Costumes: March 2012 Archives
This edition of the "From Screen to Closet" series goes out to all the men in the house (and the women who sew for them)!
Over the last couple of weeks, I've posted about my dress prep for 100-year anniversary Titanic parties. But of course, I'll need my handsome escort to join me! I'm lucky to have a husband who is totally up for costumed events. He has a couple of late-Victorian suits, so after a little discussion, we decided on a brocade Edwardian dressing gown for him.
A quick historical note about this particular fashion trend. Gentlemen of the era really would come home at the end of the day and change out of their suit jacket into one of these dressing gowns for the remainder of the pre-bedtime evening. The trousers, shirt and tie were still worn under the dressing gown. As the fascination with all things of the Orient was at a fever pitch in this era, I have a sneaking suspicion that many a gent fancied himself as the perfect emulation of the Emperor of China in his fine brocade robe.
The beauty of this project is that it starts with a basic bathrobe pattern -- Kwik Sew 3177 is a perfect candidate. It's nice to be able to put together a menswear project without having to worry about tailoring!
I really only made five changes to the pattern:
-- I added a breast pocket in lieu of patch pockets.
- -- Instead of the banded edge to the robe opening, I cut a basic shawl collar out of velveteen.
- -- I added velveteen cuffs to the sleeves.
- -- As mentioned above, I lined it.
- -- I made bias tape out of duchess satin and ran it around the edge of the belt tie.
Behold, my handsome husband, ready to enjoy a snifter of brandy in the lounge.
I coerced my friend Tracy (who I know to be a fan of "Breakfast at Tiffany's") into serving as my model for this project. She has a lovely figure, perfect for the simple, elegant lines of this gown. The original (well, one of them -- there were originally three!) was sold at auction several years ago, so there are some great photos of it online.
To start this project, I grabbed my trusty copy of Kwik Sew 3521. This pattern is great for this project, because version B of the dress has the perfect neckline along the front. The back, however, needs a little tweaking.
To begin with, I started sketching the design lines for the dress right on my pattern.
Once I got the design lines where I wanted them, I traced my pattern onto fresh paper for the actual pattern. (I'll draw on a pattern, but I won't cut it apart!) The key with this dress and its unique design lines on the back is to cut it so the back bodice is initially separated as a top section and a bottom section. I'll show you what this looks like mid-assembly in just a bit.
I used a black broadcloth to make a mock-up of the gown. Once I had Tracy try on the test version, it became apparent that I needed to take it in quite a bit.
I pinned out the excess fabric and marked everything that needed an update, then I cut apart the mock up and used it as my pattern for cutting out my sweetheart satin for the actual gown.
As I mentioned before, the bodice gets assembled with the rounded upper portion of the back bodice separate from the lower section of the bodice right up to the point where you inset your zipper. Here's what it looks like:
The skirting section is ultra basic -- it's a rectangle, cut so there's just a teeny bit of gathering to match it to the bodice waist -- you'll want to test this to make sure there's enough room for the wearer's hips to fit with some ease, but not so much that it gets balloony. I cut a lining out of the exact same fabric -- since the dress has a slit, I wanted to make sure that if someone sees the interior, it looks just like the exterior.
Fun trivia note: As I mentioned earlier, there were several copies of this gown made for the film. The fun thing is that each of them had a different slit length. One had no slit whatsoever, one was slit quite high, and one fell right in between the other two extremes. We opted for the middle-range slit.
An invisible zipper is vital for this dress -- it keeps the center back seem clean and smooth. Here's a snap of the back of the bodice with the zipper set in place. The hook and eye at the top have yet to be sewn in.
Once the hand sewing (which is minimal on this dress) was in place, I had Tracy try the whole thing on:
Tracy ended up taking this dress on vacation, and kitted herself out with ALL the right accessories!
Prom season is here -- do you have a starlet in your life who might like to borrow some vintage design style?
First up, the dark purple under robe needs a little sparkle. Since it's chiffon and I don't want to overwhelm it, I opted for a simple line of sequins along the neck edge, applied with dark purple seed beads that I had on hand.
Next up, the brocade got a touch of sparkle thanks to my Kandi hot fix rhinestone applicator. (I love this thing. Rest assured, there will be more projects featuring its embellishing magic in the very near future.) I kept it to a gentle scatter, rather than going hog wild. I applied the rhinestones (I used the blue mix crystal compact) to the same point in the pattern repeat to keep myself on track.
For the front closure, I wanted a floral repeat. I won't lie, there was a waltz down bad idea lane that involved shabby chic chiffon flowers. It came out too poufy and didn't look right at all. So, two steps back, until I remembered this awesome fabric rose tutorial that we posted a while back!
I cut some strips of my leftover brocade and I was off to the races. I applied the blossoms to a grosgrain ribbon base as I went.
Once the front closure belting was assembled, I made a quick bead fringe for the edges:
I used the same fabric rose technique that I used for the front closure in larger scale to make a single flower to crown the back drape of the dress.
After tacking the two under robes together at the shoulder and sewing snap closures for the front belting to attach, I am now ready for high tea on the deck!
We're nearing the 100th anniversary of the Titanic tragedy, and many of you have probably been invited to remembrance parties that require costumes. It's no secret that I love a costumed affair. I love recreating gowns from movies or photos of the period, but for this project, I wanted to step outside the boundaries of a pre-designed color palette and design something a little original based on an inspiration piece or two.
I looked at costume books, photos of Titanic passengers and numerous museum catalogs, but in the end, I fell in love with this beauty from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website. I love the elegant lines of the dress, but I wanted to expand the design beyond the shades of gray of the original garment.
One of the things that fascinates me about the Edwardian period is the heavy saturation of Orientalism and obsession with the Far East that was evident in Western design. So, a Chinese brocade was a natural choice for the outer robe of my gown. I selected two colors of chiffon to go with my brocade, and then it was time to get down to business.
For the chiffon robe layers, I first examined the photos of the inspiration garment. I like the way you can tell that each layer closes on its own before the next is put on over it -- and that it happens on both the front and the back of the dress. To replicate that look, I opted to construct my robes each in two separate pieces -- a right and left -- so I could overlay the v-shapes of the neckline and tack things in place. I will leave most of the back sections open, as they'll be covered by the outer robe.
Here is the innermost layer, back and front, to illustrate the two-piece robe:
The next chiffon layer has a long, open sleeve. I cut an elongated leaf shape and hemmed the edges, then attached it to the robe so the side edges of the sleeve meet at the shoulder. This is a shot of the sleeve laid out so you can see the shape:
Once the blue robe was assembled, I layered it over the inner robe and pinned the closures in place.
Here's a tip on making rolled hems on chiffon -- a task that most stitchers avoid like the plague. Don't sweat it. Even though most of the time, the hem that emerges from under the presser foot looking like a pucker train wreck, in most cases, a spritz with water and a good pressing will smooth things right out and will often hide a few sins, so long as they're not too crazy. Here's one of my hemmed edges pre- and post-pressing:
Once the chiffon under robes were more or less squared away, I moved on to the brocade. An examination of the inspiration garment shows that there isn't a seam joining the bodice front to the skirt, but there is one joining the back skirt to the bodice. So, the bodice and front skirt are cut as one contiguous piece, in what's sometimes called a kimono style, and then the back skirt is cut as a separate piece.
Here is a wrinkly (but labeled) snapshot of one of the bodice pieces so you can see how it's cut:
And then, the top of the back skirt piece:
To create the fall at the back of the dress, I cut a rectangle of chiffon, then finished the sides and bottom before gathering it and basting to the back skirt piece.
Once my fall was basted into position, I joined the back skirt to the back bodice, and then stitched the sides of the outer robe closed.
I didn't really use a pattern for this project, though I did borrow design lines from a couple. If you think you'd like to start your own Titanic-inspired project, but you like to work from a pattern, Laughing Moon Mercantile has a great one, and Simplicity offers one that's easy as pie as well.
I know what you're thinking: "Holly, this dress isn't finished!" And of course, you're right. For part two of this project, I'll finalize the fitting and make sure things are stitched into place so they won't shift. I'll also add decorative closures, and even add a little extra sparkle. (Squeeeeeeeee!)
Stay tuned! We'll soon be ready for cruising!