A 1920s Aesthetic for Today

It has been a while since I have posted anything 1920s here!  Unfortunately, part of the reason is not only the fact that the decade’s silhouettes can be hard to love on myself, but also the fact that I want something from that decade to wear today without looking like I am doing historical re-enacting.  It seems to me that something pre-early 1930s can easily be obviously vintage.  I generally love to bring my vintage style into my everyday life and wardrobe in a way that keeps it modernly appealing yet still true to the history of the decade’s fashion.  This is a hard balance to find all the time, which is why you don’t see as much 1920s things in my list of makes…and also why I am posting (with great excitement) about my newest Burda Style dress!

I somehow feel like life is so much more fun, free, and easy in this dress.  There are no closures (zippers, or the like) needed with the bias crossover bodice.  It is a popover dress that is flowing, comfy, unconfining, and freshly different.  I absolutely LOVE the garment make of mine.  It embodies the late 1920s crazed hype that lived life to its fullest – and foresaw many of the modern conveniences (television, computers, etc.).  The late 20’s overdrive (1927 to the crash of 1929) produced both short above-the-knee skirts and many avant-garde inventions that would not been seen for many decades later.

This era of the 20’s had an amazing modernity that I feel has been captured by this dress.  There is a zig-zag print on the skirt to pay homage to the hardened, mathematical form of Art Deco that flourished in the time.  The bodice is a mock-wrap to pay homage to the popular fashions of the few years before (1926 and 1927).  It’s also made from a soft textured gauze which reminds me of the lace, sheer, and interesting fabric bodices of many fashions in the 20’s.  The high-low hem with a fishtail skirt ‘train’ is later, very 1927 to 1929, though (see this post for more info).  All of these years are my favorites to this decade.  So – yes – this dress is a rather accurate combo of everything I love best in the 20’s from an unexpectedly modern source!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a cotton gauze for the bodice, with a poly blend gabardine for the waist ‘belt’, a poly print lined in cotton muslin for the skirt

PATTERN:  Burda Style #118 “Wrap Dress” from April 2015

NOTIONS:  nothing complicated was needed to finish this – just thread and scraps of interfacing

TIME TO COMPLETE:  maybe 30 plus hours…it was finally finished on May 28, 2018

THE INSIDES:  a combination of French, bias bound, and raw seams

TOTAL COST:  This is a project that spanned 3 years, so I do not remember anymore but I know it didn’t cost much with 1 yard for the bodice, and about 2 yards for the skirt, with only scraps left over from these two projects (here and here) for the contrast belt.

My 20’s style dress project counts for my monthly “Burda Challenge 2018”, my ongoing “Retro Forward with Burda Style” blog series, plus the “Sew Together for the Summer of the Wrap Dress” challenge.  Now, you might say this is only a mock wrap and not a proper wrap dress.  Well, yes and no!

The name for the pattern is “Wrap Dress”, for the first thing.  More than that, though, the full ‘lap’, cross-body, tie-on dress that we tend to think as a proper wrap didn’t quite look the same 90 years back.  In the 1920’s, a wrap dress was a garment that was often faking it, with a cross-over bodice, a one-piece skirt, and a sash or tie of some sort on one side to continue the deception.  A mock wrap to us of today was a full wrap dress in the 1920’s.  Not only this, but mock wraps were immensely popular in the decade anyway, even in the blouse or jacket form.

By the next decade of the 1930s, wrap-on dresses were normally a one piece, full tie on garment, closer to what we are used to today, with a caveat.  They were often reversible and considered more of an apron or pinafore like garment meant for housework or grocery errand duty…the hum-drum efforts which only result in sweat and grime appearing on one’s clothes.  Many of these full wrap-on dresses were called “Hooverettes”, after the American president at the time of the Great Depression.  These were like a gloried robe for women to iron easily and look sensibly cute yet incredibly comfy to do all the things that the hard times required of them.  With the rationing of the 1940’s, an easy-to-make full wrap-on dress was glamorized even further to being included as possible for evening looks (with the right fabric).  The 1950s and 60’s widely used wrap dresses with great ingenuity in many of their designs, but Diane Von Furstenberg and the trending Boho Hippy look in the 70’s democratized the wrap dress as we know it today for all shapes, occasions, and materials.  Yet, according to this article, even for Ms. Furstenberg, her early “wrap dresses” started off as a cross-over top paired with a skirt!

Now, for as easy as this dress is to wear and put on, it was one of my most difficult makes, especially among Burda patterns.  As you see the dress now, it is in its re-fashioned form.  Yes, I do re-fashion my own makes…I’ll do whatever it takes to save a project and turn it into something I love!  So, this dress is not the original design – very close but still slightly adapted.  I did make the dress according to the pattern back in 2016 (at left), and it did turn out well after some difficulty with the curved, drop waistband.

However, as nice it looks on the hanger, the final fit on me was less than complimentary.  The gauze had more of a give/stretch than I expected, the dress’ fishtail train hung past the ground on me, and the drop waist back was way below my booty.  I really didn’t like that much of the contrast waistband, after all, too.  I did like the general shape, the colors I chose, and the print/texture combo.  So, the dress had been saved to sit in my “projects half finished” pile (which is quite small, I can brag) for these last two years until I felt I had the right idea of how to re-work it.  No wonder it feels so good to finally wear this!  This dress makes shaking my booty so good looking with such a swishy skirt!

A good drop waist dress should fall (in some small portion) somewhere through the hip area, slightly above the true hip line yet at least 5 inches below the true high waistline.  It technically should not be much below the bend of your body when you sit, from my understanding.  Thus, to ‘fix’ my dress, I figured on leaving the hem alone and making a new straight line (taking out the curved “belt”) across and around the mid-section, parallel to just below the bottom of the front contrast waistband.  I did want to keep a small portion of the contrast “belt” to transition the two fabrics with a solid color and give the appearance of a mock half-belt panel.  It was sure tricky to straighten out the skirt in turn around the back with that amazing bias to the skirt!  In the 1920s, the waistline traveled all over from very low to almost non-existent, but this dress’ waistline is a slightly higher, later in the decade style to match with the skirt.  Otherwise than this re-fashion step, I kept the bodice as it was except for pulling up the shoulder seam slightly.  To keep the full skirt weighted down nicely (so it wouldn’t turn wrong way up like Marilyn Monroe over an air vent) and keep it opaque, I fully lined it.

This dress’ skirt does need a tiny 1/8 inch hem so that it doesn’t get stiffened at all.  At the same time, such a tiny hem on a skirt like this was a major pain.  It might not be immediately obvious, but the length of hemline just seemed to keep going, and going…but all that turns out well in the end is worth it in my opinion.  Do tiny hems wear you out and seem overly tedious like they do for me?

It was entirely my idea to make a long tie piece and stitch it to the left side of the bodice, thereby continuing the mock wrap dress deception!  I especially like how much this little touch adds to the dress.  This is again another true 1920s feature, as most of the era’s mock wraps had ties on the corresponding side to continue the illusory appearance.  To me, the tie also adds a touch of asymmetric that was also so popular in the 1920s.

Somehow it seems so much easier for me to interpret a modern take on the 20’s when I am starting with a pattern from today, versus starting with an old original pattern.  I almost always recommend others to use vintage patterns because I think that they offer so much to learn from and have better details.  However, there are so many modern patterns that have veritable 1920s features if you know what to look for.  This presents two interesting points.

Firstly, here I am saying it’s hard to make an old 20’s pattern look modern, yet I’m also saying that many modern fashions (patterns and ready-to-wear) have very 1920s features.  Perhaps the era between WWI “The Great War” and the Depression of the 1930s has more in common with us of today than we think.  Looking at old fashion plates or extant garments might not make this as obvious as it could be…it just takes the styles of today to give us a new perspective!

Secondly, this proves how important it is to pepper one’s awareness of current styles with a knowledge of fashion history.  A good overall view of the big picture might just be something specific to me as others have told me, but looking around and seeing the beginning of a trend is always a good idea. Actually, style is something that seems to only be recycled over and over again the more one sees.  Besides, often finding the source, or at least seeing the ways a detail is re-interpreted, is fun, interesting, and always worthwhile…not to mention the benefit of giving me more ideas for my projects!  Don’t be afraid to dive into some fashion research next time you start wearing the “newest” thing and find out the reference of where it came from!

Ms. Kelly’s Dress

Copying the fashion of famous people becomes interesting when you do it for one of the most iconic beauties – Grace Kelly.  To top it off, I’ve chosen to try and recreate one of her iconic dresses, as well.  Both she and I are called “Kelly”, after all – her maiden last name is my first.

I’ve copied a dress that was worn for the occasion that changed her life – the first meeting of Prince Rainier of Monaco in spring of 1955 (full story here).  Just a few months before, she modeled this same dress on the cover of the pattern book for McCall’s – it was pattern number 3100 from 1954.  She kept that dress from the McCall’s cover, and when there was no electricity in her hotel the day she was to meet Prince Rainier, this flowered silk taffeta dress was the only thing she had which didn’t need ironing.  She couldn’t fix her hair without power either, so she put it in a basic bun and added an ivy covered fascinator.  I’ve read reports that she hated the McCall’s dress, really, but she thought no one would ever remember her in this frock.  She never though so much would come from her visit with the prince!  I have a whole Pinterest board here full of more pictures of her and the prince from that occasion, if you’re interested.

Ever since I first saw an Instagram post on this, I realized I had in my stash a McCall’s pattern that’s 32 numbers more than Grace Kelly’s dress, yet (except for the neckline) it’s more or less the exact same dress design.  Now this was a temptation that I couldn’t resist!  Yet I knew I had to make my version of Grace Kelly’s dress quite nice in quality or not at all.  My cousin’s fall wedding gave me the reason and opportunity to make and wear something so fancy!  So several yards of the finest mulberry silk were bought on a fabric splurge, together with everything needed for fully finished insides, and I’ve now made what I think is one of my fanciest dresses yet!

I brought a little bit of my dear departed Grandmother to attend the wedding – the pink pearl leaf earrings are from her as well as the gloves.  My bracelet is made by me of Swarovski crystals and sterling spacers.  My shoes are the divinely comfy and yet fancy “Lola” heels from Chelsea Crew.  I was adding in muted pink pastels to soften up the otherwise dark greys and black in my dress’ print, and bring out its magnolia tree petals!  A real life English ivy vine is my headband, ‘cause why settle for fake when you can have the real thing?!

I feel so flawlessly chic and powerfully feminine in this outfit.  Even though I do not think this is the best design for my body type, the way the full skirt swishes around as I move (due to my added self-attached slip) and the softness and shine of the silk is unparalleled.  This is comfortable finery, the likes of which cannot be found to buy RTW without a hefty price tag.  I bought this dress pattern because it was different, cheaply priced, and appealing, but somehow I’ve always been mystified at how to make it work for myself.  If ever I’m gonna like this pattern, my Grace Kelly look-alike version of the dress is the best shot at that.  Even though I sense that my waist gets lost, and my hips feel as big as a house, once I think past my self-conscious insecurities while wearing this dress, it’s then that I love it.  Who couldn’t love being able to slip into a small taste of the charisma of Grace Kelly?!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a 100% mulberry silk printed floral called “Spring Garden at Night”, lined in all cotton broadcloth, with a pleated polyester satin for the attached petticoat, and netted tulle for the crinoline

PATTERN:  McCall’s #3123, year 1954

NOTIONS:  I bought the invisible zipper for the back, but besides thread that was all the notions I needed!

TIME TO COMPLETE:  My dress was made in about 18 to 20 hours hours and finished on August 29, 2017.

THE INSIDES:  Covered up by all the lining/petticoat, raw edges are not to be seen inside!

TOTAL COST:  The silk cost about $60 for 3 ½ yards, ordered from “The Hue Kiosk” on Etsy, with the lining cotton, petticoat skirt materials and zipper costing an extra $20 bought from Jo Ann’s Fabrics.  A total of about $80 makes this just about if not the most expensive dress I’ve made, but that still isn’t a bad price for a dress like this…it was totally worth it!

This dress pattern is labelled as “Easy-to-Sew” and it truly was incredibly easy.  Sure, I made the dress a bit harder to make by fully lining the body, and drafting my own petticoat, but even with all this, it was still way too easy for how it looks.  This McCall’s dress pattern also had remarkable fit that was spot on.  I was worried about fitting the hips correctly, so that they were almost snug but still loose.  The hips are pretty much the important part of this dress design because fitted wrongly they won’t hold the bodice and the skirt in place on the body correctly.  The area from the waist, through the hips down, to the skirt seam is really the only part of this dress that is fitted to the body anyway.  Grading up to my size according to the chart on the pattern back was right on, needing no extra adjustments.  My main caveat to this pattern is it had a very long torso.  I do not call myself petite, although I am on the shorter side, about 5 feet 3 inches high, yet I had to take out 2 inches horizontally from above the waist to bring the proportions up higher.  I also cut the top of the back neckline 1 ½ inches lower to also raise up the still long back bodice.  I never make toiles, or muslins, but I do frequently check pattern pieces by fitting them on myself first before cutting out.  I’m more glad than usual that I did discover the adjustments needed here before cutting on my good silk.

I made two small changes to the actual design.  Firstly, the most obvious one is that I made the short arm-baring sleeves on the pattern into deep kimono ¾ length.  I used another 50’s pattern from my stash as my guide for cutting because as simple as extending the sleeves might seem, I wanted to leave nothing to chance, no opportunities for mistakes if I could help it.  The elbows have small darts for shaping and are not cumbersome.  The bottom of the sleeves arch gently from my elbows down to my high waist on the dress, something you can see when my arms are out.  I realize that the longer sleeves add so much more volume to the overall appearance of the dress, yet I think the super short sleeves on the pattern strike me as jarring with the dressy air of the rest of the design.  I think my having a bit more modest sleeves not only makes my dress closer to the original Grace Kelly dress, but I think it brings out the dramatic plunge of the V-neckline.  Overall, as this is somewhat of a cooler weather dress, made especially for a fall wedding, I did not want to have to wear a sweater (with this? Yuk.), so the longer sleeves keep me more comfortable.  When trying to imitate other people’s style, I never like to compromise my own taste and personality either…after all, knock-off or not, I’m still the one wearing it!

The second change was to take out about 12 inches out of the amount of gathers to the skirt – and it’s still so full!  Many times a vintage 1950’s full skirt is really full, I mean so full your machine might not even want to sew through it, and I almost always take out 8 to 12 inches out of them and they are still quite poufy.  Also the length to the skirt of my dress would have come down to the floor had I not taken out more than 5 inches.  Even still, my skirt has a very wide hem, which actually kind of weighs it down and help the bottom round out nicely.  In all there was probably enough for a whole nuther dress in the skirt alone.  Once the skirt was sewn on to the bodice, working on finishing the dress felt overwhelming.  Have you ever felt like a garment project that has a lot of fabric “fights” with you to get under the sewing machine needle?  This was like that.  Thank goodness it was relatively easy to make.

As I was spending enough time and money to make this a very nice dress, I chose to have a modern invisible zipper down the back.  As much as I do like my vintage dresses to be vintage, there is nothing that beats a perfectly installed invisible zipper in a spot where a regular zip would be so very obvious.  The pattern called for the back zipper to extend all the way past the drop skirt seam, into the skirt itself.  I considered it, but ultimately didn’t want to try to take an invisible zip through that much fabric, so my zipper only goes down to just above the skirt seam.

The zipper was just one of several things I had to decide on for my finished dress.  Grace Kelly’s original dress has a belt at the drop skirt seam, and the pattern has a true waist belt, so I made an ultra-long belt that could’ve worked for either my hips or waist, but didn’t like how it distracted from the rest of the dress and brought the eyes to the wrong spots.  I was briefly even considering adding in light boning in the side seams to keep the bodice in shape over my hips, but I waited until my dress was finished to decide (thank goodness) and the heavy petticoat weighs down the skirt just enough to keep the dress from creeping up on me.  It is one thing to figure out how to properly shape and make a garment…it’s another to overthink problems (real or imagined) and over-engineer details.  I’m guilty of doing both.  So often the difference between those two situations is a very fine line that I struggle to find in many projects.

The extra finishing I did add to the insides really made a difference to this dress.  I tried it on at each step, without the bodice lining, and without the petticoat.  I did not like it until I had fully lined the bodice – it had more “body” and shape with it in, besides making it easy to finish the neckline, and a single layer of silk felt too sheer and delicate anyway.  The neckline pleats to the cotton bodice lining were stitched down – other than that it was cut and sewn the same as the silk bodice.  The skirt was too droopy without the petticoat I drafted – a nicely full skirt that holds its own really defines the rest of this dress design, besides preventing static cling.  I really thought about making the new Simplicity #8456 to go underneath, but having the petticoat attached with the bodice lined made wearing and getting dressed in this so effortless.  With just over 3 yards of fabric in this dress I needed to be able to wear the dress…not the dress wearing me.

My dresses petticoat was made from a mechanically pleated/crinkled satin that had a relatively heavy drape to hold its own against the light-as-air silk.  Long, 10 inch wide strips was tulle netting were cut and gathered above the hem of the crinkled petticoat satin.  Then the skirt was gathered and sewn on the other side of the waist seam, so that when the dress hangs or gets worn the petticoat falls down over the raw edge, covering it and in a sense pulling the seam allowance down for me at the same time.  I love engineering my dresses so I can be just as proud of the inside as I am of the out.  I am important enough to warrant seeing a finely finished inside.

I cannot say enough good words about the mulberry silk I ordered as well as the shop I ordered from – “The Hue Kiosk”.  They have my full recommendation!  First of all, I love what they have to offer, with reasonable prices, and great customer interaction.  A sheet of touch-and-feel samples they sent along with my order was really enjoyable, and helps me know what I want to order next from them once I catch up on my sewing allowance!  Mostly though, this mulberry silk is the best silk I have sewn, felt, and worked with.  Out of all the kinds of silks I’ve worked with so far (over half a dozen now) this is so impeccably wrinkle free –even straight out of the wash – it’s a miracle.  The best part is the lack of smell!  I know I have a sensitive nose, and as much as I love silk, both silk and wool have this smell, especially when wet, that is sort of repugnant to me.  Mulberry silk is the first that is smell-free!  I have read that it is considered hypo-allergenic because the worms have one sole diet of mulberry leaves.  Never mind the insect details, I am so sold on mulberry silk.  My only caveat is that a new, sharp needle is a must when sewing on mulberry silk.  A semi-new “sharps” needle was enough to create a few catches or runs in the silk as I was working – it has very fine threads and has a semi-tight texture.

When I thought about the history behind my dress after my cousin’s wedding, I realized an irony I hadn’t thought of before.  A dress that Grace Kelly wore to an occasion which led to a wedding, had be copied by me to wear to a wedding.  Maybe this dress when made of silk inherently wants to be a wedding dress?  Silly me!  Seriously though, I’ve noticed many drop-waisted dresses in the few years after 1954 (check out the McCall’s #7625 1955 Archive pattern or Vintage Vogue #1094 of year 1955 for two readily available examples, and see my Pinterest board “Drop That 50’s Waist”) so I realize this dress of mine as well as Grace Kelly’s dress were part of a mid-50’s trend for juniors and women alike.  It is not the most likeable style but it is memorable – especially when it has the name of Grace Kelly behind it!  I hope the modern Ms. Kelly – me! – has also been able to put a new and lovely twist on an old style.  Deep down I must be a princess at heart.

Please visit this Instagram post on my account to see my attempt at reproducing the old original McCall’s pattern book cover for the “Vintage Cover Challenge”!  Close enough to be convincing?

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“Retro Forward” Burda Style: “Comma Dot” Placket Dress with Pleats

Hold that thought please, I have a lot of fashion and grammatical commas here for you with my newest dress creation.

100_6188a-compLet me tell you right off, I am really not a fan of wearing basic black – in fact, I tend to avoid it and instead gravitate towards the assorted spectrum of colors. Perchance I see too many ladies over-using black in their wardrobe, and too much of this color (which is absent of color) offered in the stores, thus I might unjustly be overlooking an interesting possibility in my sewing in my effort to be an individual. However basic a little black dress may be, I need something a little extra special to make me wear such a dark color…and this “comma dot” dress with its special touches are just right for me!

This project is sort of a re-fashion, actually. It was cobbled together using a satin remnant, leftover lining, and a store bought pleated skirt. I’m tickled at how well all my different pieces go together!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  One yard of a buff satin remnant, in black with white commas; remnant of poly pongee lining; a cotton/poly blend broadcloth for the placket and neckline; and a poly jersey pleated skirt bought from a Target store

NOTIONS:  None but thread, which was on hand, was really needed, until I decided to make a hook-and-eye placket. Then I had to buy black hook-and-eyes in size 2.

PATTERN:  Burda Style Pleated Placket Dress, #111 – style A from 02/2015 and style B from 03/2015

Burda Style Sheer Pleated Placket Dress, line drawing,Burda Style Sheer Pleated Placket Dress 03-2015 #111B model pic & 02-2015 #111A hanging dressTIME TO COMPLETE:  From start to finish, my dress was easy, as I didn’t have to make the pleated bottom section. Total time to “finished” was about 5 hours. The hidden-closure placket alone probably took up half of my total time. The entire dress was finished on September 19, 2015. 100_6222-comp

THE INSIDES:  Except for the skirt-to-shirt bottom seam, which is left raw with stitched edges, all other seams are French seams.

TOTAL COST:  The broadcloth and lining were scraps on hand, and thus practically free. The “comma dot” satin was a remnant on clearance at a Hancock Fabrics store for about $4, and the skirt was also on clearance at Target for $6.00. The hook-and-eyes were bought at a late-night run to Wal-Mart. So the total cost is about $12.

Burda patterns (for those readers who don’t know) need some assembly and tracing before being ready for layout on your chosen fabric. They can be bought as a downloadable PDF file, to print out, or traced from the leaflet included in a magazine issue. A scissor with a magnetic ruler guide helps immensely to quicken along the step to getting a finished pattern prepped. This is the stage where I pick out my size, tracing out only the size I need to use, including any grading and adding on chosen seam allowances.

100_6196a-compNow, first let me get a gripe in here and off my chest. Where am I, or anyone else, expected to get a fabric piece mechanically pleated?! I mean, really…be serious. You can’t accuse me of not trying, because I spent two afternoons calling about a dozen different places around our rather large town asking questions and finding out who, where, or if anyone or anyplace could – or would – do mechanical pleating for me. I started with custom embroidery shops, then tailoring shops, and dry cleaners, and finally a few clothing manufacturing retailers. Ruth, at “Elder Manufacturing” company mostly known for school uniforms, was finally able to give me excellent advice from her first-hand experience about how to do large scale pleating, as is called for in this Burda Style “Placket Dress with Pleats”. Nonetheless, if you don’t live in a fabric district, like New York, or a town in China or Singapore that has the machinery used to make the clothes for big companies, you seem to be out of luck to get fabric “mechanically pleated”. I did find an Etsy shop which sells pleated fabric in all colors, fabric materials, and sizes of pleats, and it can be bought by the yard. This was going to be my resource for the bottom skirt portion of the dress, but a google search of what was available at our local “Big Box” stores, provided me an easy and chap way to get an easy pre-pleated skirt, ready to go! Lucky thing that pleated fashions are back in style to make my idea work. My last resource was going to be a thrift store (op-shop) for an outdated pleated item to re-fashion. There was no way I was going to do all that pleating when there were easy and creative ways to get around it and still have a great finished garment.

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These are my two RTW jackets whose hidden plackets helped me figure out how to make my dress.

When it came to constructing the placket closure, the construction instructions were more confusing and unclear than anything, so if you want to make this dress for yourself, I would recommend your best bet would be to look through them, understand what you can, then go rouge and made the dress the best way you yourself understand. The pattern’s placket pieces themselves made total sense to me (looking at them), but the explained method of maneuvering them did not…no matter what reading or folding of both pattern and fabric I did. As my main guide and inspiration for the Burda dress I have two jackets (ready-to-wear items) which both have concealed plackets, one button closing and the other with hook-and-eyes. From experience, a hidden button closure is not at all easy to close on oneself like the hook-and-eye one, and the hook-and-eye closure placket seemed to make more sense to me and be more similar to the pattern pieces provided for my creation. Thus, I went with a hook-and-eye closure for the front of my dress, and merely sewed them down at the horizontal match where the buttons and buttonholes might have been. It’s pretty basic – there is a wider placket and an inner thinner one; the right side has the wide one on top to cover all, the left side has the wide one under the thin one to cover any gaping. The inner shorter placket edges meet together vertically, so the under and over lips of the second, larger placket cover all. I love the finished look, however I happened to get there, and love the smooth appearance and little bit of secrecy to the whole thing.

100_6186a-compThere is a tiny mandarin-style collar sewn around the neck and to the top of the placket. Even though I left out any and all interfacing through the rest of the dress, I did choose very lightweight interfacing when making the collar, for only one of the two sides, helping keep a stiff round shape supporting both the top of both dress and placket. Gosh…making this collar was such tiny work because the finished size was as big as the seam allowance. I felt like it was more suited to doll clothes.

Everything else about the blouse was simple and basic. I didn’t need the instructions – and I even eliminated the center back seam and cut one solid piece to make construction easier. There are no bust darts or seams for shaping, either. The silhouette is boxy and straight lined, but it co-ordinates perfectly with the rest of the design and, in soft fabrics like satin, still shapes around the body nicely. The flared bottom sleeves were slightly challenging when it came to finding the balance between stretching and relaxing the bias of the large hem.

100_6203-compWhen it came to adding the skirt…easy peasy! The Target store skirt was made out a stretch jersey with an elastic band waist, but the rest of my dress was a non-stretch satin. Problem of non-compatibility? Possibly, but not really with forethought. I bought an XX-Large, so much bigger than my own personal size, because the un-stretched width of the pleated skirt top had to be equal to the width of the bottom the dress’ top half. The double-large was an un-stretched width of 19 7/8 inches and the bottom of the dress’ top half was 19 ¾ inches. Perfect! So I double stitched around below the elastic skirt waistband (and pulled the threads in slightly), this way keeping the pleats down and preventing any stretching of the skirt. Then I cut off the elastic waistband of the skirt and sewed it to the top half of the dress in wide seam allowance…double stitched. The skirt was already lined for me, so I definitely kept that, too.100_6207a-comp

The pleats of the skirt are quite neat. They are in a definite pattern, if you train your eyes to look at too many horizontal lines without going crazy. The pleats formed in groups of three – one big “inverted-box pleat”, with a small side pleat next to and slightly under that large one. Or, looking at it differently, two small regular side pleats facing one another, with a large “inverted box pleat” in between. You know…I’m getting all too technical, I guess. Basically, the instructions for the mechanically pleated bottom would have been overall large and basic knife pleats, and mine are more feminine and different.

(Check out my vintage 1930’s/1940’s shoes, with their cut outs, tie tops, and slingbacks!)

My “Retro Forward” themed blog series for Burda Style patterns definitely includes this dress because past decades of the 20th century loved pleats! Every decade – from the turn of the century up to the next and into today – has used pleats in small or large, subtle or striking, above or below the waist portions, but all share the fact of being used in creative methods. Pleats have seen an amazing resurgence in 2015, affording new opportunities to wear it as a trend and making it even easier to put your own personal creative spin on the fashion by picking a pre-made pleated garment and refashioning it, as for my Burda ‘Comma Dot’ dress. Such a simple thing as a permanent pleat…in other words an enduring ‘kink’ in the direction of a materials’ fibers…can so change an ordinary design to WOW, adding interest, texture, depth, and dimension! Just think, permanent pleats give fabric a chance to be more, expanding when necessary and contracting to a shape not their original, allowing you to do more. There are so many pleats to try and experiment with, I need to break out my iron and do more in my projects!  (See this “Real Simple” site or this Wikipedia page for more pleats.)  Which pleat is your favorite? (P.S. I like box pleats!)

20th century pleated garment example boardNow an analytical section of my brain is very curious about statistics related to this post and its creation. I wonder if there are more or less commas in my writing here than the amount of commas on my actual dress. If I am too curious, or miraculously find myself with nothing to do, perhaps I will figure these numbers out one day yet. Also, maybe when my little tyke gets better at his counting, I can see if figuring this out is something he would like to do as a mental exercise. All this talk of counting and grammatical commas, put me in the mood to break out my favorite “old school” textbook and bring it with me for the photo shoot and brush up on my writing skills. Almost nothing is more necessary and basic as a comma…or a little black dress!

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