Thursday, January 28, 2016

Another photoshoot for the reproduction 1922 Madeleine Vionnet dress

I did a second photoshoot for the reproduction 1922 silk chiffon dress by Madeleine Vionnet, this one at Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada.  I ended up not needing the photos for the original post, but they turned out well enough that I thought they deserved a post of their own.  Enjoy!

Friday, January 22, 2016

My reproduction 1922 silk chiffon dress by Madeleine Vionnet

Another fun dress, another fun photoshoot!  This time, the dress is a 1922 design by Madeleine Vionnet made with silk chiffon, and the locale is Devil's Golf Course at Death Valley National Park.
Here's another shot of the dress, without me playing Woman of Mystery.
The pattern for the dress comes from the Japanese Vionnet book (review here).
The basic design of the dress is simple-- two quarter-circles of fabric, slashed to create the neckline, and joined at the shoulders and side seams.  The hem is shorter at the center front and back than at the sides, giving the bottom of the dress a sort of scalloped effect.

I made this dress from two layers of aqua/blue iridescent silk chiffon with a white silk charmeuse lining.  I considered using only one layer of silk chiffon, but I found that the chiffon was so thin that I really did need two layers to maintain the vibrant colors of the fabric.

Silk chiffon is a difficult fabric to work with, but this project went far better than I anticipated.  Even so, I am never going to sew with silk chiffon again.  It is far too easy to destroy it through normal sewing and normal wear.  I used sharp pins so as not to damage the fabric, but even then, the fabric would shift around and the pins would snag on other areas, ripping tiny holes in the chiffon.  The scratchy side of velcro also snags the fibers and rips them.  See below, for example.  Given the amount of damage it has already sustained, I really don't know how long this dress is going to hold up.
If for some reason you ever do want to work with chiffon, this is an excellent pattern for it.  The dress only consists of two large pattern pieces.  So, even if the chiffon shifts during cutting, the inaccuracies that result aren't a huge deal.  There are very few seams, and the most significant of them are the two long, straight seams at the sides.  The hem is irregular, so if you can't do an even hem, nobody can really tell.  Plus, the overall drapiness and floatiness of the design shows off the chiffon very well.
I employed a few strategies which made working with the chiffon easier.  First, for cutting out the chiffon, I didn't use pins-- I used large, heavy books as pattern weights.  This did a lot to keep the underlying fabric from shifting around.  Second, I used tiny, tiny stitches on my sewing machine.  For whatever reason, my sewing machine had a much easier time handling the chiffon this way.  Finally, I used French seams for the side seams.  Not only do French seams enclose the enclose the raw edges, they help to stabilize the floaty, insubstantial fabric.  I used French seams for the silk charmeuse lining as well.
The construction of the dress was straightforward.  First, for each of the three layers of fabric (two layers of chiffon plus one layer of silk charmeuse lining), I sewed together the front and back pieces  at the side seams.  I then stitched the three layers of fabric together at the neckline and armholes.  I used narrow strips of silk organza to stabilize the neckline and to prevent the slash at center front and back from ripping open further.  I then folded over and pressed the seam allowances, and finished the raw edges with hem tape.  (Apologies for all the wrinkles-- I washed the dress but haven't pressed it yet.)  After that, I sewed the dress together at the shoulders, and folded over and stitched down the seam allowances.
Finally, I used a narrow hem on each of the three layers (ditto about the wrinkles).
That was pretty much all there was to it.  It would be a very fast and easy dress if you were only to use one layer of fabric; with three layers, it was still an easy dress, but not quite as fast.
Overall, this dress surprised me.  It's not a style I would usually make, since I tend to avoid dresses which don't have well-defined waistlines.  They tend to hug my hips and aren't very flattering.  On the other hand, this dress is so floaty and fabulous that I don't care.  The three layers of fabric trap heat surprisingly well (it was in the 40's when I was taking these photos, believe it or not).  But, since it's so loose, I think it will work well for hot weather, too.  I could see myself making it again in thin charmeuse, at least in a color dark enough that I wouldn't have to line it.
Happy sewing!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

1950's-style evening dress: Vogue 1174+2239 mashup

Behold my success!  My first attempt at a strapless evening gown with a corselette!
I think it turned out pretty well!  I also had a lot of fun taking these photos, too.  I took them at Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada, about a 40 minute drive outside Las Vegas.  The park is absolutely stunning, and if you're ever in the area, I highly recommend a visit.  I love the red of the dress against the orange-red of the sandstone.  By the way, guys, it was 40 degrees out when I was doing this photoshoot.  The things I do for art!
This dress is what became of the corselette I previously discussed in this blog post.  I made the corselette using the pattern from the foundation of V1174, a cocktail dress which looks nothing like the dress I eventually made:
It turns out that I liked the princess seams and the clean lines of the foundation more than I liked the actual dress.  The muslin of the corselette fit me right on the first try with no adjustments needed, so that was a plus.

To recap what I said here, the corselette itself is made from two layers of mid-weight linen, one on the straight grain, and one on the bias.  The boning is a combination of plastic boning (thinner, for the curved seams) and heavy-duty cable ties.  I would have gone with spiral steel boning but I wanted something I could machine wash.  The corselette actually proved to be quite comfortable.  It hugs my body and the boning doesn't poke me in the ribs.  I wouldn't go rock climbing in it, but for everyday life, it's excellent.
For the dress itself, I once again used the pattern for the foundation from V1174 as the bodice.  The skirt came from Vogue 2239.
You may remember it as the same skirt I used for this other dress I made.
I had originally planned to use a different skirt pattern (though I forget which pattern I used), but it wasn't as full and sweeping as I wanted.  I made the skirt lining before I figured that out, oops.  I didn't want to waste that much lining fabric, so I went ahead and used it as the lining for the skirt anyway.  In retrospect that wasn't such a good idea-- the skirt of the lining has a smaller circumference than the skirt of the dress, so it tends to cause weird pulling around the zipper, where the two are joined.  Oh well.  I wouldn't do it again, but it's not such a big mistake that I can't live with it.

The dress itself is made from rust red silk dupioni, lined with black silk charmeuse.  I had five yards of this red silk dupioni sitting around in my stash for years.  I had originally ordered it to make a different dress, but either the fabric wasn't as wide as I thought it was, or I didn't order enough of it.  Either way, I didn't have enough to make the dress I wanted.  When it came time to make this dress, I figured it was a good choice because I wasn't particularly attached to it, so I wouldn't be heartbroken if I completely screwed it up.  I don't have a photo of just the fabric, so here's another photo of the dress.
I made the dress and the lining separately, thinking that once they were complete, I'd figure out some way to join the dress, the corselette, and the lining all together.  I ended up joining them at the top of the bodice-- I just pinned the three layers together as a sandwich with the corselette in the middle and stitched them together.

Then I had to figure out what I was going to do with the raw edge at the top of the bodice.  I thought that maybe I could just turn the raw edge over to the wrong side, press it, and then stitch it down, but there were far too many layers of fabric for that to work.

Instead, I ended up finishing the raw edge with bias binding made from the leftover silk dupioni.  I almost messed this up, too, by not making the bias binding wide enough.  I had to trim the seam allowances on the dress/corselette/lining down to maybe 3/8", which normally I'd consider a little risky, but since I'd run at least three lines of stitching down on that seam, and the raw edges would be completely covered by bias binding, I figured it would be OK. 
This was my first attempt at bias binding, and it generally went OK, but I think I definitely could have done better.  There are some weird wrinkles, and I probably could have avoided it if I'd been more careful or done a mitered seam at the center front or something.  Oh well.  I'm stuck with it now!
I stitched the bias binding down by hand on the other side.  I'm not sure if this is the way that you actually do bias binding, because I was sort of making this up as I went along, but it worked for me.
I stitched the lining to the inside of the corselette and, below the corselette, to the dress, but I didn't stitch the zipper opening of the dress to the corselette because I was afraid it would make the dress pull funny.
I hemmed both the skirt and the skirt lining using horsehair braid.  The skirt and the lining are so full that it took a really long time.  It took me the entire duration of the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy to hem the skirt.  Really and truly. 
Anyway, despite the problems, I think that the dress turned out really well overall.  Here's a close-up of the front:
And here's the back.
I'm really looking forward to wearing this dress more, especially now that it's winter and the full skirt can conceal a multitude of layers of thermal underwear.  
I've run out of things to say about the dress, but here's one more gratuitous dress photo before the end.

Happy sewing!