Monday, October 5, 2015

1920 Chemise Dress

This 1920 Chemise Dress was one that I finished for Costume College 2015.  

A 1920 frock was always on the "To Sew" list, I had just never really gotten around to making one.  I had done a lot of research, had the requisite Pinterest board, and even had some true vintage 1920 patterns. Costume College was looming on the horizon and I decided this style dress might make a great "Hall" dress (a dress to wear during classes).  I always start with fabric.  If the fabric is not right, the look will not be right.  It took me about two weeks of pouring over the vintage sari listings to find this one from a seller in India.  I made an offer and it was accepted.  When it arrived, I was excited to see that it was in as good of shape was was described, a wonderfully light weight silk in shades of cream, old gold, orange, and a brownish burgundy.  The overall look of the printed fabric pattern was just perfect for a 1920 ensemble!  I was excited to get started.  
After a delicate rinse, I was pressing out the fabric when I discovered a designer label on an inside hem edge.  On doing some research, I was able to learn that the designer dated back to the 1920's!  Now, I can not say that this particular piece of fabric was from the 1920's, but I will tell you that when I opened the package it had that "old fabric" smell!  Those of you that buy and work with vintage fabric know of what I speak.  I always smell my fabric, I know crazy, but it is part of the creative process for me.  I have to "bond" with my fabrics or I can not see the finished garment.  Most times I can see the finished piece before I even begin, but I have to have the fabric in my hands.  

At first glance a 1920 frock looks pretty straight forward, and it was not until I was underway that I began to appreciate the subtle details and tailoring that goes into making a good looking ensemble.  Sure, you can make a rectangle and belt it and you will have a dress, but I did not think that was how they actually made them in the 20's.  First needed are a couple of period correct under-garments.  A corset to flatten out the bustline and create the cylindrical silhouette so popular in the 1920's.  Next, a good full length slip of a heavier fabric to give your lightweight fabrics a sturdy under-support and help provide that cylindrical drape all the way around.  

My dress is self designed and drafted and I have to say this style dress is not too terribly difficult to create. However, it is important to know your design and measurements in advance.  I always have a drawing to help me stay focused and on track.  I reviewed my Pinterest pins for ideas and inspiration, and decided on something that was around the 1923 time-frame which still had the longer length, dropped waist, I wanted hip ties, and the popular 3/4 length sleeves.  As a side note, in my poking around I did see this style dress referred to occasionally as a "Chemise" dress, which I thought was pretty accurate in regards to it's overall styling. First off was pattern placement on the actual fabric to maximize impact and fully utilize every inch of this wonderfully vintage sari. After cutting and basic french-seam sewing, next up was some slight tailoring.  My frock required more of an A-frame shaping.  I also checked the sleeve lengths, and the hem length taking into consideration the overall proportion from top half to bottom half.  Lastly, I worked on slimming down a careful amount of  "ease" thru the body so as not to create a "baggy" looking garment.  The dress really comes to life when being worn and one can watch the movement of the body and the fabric together.  I was quite happy with the overall finished product.

Lastly, it's the little details that helps create the perfect vintage look.  Details such as hair, makeup, shoes, purses, hats, gloves etc.  Attention must always be given to make certain the overall look is co-cohesive with the era that is being portrayed.  Referencing my Pinterest pins again, I came up with hairstyle and makeup ideas that worked.  My vintage hat selection was based on some true vintage hat pins as well.  However, I could not find a true vintage "horse-hair" wide-brimmed hat, only a couple cloches. 
I attended a wonderful 1920 event last weekend at the Homestead House and was happy to wear my 1920 frock.  Here is the link to all the pictures of that weekend:


Saturday, March 28, 2015

2015 Civil War Ensemble for Riverside Dickens Festival

Feb 2015 Riverside Dickens Festival
The Riverside Dickens Festival was coming up, and a new 1850 ensemble was on the horizon.  In my stash was this beautiful floral, cotton sateen, with a royal blue background.  My inspiration for the
fabric selection for this ensemble came from the vintage gown picture below.    I love the bold color of my fabric; the movement of the floral print, the overall drape of the fabric, and  that cotton is just such a pleasure to wear on a warm day.  Lastly, I thought the color and print of this fabric would lend itself well to a late-Winter gown, in that the blue makes one think of the coming Spring Skies, and the floral print makes one dream of the promise of flowers to come! 
1850 at Philadelphia Museum of Art

I have had this Civil War pattern in my stash for forever; it is from Dakota Prairie Treasures.  It states that it is reproduced from an original 1859 Antebellum Civil War pattern.  As is the norm of the era, the pattern is for a very petite, very small lady of the time, more like a fourteen year old of today in height and size. 

As most of us know, these patterns are pretty much worthless, and I really only ended up using the picture of the gown as inspiration.  The pattern included an 8x10 page of the bodice pattern pieces which need to be enlarged to fit, a photo of the ensemble with a brief description, and some notes on “How to Dress” of the era.  Everything else I kind of made up as I went long.  The pattern was missing a critical piece, mainly an interior sleeve lining that all the sleeve puffs should anchor to, so I just drew one up for use with this bodice.  Also, there is no skirt pattern; you are just supposed to make one up, so I used my Truly Victorian TV244 1859 Double Skirt pattern.  Lastly, the pattern description states that the bodice and the white underblouse are separate, but for my own sanity, I joined them together as one piece with the look of two separate pieces.

After tracing and enlarging a couple of times, working thru on a couple of mockups, I decided to use the Simplicity 3727 pattern as a sort of sloper for sizing purposes, and it worked out well.  Enlarging is one of my weak spots.   

The bodice went together quickly, as I have used the Simp pattern before.  The challenges started with the puffy sleeves and the white insert.  Each of the puffy pieces had to be sewn with a gather stitch, gathered to size, and then stitched into place onto the inner sleeve lining.  There are four puffy parts for each sleeve, in increasing sizes, ending with a bell sleeve.  The sleeves alone took over seven hours, it was slow and time consuming to make sure each puff was evenly gathered and distributed and not all bunched up on one side.  The next challenge was the underblouse insert.  I had to drape the half finished bodice on the mannequin to get proper placement for my cutouts and inserts.  I used some sheer white muslin from the stash.  There is a front and back to the white portion, almost like a fixed dickey.  I added the standup collar, and finished it off with fives rows of 1/2” decorative lace that I gathered (also from the stash).  Lastly, as you can see from the pattern picture and my finished bodice that I flipped it around for a front opening and used buttons.  That was actually the easiest change.  To help with the illusion of two separate pieces on the bodice, I used two different types of buttons.  For the white insert I used ¼’ vintage glass pearl buttons, and on the dark blue fabric I used ½’’ brass buttons with a vintage look.  I then pulled some 3” black fringe from the stash to trim the bottom of the bodice, and finished off using a beautiful 3” black cotton Cluney lace to trim out the bodice top edges, sleeves, and bodice bottom edges in place of velvet, which I could not find.  The lace looks beautiful and is period correct.  The bodice probably used approximately three yards of fabric, and there are waist ties on the inside.

The skirt is also very easy, and uses six and a half yards of fashion fabric, and then two yards of a lining.  One note of caveat, I am full sized, and I think the next time I make it, I will add an extra panel for the top skirt, as well as some extra yardage in the underskirt.  It uses the same amount of fabric for a size six, which will have a much fuller overall look, as it does for a sixteen, but some of the fullness seems to get lost.  My hope skirt is larger, but still under 150 inches,
by default to my size and pulls the fabric more than a smaller hoop will.  Just something to consider if you try this skirt, and want a fuller look.

I finished the look off with a bonnet that I cobbled together.  The body of the bonnet is a “ready-made” burgundy felt that I purchased for $5 on Ebay.  I then covered the crown with leftover fabric to match my gown, made some ruching trim for the top edge of the bonnet with the same gown fabric, gathered some eyelet lace from the stash that was about 9” wide for the interior lining of the underside of the brim, used some 3” royal blue ribbon from the stash, some silk roses, and concluded by pulling some feathers off of another hat to add to this bonnet.  My gloves, shawl, handbag, embroidered white cotton undersleeves, and jewelry all came from what I already had.  It was a warm day, and I did not get many pictures.  Let me know if you have any questions.  Enjoy.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Balboa Park 1915-2015 Centennial Celebration

There has been a lot of fun stuff going on here at Balboa Park in San Diego!  It is the 100th Anniversary of the Park, which was built to celebrate the opening of the Panama Canal and the Pan-American Expo event.  Think “Teens” era attire! The architecture is what is called “Spanish Rococo” and it just something to see!  
The Bell Tower is now open for climbing tours
for the first time in eighty years!

January 2015 had the San Diego Costume Guild busy, and I pulled out some of my “Teens” and  “Late-Edwardian” gowns and dresses.  I realized that I had never blogged about some of these beauties, so, instead of individual posts, I am going with a group blog.

The first week in January 2015 found the guild members as Volunteers at “The Museum of the History of Man”, which was the first official Centennial Kickoff celebration.  The Museum was hosting an event and asked for volunteers to attend in 1915 attire.  I was able to pull out an actual vintage “Teens era” 1915 two-piece dress ensemble,  a vintage Edwardian black silk taffeta coat with black fox collar, vintage parasol, and a wonderful vintage Edwardian black silk wide-brimmed hat trimmed with feathers and pink silk flowers.
Darlene and myself

I had purchased the two-piece dress several years ago, and it resided in my “To Do” box for a few years until the approach of 2012.  I pulled it out and started restoration and reconfiguration efforts.    After soaking it a couple of times and line drying it, I was able to see a lot of the work that went into making this dress.  I could see that it had originally been made for a larger lady and later was scaled down for a much smaller young lady.  I let out the side seams, some darts, placed a new waistband on the skirt, and was able to unpick the hem and drop it eight inches!  The fabric is a light-weight cotton.  It is dark grey with a windowpane plaid in cream.  The waist (or blouse) fit almost perfectly once I let out the side seams, tucks, and darts.  The waist has a “peplum” that I have seen worn out or tucked in, but I prefer to wear it out, as it adds little more interest to the ensemble.  I finished it up with a vintage black silk embroidered sash and sash pin.  I also have a vintage cream cotton slip with crocheted yoke underneath.  By wearing the cream colored slip under, it helps highlight the cream windowpane plaid.  When I tried it with a black slip, you could not really see the plaid at all.   

The hat was a wonderful find at “The Barn” antique mall in San Juan Capistrano a few years ago.  It was sitting there, calling my name, but the price was way beyond what I could afford.  However, as luck would have it, the lady that owned the booth came in as I was trying it on, we bargained a bit (and those of you that know me – know I like to bargain!) and she let me have it at a substantial discount!  She said she wanted it to go to someone that would take care of it and appreciate it!  Yeah!  It is a black silk velvet, the brim has a slight wire all around, the feathers are perfection and the pink roses are also of a pink silk velvet, add in a couple of vintage hat pins, and it was ready to go!  The parasol is what I call a “Walking” Edwardian Parasol.  I picked this beauty up at the Del Mar Antique show just a couple of years ago.  I actually was able to swap it directly for the one that I had!  The seller liked mine and I like hers, so we swapped!  I liked it because it was taller than the one that I originally had, and as I am tall, it was a good fit. 

Some of the San Diego Costume Guild Members

I took this picture and photo shopped to look old
The next centennial event was the 1915 Balboa Park Automobile race!  The original race was a 300 miles on a six mile course, so fifty laps.  The guild was invited to attend in “Teens Era” attire, and some of our members were even able to ride in some of the cars that drove the celebratory lap!  It was so great to see and hear these wonderful old cars moving!  Most of the time we just see them sitting still in museums, but this time they were up and racing!  The #8 car actually ran in the 1915 race and was here in 2015! 

The #8 car ran in the original 1915 Balboa Park Car Race.

For this event I pulled out a gown that I had only worn once before to a Tea in 2012.  It was made from the Laughing Moon #104 pattern for Gown and Guimpe, but I think I may have lost the Guimpe.  The gown is made of cream linen and lined with cotton.  The lace on the neckline is vintage and matched the Guimpe, which had the high-neck points.  The gown has two panels, front and back, of vintage tambour lace which I had been hoarding for just the right ensemble, and looks wonderful.  The driving duster is beige linen, not more than fifty years old, but the collar is true vintage – it does the trick!  I made the hat, and used the same parasol from the previous post as mentioned.  The weather was perfect and it was just a wonderful day!

Gina and myself in front of the Botanical Gardens
My next event was a spur of the moment with my friend, Gina L, and we decided to go to Balboa Park on “Residents Free” day in 1915 attire just for fun!  We made it to the Japanese Friendship Garden, the Museum of Art, the Timken Museum, Spanish Village, and enjoyed a casual lunch at CafĂ© 1915.  I tried again, my fourth attempt, to ride a vintage carousel in costume, only to be denied once again!  The vintage carousel is only open weekends in the winter months!

My friend Gina's lovely "Teens Era" dress she made

Gina made her lovely ensemble of a printed butter yellow linen with red accents, and mine was an actual “Teens” era dress of white cotton with a sailor collar.  I have had it for several years, again having worn it only once before to a picnic, and it fit me perfectly without alterations.  Same hat and parasol as previously noted.   It was a perfectly relaxing day with so much to see! 

If anyone wants to go again on “Free Residents” day on Tuesday, just let me know!  The more the merrier!  It has been a wonderful start so far for the 2015 Centennial celebration, and if you are coming down to San Diego Balboa Park, check their website for future events!