Holiday parties, I'm ready for you!
Now that I have made myself the perfect go-to fancy event dress, I am all decked out in sparkle and silver and geared up for fun. My dress is vintage to boot, with a very surprising, sexy but demure design. I look all unadventurous and streamlined from the front, but there is a bit 'va-va-voom' from behind...just wait, read on and see. It's the time of year for surprises!
FABRIC: The fabric is a rather thick poly/metallic brocade, double sided in a 'reverse negative' sort of way. The fabric's floral, swirling, lace-like print is woven (part of the make-up), not printed. It was bought at Jo Ann's fabric store last year (2013) when their Holiday collection came out.
NOTIONS: I already had everything on hand: black thread, interfacing, hem tape, zipper, and large sized hooks and eyes
PATTERN: a year 1966 Simplicity #6434
TIME TO COMPLETE: This dress was finished on November 29, 2014 after spending 15 to 20 hours to complete.
THE INSIDES: Half of the long seams, such as the side seams and front princess seams, are finished in a French seam, while the bottom half is covered in bias tape to make the dress' skirt stiffer and stick out like in the envelope picture. My sleeves/armholes are covered in bias tape, too. See the 'inside-out' picture below. The only spot left raw is the inner top of the back pleat, but this spot doesn't need any more of a bulky finish. Anyway, I was just following directions!
TOTAL COST: I remember that I was reluctant at first to buy this silver brocade because it was expensive by my standards. Besides, I'd already dropped a good amount of dough on the fabric for my 1940 suit dress set about a month before. Anyway, with a discount coupon, I believe the total for the fabric (my only expense) comes to maybe $30. That total is still not bad at all for a dress like this.
Do you see something interesting in picture at right of the inside front to my dress? Pockets! Yes, hidden in between the front princess seams are two handy-dandy pockets. They fall at such an easy height - more or less hip height just over my lower tummy. Now, anytime my hands are cold at a party or I need access to a tissue for my nose, I have my pockets to assist me.
Installing the pockets was one one the very first steps to complete before diving into any construction of the rest of the dress. This way they could be sewn in one as part of the seam later on. There are strips of stabilizer (I used black hem tape) sewn on the wrong side of the pocket openings to keep the fabric from stretching out of shape. My silver brocade dress' pockets remind me of another 60's garment, one which has the same hip/tummy front "kangaroo" pockets - my 1968 'Pucci print' Maxi Sundress. Pockets seem to be my current obsession. Pockets are so much easier to sew in than they seem, and well make up for any extra effort by their incredible utility. Another reason I love sewing in pockets is because these vintage patterns really know how to cleverly place them...and besides, pockets are so hard to find in store RTW clothes. The hidden convenient pockets are only one of the number of surprises to my silver brocade dress' design.
The side panels have three amazing specialties to add my unique holiday dress. Firstly, there is no real side seam - the panels wrap around from off center side to off center back. They more or less go from princess seam to princess seam. I know I have seen patterns with this feature before, but they seem few and far in between. The thing which completely "makes" the side panels do wonders for the dress are the fact that they are directed to be cut on the bias (cross selvedge). Having the cross-grain in the pieces which complete the princess seaming give this dress' fit an amazing beauty. The bias side panels hug the body at every move, stretching and forming the princess seams to hug the body for a complimentary, yet forgiving fit. Having the bias side panels being so 'forgiving' especially comes in handy after a big meal :) I knew I liked the pattern (enough to order it!), but these two features of the side panels were only realized once I got into the 'laying-out-and-cutting' stage. I had a "wow" moment. Thirdly and finally, I cut the side panels to my dress on the opposite side of the fabric as was used for the rest of the dress. Since the brocade is pretty and double sided (negative image, actually) I wanted to be able to both show each side of the fabric and also subtly highlight the side panels.
Now, I suppose you've already seen the back design by looking at the pattern envelope picture above. The back view of my dress reveals a wide open, deep V-back which opens up at the small of the back into a wide, gently flaring box pleat. Sewing the back details was a very fun challenge - not too hard to accomplish, but just interesting enough to learn from doing it. The back center zipper runs all the way down past the flare of the back box pleat. This only involved an extra two step treatment of the zipper installation for the box pleat to properly flare freely. You have to lift out the box pleat out of the way on each side of the zip and sew it in below the pleat. Next I sewed up the rest (top half) of the zipper into the dress above the pleat opening.
When my dress was finished, of course I immediately tried it on and became a bit worried about the wide open back. The dress seemed to have the tendency to slip off my shoulders from behind and slide forward. However, once I added two large hook-and-eyes to close up an extra 2 inches above the zipper, as the instructions direct, the 'slipping shoulders' problem happily disappeared completely and the dress stays on effortlessly with no extra 'lingerie catch straps' or the like. The back V-neckline even stays admirably flat against my back, with no gaping. I credit this in part to the hook-and-eyes, another part to the great design, and a final part to the great fitting facings. There is seam tape sewn into the facings (and the shoulder seams) to make sure those spots keep in perfect shape. If you look at the picture at left, you can see it all - the hook-and eyes, the zipper between the pleat, my French seam innards, and the nice large, stable facings along the edges.
My one minor gripe about the design of my dress is the great excess of ease added into the sleeve caps. It makes for some uber-gathered poufy sleeve caps which I think the dress could have looked better without. Nevertheless, the poufy sleeve tops are not really that bad - they do provide plenty of reach room to move around in, and that's rarely a bad thing :)
The funny factor about making this dress is the extra time and effort I made for myself by allowing room for unnecessary creativity. Looking at the pattern, and comparing it to my brocade fabric, I thought perhaps the dress would look better with a longer hem and different sleeves. Thus, at the cutting step, I added 3 inches extra to the bottom hem, as well as 3 inches to the hem length of the sleeves. Hubby and I had these fantastic plans for some really pretty arched hem sleeves which could be turned up as cuffs with a button to show off the underside of the fabric. After my dress was finished and I had tried it on, hubby and I both agreed that the original pattern had the design for the dress right after all, and our "changes" needed to go. So, I had to go through some unpicking, and plenty of measuring and marking to get the dress back to the original length for the both the sleeves and bottom hem. Three inches were added, and three inches taken off...oh, well! We live and learn.
Hubby and I were to attend a holiday party hosted by his workplace, and this was the first occasion (of many, I hope) for wearing my new party dress. I wanted an authentic 1966 hair-do to match with my dress and found some great ideas amongst the blogging sphere. My personal favorite page for 1966 party hair-do's can be found here and my favorite page for 1965 evening wear hair is here. As it turned out, I made a few valiant attempts at some of the more complicated up-do's. I ran out of time when they weren't working out, and so settled with a classic style, with thick side swept 'bang', a pony tail wrapped with a cone of hair at the base, and lightly curled tail. I can't help but think of this as a retro "Barbie doll" coiffed style. It's close to authentic, but still modern. I would have liked something more spectacular (like my 1966 ad pictures below)...but I think I'll have to spend some practice time first to reach the level of such hair art.
This project is my second 1960's era 'party dress'. My first one can be seen here, and it is from 1961 for summertime glamor. Both of them still have a strong 50's influence in their lines. I find it interesting that the 50's still had such a strong influence on the 60's fashion so late into the decade, with patterns such as the one used for my brocade dress still emphasizing the nipped waist, flared skirts, and open back. I notice that what we traditionally think of the 60's - 'A-line' silhouettes, easy dressing, "mod" prints, and the frequent unusual waist placement (such as empire or hip length) - does not seem to be in full force on pattern covers until 1967 and after.
Wearing silver at Christmastime brings to my mind other places I see silver at this time of year, in pretty present wrappings, tinsel strands, and mirror-like shiny vintage glass ornaments. Silver seems to reflect the beauty of the lights and colors of the holidays more perfectly than any other color...except for some white snow! Thus, I feel my silver brocade '66 dress to be a neat appropriate alternative to the traditional trio of black, red, or green worn for Christmas get-together occasions. Silver is definitely good for more than just money!