Green 1920s Dupatta Dress

green sari 1920s 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!

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Obviously, Charisse’s costume isn’t anywhere near historically accurate, but it’s the feel I’m going for more than the actual look.

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Red Bustle Ballgown

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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).

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1910 Afternoon Dress, Part IX: Final Photos!

1910 rose closeup

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).

1910 rose dress

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?

1910 rose 3  rose-gown-sketch

 

1910 Afternoon Dress, Part VIII: Bretelles and Sash

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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.

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1910 Afternoon Dress, Part VII: Overskirt

overskirt

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)

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1910 Afternoon Dress, Part VI: Bodice

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So after all of my mockups, you’d think I’d be pretty confident in my finished bodice pattern, right? Not so much. I was still a bit worried about finally cutting out the bodice, but eventually I convinced myself that any errors would be hidden by the sash and bretelles (and if not I had extra satin yardage to re-cut), so I just gritted my teeth and did it.

First I cut my pattern pieces out of the pink voile, and then laid those voile pieces onto my satin to cut it out exactly the same– much easier than cutting from a paper pattern, since the voile didn’t slide around on the satin. Then I flatlined all of my pieces.

I decided to apply the trim on the center front piece first– I had been going to use the full width of my widest trim across the bustline, but decided to cut off the outer borders to keep it from being too overwhelming. I pinned and hand-sewed the new, narrower trim to the front of my center bodice piece– it’s different enough from the sleeve trim to be distinct, but still matching. I was going to stitch more trim on the sleeve pieces at this point, but had such a hard time deciding where to place it that I decided to wait until I could try on the basic bodice and mark the correct height for sleeve trim.

bodice-trim

Anyway, I stitched the bodice together, and then tried it on. Yeah, not so good– not only was the bodice trim not quite properly centered, but I realized that the flatlining was making the bodice look too stiff. I ended up removing the lining from all the pieces except for the center front panel– I figured I’d want the extra body to help it lie smoothly over the torso (though I probably could’ve removed it if I’d wanted to). Talk about a waste of time for the original flatlining…

I drafted a 3″ wide facing to go around the front edges, which I cut from fusible interfacing and then ironed on to plain fabric. I had some issues with getting the correct shape, and the spot where the neckline and shoulders meet is kind of wonky, but it went mostly as planned. I understitched the facing to the seam allowances to get the neckline edge to roll ever-so-slightly inwards, which I think made for a really nice finish (particularly given that my satin didn’t crease well under the iron).

I decided to use snaps rather than hooks and eyes to keep the bodice closed– they won’t be under much stress since it’s not a tight-fitting bodice, so no real danger of coming unsnapped.

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I stitched my sleeves together using a medium-length stitch, then set them into the bodice so I could try it on and figure out where to place my next pieces of trim. Once I’d figured out the correct height, I unpicked the stitches to about halfway up the sleeve, stitched on my trim, and then re-closed the seam over the raw edges before hemming it. I was able to hand-stitch the hem to the area of satin right behind the trim, so the hem didn’t show.

bodice-sleeve

I will note that this whole post leaves out or glosses over the numerous unforced errors I made in construction of this piece– I mis-cut the facing, so had to piece in extra scraps in two different places to make it fit the neckline; I cut the back neckline square without realizing what it would do to the shape of the shoulder strap (hint: makes it all wonky and weird-looking) and I can’t fix it without replacing the entire back piece, which I may do anyway; I was over-cautious when adapting the shape of the center panel, making it too flat at the bust seam, so I had to let it out a bit and then take it back in an even tinier bit because I’d miscalculated again… so many issues that had to get fixed, so in the end I felt like I’d basically wasted days’ worth of work. So frustrating. I guess it’s all part of the learning experience, right?

I think part of the problem is that I keep wanting the bodice to be good enough to wear without the shoulder bretelles to cover up my mistakes, but I’m forgetting that I designed the bodice with the express intent of covering up the design issues with the bretelles. So I’m trying to overcome issues that are part and parcel of the original design concept– not an easy thing to do. Nothing to do but soldier on, though…

1910 Afternoon Dress, Part II: Lace and Fabric

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This is the lace that started it all. Really, I had a totally different idea for my next afternoon-tea outfit– it was going to be a tiered white cotton Edwardian dress with embroidered navy trim– and then I saw this lace on Etsy and immediately knew I wanted to go in another direction.

Anyway, the Etsy seller also had a coordinating narrower lace, plus an even narrower one that looked like it was somewhat similar, so I bought some of all three. I’ll use the widest stuff sparingly, since it’s the most expensive– mostly for the lace collar and the decoration across the front of the bodice. The medium width will be used on the dress cuffs and also on the collar, and I’ll use the narrowest stuff to trim the cuffs of the undersleeves.

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