So last year I whipped up a quick 1920s evening dress using a vintage silk dupatta and a basic One-Hour Dress pattern. It was fast, easy, and the fabric made it interesting despite its shapelessness. I learned that I really enjoy sewing with vintage saris and dupattas, simply because of all the fantastic details that are already present in the fabric– no extra embellishment needed!
That being said, you knew I couldn’t stop there, right? Having made a bunch of 1920s-style day dresses, I decided to revisit the evening dress and my love of vintage dupattas to make a glamorous emerald green flapper-style dress. While I don’t ordinarily wear a lot of green, I admit to having been inspired by Cyd Charisse’s sultry green costume from Singin’ In the Rain– I may not be quite as fabulous as she was, but I can aspire!
Obviously, Charisse’s costume isn’t anywhere near historically accurate, but it’s the feel I’m going for more than the actual look.
I know, I know, I’ve already made several Regency gowns out of saris, but they’re just so perfect for this kind of thing! Besides, this one isn’t for me, it’s for a friend of mine who is (luckily) short enough to use the width of the sari as her skirt length, so I used a slightly different cutting layout than I have in the past.
I’ve already mentioned my propensity towards urging my friends to attend historical costume events with me, so it should be no surprise that for an upcoming Victorian ball I managed to convince a friend to let me outfit her in something appropriate– in this case, an altered modern ballgown (of course).
So remember the Edwardian hat I painstakingly made last year, only to lose it on the train before I got the chance to wear it? I never really got over being bitter about that, and vowed to make another, better one as soon as I got the chance.
I must say, despite all of the head-banging and last-minute hand-sewing that went into this dress (I was still finishing up fastenings at 12:20 for a 1pm event, and I still needed to put up my hair and actually get there!), I’m extremely happy with the outcome– it turned out exactly how I’d envisioned it, which always feels great. The bretelles stayed nicely in place, the lace underskirt peeked out just enough from the underskirt, the collar stays kept my collar standing up perfectly, and the evil, slippery hammered satin fabric was the perfect accent (and looked almost like velvet from a distance).
I had a fabulous time swanning around my afternoon tea in my satin gown and gigantic hat (more on that later), and I can’t wait to re-use the guimpe and underskirt on another dress in the future– perhaps in antique blue, with some soutache work or something similar…
By the way, isn’t it awesome when an outfit matches the original sketch so exactly?
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.
Making the overskirt was a bit more complicated than I thought it would be, so I put off finishing it until really late.
It started off simple– I extended the length of the original overskirt pattern and cut the pieces a bit larger to allow for some extra fullness in back, just as I did for the underskirt. However, since there were no darts in the front like there were in the underskirt, the shaping was different– once I pulled the waist tight in back, the front pulled unattractively across my stomach, and there seemed to be too much curve at the side seams, keeping them from laying smoothly over the hips. I tweaked the shape a few times, and eventually got it to behave reasonably well.
This issue was compounded by the horror stories I’d heard about working with satin– that it showed every tiny pinhole, that it puckered if you looked at it funny, that sewing machines loved eating it for lunch, and that it was impossible to keep straight while cutting or sewing. Though I managed to avoid most of these issues by flatlining the satin with my cotton voile, I still had to be really careful with pinholes and ripping out seams. Basically, in order to avoid visibly ripped-out seam lines, every alteration I made had to make the skirt progressively smaller as I widened the seam allowance. (sigh… I guess I should’ve done a mockup after all)