This is, unquestionably, my favorite dress that I have ever made or worn. This sensational 1950s cocktail dress is the pattern I worked on at Susan Khalje's Couture Sewing School this August. I'm too excited to say anymore, so let's just get to those photos!
Oh my goodness. Isn't it spectacular?! The pattern is Simplicity 4697, a wedding dress pattern from 1954. It features kimono sleeves, a peter pan collar, and a very full gathered skirt. My outer fabric is a cotton organdy from B&J in New York with embroidered roses. The under-dress fabric is a silk cotton sateen.
I was actually just over a yard shy of the requirements for this pattern with my organdy fabric, but I brought it to class anyway and crossed my fingers we could sort something out. I was betting on the fact that I am short, about 5'3", and I knew that the cocktail length was beyond floor length for me just from putting the pattern up against me. Thankfully, in between my short stature and the magical wizardry of Susan Khalje, we made it all fit with barely a scrap to spare. I can't imagine this dress in any other fabric!
There are so many wonderful little details on this dress. Here are just a few:
- French seams at the skirt.
- Bias-tape enclosed seams, fell-stitched down, from my fashion fabric at the side seam to accommodate the curve of the sleeve.
- Bias tape finish at the collar.
- Hand-sewn thread bar for the hook-and-eye.
But my favorite of all of those details is the one we did at the back zipper. Since my fashion fabric is sheer, we didn't want the zipper tape to show. So I tea-dyed a strip of organanza and folded it over to enclose the seam, and hide my zipper tape. Genius! It was a clever little trick that Susan and I worked out ad-hoc, which apparently is oh-so couture. Ohh la la!
There was one strange thing about the pattern - it didn't include pattern pieces for the camisole under the dress, and it wasn't just that they were missing. The back pattern envelope doesn't specify that they're included at all. So I brought a muslin of my sloper to class, and we made one up on the spot.
That last photo looks so odd to me, like a deflated muppet without its pupeteer. It's such a full and lively dress it seems so strange to see it flat on the floor!
We can't end on that, so here's a few more of those details. The hem is a narrow hem, where you use three rows of stitches to anchor it down. Threads has an excellent tutorial if you're looking to do something similar.
This dress has already seen a thrilling night of dancing at a wedding I attended recently, and I am sure it will have many more unforgettable parties in its future.