Jimminy Crispies! There’s a Charles James Gown in my living room!!

It’s finished! It’s finished!  Okay – so, technically it was finished almost 3 weeks ago.  Since I had another Garrison Ball gown to finish afterwards (for a friend), I’m pretty behind on blogging about this.  Oh well.

Before I get to the final reveal I’m going to take you through the bodice finishing, I’m really happy with how cleanly it turned out.

Oh, and if this is your first time seeing this project, you can go here for a list of the in-progress posts – if you’re interested.

I had one image of the bodice interior to go by, and tried to get it as close as I could (though I do wish I’d had pink silk satin, how pretty would that have been!)

Evening dress, Tree, 1957 (detail view of bodice interior). Silk taffeta by Charles James. Known as the 'Tree' gown, numerous versions of this dress were created in various colors between 1955-1958. Continue reading

Tree Progress: Bodice and Upper Skirt Covering – aka: Very Scary Part!

Draping is not something I have a lot of experience with.  So choosing a style to reproduce where one of the main features is a lot of draped tucks to create a very sculptural look was not a decision that was good for my stress levels.  This part was far more intimidating than any of the hard-core foundation work that came before.  I think a lot of my trepidation came from when I was working on my wedding dress.  I spent at least 3 months trying to make a one-shoulder draped and ruched bodice work and just couldn’t.  Ultimately I scrapped it and went for a much simpler design – ironically, it was taken from another Charles James gown!  Aha…ha….ha.

I was scared to start this, so I put it off as long as possible.  As part of procrastinating against the inevitable I decided to do a really nice finish to the upper edge of the bodice that would never been seen once it was finished.  Unfortunately, I only remembered to take pictures after the dress was back on Maddy and ready for muslining the bodice covering.  Putting the dress on Maddy and taking it off her again had got to the point of being pretty labour-intensive, so exterior photo of this only. Sorry!  There was only a 1/4″ seam allowance for the bodic upper edge; what I decided to do was sew a length of narrow double fold bias tape around it, turn it to the inside and hand-stitch it to the bodice foundation interior.  This did have the practical advantage of adding more substance to that edge so it would hold-up better when it came time to fold all the pleated fabric of the bodice covering over it.  At least it seems logical to me that it would.

NB: the shoulder straps are not sewn to the bodice front here, just pinned.  And no, you’re not seeing that wrong, they are not showing identical fabrics…..

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Tree Progress: Buttress Petticoat!

For me, the buttress petticoat is really one of the most fun and illuminating aspects of the structural design of this gown – and Charles James’ approach to couture overall.

This was also one of the trickier bits to get right … so far (I’m still terrified of the bodice and upper skirt pleated draping to come!)

This is one of the buttresses below with all layers quilted together – with pink silk thread, of course!

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Regency Ball Ensemble, Post #1: Shoes!!

My work on the Tree Gown has been neglected much of November because of something that came up.  In late October a friend alerted me to a program being run by our local library system for the month of November commemorating the bicentennial Pride & Prejudice’s first publication.  There were events scattered throughout the month (that I didn’t make it to), culminating in Regency Ball the evening of November 30th!  There is also a dance workshop happening for it earlier the same day.  I signed up for both!  The Ball is being held at City Hall.  The building dates from the 1840s, but I’m willing to let that slide ;o)

[photo of Kingston City Hall]
This is the room the Ball will be held in:
red boot festival
So, long story short, this impending event meant that I decided I needed a Regency Ball ensemble.  The Regency dress I already have just wasn’t gonna cut it.  I’m betting hardly anyone else would notice too much, but it felt like too good an opportunity to pass up.

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UFO Dress from last Fall: McCalls 6433

I started this dress a little over a year ago, but didn’t manage to finish it before I considered fall over.  As much as I love wearing fall colours, it somehow doesn’t feel right to me to do so once December arrives.  It may seem silly in a time when most traditional sartorial rules have been thrown out the window, but I also follow the ‘no white after labour day rule’.  So, I left off this dress and focused on more wintry sewing.  Going through my UFOs a couple of months ago I found this and decided it should be finished.

Here is McCalls 6433

M6433 Continue reading

Autumn Apron, 50s Style

I’ve been meaning to make myself an apron for some time now, but dresses and other clothes always seemed more fun important.  Two years ago my husband and I hosted my family for Christmas dinner for the first time and spent my day in the kitchen in a silk dress with no apron.  I did the cooking and even made an apple pie from scratch and inexplicably, miraculously didn’t get anything on the dress.  I’m still completely baffled by how I managed it.  This year we hosted them for Thanksgiving.  I was determined to make a silk ‘Thanksgiving’ dress (which will likely be the subject of my next post) but there was no way I was going to push my luck a second time!  Thus, an apron became the next important thing to sew!  I have a few vintage apron patterns and decided on Simplicity 4213:

Simplicity 4213a

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