Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Bootlegger's Ballgown: Fabric and Pattern

I've been wanting to give a 1920s style dress a shot for a while--it's an era I'm kind of wary of. I think it's the lack of corsetting. Can any historical gown without an elaborate network of corsets and petticoats really work?

I think it can. A friend of mine hosts a Prohibition Party in February (aptly nicknamed the Bootlegger's Ball), and I decided that a new dress would be just the thing (thus, the Bootlegger's Ballgown). The plan--make it in a classic 1920s shape, and also create a self-belt so that I can wear it with some waist definition as a modern cocktail dress, too.

Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion II has (along with a bevy of other historical gowns I must needs haves now) a very lovely, very simple, very 1920s evening dress:

The dress as featured is a silk sheath, heavily beaded, with a decorative hem.
And this is the pattern:

Yep, that's it. Incredible how the complicated, pieced, fitted garments of only a decade earlier gave way to....this. Lest you think that the lines on the pattern are some fancy fitting or pleating or pintucking, rest assured--those are just the lines that the beading is done in on the original.

I plan to make the dress in silk charmeuse, with (hopefully) a beaded silk gauze overlay. The beading will be far less extensive than the original. I'm still deciding on the hem--do I want to do an allover uneven hem, or a decorative hem on the overlay and a straight one underneath? Decisions, decisions.

Phase one was getting the fabric ready. I ordered white silk charmeuse and gauze from Dharma Trading Co, and finally, after much debate, settled on a rich, dark royal blue dye.

I think it turned out gloriously. There's just something about dark blue, isn't there? My door kindly offered to model the uncut fabric.
The charmeuse:

And the gauze:

Another gratuitous gauze shot--so filmy and sheer but still holds the rich color so well!

And now to the fun part--hashing out the cutting layout, playing with the overlay, deciding on a beading pattern, and deciding how to handle the hem.


MrsC said...

Glorious!!! And just look at what the picture is wearing on her feet - Astorias with a single strap ;-)

Connie Keller said...

Can't wait to see the dress!

Heather R said...

Beautiful! I love that color! Good luck!

Rowenna said...

Thanks, Ladies! Yes, MrsC--I noticed that, too!

Caroline said...

It's not so much the lack of corsets as the totally unforgiving, boyish shapes. Not good for us gals with hips! :-)

Can't wait to see the finished product!

Sarah said...

I wanted to send you an email, but I can't because my default clint mail thingy isn't set up--and I'm not exactly a whiz with computers lol.

Anyways, I would like your opinion on something. Do you think you could email me at: ariesgal_91@comcast.net

I know it might not be wise to post your email so publicly, but I trust the people here.

I hope you A. Don't find this creepy and B. Will contact me.

I was just wanting to see if you could beta read my Revolutionary War historical fiction ms.

Thanks so much.

Miss Rosemary said...

Oh this is going to be so much fun. I've felt the same way about the 20s fashions and regretful lack of waist as you have, but in revising one of my novels, I've recently discovered a love of the times and and fashions. Can't wait to see how it turns out :)

Lady D said...

i'll be interested in seeing how it turns out. Its a pattern I'm drawn to often as the high waist seems so unusual in a 20s dress.