With the explosion of retro/vintage inspired television shows and movies, fashion is once again taking notice of the fabulous fashion. And that suits me just fine!
Step 1: Matching Fabric to the Dress Design.
I think that the most challenging part of making an excellent garment is matching the right fabric with the chosen silhouette.
For some projects, the fabric is so amazing that it decides the design for me. But most of the time, I fall in love with a pattern, and wait for the perfect fabric to appear!
I have had this lovely black and white rayon satin for quite some time. Every once in a while I pull it out and try to match it with a pattern only to put it back.
But when I got my hands on this pattern, I knew exactly where to look for my fabric!
Step 2: Make a Muslin!
Many vintage patterns are quite fragile. They rarely have finished measurements or printing of any kind, and very few instructions. One option is to trace the tissue onto muslin (or a cheap/light colored fabric) to test the fit, and to preserve those delicate pieces.
The other wonderful thing about working with a fabric pattern is that it is generally easier to cut out your fashion fabric. Fabric moves like, well, fabric - tissue paper does not!
Step 3: Cutting the Fabric
When working with a print, it is always a good idea to try matching as many motifs as possible. It may not be as obvious as stripes or plaids, but the larger the pattern is, the more obvious it becomes when something does not line up properly.
This particular pattern is rather abstract, so it is a bit easier to get away with a sloppy layout. However, I feel like it is always worth the extra effort and time to make the best finished product possible.
The difference between couture garments and something mass produced on the cheap from H&M or Target becomes extremely clear when you notice all of those details!
Step 4: Fabric Limitations Can Be Fun (no, Really!)
It is always terrible to find that you do not have quite enough fabric to cover all the bases. However, think positive, and it can become a bit of a brain twister trying to figure a way around the lack of yardage. Some of my best work has come from creative solutions to limitations imposed by too little fabric on hand.
For this project, I did not have quite enough cotton to use as sew-in interfacing for the huge collar that is cut on the fold. However, I managed to squeeze out two halfs plus a seam allowance. Because it is not seen , that center seam does not detract from the final design, but saved me a trip to the fabric store, and some money.
I did not have enough of my rayon print to cut out that huge collar, either, but a white rayon/silk made a beautiful lining.
"Make, Do, and Mend" is generally equated with the 1940s, but when you are dealing with the yardage required for the 1950s full skirted looks, it comes in handy.
Step 5: Underlining
My fabric drapes beautifully, but the bodice and collar needed some extra body. An layer of silk organza can make all the difference.
If you do use an underlining, make sure to baste your darts and pleats. Not only does this make it easier to see the markings, but it also keeps the two layers from separating during the construction of any darts and pleats.
Step 6: Interfacing: to Fuse or Not to Fuse, That Is the Question . . .
Interfacing can be purchased as fusible or non-fusible.
Both options certainly have their uses. However, when I am using a vintage pattern, I like to use vintage techniques.
In this case, I used a plain cotton as my interfacing. It adds an extra bit of stability without adding any bulk or stiffness.
Step 7: Seam Binding
For a lovely vintage finish (and because I do not use a serger) I absolutely love rayon seam binding.
Now, this is not the folded bias tape that is found in a cotton/poly blend at every fabric store. This stuff is a single layer of woven rayon that is 1/2" wide and can be folded to encase raw edges without adding any extra bulk.
If you are interested in how to apply seam binding, I have an in-depth tutorial on my blog, Lilacs & Lace. Please feel free to stop by!
Step 8: Bound Buttonholes
Although they take some extra effort, there really is nothing like a bound buttonhole.
Step 9: Finishing Touches
Once the dress is finished, the styling fun begins.
Thankfully, I found some buttons I loved without too much trouble. I contemplated making a self-fabric belt for the dress, but in the end, I thought that a solid black belt would break up the bold print quite nicely.
One of the best things about this dress is the change to swan about in a crinoline - there really is nothing quite like it!