Friday, December 19, 2014

All That Glitters: A 1930s Emerald Green Evening Gown

For the Historical Fortnightly All That Glitters Challenge:

 I had originally taken a somewhat broad approach to defining "All That Glitters" by drawing glittering out into shining...shimmering...silk! I had planned a 1930s silk evening gown with no glittery sparkle, per se, but plenty of silky shimmer.  I have a holiday swing dance to attend, and the thought of a shiny new dress was too tempting to pass up.  Plus it was my 30th birthday this month--what better gift than a shimmering 1930s something?

Then things took a slight turn, and my dress ended up with some glittery bling after all.

What the item is: 1930s evening gown with slightly shortened hem for maximum danceability
The Challenge: All That Glitters
Fabric: Emerald green silk charmeuse

Pattern: EvaDress E30 5918 :
Year: 1931
Notions: Thread and, afterthought, a paste buckle (more on that below)
How historically accurate is it? Eh...decent? The fabric and pattern are correct, and I utilized techniques as specified by the (original) pattern instructions from cutting through seam finishing and hand-completed hems.
Hours to complete: 10 +
First worn: For a Snow Ball swing dance--tomorrow!
Total cost: Under $100--I splurged on silk and got a decent deal, but that stuff ain't cheap on a good day.

Felicity models the dress in initial completion:





So, how did it go together?  My favorite part was probably the gathered shoulder bit:


which is done pretty much first thing and gives such an exciting tease as to what the final piece will look like!  The instructions call for twisting the shoulder as well, but a) I was unclear on exactly what the instructions were saying to do and b) I really liked the soft drape of the shoulders as they stood, so I skipped this.

For the main body of the gown, the construction techniques rely on one big trick for impact--a lapped seam joining the unusually shaped bodice and skirt together.  Lapped seams are tricky, and silk charmeuse is tricky, and together they are...well, tricky.

Two rounds of basting (once to turn under the raw edge, the other to make an initial join) and veerrrrry slow and careful stitching yielded a lapped seam I was....ok with.  It's not perfect.  But it'll do.




The finish work is mainly by hand--the instructions, to my surprise, did not indicate to face the arm, neckline, or back, but to instead turn and hem, which I did.  I'm not fully convinced this was the best option, and if I every do a re-do on this pattern, I think I'll consider facing these edges, or at the least the neckline.

As to how well I like it...

I tried it on and was, well, blah about it.  It wasn't the dress--as far as it was *supposed* to look, it was near perfect.

It was me.

I am not the willowy-thin pixie of the pattern cover--and the bodice of the gown had an unfortunate tendency to just kind of hang off my bust and create a rather dumpy look on me.  I had taken in the seams from the muslin I'd made, but even when the gown fit properly, it still didn't really suit me.

I decided to play around with it a little, and attempt some waist definition.  I settled on a self-belt--I am unsure if this is correct to the period for an evening gown and this type of pattern or not, though other 1930s patterns I've made did include self-belts.


And I added a little crystal slide buckle to the belt--All That Glitters, indeed.

A note to those making this dress--the pattern as it stands will yield a dress that is short on an average-height woman.  I chose to keep the original length because I was making a dress to dance in, but if you want a traditional full-length evening gown, you will need to add a few inches to the hemline.

Dancing (and, hopefully, pictures!) tomorrow!


3 comments:

Evie said...

Can't wait to see more pictures! It's pretty common for things like that to not call for facings, but I think I would probably opt for a very narrow, bias facing. You'd still keep the nice clean finish lines without the added bulk of the facing under such a delicate fabric.

Cassidy said...

The belt seems perfectly appropriate to me! What a beautiful dress.

Rowenna said...

Thanks, Cassidy! I liked the belt :)

Evie, I agree--I've gone that route in the past and been happier with the finish. Oh well--every project has that "coulda, shoulda" moment!