“Retro Forward” Burda Style: Floaty Dress

This dress’ pattern name says it all – it really does float, flow, and overall make you feel like a beautiful romantic princess when wearing it. Most especially, I love the way the deeply open neckline and the shapely back panels save it from being too girly, adding (what I think) the right amount of ‘hottie’ factor.

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Here I’m actually multi-tasking…one eye on our child, and modeling at the same time!

I initially visualized this dress in a solid color to maximize all the details of the design, but, however, using a floral fabric for it is irresistible to amp up the dress’ feminine qualities. In my case, making and wearing the “Floaty Dress” is a treat in itself – it is made from one of my all-time favorite fabric (rayon challis) with lapped seams, bias ties, and ruched gathers (my favorite techniques) and made for a special festive occasion. Every year for our son’s birthday, I choose a special dress to make and wear as the party dress for me, the hostess, and it normally becomes my ‘ultimate’ summer fun frock for that year. This year’s party dress, Burda’s “Floaty Dress”, is by far my favorite…but I say this every year! See my other two party dresses here and here.

THE FACTS:100_6033a-comp

FABRIC:  a 100% rayon challis, bought from Hancock Fabrics. The print is a beautiful mix of all my favorite purples, lavender, and blue tones against white…mostly daisy and morning glory flowers

NOTIONS: I had to buy the zipper for the side closure, but other than that all I needed was white thread (always on hand).

113_floaty dress - combo of line drawing and model picPATTERN:  Floaty Dress, #113, from 03/2013

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This dress was done in two nights for a total of about 5 or 6 hours. It was finished on May 9, 2015.

THE INSIDES:  The inner edges are left raw and loose to go with the theme of the dress, but they don’t fray anyway.

TOTAL COST:  I spent a total of maybe $12, more or less, for around 2 yards of fabric and the zip.

This dress was so ridiculously easy and fun to make. The drawing and the details made me think it was so much more complicated than it was once I got into the ‘making’ part of the dress. Once I started, it seemed like the dress was finished before I knew it. Would you ever guess?! Anytime a project spends little time under the sewing machine to turn out a look like this, so it can spend plenty of time being worn…that makes it a winning pattern in my book.

100_6011a-compBurda 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 seam allowances.

I made no changes to the pattern, with the sole exception of the sleeves and neckline. The instructions called for the ends to be turned into a casing, to run elastic through for a gathered effect. I left out the elastic gathered sleeve ends because I wanted to continue the flowing look of the overall dress and keep the gathered front as a main feature. The neckline opening was extremely deep to the point of flashing lingerie, so I had stitched the opening a few inches higher, but still low enough to be sexy. (The skinny bias facing ties give a more decent option to an open chest.) Otherwise, I made my correct size according to the Burda Style Chart, grading up for my hips, and the sizing seems spot on. I personally think that it is important to not make this “Floaty dress” snug…it needs to be free flowing and not too fitted.

100_6025a-comp-combo tied n untiedThe design of the princess seams down the back are so complimentary. You probably can’t see them as well as I would like but the contrast top-stitching shows the lines as does the line drawing above. Those princess seams give the back half a different outline, one more shaped and curvy than the front view.

100_6014a-compMy sole complaint/word of warning about this dress is probably unexpected, but helpful to know and easily remedied. Do not hang this dress if you make it with a fabric whose grain can ‘grow’! Lay it flat, fold it flat, or store it flat in some way or form to keep the fabric grain from losing its shape. The back left and right panels and the front pieces, on account of the layout and the shaping, have their side seam edges on the bias. I found out the hard way that even just a few days of being on a hanger will change the dress’ original shape…it now billows out more at the waist and front and is a bit more generous than intended. On its own I don’t think the bias on the side seams would be a problem if the dress was made out of a lighter weight polyester (for example, mentioned above), but there is a lot of fabric in the skirt portion, which is nothing bad, just a potential weight for the top of the dress.100_6032-comp

Speaking of the skirt, between that and the sleeves, my dress is wonderful to wear and with a floaty silhouette, the pattern title is literal and accurately appropriate. More or less, the bottom half of the dress is two large, almost half circle pieces. This high “skirt swirl factor” (as I dub it) would make the “Floaty dress” the perfect retro swing dancing outfit. Thus, I had to add in a twirl picture!

As I’ve mentioned before, gathering is one of my favorite techniques, so it was an enjoyment to make and also wear the dress with its front detail. Front gathering, similar to ruching and also called shirring, is seen in most all the decades of the 20th century fashions. This is why the “Floaty dress” post is part of my “Retro Forward” Burda Style series. Runched gathers are a great way to add controlled fullness1930s-early 40s yellow ruched dress & Dogwood Floral runched mid-30s dress in a decorative way while deceiving the eye into seeing things slimmer than reality. The decade of the 1920’s often used gathers in certain spots, such as over the hips, to add soft shaping fullness (see here or here). The 1930’s enjoyed adding large spots of ruching/gathers as a main feature and shaping method, such as down the front, across a skirt panel, or to puff out a sleeve from the hemline (see the right picture at right). 1940’s Simplicity 2230 yr 1947 ruched day or evening dress&Vogue #9691 1940s dress w sweetheart neck, shirred frontgarments and patterns use gathers in both small and large areas, such as on the sleeves in the early 40’s or all the way across the front, as was popular around ‘47. See the two patterns at left, or three of my past projects, my 1948 S-front dress, my satin 1946 dress, and my swing dance dress for more examples of large and/or small gathers during the 40’s.  In the 1950’s, gathered runching was heavily used1950's Miss Universe ad for Catalina brand pink ruched swimsuit&New York #1011 1950's pattern on swimwear, in many rows, to create the iconic “pin-up” style, but it was also used on garments, as well. I notice gathers were used in in 60’s, 70’s, and up to our modern day, but there was a resurgence especially the 1980’s.  For a current comparison, I see a similarity of design (sans gathers) shared between the “Floaty dress” and a recent pattern, New Look #6224.

Whenever, wherever, or however gathers are used, they always make for a challenging and appealing garment – and a creatively drawn pattern to be sure!

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Silver Bells, Silver Brocade – It’s Christmastime in the City

Holiday parties, I’m ready for you!

Now that I have made myself the perfect go-to fancy event dress, I am all decked out in sparkle and silver and geared up for fun.  My dress is vintage to boot, with a very surprising, sexy but demure design.  I look all unadventurous and streamlined from the front, but there is a bit ‘va-va-voom’ from behind…just wait, read on and see.  It’s the time of year for surprises!

100_4269THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  The fabric is a rather thick poly/metallic brocade, double sided in a ‘reverse negative’ sort of way.  The fabric’s floral, swirling, lace-like print is woven (part of the make-up), not printed.  It was bought at Jo Ann’s fabric store last year (2013) when their Holiday collection came out. Simplicity 6434 yr 1966

NOTIONS:  I already had everything on hand: black thread, interfacing, hem tape, zipper, and large sized hooks and eyes

PATTERN:  a year 1966 Simplicity #6434

TIME TO COMPLETE:   This dress was finished on November 29, 2014 after spending 15 to 20 hours to complete.

THE INSIDES:  Half of the long seams, such as the side seams and front princess seams, are finished in a French seam, while the bottom half is covered in bias tape to make the dress’ skirt stiffer and stick out like in the envelope picture.  My sleeves/armholes are covered in bias tape, too.  See the ‘inside-out’ picture below.  The only spot left raw is the inner top of the back pleat, but this spot doesn’t need any more of a bulky finish.  Anyway, I was just following directions!

100_4319TOTAL COST:  I remember that I was reluctant at first to buy this silver brocade because it was expensive by my standards.  Besides, I’d already dropped a good amount of dough on the fabric for my 1940 suit dress set about a month before.  Anyway, with a discount coupon, I believe the total for the fabric (my only expense) comes to maybe $30.  That total is still not bad at all for a dress like this.

          Do you see something interesting in picture of the inside front to my dress?  Pockets!  Yes, hidden in between the front princess seams are two handy-dandy pockets.  They fall at such an easy height – more or less hip height just over my lower tummy.  Now, anytime my hands are cold at a party or I need access to a tissue for my nose, I have my pockets to assist me.

Installing the pockets was one one the very first steps to complete before diving into any construction of the rest of the dress.  This way they could be sewn in one as part of the seam later on.  There are strips of stabilizer (I used black hem tape) sewn on the wrong side of the pocket openings to keep the fabric from stretching out of shape.  My silver brocade dress’ pockets remind me of another 60’s garment, one which has the same hip/tummy front “kangaroo” pockets – my 1968 ‘Pucci print’ Maxi Sundress.  Pockets seem to be my current obsession.  Pockets are so much easier to sew in than they seem, and well make up for any extra effort by their incredible utility.  Another reason I love sewing in pockets is because these vintage patterns really know how to cleverly place them…and besides, pockets are so hard to find in store RTW clothes.  The hidden convenient pockets are only one of the number of surprises to my silver brocade dress’ design.

100_4282     The side panels have three amazing specialties to add my unique holiday dress.  Firstly, there is no real side seam – the panels wrap around from off center side to off center back.  They more or less go from princess seam to princess seam.  I know I have seen patterns with this feature before, but they seem few and far in between.  The thing which completely “makes” the side panels do wonders for the dress are the fact that they are directed to be cut on the bias (cross selvedge).  Having the cross-grain in the pieces which complete the princess seaming give this dress’ fit an amazing beauty.  The bias side panels hug the body at every move, stretching and forming the princess seams to hug the body for a complimentary, yet forgiving fit.  Having the bias side panels being so ‘forgiving’ especially comes in handy after a big meal 🙂  I knew I liked the pattern (enough to order it!), but these two features of the side panels were only realized once I got into the ‘laying-out-and-cutting’ stage.  I had a “wow” moment.  Thirdly and finally, I cut the side panels to my dress on the opposite side of the fabric as was used for the rest of the dress.  Since the brocade is pretty and double sided (negative image, actually) I wanted to be able to both show each side of the fabric and also subtly highlight the side panels.

100_4280     Now, I suppose you’ve already seen the back design by looking at the pattern envelope picture above.  The back view of my dress reveals a wide open, deep V-back which opens up at the small of the back into a wide, gently flaring box pleat.  Sewing the back details was a very fun challenge – not too hard to accomplish, but just interesting enough to learn from doing it.  The back center zipper runs all the way down past the flare of the back box pleat.  This only involved an extra two step treatment of the zipper installation for the box pleat to properly flare freely.  You have to lift out the box pleat out of the way on each side of the zip and sew it in below the pleat.  Next I sewed up the rest (top half) of the zipper into the dress above the pleat opening.100_4322

When my dress was finished, of course I immediately tried it on and became a bit worried about the wide open back.  The dress seemed to have the tendency to slip off my shoulders from behind and slide forward.  However, once I added two large hook-and-eyes to close up an extra 2 inches above the zipper, as the instructions direct, the ‘slipping shoulders’ problem happily disappeared completely and the dress stays on effortlessly with no extra ‘lingerie catch straps’ or the like.  The back V-neckline even stays admirably flat against my back, with no gaping.  I credit this in part to the hook-and-eyes, another part to the great design, and a final part to the great fitting facings.  There is seam tape sewn into the facings (and the shoulder seams) to make sure those spots keep in perfect shape.  If you look at the picture at right, you can see it all – the hook-and eyes, the zipper between the pleat, my French seam innards, and the nice large, stable facings along the edges.

My one minor gripe about the design of my dress is the great excess of ease added into the sleeve caps.  It makes for some uber-gathered poufy sleeve caps which I think the dress could have looked better without.  Nevertheless, the poufy sleeve tops are not really that bad – they do provide plenty of reach room to move around in, and that’s rarely a bad thing 🙂

100_4276a     The funny factor about making this dress is the extra time and effort I made for myself by allowing room for unnecessary creativity.  Looking at the pattern, and comparing it to my brocade fabric, I thought perhaps the dress would look better with a longer hem and different sleeves.  Thus, at the cutting step, I added 3 inches extra to the bottom hem, as well as 3 inches to the hem length of the sleeves.  Hubby and I had these fantastic plans for some really pretty arched hem sleeves which could be turned up as cuffs with a button to show off the underside of the fabric.  After my dress was finished and I had tried it on, hubby and I both agreed that the original pattern had the design for the dress right after all, and our “changes” needed to go.  So, I had to go through some unpicking, and plenty of measuring and marking to get the dress back to the original length for the both the sleeves and bottom hem.  Three inches were added, and three inches taken off…oh, well!  We live and learn.

1966-soft-updo     Hubby and I were to attend a holiday party hosted by his workplace, and this was the first occasion (of many, I hope) for wearing my new party dress.  I wanted an authentic 1966 hair-do to match with my dress and found some great ideas amongst the blogging sphere.  My personal favorite page for 1966 party hair-do’s can be found here and my favorite page for 1965 evening wear hair is here.  As it turned out, I made a few valiant attempts at some of the more complicated up-do’s.  I ran out of 1966 David n' David wig adverttime when they weren’t working out, and so settled with a classic style, with thick side swept ‘bang’, a pony tail wrapped with a cone of hair at the base, and lightly curled tail.  I can’t help but think of this as a retro “Barbie doll” coiffed style.  It’s close to authentic, but still modern.  I would have liked something more spectacular (like my 1966 ad pictures below)…but I think I’ll have to spend some practice time first to reach the level of such hair art.

This project is my second 1960’s era ‘party dress’.  My first one can be seen here, and it is from 1961 for summertime glamor.  Both of them still have a strong 50’s influence in their lines.  I find it interesting that the 50’s still had such a strong influence on the 60’s fashion so late into the decade, with patterns such as the one used for my brocade dress still emphasizing the nipped waist, flared skirts, and open back.  I notice that what we traditionally think of the 60’s – ‘A-line’ silhouettes, easy dressing, “mod” prints, and the frequent unusual waist placement (such as empire or hip length) – does not seem to be in full force on pattern covers until 1967 and after.

100_4270     Wearing silver at Christmastime brings to my mind other places I see silver at this time of year, in pretty present wrappings, tinsel strands, and mirror-like shiny vintage glass ornaments.  Silver seems to reflect the beauty of the lights and colors of the holidays more perfectly than any other color…except for some white snow!  Thus, I feel my silver brocade ’66 dress to be a neat appropriate alternative to the traditional trio of black, red, or green worn for Christmas get-together occasions.  Silver is definitely good for more than just money!

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!

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.