I recently won something! As a person who hasn’t won a raffle since I was 6 years of age this was an exciting development and might finally encourage me to buy a lottery ticket. My prize was two tickets to a birthday party. Fatale Events, a super cool Irish events company were celebrating their 10th birthday with a big party. The first part was a screening of the 1970’s film Cabaret which was followed by dancing until the wee hours of the morning. The dress code was in the period of the film (early 1930s).
Like Cinderella, I had nothing to wear and, as the Fairy Godmother is away on extended holidays, it was time to don the thinking cap and start creating. To be perfectly honest I have been going through a really dry period creatively so I was glad of the challenge.
So it was time to head online to check out the fashions of the time. The brief stipulated “flapper”. Now, I will readily admit that I am no spring chicken so the gorgeous pieces I saw online would have to be toned down a bit. Think Downton Abbey, now visualise somewhere between Cora and Violet Crawley (though to be fair, maybe closer to Cora!). Anyway the fashions of the time were a bit ‘matchy matchy’ which made the job a lot easier. Flapper dresses were unstructured, sometimes with a fuller skirt. I visualised a longer style, a bit above the ankle.
Next, a pattern. There was no time to source a vintage one (which would have needed adjusting anyway). I found an unstructured dress in one of my books from an early series of The Great British Sewing Bee.
Recommended fabric for this dress was silk but since this was a ‘costume’ I was ready to break rules. As an aside, I sometimes design and make for the stage. I felt that I could do a hacking job on this pattern so the first step was to trace it. A bit of a challenge as, while the book offers lots of great patterns, they are all drawn on a few pages rather than individually.
I measured to just the top of my legs and made this the cut off point on the pattern as I was going to add a full skirt. Once I traced the pattern from the book, I adjusted the front to form a deep V shape and drew a corresponding V pattern piece. I also made the corresponding adjustments to the neck facings.
Then, having calculated my fabric requirements I headed off to make the purchase. I chose a stretch velour because it was cheap and this dress was a one-wear costume. The colours were chosen to tie in with a gorgeous jewelled appliqué that I bought a number of years ago. They were also colours which fitted in with the period represented by the dress.
Then it was time to get cutting, making sure that all pieces were laid in the same direction. (The velour is like velvet in that it is different shades depending on the direction it is viewed from).
Once the bodice was cut out I sewed the two fronts together and then top stitched the seam. I used a zigzag stitch on the seams throughout. Then I got to work on the V front. I was a bit nervous as this was my first godet but it worked, even though I was working with stretch material!
I then sewed the back together and also topstitched it. The pattern top had a yoke and, as I don’t believe in making life easy for myself, I decided to insert a co-ordinating piping in the front and back shoulder seams using the gold fabric. I felt that this would add stability to a stretchy fabric. I cut the strips on the grain where there was no stretch and prepared the piping by sewing cord into the strips. Then I attached to the yoke.
I then sewed the yoke to the main bodice. Next, I added a light interlining to the neck facing and attached it to the bodice. I then cut two strips of the gold material and added it to the sleeve area to give some colour balance to the bodice. At this point I sewed the front to the back and hemmed the sleeves.
Once this was done I was able to decide on the length I wanted the dress to be. So, having measured this and allowing for seam and hem, I cut two widths of the green fabric which I sewed together. I then decided to hem it before sewing it on to the bodice as I reckoned that there was enough fabric to negate any slight deviation that might occur in the hem length (plus the dress was going to be worn in a dark club). I then gathered it having divided the skirt into four sections so that I could control the gathers a bit better when attaching the skirt to the bodice.
Once that was completed, I sewed the appliqué onto the front. This was a bit of a challenge to get straight but I got there in the end.
And here it is!
The dress felt great on but I was missing accessories. So I felted a hat. I called upon my youngest son, Cian to pick out merino wool fibre colours which would blend with the dress. He did not disappoint. I made a cloche hat, then added two bands of the green and gold velour to pull the outfit together.
I had made a bag some time ago in a mustard colour Corriedale fibre which finished off this ‘matchy matchy’ theme.
I popped on my brown buckled shoes, feeling very pleased that, despite not wearing them too often, I had decided to keep them rather than send them to a charity shop.
The night was tremendous and great fun. Happy birthday Film Fatale! I wish you many more years of cool events and spreading happiness. Thanks for a great evening!