to craft.  I wanted the black stripe only on one side of the bow strip.  The underside needed to be plain blue and not showing the stitching from the contrast stripe on the other side.  This is how it was on Beth’s original dress (I can see as she is running through the café) and I had to recreate that because I love a challenge.  Sewing challenges are a good learning experience to further my skills, and this time will go towards adding a deluxe touch.  

It is always a task in itself to try and figure out how to recreate proportions of details as compared to a picture.  I mostly just kept the bow’s width as wide as the neckline facing for uniformity.  I had to double the width and add in seam allowances because this was going to be a folded over, one seam tie strip.  Then I carefully marked the center length of only one side to the tie strip where the black contrast will go.  I chose not to line the bow so it could hang soft like the rest of the dress.  I thought of crafting the black contrast as a tiny tube, ironing it flat, then top-stitching it down in place on the blue strip.  It was an unnerving step to sew the entire blue bow strip together finally.  If the black contrast was stitched down in the wrong place, my life was about to be miserable.  I absolutely hate unpicking!  However, I turned the tube inside out and it was looking all good after a light ironing!  Whew.  I was so happy it was figured correctly. 

One small, extra cut of the bow strip became the center holder.  I have an extra-large safety pin from behind (inside the neckline) holding my bow down in place.  I do not want to wash the dress with bow on it.  Neither do I want to have to unpick threads before it needs a wash.  Keeping the bow unstitched makes my dress project easy to take care of as well as versatile.  I can wear the dress without the bow for a different look, but really – adding the bow brings this dress from a ‘meh’ to a ‘wow’!  Sometimes it is so amazing how one little added detail makes such a big difference.

For this dress, there isn’t much that needs to be added to it for a complete outfit.  The color blocking and the oversized bow takes most of the center stage.  However, what I am wearing to compliment my dress here make a big difference.  Slip on heels were an important part to the story of this dress for the occasion Beth wears it…she only had time to put on her shoes at the very last minute!  I updated the look with a modern pointed toe, block heeled version. 

Beth’s cuff watch is a small part to the storyline, too.  In a brief scene, she receives a Bulova “American Girl” watch from her (adoptive) mother as a graduation gift (also see this post for detailed pictures).  My 60’s era, two-tone cuff watch is from my Grandmother, as are my earrings, but it is my gold pearl ring which is a similar graduation piece.  My mother recently passed this pearl ring down to me, telling me it was the gift her mother gave to her for her Graduation in 1969.  I’m so glad it fits me because it’s so special to wear.  I’m connected to the past few generations of women in my family history just with my accessories alone.  How cool is this?  Then, I go and choose a color for my dress that recalls my own childhood fashion preferences.  I love this outfit for more than just the fabulous dress alone. 

I will follow up this post with my next one being about another ‘vintage’ childhood style that I am reinterpreting for myself today.  Yes, it is also in blue!  Until then, I do hope everyone has a beautiful, peaceful, and happy Easter weekend! 

Geometric Lines of the Times – My 20’s Inspired Tunic

Here is one project that couldn’t help the way it turned out!  It was one of those special garments that kind of makes itself…and in this case, that is a VERY good thing.  I merely knew what era I wanted (the 20’s), knew what color (mustard yellow) and fabric (linen blend) I wanted to be working on, then, with plenty of fashion research, did whatever seemed right.  I can’t lay claim to any one specific pattern or garment as an inspiration.  The finished tunic is simply my best expression of the Art Deco styling I love about the 20’s.  There is a one-of-a-kind historical accuracy about this tunic that seems so perfect for our modern times just as well as 90 years ago.

100_2199a     This is the second 20’s inspired tunic top I have made.  My first one can be seen here.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  I used 3 1/2 yards of a 62% linen/38%rayon blend fabric.  It has a loose weave, almost like lightweight burlap (perhaps you will notice this in some close-up shots), and has a slightly scratchy, natural feel to it.  The color is a unique mustard yellow that has a bit of green undertones in the shade. 

NOTIONS:  I only needed thread, so, with such an odd color, I did buy one matching spool of Dual Duty thread.   I also bought a pack of golden yellow pearlescent square buttons for the back closure.

B6140Butterick 4230PATTERN:  I used a modern out-of-print pattern to make my tunic, on account of its similar fit to 20’s style clothes.  It is a Butterick 6140, year 1999, view F, shortened and without the pockets.  I also used one of my favorite patterns, a Butterick 4230, year 2004, for the long bell sleeves.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This top was unbelievably quick and fun!  It was done in a total of 10 hours, and it could’ve been less but I took my time enjoying this project.  My 20’s tunic was done on December 3, 2013.

THE INSIDES:  The neckline is self-encased by the second layer of fabric (the tunic’s main body is double layered).  The side seams and sleeves are French seams, the back center is a clean finished (turned under), my shoulder/sleeve seams are raw zig zagged edges, and the bottom hem is covered by brown lace hem tape (see right picture). 100_2589

TOTAL COST:  somewhere around $15.00

HISTORICAL ACCURACY: Relatively accurate; I built upon ideas from old original posters.  (The posters below are “Australian Home Journal, March 1, 1930” and “L’Echo de Paris” newspaper fashion page from the 20’s)  I believe I only used sewing methods and fabrics that would have been available for the 20’s/maybe early 30’s.  I also opted for a simple self-fabric loop and button closure since zippers (or technically slide fastener) were not widely accepted yet in the 20’s. 

100_2592    The basic tunic, like I mentioned above, went together in such a flash you could’ve blinked and missed it.  I made some slight changes to the construction to suit my needs, such as doubling up the main body of the tunic and shortening the dress pattern to a hip skimming length. Double layering the body helps my 20’s tunic hang better and it guarantees no see through.  Besides those reasons, I was able to easily make a cleanly finished neckline without facings.  How?  I sewed the four shoulder seams (two on the ‘lining’ top and two on the ‘good side out’ top) first, then sew the entire neckline and back button placket with the right sides together, and wrong sides out.  When the right sides get turned out, the neckline merely needs a top stitching to cleanly set everything  in place, and the rest of the tunic (side and back seams, hem, and sleeves) goes together as normal.  I have done this “doubled-up” method to other projects (link here and here) so as to simplify an already easy project.  I love anything that helps me make the most of my time!

My Butterick 6140 had never been made up yet, and I’m surprised that such a gem in my pattern cabinet never got noticed before.  Such a basic pattern has great potential in my eyes, especially knowing now that it fits me “to a T”, needing no adjustments to be my instant perfect size.  There is just enough ease in this dress pattern to really be a pullover (perfect for the relaxed 20’s styles) without any difficult wiggling to  get into it, either.  You bet I’ve got a few knockout 20’s dresses in mind to make using some spruced up reincarnations of the dresses from Butterick 6140.Home Journal 1920'sParis 20's drop waist dress poster

At first I had planned on adding a bow and/or a collar once my basic tunic was sewn together, like the three poster ladies in yellow above.  But once my tunic was together, a bow at the neck just didn’t seem like it would work well, and I began tending towards taking a different style, a simple Art Deco.  I loved the vertical stripes on the dress of the lady in yellow (from the “L’Echo de Paris” poster).  I still wanted the brown/yellow day suit combination on the left half of the “Home Journal” poster.  Over the course of a few non-sewing days, I did some passive brain crunching to figure out a simple, decorative way to add a Deco design.  Self-fabric tubing and ribbon were some of my first ideas of what to add to my tunic, but I was wanting something more simplistic.  Using tiny pin tucks to jazz up my tunic gives me the perfect answer to my design desire.  The pin tucks also give me a combo of both inspiration poster pictures – I get to be truly authentic while also true to my personal taste.

Art Deco designs are characterized by rich colors, bold geometric shapes, and anGatsby line preview embrace of technology, as seen in many architectural designs.  For a recent reference, see the line designs of the opening credits (see left small picture) in last year’s “The Great Gatsby” movie.  With this in mind, and with my adoration for the mathematician/designer Vionnet, I made the measurements and lined pin tucks on my tunic very precise, symmetrical, and exact. My sleeve hems end at 1/2 inch above the tunic hem, to compliment the tunic and create a square look.  Remember, my back neck closure is also a square button.  The ‘V’ neckline adds another geometric shape.  The two rows of pin tucks are on my left side, and 1 1/2 inches apart from each other.  The first row starts 1 1/2 inches away from the center of the tunic.  What number do you get with 1 1/2 inches times two?  That’s right, the horizontal pin tucks start at 3 inches up from the bottom hem.  How’s that for someone (like me) for whom math isn’t a strong point.    100_2190

I did the lines of tucks on the front only, at first, then, after talking it out with my hubby, decided to extend the lines around and back up again.  My left sleeve also was bestowed pin tucks when I discovered it was slightly longer than my right one.  I guess I had done a slightly imperfect hemming job but it was turned to my advantage because the tucks made the sleeves equal in arm length and matching with the design on that side.  I measured and double checked to get the sleeve tucks perfect and I’m proud of how cool it turned out.  The horizontal pin tucks on the left sleeve lines up exactly with the ones on the left tunic side, creating the illusion of a continuous line when my arm hangs down (which you can see in the 100_2585apicture, if you look closely).  A corner turner was a necessary staple to keep the two layers of fabric together to make all these pin tucks at only 1/8 inch big.  The tucks are also tapered to end at the neckline as well as on each side of the side seam because these spots were too thick to go through (see small picture).

100_2201     Modern RTW items helped my tunic turn into an outfit.  A staple in my closet – an Old Navy brand skirt – became an era appropriate match for my tunic.  With the skirt’s “high-low” hemline, bias cut, and knit fabric I suppose this outfit I put together would be a late 1920’s style.  Check out my shoes!  They are “Maxin” by Chelsea Crew, found at ModCloth or DSW, to name a few providers.  Bought at a good price, my shoes are so comfy!  I think they are THE piece that ties my outfit together with my tunic, both era wise (having the 20’s t-straps) and color wise (very rarely do my shoes exactly match when it comes to such an odd color).

Our photo shoot location was at two 20’s/30’s era buildings a few blocks away from our home.  It’s so fun to try to match my outfits I make with era appropriate locations around our town; it gets us out to explore and pay attention to what’s in our own town!  Several passerby’s who saw our photo shoot really seemed to enjoy watching our photo shoot and I hope I brought to life a past era for them.

I certainly enjoy imagining myself back 80 or 90 years ago, when these buildings were new…I’m hoping I would fit in wearing my handmade tunic.  The thought of “would I fit in if I were in year -” is my true historical test for my creations.  I happily feel that my geometric pin tucked tunic passes this test.

100_2183      The picture above is showcasing a very decorative doorway lintel, dating from the 20’s/30’s.  This is the second photo shoot taken under a Deco doorway lintel found in our neighborhood – the first pictures are at my “It’s De-Lovely” blog post.

In this second picture, I’m posing in front of a different building, dating to the 20’s, carrying an old original sign, “Frank Hardt Memorial Medical Building”.  It is our photo shoot’s second building (and also in our neighborhood), still serving to fulfill medical purposes as a family owned pharmacy which has proudly been around for 80 years.

100_2210    What’s cool is how it’s actually hard to tell the two buildings apart, other than these two last pictures.  Both buildings share the same builder, even though they’re a half mile apart!  You just can’t get a better example of Art Deco architectural art in the area where we live, than the two buildings which we included in our photos.