Chiffon and Lace

There is nothing quite like a last minute dress. I’m pretty sure this dress was about 5 hours from start to finish – and started the evening before a trip! I needed a really light weight, soft dress to wear in the evenings at a dance event – it’s really hot and un-airconditioned at the camp were the event is held, and the evenings are brutal.

The chiffon was left over from another project (and I think I still have about 10 yards left!) and the lace was a gift from a friend. The dress itself is amazingly simple – I draped the bodice onto my dressform, hand sewed the lace on and attached the skirt. To make things even easier, the skirt didn’t even need hemming – the selvedge edges are neat enough to do the trick.

It is an absolutely delightful dress to wear in the heat, and I’m still surprised how flattering the 1920s is on my figure! normally I tend towards the 40s and 50s – nipped in waist, flared skirts – because they flatter my figure much more. But this is remarkably attractive! I’d encourage anybody who is unsure about the 20s to give it a go – the light fabric and soft textures make a big difference.





Swinging 50s!

I’ve had Butterick 5033 around for quite a few years, but it had always been the cute-in-concept-but-strange pattern in my stash. After seeing this dress made up on The Fedora Lounge I decided to give it a chance, and found some white eyelet in my stash.

Conclusions? It’s weird but awesome! The cutout neckline is sweet and different, but not that strange. I was worried how the neckline would work with very square, wide shoulders, but I think it looks fine!

The skirt is absolutely fantastic. Full circle with added pleats in the front. I fully lined it with muslin and then sewed on a tulle ruffle, which must have ended up about 20 feet long! Tulle is so light and insubstantial that you really have to lay it on heavy to get any oommph out of it. The lift it gives is subtle but effective.


Would I make the pattern again? Bodice… probably not. I feel like this is more of a one-off novelty dress rather than a closet staple. The skirt, however, is probably going to get made up many, many more times! I’m currently envisioning it in a dark red wool, about 3 inches shorter than it is here. Scrumptious!

Chocolate 1940s

I’m honestly not a very big fan of brown. I’m kind of a black girl – don’t know how or why it happened, but it did. I own only black shoes, besides two white pairs and a red pair. I own only black and grey tights. I only own one brown shirt, and no brown skirts.

So this dress is a significant departure for me, color wise! The fabric was my grandmothers – I think it’s a rayon crepe. I discovered it a bag deep within my closet among her other sewing items, and it came with matching lining fabric, seam tape, bias tape and thread. All that was missing was a zipper, and that I was able to find in the stash – it’s even metal!

I used the lining fabric for the belt and bow – I think I need to slip a bit of interfacing or belting into the belt, it wrinkles a bit more than I like on the sides. The bow itself is absolutely fantastic – a wonderful vintage style that I’ve come across once or twice in 1960s dresses.

The pattern is Vintage Pattern Lending Library’s 1940s Cocktail Dress pattern. Compared with the last VPLL pattern I made, this one had better directions, but the fit was a bit wonky. Instead of having just a bit extra ease (the given size is about 1″ bigger than my own) it was very baggy. I took about 2″ out of the bust and 1″ out of the waist, and the hips were a bit small. The sleeves were also quite baggy, and I took those in – that, however, might be more of a matter of personal preference. The cut of the pattern itself, however, is unique and charming. The unique cutouts on the neckline are fabulous, and worked well in a fairly sturdy fabric.

I changed the zipper from a side opening to a back opening. I’ve got a rather generously sized head (7 1/4 in men’s hat sizes!) and have found that necklines need to be fairly generous if I’m to get them on without smearing lipstick everywhere. That was the fault in my last dress and there’s makeup stains on it now to prove that!

You can also see my newest Goodwill steal here – a pair of Leg Avenue seamed stockings for half off of retail. Perfect for the authentic vintage look, but I still need to work on getting those seams straight!

The pattern suggests at least 2 1/2 yards for this dress. By removing the front drape, shortening the skirt by an inch, having a narrower hem and ever so slightly overlapping bodice pieces, I was able to fit it into exactly two yards of fabric. If I had known that it was going to be too big I could have saved even more fabric! However, squeezing an already economically cut dress into even less fabric really does echo the war time spirit of the 1940s.

It’s been really refreshing to make dresses this fast – this one took only six hours . . . before I had to alter it. Still, it’s record time for me. I’ve just started using a wonderful (free!) time keeping program called Toggl, which allows me to create tasks and track how much time I spend on them each day by simply activating a timer on my computer. It’s great accountability and lets me know how much to charge clients when I do custom work or alterations. I can’t wait to use it during the school year to track how much time I actually spend working on costumes. Hopefully my productivity this week will continue – I’ve got some fabric set aside for skirts, a whole bunch of half made vintage dresses to finish, and some fabric to list on Etsy! Stay tuned for more posts about that – I’m really excited about the fabric I have to offer, and the prices should be good too!

Thirties and Deep Red.

The 1930s hasn’t ever been my cup of tea before, but after getting a bunch of Vintage Pattern Lending Library patterns I decided it was time I had a go with another era. Quite a few 1930s dresses blend in well to a quirky vintage inspired modern closet, and I need some new winter dresses in my closet. (Summer ones, too, but it’s been so cold lately that winter dresses seem applicable!) Looking through my stash I located a fine wool suiting I had purchased from Jo-Ann on clearance years ago – it’s a very small twill, and about the weight of a heavy quilting cotton. Ironically, it’s almost the exact color of one of my Grandpa’s 1930s Chevrolets – so it must be an authentic dress!

I pulled out Vintage Pattern Lending Library’s 1930s Seven in One Ensemble. I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do with it – high necklines haven’t been my cup of tea lately, and I wasn’t sure about the skirt length and long sleeves. However, in looking at the pattern more I decided that I really did like the cut – it’s unusual and attractive, as well as being very 1930s. Over all it reminded me a lot of the costumes from the BBC series All Creatures Great and Small, and indeed, now that I have a dress from the pattern, I do feel remarkably Helen-esque.

The dress itself has a delightful cut – a large bias cut triangle shaped piece forms the majority of the front bodice, and is top stitched to the upper bodice. The skirt has four gores which are also cut on the bias, and I decided to cut the sleeves on the bias as well, to give them a better drape. The skirt was shortened about 4″ above the day dress length as marked on the pattern, and I shortened the sleeves to elbow length. The pattern fits very nicely on my frame and I didn’t make any alterations concerning fit. The only issue might be that the head opening is a bit small – I have to remember not to do my hair into a bun before I pull it on! This could be easily solved, however, with a little 4″ neck zipper.

The belt is made out of a beautiful silk suiting I had left over from another project, and the buckle is vintage. I’m pretty sure that I’ll be making this dress up again in another variation, and perhaps I’ll try my hand at the coat included with the dress pattern. 

Outfit details –
Dress – VPLL pattern – Seven-in-One Ensemble
Hat – Eddie Bauer
Shoes – Twila, by Born.
Jewelry – Christmas gift from my youngest brother.

Green Chiffon Twenties

This is the first time I’ve actually ventured into the 1920s for my own personal wardrobe. Previously, I never really got them, but after doing a bunch of dresses from original patterns, I decided that I actually really liked the concept! So without further ado, here’s the dress.

I made it from Vintage Pattern Lending Library’s 1920s Dress with Neck Frill and Sash. It didn’t exactly turn out like the pattern – mostly because I didn’t actually have the pattern here when I made it up! It got left back at school, as this was a dress that was halfway made up for a show and then returned to me late. A lot of the original details got cut out by me, simply because the dress was cut out very wonky.

 The dress itself probably makes me look a little stouter than I imagine myself. But you know what? I can get over that, it’s probably good for me. It’s so delightfully floatly and soft that I totally forgive all of its possibly unflattering lines!

It’s perfect for wearing on hot days dancing outside, when I’ve just changed out of a tight and heavy costume. It’s freedom! I definitely want to make a few more 20s inspired dresses – I’ve got quite a bit of white chiffon that I’m stewing upon. Maybe something with a bit more of a defined waist?  I’ll just have to wait and see what I come up with!

The Mysterious Allure of the Twenties

Ever since I got into historical fashion, the allure of the 1920s kind of alluded me. The level of weirdness that the twenties possessed ranked up there with the big sleeves of the 1830s and wide hip paniers of the 1750s-80s. The complete lack of hips and chest, both of which I have plenty of, along with the sudden departure from previous fashions, confused me, and pushed me away for a long time.

Then I ended up costuming a play set in the 1924, and ended up making twelve twenties dresses in four weeks, and designing six others. And you know what?

They grew on me – quite a bit. The fashions of the twenties are now regarded with fondness in my mind, and I find myself drawn to their aesthetic more and more.

Original 1920s dresses - Credit - Dear Golden

The way that the fabric becomes a canvas for embellishment and the lightness with which embellishment is accomplished is simply entrancing. In a stiff fabric, the columnar look of the twenties looses its appeal, but in soft chiffons, crepes, georgettes and voiles? It’s simply magical.

One of my reproductions, in green silk chiffon

One of the things I’ve noticed about my 1950s dress is that they’re so structured that they get very warm in the summer. It’s great in the winter, but even the smallest amount of heat is sweltering this year, thanks to an unusually cold spring. Slipping on a light 1920s dresses over only a cotton slip is absolutely delightful. It’s like wearing a beautiful whisper – light, delicate, not at all tight but still figure hugging enough to be flattering.

Three reproduction 1920s dress on stage

Looking back on the images of the show that I did, I can’t get over the simple charm of many of the dresses I made. Even unembellished, they have a quiet beauty that evaded me for a long time. Using a great deal of color defenitely helped tide me over to the side of the 20s, but even the neutral and white dresses have a loveliness all their own.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever warm up to hip paniers and big sleeves accompanied by matching massive collars. But I’m glad I gave the 20s a chance, and now that it’s summer time I’m looking forward to dabbling in them again.

Links of interest for the 1920s:
– Vintage Pattern Lending Library’s 1920s Patterns – I can’t recommend VPLL enough. Janice, the owner, is wonderful to work with and the patterns are simply lovely. Plus, they have an awesome rewards program!
Vintage Textile – Beautiful original dresses!
Woodland Farms Vintage – A lovely collection of original dresses. Currently they have some slips and pajamas on display that are lovely as well.
The Frock – Possibly the most beautiful collection of vintage dresses for sale online right now. It’s a bit hard to sort through their offerings, but well worth the trouble!