As soft as a perfect blue sky, as delicate as a newly opened wild white rose in bloom standing strong during the summer heat, this year 1953 dress strikes me as taking these things into a tangible garment.
I like the balance to this dress design. I see it as an unabashedly feminine yet not overly sweet dress, sleevelessly ‘cool’ yet covered up with the capelet, and elegantly tailored yet completely comfy in my chosen Gertie brand cotton sateen. As if I couldn’t ask for a better vintage 50’s summer dress, this was actually inspired by the villainess Whitney Frost from my favorite show, Marvel’s Agent Carter.
FABRIC: a 100% cotton sateen, in a Gertie brand print, with a plain white cotton broadcloth to back the capelet and become the facings
PATTERN: an out-of-print Butterick #6928, a year 2000 pattern from year 1953
NOTIONS: Nothing but thread, a few hook-and-eyes, and few snaps from on hand were used
TIME TO COMPLETE: This dress was finished on July 21, 2016 in about 5 hours.
THE INSIDES: cleanly bias bound
TOTAL COST: This was bought from JoAnn’s Fabric store (they sell most of Gertie’s prints), and you’d never guess, but this dress is sort of a fabric hog and I ended up having to buy over 3 yards so this cost about $25 (more or less, I don’t remember).
The wide capelet overlay is balanced out by the slim lines throughout the rest of the design – so unusual, that I was unsure if it would work for my body type at first, but once on me…it’s a winner! I really do get a ton of compliments on this dress so the design must be doing something right for me. Just looking at the dress, a first glance cannot help you even realize how smartly designed it is when it comes to construction. It’s a one piece wrap-on dress!
The asymmetric pleat in the skirt hides the closure, and I really like how it is a closed pleat, meaning there is no open slit, just a fold over of the skirt. The front skirt is a good example of how this dress’ pattern pieces are really unexpectedly interesting. It is cut really wide but then gets a deep knife pleat to end up as a skinny wiggle style with full freedom of movement. The wrap style opening continues into the skirt from the waist with a bias-finished slit down the center of the inside of the knife pleat. Dressing is as easy as…”step-in, hook closed, ready to go”! Not too often are vintage dresses this easy to get into – the side zipper ones are the worst – so I am quite excited about this one, especially since it is much nicer than just a house dress (the one’s that mostly have such a simple dressing method).
In essence this is really a full sleeveless dress covered up by the capelet which nicely finishes the neckline edge. I like how the capelet keeps my shoulders from being sun burned. Yet, even though it is double layered (it is fully faced), it is so wide and floaty it stands a bit off of my body so as to not cause the dress to feel oppressive. I imagine one could even make this dress as a simple sleeveless bodice, and sew the capelet separately, for a garment with more than one option. However, I think the capelet is almost necessary here – the 1950s designs had such elegant drama, and I think it is a good thing to bring back. Everyone needs to experience a bit of the 50’s!
I know this is a rather odd length for the hem, but this is something that the early 1930s shares with the early 1950s. It can be rather slimming with the right silhouette, as well as complimentary to the calves and ankles. From what I’ve seen in modern fashion, this hem length is coming back. What do they call it nowadays…midi length?!
Compared to the frustrating troubles of unpredictable fit and sizing that I find with many “retro” patterns of the last 10 years, this one had spot on fit that did not need any alterations or customizing for me to wear. I followed the chart on the envelope, and the size that it showed was indeed the size that fit. Awesome! The instructions were very good at clarifying any tricky parts, too.
This pattern might be too obvious of a style for me to make again, but yet I am envisioning a sheer crepe version of this in an ankle evening length, something flowing, dressy, and utterly romantic. Or I could even make a full skirted version with lace along the capelet for a dressing gown, like this vintage original. If the right fabric and the perfect event to wear these dream versions of the capelet 50’s dress comes along, then will whip up another version in a heartbeat.
Whitney Frost’s inspiration dress from Agent Carter is a bit different than my own, but this time I put my own personality into my version. She was always the fashion forward one in Season Two, dressing for the early 50’s already at the cusp of Dior’s emergence in the year 1947, so my pattern is from 1953. The scene in which this dress appears is when Whitney steps into the plot in an unexpected place, in a totally unexpected revelation of true character. She is taking the first step out her subtle, innocent and happy façade to become the cunning, headstrong, and determined linchpin to many other’s fate and her choking pearls and strong dress style reflected that perfectly. Her dress is a turquoise solid in a lovely satin, mine is a baby blue print in a utilitarian cotton sateen. My version is lacking in some other similar details, and yet I feel I captured the overall similarity to make me happy.
Yet again, Whitney Frost’s character inspired me to try something new in my wardrobe, a style I would never have noticed or probably even tried to make and wear otherwise. Not that you should ever stop letting your personality be reflected in what you wear, but it does help to find a style icon that works for oneself and use that to inspire what you can try successfully. Before Agent Carter, I didn’t really have a 1950’s era fashion icon that I felt corresponded to my body type, and as you can tell (this is my 5th Whitney Frost outfit!) I’m loving it. So – I’m sorry that I’m not sorry…I have more Whitney Frost outfits in queue!