Sunday, February 13, 2011

1940s Cocktail Dress: Debut and Pattern Review II

I finished the cocktail dress yesterday and am pretty happy with how it came out! It went dancing last night for the first time, at a big swing event our dance club hosts. Unfortunately, I am not a fantastic model nor is my husband a whiz with a camera, so the pictures are a touch iffy. Funny story--I asked him to take a few shots, and he obliged, then handed the camera back to me. "Hon, why are they all of my face?" "You look pretty." "Well, thank you, but...I needed pictures of the dress."

And the profile view. The dress looks rumplier in these shots than it really is--it actually lays quite straight:

One of my favorite parts is that, with the darts fitting the back and the shoulder pads, the silhouette is really authentic. Hard to see in this shot, with my arm in the way, but the waist is very slim and the shoulders have a bit more volume, with the upper back somewhat loose--just right for acheiving the 1940s look.

A close up of the neckline, featuring me looking rather perlexed and with terrible posture:


Review of the pattern and overview of the process:

The pattern is from the Vintage Pattern Lending Library, which, unlike the name would suggest, sells reproduction patterns. As I had guessed from my first look at the pattern, the markings and directions are super-easy to follow. If you're not too confident about vintage sewing, this is a great place to start--between the step-by-step instructions and the clearly marked pattern, it was very hard to go wrong.

I used an eggplant polyester crepe--I had hoped to find rayon, but this was close enough to the look I was going for. The dress is unlined, so, if you use a thinner fabric like I did, you may want to wear a slip with it.

I chose to make the short-sleeved version, with the side-bow. There is also a version with a peplum and a front cascade. I may make the long-sleeved version with the cascade sometime--had so much fun with this that I want to keep playing!

I finished this project in several sessions, but it could easily be done in one day's worth of sewing. I cut the fabric and sewed the darts one evening, then did all the long seams on a weekend afternoon, and did the finish work this weekend, off an on with reading books and baking gingersnaps.

The one major change I made: The original calls for the gathers at the front neckline to be pulled into a circle--so you'll have a little dot of skin peeking through both sides. I wasn't too fond of that, for some reason, so made the gathered circle slightly smaller, pulled it closed, and added vintage-esque post earrings (a bit of hot glue daubed on the inside ensures they won't fall off). The earrings were in the clearance bin at Target!


Issues I had:

Barely any. The only thing that went majorly wrong was that, inexplicably, the self-belt was about two inches too short. The dress waist fit fine, even a touch loose, but the belt was way shorter than the dress waist--either I cut wrong, sewed something goofy, or the pattern is just a touch off. No biggie--I just added an extension that goes under the bow-floof so it's not even visible.

Also, with the thin fabric, I wish I'd added some interfacing to the front and back facings. They have a tendency to flip a bit more than they should, probably because the fabric is very thin and flimsy.

I had some issues with the shoulder pads--I may end up taking them out, even though they do add to the authentic 40s silhouette. They're causing a bit of bunching, so I may need to re-position them. In the end, I have bony shoulders, and it may be that these particular pads are too much for them--making my own rather than purchasing pre-fab ones might be a good idea.

Finally, since it's unlined, if you're used to leaving seams untreated (no serging or anything) the fraying may get out of hand. Consider using seaming techniques that leave no raw edges, or do as I did and faux-serge the seams with a zig-zag stitch over the raw edges. Probably not a big deal in the end, but I'm anal like that.

Final Thoughts:

This was such a fun project, and the end result so wearable, that I'm planning on doing a day dress next!

8 comments:

Kat Zhang said...

*claps* Love it :D once again, you make me wish so bad that I could make my own clothes :P however, considering my really strange fashion sense, perhaps it's better than I can't!

Connie said...

It turned out perfect, and you look lovely in it. I'm sure you were the belle of the ball.

Rowenna said...

Thanks, Ladies :) Kat--I think you could pull it off :)

Isis said...

You look gorgeous! Both cut and colour suits you perfectly!

Katy F. said...

I love that! You look gorgeous! And the color is beautiful too.

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