Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Weekend at the Waldorf

Since my last post on the fabulous Edith Head evening gown from Rear Window, look what I found in a recent collection from here. A modern tribute to the Edith Head design, I think?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Grace Kelly Rear Window gown

Grace Kelly always looked amazing in her films and her costumes were beautiful. In Alfed Hitchcock's Rear Window she plays the girl friend of a wheel chair bound photographer with a broken leg who is spying on his neighbours to pass the time, only to become convinced that one of his neighbours has killed his wife.

In the opening scene, Lisa Fremont (Grace Kelly) makes an entrance wearing a black and white evening gown. The dress is three quarters length and incorporates a black V neck, slightly off the shoulder top and full white skirt with black beading. Hitchcock wanted this dress was to emphasise the character's love of fashion and social status. The designer was Edith Head.
Design by Edith Head for black and white gown 
In the design drawing you can get a better sense of the design of the beading of delicate floral branches. I love the simple elegance of this dress and the drama of the black and white. By the way, Edith Head's drawing was sold at auction in Nov 2010 for around $13,000!

Monday, June 27, 2011

A word about Madame Weigel

With all the well known international patterns of Vogue, McCall and Butterick etc, it's surprising to know that there were local pattern makers in Australia. One of note was Johanna Wilhelmine (Madame) Weigel, who settled in Victoria while travelling on her honeymoon from New York with her husband Oscar. They started a fashion and pattern making business in 1877 which grew to an Australian and New Zealand wide business. Johanna background at McCalls (as a cutter) and Oscars engineering background provided them with the essential skills for the pattern making business.

They started monthly subscription journal, Weigel's Journal of Fashion, in 1880 which was claimed to be the first fashion magazine designed, published and printed in Australia. The impact of her patterns and journal was said to be considerable especially in country areas. They introduced the fashions of London, Paris and New York to Australia and made it possible for people with modest sewing skills and income to make fashionable clothing. They revolutionised the appearance of Australian's, especially women and children, enabling them to make attractive garments and affordable prices.

As her patterns can still be found in various places, they are made all the more interesting by the history of the Weigels and their contribution to fashion in Australia.


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Those nipped in waists of the 50s

Having watched my fair share of Mad Men while at sea and prompted by Jane's comment on my last post, I thought I would share some information I read on shapes and sizing in the 50s and 60s here in a newsletter.

In the 50s, the industry standard for measurements was a 10in (25cm) difference between the bust and waist. Which means if your bust is 36in, your waist measurement is 26in - hmmm, not so for women these days I think. In the 50s, girls as young as 15 started wearing girdles or waist cinchers (not shapewear - not enough support) so their waists were trained into shape - comfy!
Girdle front - source-
Girdle back -source-
Also longline bras would also help smooth out the bust to waist area.
Long line bra - source-
So if the shapes looked impossibly smooth and the waists impossible small, they were and helped by some serious undergarments.
By the 1960s, women were moving away from wearing girdles at all times and styles moved away to a more relaxed waistline. Empire line, straight shift dress and looser styles in general, slowly reflecting the changes in times and attitudes.

I don't know about you but I love the glamour of the 50s and the wearability of the 60s.

Also further to my last post on slip dresses, the VFG also has a great post on Slips. I'll update my last post with this link also.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Slip dresses

When I think of slips, I think of Elizabeth Taylor in the silk slips in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) and Butterfield 8 (1960). In Cat on a Hot Tin Roof she plays the neglected wife of Paul Newman in the Tennessee Williams play. She looked stunning in a white slip in one scene.

She won an Oscar for playing Gloria in Butterfield 8 in 1960, playing a model come call girl who has an affair with a married socialite. Once again, stunning in a slip.
The slip became popular as outerwear, and copied by designers such as John Galliano, who even dressed Princess Diana in a slip dress. 

If you're a fan of this delicate and sexy look, you can reproduce it with lingerie patterns from the 1950s and 60s like this one.....
The Vintage Fashion Guild also has a nice article on slips which you can read here. 

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Royal Wedding - Maid of Honours dress

Yes, I know, there's been a heap written about this dress and the wearer recently but I wanted to satisfy my curiosity about the details anyhow...."Pippa's dress"...
Designer: Sarah Burton at Alexander McQueens
Fabric: Heavy, ivory satin-based crepe
Description: Close fitting dress with cap sleeves, cowl neck front and small back train. The dress was finished with gazer (stiff silk) and organza covered buttons fastened with Rouleau loops and handmade lace trims which echoed  the Bride’s dress. 
I do love the dress but I suspect wearing it is not for the faint hearted - think shapewear! If you're keen to make the dress you can find, what I think, is an excellent pattern for the dress here. 


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Scarlett O'Hara - Prayer Dress (white ruffle dress)

I've always loved Gone with the Wind. Scarlett, Rhett, the Civil War and the sweeping melodrama of it all. Very recently a Hollywood pattern of the white prayer dress Scarlett wears in the opening scene was for sale on an auction site.
The dress itself on the pattern didn't look too special to me (too many tiers) but when you see it in the movie pics it looks divine. The delicate ruffles and the red accents - so pretty on Vivien Leigh.
The costumes were designed by Walter Plunkett who was an expert in period costumes and also was the designer for films like Little Women, Father of the Bride, Kiss Me Kate, Showboat and many others. From what I can gather the dress needs over 30 meters of white cotton and the hem circumference is over 6 meters! Each tier is trimmed with lace, the bodice is boned and the dress requires hoops. Wow, a labour of love I would say.

I kept a eye on the pattern and did a bit of research, toying with the idea of bidding for sentimental reasons. Two things surprised me:-
1. The pattern ended up selling for around $100!
and 2. The number of people making, selling, wearing reproduction dress from the movie. Here's a sample

I had no idea of the ongoing popularity of the film or the costumes. But it's fun seeing the time and commitment people make to reproducing these costumes.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Vintage Vogue Couturier - Jacques Heim

I'm already planning the sewing projects I intend to do when I get back. I want them to be a mix of things I can sew quickly and wear (eg. Japanese patterns) and more complicated projects that will improve my sewing skills and knowledge. I know I have heaps to learn.

As for the quick sews projects, I haven't decided yet but I'm focussed on planning which "complicated" project I should tackle first. And these are the projects where I'm going to need help.

One dress I do want to try is a Vintage Vogue Paris Original Pattern, Couturier Dress by Jacques Heim - 1047. I seen it made up here and I really liked the clean elegant look. Plus I think it's a flattering style and I'm going to make the sleeveless version. Not sure where I would wear it at the moment but hey.....

Here's the fabric that I've chosen...a cotton's not quite a busy as it looks in the photo.

Here are my random thoughts so far...

  • the pattern size is one size too big and will have to be graded down. I've never done this before.
  • I've decided to make a toile to make sure I get the right fit. Never done this before either but I bought meters of muslin for the purpose:)
  • This will be the first vintage Couturier pattern I've used so I'm not sure what to expect. There are not too many pattern pieces so this is encouraging. I haven't had a chance to read the instructions yet either.
So I have some questions....
  1. Should I cut the pattern as the pattern size then adjust the sizing in the toile based on fit?
  2. Has anyone used a vintage Couturier pattern - if so, any tips?

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