“No Chance! No Way! I Won’t Say It…”

…I won’t say – out load – I’m in love…with 1990s fashion, that is!  (Congrats to the person who can already recognize the song reference!)

Such news is a bit awkward to admit for me but it is a wholehearted truth now, especially after making this post’s project.  The dive of renewed interest in the classic Disney princesses last year via sewing my “Pandemic Princess” series of course necessitated acknowledging the fashion of the 90’s.  This ‘confession’ in my fashion taste comes only a few years after I reluctantly acknowledged I had fallen for the 80’s back when I made this Givenchy suit (posted here).  Then, my 1996 Emanuel Ungaro suit anchored my positive views of that era.  Previous to a year ago, I have not sewn anything from the 90’s since I was a teenager.  Ah, what am I turning into!?  This time, I can be completely justified in blaming my change of heart on the intensely independent, highly charismatic, acutely cynical, and generally unrecognized princess Megara of the 1997 animated film “Hercules”.  

Meg inspired me to make a flowing, Grecian-inspired maxi dress which highlights her trademark colors of purple and golden yellow, using both a soft polyester print and a sewing pattern from the era of the 90’s.  My dress – like Meg’s – has an empire waist, skinny shoulder straps, long and curving princess seaming, and an ankle skimming length.  Yet, true to the gunge fad of the era from which the movie was released, I am not content with it to be just a sundress.  I’m wearing this as a jumper layered over a slouchy, dated, thrifted turtleneck.  Practically speaking, this dress is too pretty to keep for just the warm weather anyways! 

However, the real inspiration which helped me channel my Meg dress was the character Phoebe (portrayed by actress Lisa Kudrow) from the television show “Friends”.  A sundress over a knit top is 100% Phoebe’s style!  Fashion aside, I believe Phoebe to be Meg’s 90’s twin in traits and personality.  (Seriously, though, I could see them liking the same assorted, haphazard fashion, too).  They both have a sarcastic, dry humor because they see the world free of rosy tinted glasses after having become very street-wise.  They both are admirably, boldly unafraid to speak what is on their quick-witted minds.  Nevertheless, behind the jaded outlook, both women are still soft-hearted, innocent, and sentimental.  Phoebe is my favorite character out of “Friends” and Megara is the Disney ‘anti-princess’ who has more recently earned my high esteem for being “a big tough girl” who can “take care of herself”.  This outfit of mine compliments the strong and soft sides which I share in common with both spunky screen ladies.

Funny enough, the statue behind me in the garden is Juno, the Roman equivalent of Hera, queen of the gods in Greek mythology.  In the myth and not the Disney version, Hercules was the son of Jupiter, the supreme god of Olympus, and Alcmene, a mortal married woman.  Juno, the wife of Jupiter, hated Hercules because he was the most famous and successful of Jupiter’s numerous illegitimate progeny.  I could only image what a first meeting with Hercules’s family might be like for Megara.  Nevertheless, I imagine Meg could hold her own very well with the militaristic Juno.  Even though my background setting isn’t as classical as I would have liked, I do enjoy the subtle nod to the Hercules by including Juno.  That not all, however!  At the same Botanical Garden, we also found a fountain of Persephone, the wife of Hades and the Queen of the Underworld.  After the foul way Hades used Meg when he had her under a soul bondage, the myths seem to show he had learned how to (somewhat) respect a woman by the time he married Persephone.

I want to give a shout out to the seamstress Eszter (on IG here @em_originals) for encouraging me through the power of a good review to use the dress pattern I did.  Don’t you just love it when someone else has – and makes something of – the same vintage sewing pattern as one you have on hand?  It always feels so remarkably serendipitous.  She thoroughly and kindly answered my questions about what fabric she used and how her version came together.  Go take a look at how lovely her dress looks on her (see it here)!  Good things happen when sewists unite! 

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a 90’s era polyester leftover from lining my 1996 Ungaro suit; fully lined in a beige polyester cut out of some microfiber bed sheets

PATTERN:  New Look #6306, year 1994

NOTIONS NEEDED:  I needed lots of thread and two zippers (I’ll explain why further down)

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This dress took me about 20 hours’ worth of time and it was finished on November 4, 2020.

THE INSIDES:  The inner raw edges are left raw but there is a full body, floating lining which covers up the mess.

TOTAL COST:  practically free!!! Read on…

How I acquired the base materials for my Meg dress is a bit of an odd story.  Firstly, the printed fabric was practically free, being donated to a $1 a pound rummage sale.  The lining was a dirt cheap find of some gently used bed sheets.  Then, the pattern for this was actually picked out of the alley’s dumpster behind our house.  I couldn’t just leave a perfectly fine sewing supply behind when it was just an arm’s reach away…for free!  At first I was overly curious to find out who nearby sews like me (so I could meet them) and then I was struck by the fact that this single pattern was thrown away.  The fashion of the 90’s wasn’t always great but also wasn’t 100% trash.

It’s semi-explainable (especially when it comes to the 1920’s to 40’s) how certain eras of original sewing patterns have expanded in popularity and pricing in just the past 10 years yet it’s also odd how other eras remained static.  The 90’s and 2000 era patterns are clearly still underappreciated, largely disliked, and yes – often very recognizably stereotypical in styling.  Yet, now that my 1993 vehicle can officially register for “antique” license plates, it has made me think past the wry laugh and personal offense that news caused me.  I do see 90’s styles creeping into the RTW offerings and oddly being picked up by the younger generations who know nothing of the era like those of us who lived through it.  1990s logos, shows, and trends are as vintage to my 9 year old son as the 1960s were to me as a child.  My view of what constitutes “vintage” has been slowly changing along with my growing fascination for 1990s fashion.  I am understanding more than what meets the eye, and growing beyond my set prejudices towards how I regard the fashion of a decade within my lifetime.  I am not the only one, though.   

Colleen Hill is curator of costume and accessories at the prestigious Museum at FIT in New York.  Her upcoming, critically acclaimed special exhibition is entitled “Reinvention and Restlessness: Fashion in the Nineties”.  I recently received my order of the companion book to the exhibit and have since poured over the rich content.  It portrays a restless decade where the last 10 years before the turn of the century were “modern to retro, from glitz to glamour, from puritan to pretty, from military to minimal, only to max out at the finale with an opulent flourish of beading and a rash of irony.”  (Quote from Harper’s Bazaar writer Marion Hume’s December 1999 editorial.)  What I found the most interesting was the chapter on “Retro Revivals”. 

“Fashion historians often distinguish between the terms: ‘retro’ is generally used to describe clothing that was worn within living memory, and ‘historical’ encompasses influences from the more distant past” the book says.  Sadly, it doesn’t distinguish where “vintage” falls.  The book goes on to quote art historian Elizabeth Guffey, “Retro considers the recent past with an unsentimental nostalgia.”  So does this make the 90’s vintage to me and not retro, as I am nostalgic about growing up in that era while my son views 30 years ago in a curious but unsentimental way?  The quote continues, “It is unconcerned with the sanctity of tradition; indeed, (Retro) often insinuates a form of subversion while sidestepping historical accuracy.”  Ah, yes I do take a more accurate sewing outlook on my 50’s era and older things I make, but what if I do the same for my 90’s projects?  This post’s dress is sewn with a fabric and pattern truly from the era.  “1990s fashions were at once looking back and planted firmly.  Were creators scared of the future or simply celebrating the past?  It appears to be both” said the 90’s design critic Herbert Muschamp

No wonder I appreciate the 90’s!  It is a decade peppered with the influences of the past 20th century’s fashions, all of which I already sew, wear, and love.  I already frequently find a way to put a vintage spin on the modern clothing I make.  Furthermore, it is relieving to now embrace the styles and the modes of dressing from the 90’s that I admired on others and wanted to sport, but was too awkward or not in the right place to do so.  I also enjoy appreciating the last great era for USA made clothing and a recognizable continuity for long-standing design houses, as well as the beginning of an individualistic approach to fashion.  Thus, to me, based on where I am in life and the way I approach 90’s fashion, I am calling it vintage.  This might not be your view and that is fine.  After reading the FIT museum book, I believe that placing this era is up to each person’s interpretation.  If you haven’t noticed the subtle changes to my site happening in the last few months, I would like to point out there is now a decade page for my 1990’s creations added to the header bar of my blog.  I’m so happy to see it there and might add some of my teen years’ makes (which I still wear) on that page in the future.

That being said, I could not get away from a soft demonstration of one of the decade’s earliest and most memorable trends – grunge.  I never had and have not yet found the courage for a full blown embrace of the trend because I never liked the music scene tied to it, but deep down I’ve always still liked elements of it.  Grunge is about practicality over image, economic sense with second-hand items, and comfort pieces.  I wore a loose fitting, rayon knit turtle neck I picked out at a thrift shop back in early 2000s, so it’s possibly from the 90’s.  My little ballet flats have been with me many years, too, and I love the low-key toughness of the multiple buckles.  I am not above loving what I have on hand for many years.  My earrings (from this local shop) were the only new purchase for this outfit – they have Herc’s dad Zeus’s logo lightning bolt coming out of the cloud of Mount Olympus.

Grunge was a very anti-establishment movement, and designer Mark Jacobs (for Perry Ellis), actress Winona Ryder, and “Sonic Youth” band bassist Kim Gordon all were prominent influencers in the trend.  Part of Grunge for women was the wearing of pretty floral dresses from decades before in such a way that you pair them over a tank and pants with chunky black boots, a denim jacket, and a chunky sweater.  The Gunne Sax and Laura Ashley dresses of the 80’s were part of this, as well as the floaty vintage frocks of the 30’s, or the printed tees of the 60’s era.   The height of the Grunge aesthetic was short lived, though.  My FIT museum book “Fashion in the Nineties” says that Vogue editor Anna Wintour expressed relief in a 1994 letter to the editor, by saying Grunge was drifting out of fashion.  The way I interpreted my Megara dress hits all the right notes of 1994 fashion.  Granted this is a date 3 years earlier than the “Hercules” film, but as I associated my inspiration with Phoebe from “Friends”, which began in 1994, that year seemed like a good date to go with.  The year 1994 has so very many designs which are so similar to the point of redundancy – empire-waisted maxi dresses with princess seams.

After all of my rambling on about the era and provenance of it, this dress was actually very simple to sew.  It was a bit time consuming because of all the long seams, the full lining (which was merely a second copy of the dress), and the tiny hemming required.  Even still, I can’t believe I made a completely bone-headed mistake in the midst of construction.  I forgot to combine the back bodice pieces with the back skirt before sewing in a near perfect hand-picked zipper. 

Not every day is my best day, and some days I am just lucky to have the family’s basic necessities taken care of…but I was still devastated by my oopsie.  I powered on in the most non-impactful way by merely adding in a 5 inch separating zipper to the back bodice segment of this dress, above the lower 22 inch zipper.  Yes, I do end up with two zippers up the back.  Yes, I feel terrible about this.  There were tears involved.

Nevertheless, I am proud I made the best of it, resisting the urge to throw it across the room and give up, because I love this dress.  I don’t think the dual zippers are even noticeable, after all.  The fit to the pattern was spot on and I think the hem flaring looks spectacular.  My dress makes me feel very tall, elegant, and curvy.  I garner so many compliments when I wear this!  I can’t wait to continue to wear it as a sundress this summer.  Copying Meg’s manner of styling gives me the best excuse to also brush on my favorite purple eye shadow colors and draw my best winged eyeliner, too. 

The 1997 animated film “Hercules” was very much a product of its time – it references the “Buns of Steel” exercise videos as well as Nike’s famous Air Jordan sneakers,  the muses are merely a jazzy version of the group En Vogue, and then – for goodness sakes – Michael Bolton sings the theme song!  There was no way an ancient interpretation was going to be as wearable as a 90’s manner of looking at Megara, the human princess of Mount Olympus.  The fresh new write-up for the film was not remotely mythological accurate, after all, but still a fun kind of different for Disney’s Renaissance period.  This dress (jumper, depending on the weather) similarly has to be one of my most enjoyable and out-of-the-ordinary kind of ‘practical royalty’ make for my “Pandemic Princess” series.  Here’s a toast to the sassiest Disney princess of them all!

Serpentine Style Dressing for 1948

With Vintage Vogue #2787 dress having an S-shaped front, that letter can here stand for words such as ‘stunning style’, but I can also unfortunately use the words ‘skeptical’, or even ‘stifling’.  Once, however, I accessorized my dress, wore it out to a few events, and even received a few compliments, the ‘stifling’  and ‘skeptical’ part faded away.  Who couldn’t help feeling like a movie star in a vintage dress that looks like this?!

100_2704aTHE FACTS:

FABRIC:  The fabric that you see on the outside of my dress is a sheer, slightly nubby, cotton knit with a beautiful drape.  Its color is on the border between a blue and a green, but it is a heathered turquoise tone.  There was only 2 yards of this fabric.  As the lining, I used a poly double knit in a darker turquoise color.  Even though a poly knit makes my dress a bit less historically accurate, I had reasons for my choice that get explained below.

NOTIONS:  I only needed to buy another spool of thread to finish this dress.  Everything else – the thread, interfacing, hem tape, and a zipper – was on hand already, bought about a year ago (which was when I matched up the pattern with my fabric).

Vogue2787PATTERN:  Vintage Vogue #2787, a 1948 reprint, with a copyright of 2003

TIME TO COMPLETE:  My dress was practically finished and wearable on October 25, 2013.  However, I was not happy or comfortable with how the dress looked or how it felt on me, so I piddled with minor details on it off and on through winter (which was the next 5 months).  I finally quit working on it and planning to re-fashion it in March of 2014.  Thus, at this point, I really don’t know or remember how much time was put into my final dress as you see it in our pictures.  Maybe 20 hours?  Maybe more.

THE INSIDES:  The insides are as nice as could be with all the unusual points of the 100_2727styling.  Since both my dress and lining fabrics are knits, they don’t ravel, so I merely zig zag stitched the edges.  The bottom hem is quite pretty with turquoise lace hem tape covering the raw edge (see picture).  The side zipper had to shortened, but I covered the raw cut end in more lace hem tape.

TOTAL COST:  After being in my stash forever, the nubby knit is being considered free.  I had bought the poly lining knit (like I said above) about a year ago, with all the other matching notions, so I can only give an estimate of $15, more or less.

I had been wanting to make Vintage Vogue #2787 pattern for some time before I finally got around to using this turquoise knit from my stash towards my dress.  A solid color truly brings out the best in this pattern, making the most of the beautiful front design.  Why disguise such a unique styling with a patterned fabric…all your work goes unnoticed, otherwise.  Who wants that?

100_2714aThis 1948 dress is an excellent example of a transitional time in fashion history.  The fact that the back is basic and plain, with the front having all the attention, is classic of WWII dress rationing ideas lingering into post-war times.  It’s like a party in the front, with all business in the back.  Gathering was also popular and widely used in many wartime fashions for women, especially between 1940 and 1946.  Yet, at the same time, the slimming, modern, glamorous appearance of the silhouette this dress creates prefigures the Dior “New Look”, which was just beginning its wave of popularity since its debut in ’47.  An odd mix of both WWII and Dior’s 50s style is balanced in this Vintage Vogue 2787.

My fabric had been a “white elephant” in my stash for so long, being a thin, almost transparent, nubby knit in a small two yard amount.  I never really knew what to do with it…until I came across VV2787 – a vintage style that calls for a small amount of yardage.  Yes!  I chose a poly double knit as the lining fabric, only because it was both the closest matching color and because it had a softly fluid drape which matched my dress fabric.

100_2705As is my norm, many reviews and blogs were checked before beginning laying out the pattern.   Adey’s blog on Sew Weekly has a an excellent review, but I especially love Viola’s review on her blog Brentwood Lane.  Viola’s comment about the fit of VV2787 having a full bust, small waist, and moderate hip was so helpful, and I’m glad I followed it.  For my dress, I went down two sizes in the bust and down one size in both the hips and waist, because, 1) I’m using a knit, 2) on account of Viola’s review, 3) and from reading the finished garment sizes.  As much as Viola’s recommendation of decreasing the gathers on the shoulder sounded good, I stuck to the pattern after all.

100_2719Since I enjoy doing gathering, putting my dress together was a fun and interesting project.  I have mentioned this fact before, when I posted about other 1940’s frocks that I have made in the past, such as this 1946 dress or this bow-neck dress.  At a certain point, I did use a few choice words when I wasn’t getting the gathers just right, and I had to unpin my fabric for the 6th time.  Yes, patience is a must for sewing!

I was so very precise with all the markings and cutting because I wanted to achieve the exact look of the cover drawing.  The front pieces were indeed very interesting shapes which made for some hard thinking to imagine how it adds up to the finished look.  At first, I found all the makings overkill, and I actually left a few off, but, as it ends up…YES…all those markings are really there for a reason and VERY important to properly assembling this Vintage Vogue.  It was necessary for me to go back and chalk the marking in that I had left out.  I don’t see too many patterns like this one, where there’s so many spots for marking that all the geometric shapes are used – triangles, circles, squares, and spots.

100_2706The S-front lapped seam down the middle front has a tricky crossover part.  Above the bottom half of the gathers (that come from the hip), where the lapped seam peters out into a non-gathers at about the hips, the flap switches from left on top to the right on top.  Top stitching supports the corners, and it really took some hand turning of my machine to set in my stitches just where they needed to go.  I made sure to nicely tuck the one corner under the other so both those supporting stitches didn’t show and there wouldn’t be a hole t100_2723ahere, either.  Inside, this crossover corner spot was also supported further by some hand stitches and a small patch of iron on interfacing.  See my picture of the inside at left.  The interfacing patch inside is the best thing for this tricky spot – it keeps everything nice and tight and sturdy so it’s ready to hold up for many washings and wearings!

I did have a slight problem with the pattern, or at least the instructions.  The inner neck facings were never really figured out exactly the way the instructions said to sew them.  Instead of making the front neckline facings in one piece, like many patterns have, this dress’ facings are two separate rectangles.  I couldn’t figure out if I should sew the two pieces in a vertical center seam, or if I should overlap the two facing pieces, and which side (right over left, or vise versa) I should overlap.  Overlapping the one side over the 100_2724other was the method I chose to join the two front facing pieces to make as one, so as to connect with the back facings before sewing to the neckline.  The back facings were, indeed, quite nice with no problems (see the right picture).  Hand-stitching holds down the facing edges to the lining knit only.  Originally I had planned on doing self-fabric loops down the back neck opening, but I left them out when the facings were sewn down.  The instructions said to make thread chain loops for the buttons, so I thought I would go ahead and try another new skill.   Thread chain loops were time consuming but I like what I ended up with…so it was worth the time, even though I’m not that impressed.100_2715a

100_2114aPlease notice the four buttons I used for the back neck closure.  An exact match to the color of my dress wasn’t found, so I went with a pretty contrasting color – a light blue.  There was no one home with me at that time,  so in order to decide, I had laid out a few button options on the kitchen floor and waited to see which one our little dachshund picked out with his nose.  (I got a picture of this…see at left.)  The buttons are vintage, coming from my familial stash, which dates back to hubby’s Grandmother.  However, I really don’t think the buttons are as old as the 1940’s, although I don’t know for sure one way or another.  It would be very much appreciated if any reader has any info about the “Streamline” brand buttons, or the dating of the card with its logo.

Anyone who is claustrophobic, or even occasionally or slightly so, might indeed have a problem with the high, almost choking neckline.  I myself have been toying with the idea of unpicking the whole top half of the whole darn S-front and refashioning it completely.  “The Slapdash Sewist” blog author has a wonderful idea for re-fashioning VV2787, and it can be seen by clicking here and going about to the middle of the page.  If my dress ever gets re-fashioned, I would want to change it into looking like the expensive ($725) MaxMara Saks Fifth Avenue dress which is shown as a close “modern” comparison.  See picture below.  There is also an Anthropologie brand “Riverbends” T-shirt top which seems very similar, as well.  It’s neat to see remnants of my vintage 1948 dress’ S-front design around today. MaxMars Runched dress Saks5thAve $725 combo

You can also see on her blog the nickname I have found to be thrown at this Serpentine 1948 frock – “the coffin” dress.  I have seen more than one blogger stamp this scary nickname, and, to think about it, you do button and zipper yourself into the dress like a fancy straightjacket, with only your arms bare and free.  (The “coffin” name also refers to the fact that the dress’ back is so plain, just as if all people would see of you is the front, just like someone laid out.)  Once I stopped thinking about my dress in the light of the nickname, and actually thinking and feeling skinny and glamorous in it, the S-front Vintage Vogue is not bad at all.  Design wise, it might be a bit lacking in full creativity, as with the plain back – a sort of cheapness which can be seen in many modern clothes.  No doubt it has its’ own share of faults which don’t appeal to some, but, overall, I think it is definitely fun, different, and (as long as it gets loved and worn) worth making.  Hey, being able to wear something you handmade is better than having a bolt of fabric sitting in the basement!

In the spirit of ignoring the dress’ faults and feeling glamorous instead, I posed for some fun, but dramatic pictures while my hair was all fixed up and my long beaded gloves were on me.

100_2710a

A 1961 “Party Dress” – It’s “Sheer” Fun!

Who doesn’t love a party, especially when it involves making and wearing a fabulous frock?!  Our son’s birthday celebration afforded me a very good reason to whip up a fun, fresh, and unique 1961 pattern labeled as a “party dress”.  I used an old original pattern which provided me good practice at re-sizing (as it was for juniors) and an opportunity to work with new techniques by using different material.  The finished product is wonderfully feminine and my unique personal interpretation of a popular retro/vintage fashion.  I certainly love to be able to find reasons for wearing a dress like this!

100_1498     New fabrics revolutionized clothing and fashion styles between the 50’s and 60’s.  Petrochemicals provided easy wash, easy care Nylon,(Polyamide), Crimplene (Polyester), and Orlon (Acrylic mix) fabrics in a variety of pastels and fun colors.  It is definitely not the world’s most comfortable line of fabric.  However, there is almost nothing more symbolic of the retro era than a sheer dress with a contrast underneath and an uber-gathered skirt.  I am so happy to have re-created another small piece of fashion history!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  Overdress: a sheer 100% polyester organza-type fabric in a cranberry color;  Underdress: a linen-look rayon/cotton blend fabric in an pastel floral print; Lining for the bodice: white matte finish polyester scraps coming from off of a rummage sale bed skirt – leftover from lining my 1940 Vintage Vogue #8811 (link here).

S3769NOTIONS:  I bought about 10 yards of cranberry satin ribbon, matching thread, and a zip for the back.  I already had a bit of pink bias tape, off-white thread and  plenty of clear “plastic” monofilament thread, as well.

PATTERN:  Simplicity #3769, year 1961, teen and junior “Party Dress” (the large picture at right).  I found it at a rummage sale for pittance – only a quarter!  For the sleeveless floral under bodice to the dress, I used the top half of a modern pattern, Simplicity #1876 (picture below left).  I was going bold here…a strapless under bodice was entirely my idea, and not in the old pattern.Simplicity1876

TIME TO COMPLETE:  My dress was finished on May 17, 2013.  My nearest guess as to the time spent on my dress from beginning to end is 20 hours, maybe more.

THE INSIDES:  My sheer retro dress has nicely finished insides, and that was difficult to do considering all the waist gathers.  The side bodice seams are the only ‘unfinished’ seams, but they are double zig zag stitched along the raw edge.  Otherwise, the skirt seams (for the under and over dress) are in French seams, all the nylon edges have a satin ribbon edging, and the linen underskirt has a wide 3 inch hem (see left picture).  The inner waistband is covered in pink bias tape to ensure a comfortable feel despite all the bulk.  My sewing machine impressed me…if it can sew bias tape onto the already super thick, double fabric, tight gathered waist section, well my Singer is a true trooper and can indeed sew through anything I put under it!  100_1504

FIRST WORN:  to a vintage/retro car show displaying old classic models, held at a local antique shop’s parking lot.  In the main picture above, by the way, the car behind me happens to be an uncommon beauty: a Nash Metropolitan car, year 1960.  

TOTAL COST:  I don’t exactly remember anymore, but I think the total was close to $25/$30.  All my fabrics and supplies were on clearance but, since I needed a lot of yardage, the prices added up.  My finished dress was well worth it!

Mad Men 60's variety dresses_Trudy in poufy dress combo      I had some strong inspiration shooting off fireworks of ideas in my head, allowing me to see ahead of time exactly how I wanted my finished “party dress” to look.  My first inspiration was when I saw a beautiful 1957 dress on display (see right side of picture duo) at an exhibit in our town’s History Museum.  The exhibit was called “Underneath It All”, and it showed the history of the items women wore beneath, how they created a certain image, and were tied to both fashion and historical events.  When the timeline came to the 50’s, it addressed the Famous Dior “New Look”, and the example on display was a summer batiste dress, by Josephine Scullin, with a bluish/aqua/purple floral under a solid sheer aqua.  I had to make a dress like this for myself – crinoline slip and all!  My second major inspiration is none other than the T.V. show Mad Men, much loved by many seamstresses for inspiring drool-worthy 50’s to 70’s fashions.  The character of Betty especially loves to wear the classic style similar to my “party dress”, but other actresses also wore similar sheer floral frocks (see Trudy in the ivory floral dress at left picture).

100_1503     Just look at that beautiful dip of the back neckline!  Personally, I love this feature along with the classic almost way off the shoulder fit of the kimono sleeves.

I really thought ahead before and while making this dress.  At the pattern stage, I had to add inches at the waist, adjust the position of the bust (as the pattern was for juniors), and take out a whopping 10 inches from the huge skirt panels to reduce the overabundance of gathers.  I tried to use a spray adhesive to tack the sheer panels to the matching under pieces, but I think taking the time to do basting worked out better here anyway.  The floral under bodice’s boning was eliminated since I planned on having it supported up by being invisibly hand tacked to the organza bodice.

100_1506     I was very conscious of the weight that would be put on the delicate bodice and shoulder seams, seeing that they are only the sheer organza.  A delicate satin ribbon facing goes under the sleeve, neckline, and shoulder edges for a smooth, non-itchy feel which would fashionably support the barely there seams.  The entire hem of the organza over skirt was also hemmed with the ribbon…I love the resulting look but, believe me, the work was long, frustrating torture.100_1505

The only fitting that was needed on my “party dress” after it was done was to fix some slight gaping along the sides of the bust and under my arms.  I came up with my own out-of the-box idea.  Sewing in bias tape “channels” along the top inside edge of floral sleeveless under bodice, I started from the side of the center bust to under the armpits and fed through elastic.  The elastic channels gently gather in the excess fullness without confining the bodice at all.   Gathers surprisingly also gave the dress’ top half some added complimentary shaping.

A simple sash tie belt was made to wear at the waist of my dress.  The pattern called for these two giant sashes to be made and sewn into the side seams, so one could wrap them around the dress and tie into great big bow.  I wasn’t sure if I was going to want this feature on this dress, much less be committed to it by having them in the side seams, so I left them out.  However, I do still have enough sheer fabric to make the cummerbund sashes.  One day I would like to sew them up, tack them to the sides, and see what that would look like.  The giant sashes might give the “party dress” a completely different appearance I might love…an update will be posted here if that happens.

My crinoline petticoat under slip helps create the proper shape to my “party dress”.  I bought it here at Unique Vintage and I really how soft it is with the layers of ruffles.  It features a draw cord waist that tends to loosen a bit as I wear it, no matter how I double tie the bow.  So I added little loop at the inside waistband of my dress so I can connect the petticoat and the dress together.

100_1502     I did cover all the sheer seams in fray check just to make sure they don’t end up with a big run or rip too easily.  So far so good!
Someone gave me a wonderful compliment one day when wearing my “party grace-kelly-rear-window combo picdress”.  She told me my dress reminded her of something Grace Kelly wore in the Hitchcock movie “Rear Window”.  I went home and did an internet search on the subject and did find a dress quite similar in my respects (deep V-back, sheer poufy overskirt) to my own “party dress”.  See the picture below.  Grace Kelly also wears another dress in “Rear Window” with a similar sheer bodice which is strapless underneath.

      I hope you have enjoyed my post and get inspired to make your own wonderfully fun party attire.  Now all that is needed is a party!

I will post more photos soon on my Flickr page, Seam Racer.