Here’s another item I made this year, but failed to blog about.


Finished dress front

This dress started with the fabric. I bought a three yard remnant with vague ideas of making a dress from it. When it came down to actually making it I quickly realized that I didn’t have enough fabric. Color blocking seemed the obvious solution. I went with a lighter shade from the print to keep it lighter for the late summer wedding I’d wear it to.

I wanted a fuller skirt, but longer than any pattern I had. I settled on an original 40s dress bodice and a reproduction ’61 dress skirt, lengthened. The bodice had a back zip and the skirt a size zip, so I’d move the skirt’s to the side and still managed to put pockets in. Every skirt needs pockets. I did a mock up in a flimsy, ghastly, mustard cotton and it looked like things were going about to plan. Then things went wrong.

The 40s bodice had an obvious spot to color block, the yoke and collar were one piece, so I’d do that and the bottom 1/3 of the skirt in the solid light blue. What I didn’t realize, even after the mock up, was that the way the arm holes of the bodice were cut, which allows for quick construction and was fairly shape confirming in wimpy cotton, would be stiff and look at least one size too large when made in two layers sturdier fabric. It was almost done and I hated it. Hated it. It was frumpy on me and the extra fabric under the arms didn’t help.


Original 40s dress bodice

What I should have done was cut the yoke in the print and done the fold over collar portion in the light blue. Then I would have merely been disappointed with the arm hole fit.

It was one day before the wedding and I couldn’t wear it the way it was. Thereafter ensured a flurry of seam ripping to get the maximum possible fabric (ripping all of the top stitching so I could iron out every millimeter of the main torso pieces) and fiddling, this way and that, with what I had left. The pockets has taken up too much fabric because I tried to hang them from the waist seam inside. Ultimately this wouldn’t work and I’d cut them way back, thereby waisting a bunch of the print fabric. Grrr. I had absolutely nothing extra and no pieces that would cover the length of my torso, front and back.

So it would be a yoke after all. But how would I make the color blocking tie in? I tried several patterns in my stash and nothing quite worked. The 40s pattern was too shapeless, meaning that no other arm hole would work with the way the fabric had been cut.


The only solution was an entirely new bodice. I didn’t have a plain basic bodice pattern in my size. I had to make one, fitting it with my husband’s assistance (which mostly involved him taking pics so I could see what was going on). I turned the bottom half of the originally cut bodice sideways and with one decently sized scrap came up with a single piece full front piece.

While trying to get the mock-up on I simply cut a slit down the back, from the neck hole, thinking I’d decide on the neck shape once it was on me. That’s when the ah-ha moment happened. The slit could stay, faced with the light blue to match the skirt’s color blocking.


From there it was just a matter of binding the arm holes, stitching down the lining inside the yoke, attaching the bodice and skirt, putting in the zip, trimming off three inches of the bottom of the skirt (because the length of the 40s skirt really looked so much better in sturdy cotton) and hemming. Oh, and make a narrow self-fabric belt.

Finished just in time, I wore it with a full tulle underskirt and self painted, fabulous, blue heels, but those are another post.


Finished dress back


In honor of Downton Abbey’s advance into the 1920s in Season 3 (though not quite in their wheelhouse) and the upcoming May 10, 2013 release of Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby (totally in their wheelhouse), I’m shamelessly reblogging Come Step Back in Time’s great post on the Gosport Gallery’s Roaring Twenties exhibit. There are some fabulous images of stunning twenties dresses any flapper or modern girl would love to have. I love the attention to detail like the hand painting on the lower part of the heel one the white slipper.

Come Step Back In Time

Modernistic effects in furniture and architecture are being used with a vengeance by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in Joan Crawford’s new picture.  Weird beds, almost on the floor, have little woodwork frame save foot-high boards which conceal the springs and do away without the conventional legs of a bed.  These are set against a wall whose only ornamenting is the shape of the doors.  Black statues set against gold papered panels from the ornamental note. The whole thing is being photographed under the huge new incandescent lights.

(Extract from a 1928 Studio Press Release for MGM’s Our Dancing Daughters)

Our Dancing Daughterswas the first in a trilogy of films designed under the auspices of Head of Art Direction at MGM, Cedric Gibbons (1893-1960).  The other films in the trilogy being Our Blushing Brides (1928) and Our Modern Maidens (1929). His high style, Art Deco inspired, set designs were befitting to the…

View original post 2,085 more words

Threads Magazine recently had a great article about The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s online collections database. The database is extensive, with over 43,000 costume pieces. Better yet, you can narrow your search down by time period, material, manufacturer and location. Each item listing includes photos, materials and maker info as well as time period, when known. The image quality is exceptional, allowing you to zoom in quite close on the details.

Here’s a piece I’m already interested in: a 1912 Egyptian Revival evening gown of silk, metal and rhinestone.

from The Metropolitan Museum of Art's online collection

I’m really fascinated by the lace detail on the right side (which I believe is only attached where the bodice and skirt join) and the way fullness is created on the back sides for the train. The front and back of the bodice are asymmetrical and the back gives the look of a second layer folded down over an under layer. The materials look rich in a way that we usually only see on the red carpet these days. I’m not sure, but I think the train may be slightly asymmetrical as well.

More after the jump. (more…)

The 1912 Project is about to start with 400 Test Sewers! We’ve been broken up into groups and patterns should be coming our way any day now. The official blog for the project can be found here. We will be starting with patterns from the April 1912 issue, as this is the closest to the sinking of the Titanic, then going back and working our way through the entire year.

What I really want to show you are some of the illustrations from La Mode Illustree 1912, issue #3:

The three items show are:

  1. Ladies Taffeta Dress (#0158) – blue taffeta trimmed in satin bias binding of the same color with plastron and under cuffs of pleated white tulle.
  2. Ladies Coat (#0168) –  gray velvet with white stripes with black velvet cuffs and lapels.
  3. Ladies Jacket (#0169) – a ladies wool coat with silk lining and velvet cuffs. I want this! I love the large lapels and the way the lining shows. This looks like it would lend itself well to having a hood, though I doubt the original did.

I can’t wait to see what pattern comes to the rogues first! And oh just look at those glorious hats!

That’s right. Be merry!

This costume was a commission from a family friend who needed a Mrs. Claus costume quickly. She and her husband are attending a Santa Claus convention next weekend. Those who play Santa take it as seriously as we historical costume lovers! She had all the fabric (a red velveteen, predominantly red and predominantly white cotton Christmas fabrics) and a pattern on hand; all I had to do was choose which of two to use for the bodice/sleeves/flounce and get to work. But how could I choose just one great fabric? I used both! Here’s what I did: (more…)