Sunday, December 29, 2013

1956 Green Satin Swing Dress | B5603

As a vintage enthusiast whose daily dress sense veers somewhere between the 1940s-1960s you'd think that I'd have more authentic 1950s frocks in my wardrobe, but alas I don't! So when my friend decided to host another murder mystery party, this time set during the 1950s, I just had to make another dress.

When my friend sent me the invite I was on the last leg of my trip to SE Asia. Around the block from where I was staying in Krabi in Thailand was a fabric shop selling plain satin material for 100 baht per metre (AU$3.50), so I couldn't resist! After getting the fabric I then set about finding a pattern. I wanted something simple, authentic and something that I wouldn't have to alter too much as I knew when I got home I wouldn't have much time to make it. After searching the internet and ebay I found this one from Butterick that is a reprint of their original from 1956:

I decided to make the dress depicted on the far right. To be completely honest I do think that this type of 1950s style, with the swing skirt, does not really suit me - I much prefer the wiggle dresses and pencil skirts of the 50s. I'm fairly small chested, with not much waist and normal hips - in other words I'm pretty straight up and down. These dresses are designed to emphasise that tiny waist of the 50s which I don't have (nor to I have the 50s style girdle to achieve it).

However as the event I was attending, a murder mystery, was set during the 50s I figured I'd go with the more iconic look of the decade, one of full skirts inspired by Dior's 'New Look' with many petticoats stuffed underneath, emphasizing small waists.

Detouring from the pattern I decided to line the whole dress, not just the bodice, with black cotton. As the satin isn't as structured as say taffeta, linen or cotton, I wanted the lining to add some omph to the skirt.

As I don't naturally have much of a waist and I don't own a 1950s waist cincher, I decided to also add some boning to the dress. To do this I took some modern boning from a dress making shop, made cases for them out of the black cotton and then sewed this into the seams of the dress - two are the side front, two on the side and two on the side back.

Instead of the front bodice being two separate pieces (as the back is) I also altered the pattern and made it one.

And here is the finished dress (complete with matching Christmas tree):

As you can see in my haste I forgot to make sure the seams aligned... Whoops!

Don't pay $30-50 for a petticoat from vintage or retro retailers. Get on eBay and buy one. I picked this one up from a retailer from Hong Kong for AU$12.50 including postage!

And here's the finished dress comeplete with hair and makeup (I ordered some cat eye glasses, as my character was quite intellectual, but they didn't arrive on time!):

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

I'm Back! Backpacking, Fabric Shopping and Upcoming Projects

Well I'm finally back from from a backpacking trip around South East Asia, which is why this blog was not updated for almost two months!

SE Asia is beautiful, but for the seamstress it means one thing: cheap fabric! And more importantly, cheap silk! There is silk everywhere, and at a quarter of the price you would pay for it in Australia, Europe and even the US. When I was there I purchased four lots of fabric. I would have got more if I didn't have to carry by all around on my back!

In Hoi An, the tailoring capital of Vietnam, I bought a my first two lots of fabric. The tailor that I used was nice enough to take me to her fabric wholesalers. Firstly I bought 7 metres of silk/cotton sateen fabric US$5 p/m.

I was looking for duchess silk satin however this is the best they had. Although not totally historically accurate I am going to use this fabric to make a 1660s restoration gown, like these:

Portrait of Suzanna Doublet-Huygens by Caspar Netscher, c. 1667-6

Woman Playing a Viola de gamba

I also bought a lot of plain white linen fabric for US$6 p/m, as its so hard to find where I live:

I would have likes to have gone to the fabric markets in Hoi An but when I was there a typhoon hit and much of the town was damaged, so many businesses closed. Here's some before shots though, beautiful!


A month later when I was in Krabi in Thailand I found this awesome fabric shop near the hostel where I was staying. It was only a couple of weeks until I was going home and I knew I had a 1950s party to attend. So why not make a new dress?! I bought 4 metres of dark green satin fabric for 100 baht p/m (AU$3.50) - bargain!

I went back the next day and decided to buy 6 metres of black satin as well, as in the future I plain on remaking Ava Gardner's dress from the film 'The Killers'.

Here is my fabric haul altogether. Be sure to watch out for these fabrics in my upcoming blog posts!

I also plan to do a review on the tailors I used in Hoi An, as well as a post on interesting dress exhibitions in the many museums I visited!