I recently attended a Regency ball, which is usually my excuse to make something new and pretty to wear. However, as I’d just finished cleaning out my closet I couldn’t really justify making a brand-new gown (also, no time), so I decided to freshen up an old one– my ivory sheer ballgown, originally worn under a burgundy open robe made of a vintage dupatta.
I’d worn the burgundy open robe a few times already, but without it the ivory gown just seemed too plain. I dug through my stash and pulled out a vintage chiffon dupatta in forest green, leftover from when I was collecting fabric for my 1920s green evening dress.
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.
As you recall, last time I made a muslin to pattern out my Regency open robe to fit onto a 45×90″ silk dupatta. I ended up with paper pattern pieces for the bodice, but I didn’t want to bother making them for the skirt so I just ripped apart the muslin and laid out the skirt pieces on my dupatta, cutting around them. It was kind of a hassle trying to keep the pattern of tiny scattered flowers symmetric on the bodice– I hadn’t thought about that when figuring out where I’d place the pattern pieces originally, but luckily I had enough spare fabric to move things around.
Okay, so after my failed attempt at dyeing fabric for a Regency ballgown, I went in search of some alternative deep red fabric to sew my gown out of. Sadly, I couldn’t find anything similar at the only fabric store nearby, so I decided to go in a different direction with some sheer ivory (polyester, sigh) drapery fabric. It’s thin, lightweight, and has a sort of striated design woven into it that adds some visual depth. It’s 120″ wide and I bought three yards, which should be plenty, right? I figure that I can make a basic short-sleeved gown and hopefully find some trim to decorate it later. The drapery fabric is very sheer, so I also bought three yards of ivory cotton/poly broadcloth (I know, 100% cotton is always preferable but they didn’t have any and I’m short on time) to line it with.
As another option, I’m going to use a vintage silk dupatta to make a sleeveless open robe to wear with it. I purchased several dupattas and saris a while back and got this one with the express intent of eventually making an open robe out of it, so this seems like the perfect opportunity. The dupatta is larger than usual at 45 x 90″ so even though it’s not enough fabric to make an entire gown I think I can get an open robe out of it if I’m careful with layout.
Like I said, I’m not a huge fan of the 1920s silhouette, but I was browsing eBay for beaded chiffon dupattas– the perfect source for inexpensive pre-embroidered/beaded fabric– to make an evening dress out of, when I came across this lovely item:
It wasn’t really right for the dress I had in mind, but for some reason I kept coming back to it. Something about the floral pattern, the burgundy/cream/gold color scheme, and the tiny sequins just made me think it would make a gorgeous flapper dress. Finally, I just bit the bullet and ordered it, and now that it’s here I’m so glad I did!