1910 Afternoon Dress, Part VIII: Bretelles and Sash


In my original concept sketches I’d envisioned the bretelles and sash to be made of a different fabric than the main dress, still in the same tone of dusty rose but with more texture– maybe a velvet or a jacquard. I wasn’t able to find any during my NYC trip, probably because I was being so specific already– I needed something that would be slightly contrasting, but not too much or it would look costume-y– so I gave up and figured I’d just go with all the same satin. Luckily, I was out buying thread at a local fabric store when I glanced over and saw a textured silky fabric– almost like a hammered finish– in what looked to be almost exactly the right color! I brought over my swatch and sure enough, it was an almost perfect match. I bought two yards of it and promptly brought it home to get to work.

For the shoulder bretelles I first had to figure out length and width– that was easy enough using some spare fabric to get an idea of the correct proportional shape, which I then transferred to a paper pattern. But then I needed some detailing. I decided that I wanted to put in a few longitudinal pleats to add some texture to the fabric. I decided on a tapered box pleat, wide at the shoulder and narrower at the waist, and then staying narrow for the hip tabs. Unfortunately, pleats don’t work that way naturally– you can’t just fold lines at different angles and expect things to lay flat. I could’ve made separate front and back pieces, but I didn’t want a visible seam at the shoulder, so instead I had to make fake pleats.

The first thing I did was to flatline* a bunch of long strips of the hammered satin with cotton. I had to– the satin was so slippery and shifty that it was impossible to cut in a straight line, much less stitch one. Take a look at these two pictures of the same piece of fabric, cut on the grain and smoothed out flat– you can see that there are no creases or wrinkles in either picture, but with a few tugs at the edges I could completely change the shape of the piece. Imagine how much of a hassle it would be to try to get precise pattern pieces out of it!


*And by “flatline” I mean “use lightweight fusible hem tape to stick the pieces together along their length, just to keep them together.”

I took a long strip of flatlined fabric– twice the distance from shoulder to waist– and folded it into a diamond-ish shape, pinning and pressing the folds. Then I unfolded the creases and stitched another strip to each edge of the folded center piece (just outside the crease), making a new, wider piece with what looked like a diamond-shaped pleat in the center. Stitching outside the crease made it look like a pleat from the right side, with the hidden stitches securing its position. I repeated the process with shorter sections for the pieces that hang from the waist over the hips, and then stitched the two together. I had to make the pieces separate because of the angles of the center pleats– impossible to do in one piece, and the sash will hide the join anyway.


I cut out my backing pieces from lightly interfaced hammered satin– the interfacing made the satin easier to cut– and stitched all the way around the entire bretelle, leaving a short section open for turning. Once turned right-side out, I pressed the edges firmly to keep them flat, and attached large snaps to the underside of the bretelles that fastened to snaps on my shoulders. I’d originally intended to put more snaps at the waist, but didn’t bother because 1) the sash kept the bretelles firmly in place anyway; and 2) this way I can be sure that the bretelles sit flat over my torso, rather than potentially buckling if the waistband on my skirt shifts upwards.


Note that the bretelles are angled at the waist so that the torso portion can angle in towards the center while the the hip portion can hang straight down.


The sash itself was so much easier than the bretelles– it was just a long rectangle of fabric with lengthwise pleats in it. I did use more fusible hem tape on the inside of each pleat, both as a straight-line guide and to give the pleats a little more staying power. Then I backed the sash with a more interfaced satin. I made the sash long enough for a generous overlap of several inches (for size adjustment later), but short enough to be unobtrusive, and attached it with more snaps. Perhaps sometime I’ll find myself a vintage sash buckle to use on it.



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