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!


  1. I'm chuckling that you said you wouldn't go rock climbing in a corselette, when those photos show you did. ;-)

    1. I meant the strap-into-a-harness-and-wear-special-shoes kind of rock climbing, but...point well made!

  2. Amazing! Both the making of the dress & the rock climbing in it. You are clearly superwoman!