Sunday, 19 December 2010

New School Vintage: Lace Embellished Shift Dress

'Oh, this old dress? I picked it up from a vintage shop the other day'. Sound convincing? Lies, all lies!!!! Let me explain: recently, I've been a bit obsessed with making garments that look like straight-up vintage items. Normally, I tend to aim for adding my own spin on vintage/retro styles, for example by using vintage sewing patterns with new fabric, or applying vintage buttons to a modern pattern, or something along those lines. But for some unknown reason, I've been desiring some items that could be confused for original vintage clothing. Similarly, I've also found myself drawn more than usual to other peoples' creations which also seem to blur the new/vintage line. So, I've decided to work on some projects that I'm naming 'New School Vintage', alongside whatever other things I may decide to make. These will be created from vintage fabric and use vintage patterns, simple as that!

'So, why don't you just go vintage shopping, Zoe?', I hear you ask. Well, #1) where's the challenge in that?, #2) I will have more control over the style of garment I end up with rather than relying solely on chance, #3) I can guarantee a better fit by making my own. I'm very lucky to currently have a job in which I am surrounded by fabric, and if a nice piece of vintage fabric that fits the bill comes by, I can 'buy' it by giving a donation to the charity that I work for. This project would be more difficult if I were relying on charity shops and second-hand shops as vintage fabric sources, and more expensive if I were to look online, so whilst I'm in this fortunate position, I plan to make hay whilst the sun shines!

So, the first garment in my 'New School Vintage' range is this lace embellished navy A-line shift dress. The pattern I used is Simplicity 7511 which is dated 1968. I chose the wider neckline (what's up with those super-choking high necklines?) through choice and the shorter sleeve through necessity as I didn't have enough fabric for longer ones. I traced the whole pattern except for the neck facing pieces and made three changes to the pattern. The first change was to finally heed the lessons from past vintage pattern sewing projects and lower the bust dart points about 4cms. The pattern instructions actually showed me how to do this, basically by keeping the position of the darts at the side seam the same, but lowering the point, folding the dart closed and redrawing the side seam to figure out the new adjusted cutting line. I actually could have lowered the bust darts even more, were women's breasticles really so much higher forty years ago? Remind me to ask my mum.

The second was to make it a little wider from the bust line down to the hem to accommodate my lower lady-curves (I ignored the recommendation that this pattern is for 'young junior/teens'!). The third was the redraft the sleeve to remove most of the excessive ease in the sleevehead. In hindsight, I think I took too much out and should have left a bit more in, but there you go.

The fabric is some horrendous synthetic knit stuff that I imagine is from roughly this era, though being a solid rather than print is trickier to date. It behaves like double knit, and therefore is pretty comfortable to wear, though probably intensely flamable! It is a lovely deep inky navy, which is one of my absolute favourite colours to wear, as my Winter coat project may have hinted at. The lace is also from work, once again, no idea how old it actually it, but I think it is authentic enough.

This whole project took very little time to whip up, even with the application of a very inauthentic for the period device: a domestic overlocker. Makes me realise how my mum used to make herself a new dress every Saturday for a period of time during the mid-sixties. I think she used to use pinking sheers on all her seams, which might actually have been more time consuming than overlocking, now I come to think of it. One sewing habit that I use at work for speed's sake is making closed rather than open seams for all but the centre-back one. I've now started to use this method for my projects at home and I'm pretty convinced it's quicker and makes no different to the quality of the finished garment.

There's something not entirely perfect about the fit of this garment around the upper bodice/shoulder area, possibly linked to me taking out almost all the sleeveheas ease, but it's really not enough of an issue in my opinion to warant further investigation. An A-line shift dress technically isn't the most flattering of garment silhouettes for my curvy shape, but as I've said before, I really think that the majority of most women can rock pretty much any silhouette they fancy with a few adjustments and fitting tweaks, and a whole dollup of pizzazz! For this style, I made sure I kept the final hemline not too short. Also, this pattern has an interesting long curved dart that starts at the top hip area and finishes at the bust (maybes you can see more clearly in the close up of the pattern illustration pictured above) which kind of hints at the waist, unlike many shift dress variants.

This dress has had one outting so far (oh look, it's Matty lurking again! Say hi, ladies, he needs the attention!) and I think it's the perfect garment for the festive season. I've never figured out why, on the lead up to Christmas, clothes shops are absolutely rammed full of overly sparkly, glitzy and dazzling sequinned or bejewelled concoctions. Maybe it's just the lame life I lead, but I only find the need to crank out some party wear once or twice over the festive season. Most of my festive get-togthers seem to be quiet (and not-so-quiet) boozy pub sessions or house parties of which I would be laughed out of if I turned up sparkling all over. But there really is something nice and put-together about wearing a dress, even a relatively casual one like this. Through it on with some thick tights, cardi and flat boots or shoes, and PAM! I'm ready!

18 comments:

carlycrafts said...

This is lovely Zoe, the lace is so pretty and the shape is just great on you! It's made me want to have a go at an A-line shift too, I've had something like this in my head for a while but haven't found the perfect pattern yet.
Cx

quietandsmalladventures said...

wow that's a stunner!! i love the lace detail and the adjustments you made to the fit.

oh yes and hi matty!

Cecili said...

Okay, now I want the same one! It may seem an "easy" or simple dress but the shape is great, the details work incredibly well and the whole garment looks like a perfect vintage piece, the kind you can only dream you find :) Great job!

Anonymous said...

This style is just perfect for you! And Matty´s cute, too. Hi Matty!

Alison said...

Zoe, that dress is a winner!

About those bust darts... As I remember from my young adult sewing (back in the era when this pattern was new), "young junior/teen" means exactly that, a pattern designed for very young women (late teens to early twenties at most) The rule of thumb is that the widest part of the bust should be no lower than a line drawn halfway between the shoulder and the elbow when your arms were held at your sides.

Adult Women's patterns were labelled Misses, (or "half-size" for what would now be plus size+petite) I am not sure where the bust darts would have been placed, as in the early sixties I was a young adult with a suitably perky bust. How time changes things...

lenarrd said...

This is gorgeous! I find myself in much the same position, lusting after new garments which have that vintage style. I can't wait to see what else you come up with!

Also, might be a bit of a dim question, but what do you mean by closed and open seams? Hoo boy, it's been far too long since I last sewed...

Tilly said...

Zoe, this is lovely! Adding the lace makes a plain dress style ooze awesomeness. You look so gorgeous in it with your 1960s haircut, like Marianne Faithful or Anna Karina.

I know what you mean about xmas party dresses - unless you're in a Boots advert, you just don't get to wear things like that. And the shoes, what's with all the strappy silver kitten heels?!

Hi Matty!

Corrine said...

To address the high bust points on vintage patterns, Allison was correct in the junior/teen assessment. Undergarments were also quite different. Bras were cone pointed, with circular stitching, that provided a perky little salute for the girls. Think Madonna with the "rocket tits" outfit...toned down.

Fawn and Flower said...

You amaze me! That is beautiful.

lazystitching said...

Love the dress, love the 'new school vintage' idea, love the whole damn thing!
:)Alana

Minnado said...

I love it - it looks fab on you. I like how youu put lace at the sleeves and hem and not neckline. Another good thing about A line dresses at Christmas is you can eat lots of chocolate coins comfortably in this style dress.X

bagqueen said...

What a fab dress Zoe, you have such amazing style! I agree about the whole glittery sparkly thing, I almost never have the need for that kind of thing but simple dresses like this one can cover so many events. It has definitely given me the push I needed to get a dress done for christmas!!

sewistafashionista said...

Love the lace edging and the mod-style dress. The pattern is a classic.

Roobeedoo said...

Oh yes - that's lovely! And it won't have any of that unique vintage smell that so many charity shop garments have!

Tasia said...

So pretty! I love the thought of making vintage-looking garments from vintage patterns. You're right, it's the best way to get the fit and look you want affordably!

MLM247 said...

This garment was designed for a girl's figure, rather than a woman's. Thus the sleeves, shoulders, and diaphragm areas are different. We were skinny in those days. And we walked in a particular fashionable way.You have adapted it well. Perhaps the fabric is crimplene.

Cindy said...

I adore the lace! Nice job and Mery Christmas!

*donna* said...

This dress is so pretty and seems to suit you perfectly!
I love the 60s pattern but your finishing with the lace completely makes it for me.
I'm relatively new to blogging but have already found so much inspiration from so many people.
Look forward to reading more....

Donna

www.sewmuchstitching.blogspot.com

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