Tuesday, February 26, 2013

1920s Dress (or: How I Get Over My Fear of the Sewing Machine)

The best part of Halloween is the costumes. And since I've had such positive responses from being a maneki neko, making a Hawkman costume, and building a dragon, I've realized that the only way I can do the costuming I really want to do moving forward is to learn how to sew.

We're definitely going to Dragon*Con this year, so I need to get my butt in gear! But first, a practice project.

A friend hosted a 1920s-themed murder mystery party, so I figured a 20s dress would be a good warmup sewing project. Knee-length, tube-like dresses snazzed up with beads (or in my case, ribbon because I can't be arsed to actually do all that beading).

This was my primary inspiration:

I know I can't duplicate it, but it's SO PRETTY.
Photo from here.
I liked that it has limited fringe, was all a single color, and has geometric patterns in angles that are flattering to my body type. So I did my best to sketch out a simple sheath dress and geometric pattern.

And made a paper pattern following the basics of this tutorial, guessing on the straps and V-neck parts.

The first two attempts were made from an old bed sheet and some ¥100-store fabric, and gave me a chance to iron out some weirdness in the pattern. The first one fit around the hips like old-timey jodhpurs (4" too wide, and with a rather sudden departure from my actual shape, like a cartoon), the second gave me hope that darts are possible (it turns out that a straight potato-sack shape is not a good dress shape for me).

The third and final attempt was in silver satin with a little bit of stretch.

It has flaws, but it's good enough.

The simple sheath dress. And it didn't immediately fall apart or burst into flames!

The shape it's on is a DIY dress form, made from wearing a plastic bag and having the husband wrap me in duct tape, then stuffing that shape with newspapers. It's a little lumpy, but it's a heck of a lot easier than trying to pin all the ribbon in place while it's on me or laying flat on the table.

Unfortunately, I ended up sewing on the ribbon and fringe by hand instead of the machine so I wouldn't destroy everything, but the dress shape itself was pretty good practice.

The ribbon puckers the fabric a bit, but overall it gives the impression I wanted.

With fringe added (I wanted silver fringe for a gray-on-gray look, but it was so hard to find any I jumped on white as soon as I found it):

I knew there would be plenty of sequined headbands, so I opted for a fascinator. Probably not entirely historically accurate, but I think I'm allowed a little bit of artistic license. The feathers are from the craft section of the ¥100 store, and I was lucky to find them; either nobody does crafts with feathers or they're hard to come by, every store I tried only had two or three options. Scrap dress fabric and beaded wire added for texture, and the felt rose was made from this pattern and tutorial. It took about an hour, but wasn't difficult at all.

I really tried an accurate finger wave, but I only managed a halfway-decent wave around my face, so I pinned what I could in place and pin-curled the rest up to approximate a bobbed hairdo. I probably could have hidden the pins better if I could have seen what I was doing. No wonder ladies used to go get their hair done all the time, it's a pain in the neck to do it yourself!

Makeup: heavy eyeliner and dark shadow, Clara Bow lips (painted in the middle, not to the edges). Accessories were a black feather boa, a long string of fake pearls, sparkly earrings, and the closest thing I could find to long white satin gloves.

Bonus: also got to wear my wedding shoes again.
All in all, it came together pretty well, and everyone was super supportive and complimentary. I didn't guess who the murderer was (remember, this was for a murder mystery party), but I did win Best Dressed, so I can't complain.

Bonus: this photo.

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