“Retro Forward” Burda Style – 1920’s Geometric Bias Dress

In strong simulation of the famous Madeleine Vionnet, this Burda Style dress is perfect for modern day glamour a la 1920’s.  My fabric is a silvery pink satin.  With its frosty sheen and surrealist clock “cog works” print, the fabric reminds me specifically of the cold, hard, mathematical beauty that I love about the Art Deco era.  The dress, in classic Vionnet style, is on the bias for a flowing, body complimentary gown the likes of which are not seen that often in modern patterns anymore.  I love this dress!

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McCall #6560 year 1931 Vionnet style facy gownI am not exaggerating – this is one of the most ingenious designs I have come across in my sewing.  It’s so simple yet so complex and so smart.  Just a few geometric shapes cut in the right grain line makes all the difference.  Vionnet had the foresight and ingenuity to create very similar styles, but Burda made this kind of dress reasonable in price and availability as a great option to going with a pricey hard-to-find old 1930’s/1920’s original patterns (at left)…without compromising authenticity.  Yes, believe it or not the 1920’s was more than just beads and fringe – it was also about bias cuts, freedom to move unconfined, and mathematical glamor.

THE FACTS:102 tango dress line drawing

FABRIC:  A 100% polyester satin bought from a Hancock Fabrics store

PATTERN:  Cowl Neck Dress #102, from 07/2012, on Burda Style’s store online or in the July monthly magazine issue.

NOTIONS:  I had the interfacing and thread I needed, as well as the money coins which went into the fabric weights for the dress’ inside.

THE INSIDES:  As this is on the bias, all seams are left raw and free.

100_3629-compTIME TO COMPLETE:  This was made quickly in about 6 hours, and finished on August 8, 2014.

TOTAL COST:  about $10

This was my first Burda Pattern to make and I’m glad it was a success.  The instructions for the neck/bodice all-in-one facing were quite impossible to understand merely reading but as long as I followed them to the letter in my sewing, as weird as they sounded all worked out great.  I didn’t do any changes to the pattern.  Besides fitting in the sides, I kept the proportions and length as-is.

As for any Burda Style pattern, printing and/or tracing is necessary to have a usable pattern to lay on your desired fabric.  My pattern was traced out using a roll of medical paper from the insert sheet of the magazine issue but you can also buy it, download it, and print it out from Burda Style’s online store.  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 know.

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Usually I grade from my “normal” Burda size (usually the smallest one offered) up to the next size for the hips but for this pattern I made the whole dress out of the size for my hips, just to be on the safe side.  However, I ended up taking in each side a few inches.  I don’t know if the bias is making the dress size seem so big or if it’s truly the sizing but either way for more of a body fit, rather than a loose and overall drapey fit, go a size down.  Now that I’ve made a few bias garments I’ve found there is a delicate balance.  A loose fit is needed so the bias does hang a bit on the body (you don’t want the bias stretched over you) but yet too much ease can make bias dresses look bad and frumpy with draping and wrinkles in the wrong places.  100_3614a-comp

The vertical sides of the dress are on the bias, but the side panels take turns with the main body of the dress to change things up.  There is the straight grain on the semi-horizontal downward edges of the panels while those corresponding seams of the dress are on the bias.  I had to be careful of both differing grains to ease in the fullness and yet also not stretch the bias in those spots– slightly tricky.

Bias cut also means no closures, no darts – just simple beauty.  Sweet!!!  While on me, if I pinch the dress and pull it out it could just keep going.  When putting this on, it falls open wide so it seems like a giant dress but then once it comes on over the head it magically falls around my body to fit.  Bias cut is so awesome yet so sadly unknown by the general non-sewing populace (at least from my experience).

My chosen fabric is feather-weight so it really makes the dress flow nicely, but with a slightly heavier fabric (such as a rayon crepe or silk charmeuse) the dress would have more of a correct drape.  Thus, I had to add some strategic weights at certain spots of the dress.  The cowl needed to drape better to keep the neckline down so I added a weight to the inside of the center front.  Then, the dress was lopsided so I had to also add a matching weight to the inside center back neckline.  My weights are merely small rectangular “pockets”, made from the same fabric as the dress, and they hold two quarters each.  So, I guess I ended up putting and extra dollar into my dress just to keep it hanging right on me!  Whatever it takes…

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I really don’t know why but the high-low hem didn’t turn out as obvious as in the pattern’s line drawing.  The high-low hem was a trademark of the late 1920’s and very early 30’s, which is why this dress is part of my “Retro Forward” blog series.  Around the time of the stock market crash of 1929, hemlines became more modestly transitional to the mid-calf skirt/dress lengths of the 1930’s by being frequently part short (like the 1920’s) yet getting elongated (mostly visually) by also being partially long.  Thus, during the transition of the 30’s and 20’s all sorts of hemlines became popular such as “high-low” hems, “hankie” hems (see this post), fur trimmed hems – and the variety doesn’t end there!  I find it funny how I still see many of these hemline styles in modern clothes.  Also, this Burda pattern is totally a Tango dress…similar to Folkwear’s version.  Many varied length hemlines were seen on dresses styled with a Spanish influence to be worn swaying to the then “new” music craze of the Tango.  Dancing that required full movement of the body was then not only popular but actually possible, too, for corset-less unconfined women in the late 1920’s, and crazy hemlines with body hugging bias cuts made the dancer seem all the more exotic.

This dress can easily go modern, but I preferred to glam it up ‘a la’ late 20’s style, with my fishnet stockings, bobbed hair, and my handmade long beaded necklace.  My Tango-style shoes are (I think) “1960’s does 1920’s” – they are “Debs” made by the famous Palter DeLiso footwear designer.

Even our background has the same time period and the same geometric shapes as my dress.  The building behind me is one which I have long admired and I happy to be integrating it into a project’s photo shoot.  It was built in 1930 as a power-station for an electric company, it is so awesome for such a mundane use, but that is the Art Deco movement to put glamour in everyday life.  The National Register of Historic Places Inventory for this building (page 16) lists it as “having metal grillwork in an abstract chevron-like pattern fills the rectangular openings” between the terra cotta and marble of the piers on the building.  “Above the openings of the spandrels, between the piers, large stylized ornament, linear, with hard edges, embellishes the parapets.”  Aren’t those details amazing?!  Sorry to go into detail here but I love historic architecture appreciation, and this building is up there on my “favorites” list so I can easily get going!

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I hope you like Art Deco like I do and hopefully this post can inspire you look for this era’s buildings in your town or even to work a little of this era into your sewing.  Have you tried bias garments, especially these geometric 20’s and 30’s ones with beautiful simple design like this dress?  If you have, they’re special aren’t they?!  If not, you need to go ahead and make one…let me know about it…I’d like to see it!

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My Emerald 30’s Vionnet Evening Dress – Buckle and Closure Details

In response to Nikki’s comment and to clarify what I didn’t address in my latest post, here is a follow up which will explain the closure system to my Vionnet evening gown and how the buckle works.

DSC_0591a-compWorking with vintage parts can be rather tricky because they are slightly different than what we are used to with modern notions and sewing parts, but with some ingenuity they can be made to work in more than one way.  This buckle is no exception.  The back had a very odd and basic bar to the back of each half, like it was made for the ends of a belt to be looped around.  The hook closure is a simple metal piece bent over to loop into an opening of the other side detail work.  I have several other 1930’s buckles and they have these same features.

Now, Vionnet original plan for this dress call’s for a square decorative piece (look at the pattern piece), not even aDSC_0592a-comp buckle.  Her original dress has four eyelet openings so that hooks in the decorative piece can loop in the openings and bring the dress in that way.  Since I was working with an actual buckle, I attached the backer bars behind each side to fixed spots on my dress.  This was a bit challenging…I had the measure the space between the two bars when the buckle was closed and figure that in when I was estimating where to attach the closures and how tight to bring in the dress.

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At first, I merely whip-stitched the backer bars around and around directly to my dress, flat on top with no pleat or anything, at a spot of my choosing.  The fabric of the front just folds in and gathers on its own under the buckle when the dress gets clasps.  After a night of partying and dancing, however, the threads around the buckle back broke and I had to come up with something which gave the fabric more support.  Plan two was to still sew the buckle on in the same spot in the same way but I used a small cut of some green felt, double layered, to back the buckle inside the wrong side.  This works great and feels quite stable as well as not ripping out the stitches and/or fabric.  The felt inside acts like a cushion for the thread to wrap tightly around (although it looks like surgery stitches), and provides a wide anchor spot to strongly bring the dress in with no appearance of even pulling at the fabric.

I hope this post clarifies any confusion as to how to use those vintage buckles you see or find and also how my emerald Vionnet dress closes.  There are plenty of awesome vintage notions out there – go find that ‘perfect’ project to make them have a new life at the hands of your creativity.  A little voice in the back of my head wants to “save” stuff like this…but no!  Vintage pieces can really help a project shine, elevating it from special to extra-special!  They might need some t.l.c., or some extra effort but it’s worth it.  Have you worked a really neat vintage notion into a sewing project or had to get creative with it?  Did this post help you?

An Emerald Mid-1930’s Vionnet Gown

With Prom season upon us, I’d like to post about a quick and easy but awesomely elegant gown to make from the genius of history’s famous designer Madeleine Vionnet.  I love finding patterns that look the opposite of the amount of difficulty they present in the making process.  If you’ve got a handful of hours, a super fancy buckle, and several yards of nice fabric with a formal event to attend, then this pattern could be for you!  It’s the epitome of 1930’s glamour yet passes as fully modern.

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THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a 100% polyester crepe back satin (I wish I could have used silk, but one can only spend so much dough for fabric…*sigh*)vionnet book covers - from iocolor

NOTIONS:  Just thread and bias tape were the only notions I needed, besides the buckle.

PATTERN:  Pattern #12: “Planes and Gussets”, page 84, of “Madeleine Vionnet” book by Betty Kirke (book covers image from here)

TIME TO COMPLETE:  Only four hours!  It was made on the evening of December 4, 2015, with about an hour more to place and sew on the buckle and finish the ties.

100_6801-compTHE INSIDES:  All bias bound, except for the bottom hem which is on the bias and left raw with some fray check to keep the edge in check.

TOTAL COST:  the crepe-back satin was a Hancock Fabrics “Beautiful Fine Fabric” special – I bought it on sale for about $20.  The buckle was bought at an antique/vintage re-sale shop for about $35.

This Vionnet gown makes me feel so amazing and elegant, like some movie star of the silver screen of olden times.  Words to describe it would just seem tacky.  The bias moving with you and flowing around you is a lovely feeling.  Every lady deserves a good bias dress.  I have heard some women mention that only certain figures can pull off a bias dress, but I disagree.  First, women of the 1930’s were generally slender (it was the Depression) but they did wear foundational undergarments which helped with shaping.  Shaping underneath or not, nevertheless when the bias is cut well with a good design it will do a body good!  After all, I have never yet found any RTW (ready-to-wear) frock which accomplishes the bias correctly like when you find a really good pattern and make it yourself.

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Although I absolutely love it, I cannot figure out an anomaly about this gown.  The original dress which is on display online at the MET museum lists this design of evening gown as dating to 1936-1937.  However, the Betty Kirke book from which the pattern came from lists this dress as 1935.  Alright – who’s right?  Which year is this dress?  Also, between knowing what I know about fashion history and what I’ve read, the gown is both behind its time and ahead at the same moment.  The early 1930’s had a fad for the “half-naked-from-the-waist-up” styles of evening gown, then by about 1933 the styles became slightly more decent by following the fad for higher necks and shoulders covered with ruffles or poufy sleeves (discussed here at “Witness2Fashion” under “The Letty Lynton Dress” and “Very Bare Backs, 1930’s”, also see my past-made mid-30’s evening gown).  This emerald Vionnet gown has a taste of both contrasting styles.

So, I’m slightly confused but still impressed that Vionnet’s design of this post’s featured dress is from the mid-1930’s, but it goes with the Depression era perfectly when women’s clothes were excessively extravagant and richly elegant – the opposite of the (then) current economic circumstances.  Simple ornamentation is the ‘normal’ key to such clothes…the gown itself is amazing interest enough… but Vionnet’s gown calls for a unique closure to be a focus point!  How daring, but it works.  Another common feature to similar 30’s gowns are the extremely low backs and hemlines – achieving this with Vionnet’s evening gown was hard and a tad tricky.  I’ll explain further down.

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The patterns in the book are small sized with no specifications as to what percent to grade up to for full size.  I went through a copy store’s services to have them scan in, plot out, enlarge, and print my patterns since this was my first time making a pattern from this book.  The only “bench mark” I went by to know how much to enlarge was for me to pick one spot on the garment for which I could say how long it should be, and figure the rest of the garment should follow grading up properly from there.  For instance, I realized for this pattern that the length of the front rectangles, from the top of the neckline to what should be the side waist, should be about the length of my collar bone to my waist (adding in some extra inches for error).  This measurement was a define spot to realize how much to grade the book’s pattern up to…probably not the best way but wasn’t the worst either, just so as long as it worked.

As far as I could tell the pattern is made for Japanese sizes 9 AR (US/Canadian sizes 8, U.K. size 10, and European size 38).  This would make it for bust 34” (86 cm.), waist 26” (66 cm.), hip 37 (94 cm.).  I don’t remember where I read this but it seems accurate, maybe slightly smaller.  I am very close to this size so I didn’t make any changes to the fit because bias cut is a bit forgiving.

100_6776a-compAs it turned out, I could have made some small changes/adjustments to the fit, but this is just really the perfectionist in me wanting everything just right…a carbon copy of Vionnet.  Part of me wishes I had made my gown just a tad longer so it sweeps the floor like a true 30’s gown, but that’s impractical for me so my dress is just below ankle length.  Also the dip in the back where the ties make a “U” turn around the inserts could have been made a little wider for a sharper curve.  My back curve to the dress is more like a “U” that got bent open and I think only the upper tops of the inserts could be lengthened for a look more like the original Vionnet dress.  Pick, pick, pick – it’s what I do.  My dress is fine and the pattern is really easy…a tad hard to adjust.

The pattern for this evening gown is awesomely simple and so awkwardly large.  Except for 100_6593a-compthe little parallelogram-shaped piece which completes the back dip, the dress is made of one huge shape.  I really don’t know how someone who doesn’t have ample floor space or a gigantic table can cut this dress out.  We have large open floor spaces at our home but even still it was maxed out to lay out 3 yards of 60 inch fabric in a single layer.  This also had to be done when no one was around to walk in the house but me!  As you can also see in my picture, I let the natural end of the fabric’s width dictate the seam where the dress would have a panel joined in to complete the dress.  I did not follow the “joining line” on the pattern, as I wanted minimal seams (the dress seems to have been accommodating for the 35 inch or 45 inch fabric widths normal for those times).

I believe the key to this dress being a success is 1.) the necessity of making the neck high and back low and 2.) the placement of the buckle.  Firstly, the back dip needs to be low, low…like right at or above the waist because if not, the bias will not spread out over the bum properly.  The neck needs to be high (close to the collarbone) for the back dip to be in the right place but also because it keeps the front in proportion, especially when it comes to adding the buckle which brings the dress in.

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Thus, secondly, I found from looking at the original garment from Vionnet at the MET and experimenting with the placement on my own dress that the buckle has to be at a “sweet spot” on the body to reach the intended shape, drape, and look.  There is a triangular space above your belly button that is between your ribcage just about big enough for the palm of my hand to cover.  When the dress neckline comes to reach or go just under your collarbone (where it needs to hit), THIS SPOT between the ribcage and above the waist is where the buckle should go on the dress.  Why am I so strong on this?  I have seen plots of Vionnet’s garments where it proves how her clothes where designed with the composition of the natural lines of the body and its muscles in mind so it makes sense to me for her to pull the dress in at the same place where your body is “pulled in”…not where it pivots.  Also, when the buckle is placed in that “sweet spot” the dress naturally flares out over both the bust and the waist/hips, creating the illusion of a small middle and at a more proper waistline, too.  Conventional dressing knows nothing of the power of working with the body, and most people (including me) get so wrapped up in the only spots we focus on – waist, hips, bust, and maybe shoulders or other points, too.  The comfort spot of “the waist” is different on everyone, but the buckle’s “sweet spot” is the same on everyone, and a very strong point in the body as it is…a good place to hang the dress.DSC_0584a-comp

The ‘leaping gazelle across the pastoral scene’ on the original buckle is so beautiful and also very appropriately classic to the 1920’s and 1930’s.  An image widely used on anything and everything to home and eating pieces to fashion (see my very own Elgin Compact, at right) and ornamental purposes, the leaping gazelle is an Art Deco carryover from the peaceful Art Nouveau era.  The 1930’s 100_6803a-compideal enjoyed reliving the Grecian past, through flowing, body-conscious dressing, and no one expressed this better than Vionnet, so the carved ivory buckle on the original gown could not be any more perfect.  My own buckle, however, takes on the more uber-fancy and bling-loving side of the Art Deco era though it does have some swirling to the design.  My buckle reminds me of costume jewelry with all its gems and details but it is some sort of fine metal (sterling silver, maybe) because it polished up nicely, even though the gems are probably fake.  I also pinned another authentic vintage 1920’s or 1930’s pin to keep my back straps in place at the back of my neck.100_6755a-comp

We went back to the proper time period and location where a dress like this would have been worn for our photo shoot location – the Chase Park Plaza.  This hotel in downtown was newly completed in 1931 “as an opulent Art Deco masterpiece despite the Great Depression.”  Many famous people have walked the Chase Park Plaza’s hallways and stayed under their roof, and with Art deco splendor around every corner need I say why I felt even snazzier modeling my fancy evening gown?!

Prohibition? Bah! Time for a Mid-20’s Speakeasy Party Dress

In the history of America, the thirteen years (1920 to 1933) during which citizens were meant to go dry from alcoholic liquids unintentionally became a time for much of the opposite to sobriety.  The era of the “flapper-and-gangster” cocktail drinking crowd was born, and flagrant law-breaking lived alongside the sober and those that loved fun times.

I’ve always loved the history of the 1920’s and 30’s, but recently learned a whole lot more about what was going on in those eras thanks to the exhibit “American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition”, from the National Constitution Center.  The engrossing exhibit came to our town’s History museum for a number of months, and I visited several times, wanting to go more just to soak in all the info.  To close the last week of the “American Spirits” exhibit, our History museum put on a “Speakeasy” party, which happened to fall on a special day for me -my birthday.  I had to attend, and go all out I did!  Behold my official, mid-1920’s satin evening party dress!

100_3453aTHE FACTS:

FABRIC:  My fabric is a semi-dull satin, with a pearlized swirl-type of buff finish across the fabric in random places.  The hammered finish on the satin gives it a sort of “ice cold” beauty.  It is in a deep turquoise color, and unfortunately, the fiber content is 100% polyester.  The lace neck shawl is made from a deep forest green stretch lace.  This lace has 1/3 of the flowers as shiny and satiny, but all the flowers are raised in an embossed-style.  Both fabrics are from Hancock Fabrics. 

NOTIONS:  Everything needed was on hand already.  I had the right color thread (I seem to do so much sewing in turquoise) and lightweight interfacing.  The gold buttons to bring in the dress at the hips were bought on a deep sale a few months before my Prohibition dress was made. The deep green and gold back neck closure button came from my hubby’s Grandmother’s stash. (See left picture, to see my detailed photo of the back button and my little spit curls which I stuck down to my skin with hair goop!

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Simplicity 4138 back line and front drawingPATTERNS:  My good old standby pattern for making a basic 20’s shift was used again here – Butterick 6140, year 2004 (at left).  This pattern was previously used to make my “Geometric Lines” 20’s tunic.  For my Prohibition dress, I made view G, with the V-neck and the mid-length, except the sleeves were omitted.  Simplicity 4138 pattern (at right), skirt bottom piece of view D, was used to make the two bias flounces for the side of my dress.

B6140TIME TO COMPLETE:  In total, my dress took only 6 to 8 hours to make, and it was finished on August 8, 2014.

THE INSIDES:  Couture touches are everywhere on this dress’ inside.  The entire neckline, shoulder, and armhole openings are covered by a giant one pieced facing which was tricky to sew in, but very nice once finished.  My dress’ side seams are French seams, the bottom hem of both the flounces are done in tiny, time-consuming 1/8 inch hems.  100_3459a

TOTAL COST:  This was an unexpected project, and the materials were a bit more pricy because I wanted something with fine quality and historical accuracy to match with the idea in mind of how I wanted my final creation to turn out.  Everything was on sale, but, even still, I believe the total cost to be no more than $27.00.  This is pretty reasonable, I think, especially since it’s nice as an all-year-round fancy party dress – not just for drinking liquor on the sly “a la 1920’s”!

This dress was the product of much research and inspiration.  My dress’ style of satin has the look and feel of what was popular as a dressy fabric for the 20’s, excepting the fact that it is not a silk like what would have been used back then.  I have always loved the popular asymmetric styled dresses of the 20’s and 30’s, so making something with that design was definitely in mind for my speakeasy dress. In the end, I took a little bit of everything that I liked, and everything which seemed to fit in for the dress, both appearance wise and from the standpoint of a fashion historian.  Here at right is a collage of all my inspiration pictures which explain and justify the authenticity of my Prohibition dress.  Starting from the top left and going clockwise:  a 1922 silk crepe dress by Madeleine Vionnet (Arizona Costume Institute);   the cover envelope of a late 20’s printed McCall pattern #5628;  a bias seamed (Vionnet-style) dress from a French fashion catalog;  a “mid-20’s slip on dress” #925 reprinted and sold by Past Patterns;  and finally, another inspiration collagefashion image from the late 20’s (’27 or ’28).  As you can see, my five different inspiration sources are dating between 1922 to 1928.  However, the main features of my dress, especially the way it poufs out above where it hugs my hips, is a tell-tale shape which would constitute calling my dress a mid- to late-20’s creation.  Thus, I can confidently say that my dress is historically accurate, with the exception of the fabric content, while staying true to my own personal style and taste.  To me, finding such a perfect combination is a match made in heaven.  It’s like finding a little bit of yourself in a historical time past…the true greatness of sewing your own vintage wear.

The basic dress was easily and rather quickly made according Butterick 6140.  Just like when I made it the first time, going down a size from what the chart (on the pattern envelope) shows gave me a perfect fit.  In other words, Butterick 6140 runs generously.  Once compensating for the sizing, it has wonderful proportions for smaller women who don’t have too drastic bust-waist-hip measurements.  Also, when doing the upper inside facings, it is important to follow the directions on the instruction sheet – they might seem a bit strange and complicated, at first.  However, as long as I followed through, Butterick 6140’s facings turned out great, despite being a bit time consuming.  The method for putting in the facing is really pretty smart, too.  It not only makes for a beautifully smooth feel on your skin inside the dress, but it also teaches a good lesson on how to do such a facing method.  Another project I will post about soon ended up needing the knowledge I learned from doing Butterick 6140’s style of facing.  It does come in handy to know.

100_3456a     I intended on having the bias flounces begin to fall from about mid to high thigh, and take up a little less than half of one side of my dress.  Using the bottom bias flounce piece of view D from Simplicity 4138 was an easy solution that gave me everything I had hoped to achieve.  I changed up (just a bit) the cutting of the flounce piece.  The one edge directed to be placed on the fold to end up with a flounce twice as big.  However, the pattern piece was the width and length I needed as it was, so I did not cut it on the fold, but cut two single pieces, still keeping to the grain line as directed.  Both flounces were first hemmed in a time-consuming 1/8 hem (like what I did for the sleeves of my 30’s evening gown), then turn under the seam allowance on the other three sides.  I did a good deal of measuring to make sure the flounces would be evenly placed before sewing them down to the dress’ left side using a double-stitched lapped seam.100_3406

Hopefully, you can see how the flounce piece looked and how I cut it out in the picture at right.

100_3935     For the hip cinching, I made two small pinches in the satin of my dress on each hip side 1 1/2 inches away from the side seam.  A small one inch piece of turquoise bias tape was sewn to the inside of all four of those pinches.  On each side, the forward pinch had the two buttons sewn on, and the back pinch got two self-fabric satin loops slipped under the bias 100_3934tape piece.  I don’t know if this method is historical but it seems practical, simple, and, best of all, it works!  I just slip on my dress, then button it in to fit my hips. You can see in the big picture above the hip buttons and the perfect 20’s “bloused” effect they cause.

As much as I like the beauty of simplicity, the dress needed the lace neck/shoulder drape to give it that sudden “wow” effect, making it go from nice to elegant.  Credit for the drape idea entirely goes to my hubby.  He draped it as you see it on my dress, draped/gathered starting from one side of the V-neck.  Although I was skeptical at first, I soon had to admit it looked pretty darn good.  To shape the scarf, I took a rectangle of lace fabric, 15 inches by 60 inches, sewed the long raw edges in so it turns into a long ‘tube’.  Next, I folded my lace ‘tube’ scarf in half, and half again.  Both shoulders needed self-fabric satin piping tubes to be sewn on them to keep the lace scarf in place around my neck and shoulders (you can see the piping loops in my close-up pictures).  The lace scarf (folded in fourths) was pulled through the shoulder tubing and down the front of my dress, and over horizontally to be tucked under the neck.  Then the scarf ends were hand-tacked down along the neckline edge from the shoulder to the middle of the V-neck.  This process is hard to explain – it just kind of happened and worked out easily without too much fussing.  I love how the lace scarf can be worn around my neck or just over the shoulder, for two options on one dress.  My dress has already been through a trip through the wash machine, and the good report is the lace scarf held up and is still in place just fine, with the satin being almost wrinkle free.  Easy care requirements make this dress even more wonderful.

100_3462a     The night of the Prohibition “Speakeasy” party, the “American Spirits” exhibit was also open later than normal.  I took this opportunity to pose at the exhibit’s “police line-up” wall.  Yes, you read that right!  You can line up with the likes of Al Capone and Lucky Luciano, Prohibition era gangsters, and get your mug shot taken.  I wanted to show a bit of attitude in my picture.  I’ll title it, “Hey, boys, you have any room for me?”

Kelly'sPoliceLineupPhoto     I splurged for the “Speakeasy” party and used my prized Art Deco 1920’s purse for the 100_3650anight.  This purse is an amazing work of art – heavily beaded (in both pearls and glass micro-beads), lined in gold silk, with a “Made in Belgium, Saks Fifth Avenue” label.  It needs some tender loving care, but I’d rather not ruin its historical authenticity by adding something modern that probably wouldn’t match anyway.  To think, I only paid $5.00 for this purse!

100_3923   My other personal accessories – my bracelet and my hair comb – were made by me for my outfit.  I chose to buy 1/4 of a yard of gold, jeweled, square chain dress trim, cut the length in half, hand-stitched the two pieces side by side, then added on a ribbon piece (from my stash) to each end. Voila! I now have a Deco bracelet that cost me only $1.00.  My hair ornament is merely a basic hair comb onto which I whip-stitched a gold filigree metal piece that had been in my stash of beading supplies.  The comb gave my hair an authentic and beautiful option to the over-used “head band” look so popular for an easy 20’s up-do.  My hair…oh!  I was so proud of the tight Marcel waves and spit curls I achieved by only using a small curling iron and some moderate hold hairspray.  My earrings (see a close-up in this post) are actually 1930’s vintage, but they have a classic Art Deco styling which matched well with the rest of my outfit.100_3729

Speaking of matching with my outfit, I’d like to make a point of briefly highlighting how the wall sconce light (in the top left corner of my full shot pictures) is a cool era 100_3728appropriate touch.  Our house (and neighborhood) was built around 1930 in a style unique to our town, a 20th century Gingerbread version of Tudor revival, with plenty of vitrolite glass and special touches, such as these “bat wing” wall sconces.  I love how these wall sconces have a slight tinge of pastel colors, with beautiful mix of the  swirling, floral theme of Art Nouveau, and a hint of Art Deco .

Please check my Flickr page, Seam Racer, for more pictures.  Thanks for joining me in this Prohibition party post!

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.