Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Evolution of a Look

It all started with a conversation that went something like this:

God: Hey, Mary, want to go to the 1920s Night on a date?
Me: No, I'm mad at you.
God: [to Jesus] Wait for it, wait for it...
Me: Well...
God: [nudging Holy Spirit and grinning ridiculously]
Me: Okay, but ONLY if you help me with the dress.
Me: Hrmph.

The first thing to do was google 1920s dress tutorials. I found a flapper costume and something matronly, but nothing really fit what I was looking for. Next I tried google images. Again, more flappers. Finally "historical 1920s fashion" yielded sites with pattern images, descriptions and context (find them here and here)! I was especially intrigued by the sharp change fashion underwent in that era and all the massive events--WWI, women's suffrage, etc.--that are reflected in it.

I'm not someone who keeps a lot of yardage around. My choices were, therefore, muslin, plum solid (earmarked for another project but I could always replace it), or--wait, what is this? Some unknown, possibly thrifted piece of vintage-looking polycotton. Hmm...

My measuring tape got quite a workout. First I measured myself and cut a double-thick rectangle, then measured the sleeve opening on a favorite blouse and sewed up the sides of the rectangle but leaving the right-sized arm openings. I cut a slit for the neck and...

...ta-da! A hospital gown!

Next I put a pin where I wanted the neck to end, cut out a v, and turned my edges under, both on the sleeve openings and the neck, and sewed.

I had extra fabric, so I measured the width of the skirt where I wanted my dropped waist to land (the widest part of my body). I cut and turned under the edges of an appropriate-sized rectangle, sewed up the tube and hems, and pinned it onto the dress.

Remember all those vintage trims? I found one just long enough for my purpose!

For the dropped waist, I pulled the overskirt up a few inches (roman shade-style). To create the "belt", I anchored a basting stitch on one end and ran it up the width of the piece I wanted gathered. Then I pulled the gathering thread and sewed the gathers into place. I did this on each side, then later went back and repeated the process on either side of the original gathers, ending up with six, three clustered on each side.

Details! I attached the lace trim to highlight the waist. The dress felt cumbersome, so I slit the overskirt up each side and sewed up the raw edges. Then I pinned the sleeves together and went back and gathered them and added trim later.

Side view! You can see my magenta tank top peeking through, demonstrating the necessity for underthings.

From what I'd read, the 1920s brought us the first bras (dang, I have them to thank for the misery of underwires!) but slips were nothing more than tubes of fabric with a couple of straps. Unbleached muslin would suit my purpose, so measured and made my cylinder, turned under the top edge but left the bottom selvedge raw.

I love the look of muslin!

More vintage lace for the straps--putting short scraps to good use!

That made-in-bed flower brooch makes more sense, hopefully.

The completed dress, hanging a bit crookedly

Dropped waist detail

Sleeve detail

Jet-black necklace ended up being period-appropriate, too!

So I went to the event. I had a blast! Serenaded by Tom Shinness, filled with homemade Thai food, we cha-cha'd the night away while images of jazz musicians and silent film stars paraded across the screen, and teenage waiters and waitresses earned money for summer camp.

Good date, God. Thanks for pursuing me with that romantic-comedy sensibility. Let's do this again.


Melissa said...

You look fabulous!! But I wanted to see you with the hat on!!

Atypical Girl said...

I know....I love that hat and wanted to see you in in as well. You're so darn creative!!!