Apr 18, 2010

the creation of a dress

So while I was gathering pictures for the family reunion that was coming up (there will be a post on the reunion soon) I came across a pic of my grandmother in a beautiful dress in the 1950s. There is the pic of grandma, and her mother (who we all called Mama) looking over her shoulder. I told grandma how much I loved the dress. She told me that she had bought it at a store down the street from where they lived in New York. I was totally in love with the dress, so she told me she would make it for me for the party. I told her if it was too much trouble, I could just get a dress at the store, but she wanted to make it anyways. My grandmother has always made me my nice dresses from my 15s to graduation, if there was an event, she could whip up a dress for me in no time. So in about a week I had this dress made and ready to go. I've always wanted to show people how she does it, so here's the process of the dress being made.

About 10 days before the party, April 7th, grandma tells me she needs to take my measurements after dinner. She also wants me to print the picture for her, so she can have a reference point. So she measures me up and takes the pic and sketches out the dress. She gets that basic idea on paper and tells me she's gonna get some fabric for the top and see what she can come up with while I'm at work the next day.

When I get home the next day, she tells me that she's mocked up the bust panel and made the pattern for the bottom of the dress. She isn't quite sure if the bust panel is s gonna work. So she brings it over to me and pins it on, and viola it works! She also shows me the pattern pieces she made for the skirt, and asks me if the skirt width looks okay. Now I've never seen this mentioned on any sewing website or any books I've seen, but this is the jig that grandma uses to make patterns. It's got measurements on both sides for the top and bottoms of garments. It has the curves built right in, so you just trace them out. This is the way she learned to make clothes, "a la medida" (custom-made). There is no draping and no making something to a size standard. She measures you up and makes the clothes to fit you. I always had such well-fitting clothes that when I first started buying my dresses at the store, I was always so disappointed. But then with a few alterations from grandma, they fit like a glove.

So off to work I went the next day and came home to the mocked up dress. I've never seen grandma use or make a muslin. Sometimes she does screw up on the fashion fabric, but then that's why she always buys some extra. Luckily, the fabric for my dress was a cut that she had in the garage for years. She remembered that the original dress was navy in a kind of brocade fabric, and she happened to have a few yards of a navy brocade in her fabric stash. So this is what I came home to. The top had just been basted in place to make sure it was fitting correctly. And the strap was just a piece of cotton she pinned on. We decided on straps instead of the off the shoulder elastic cap sleeves in the original for comfort (and being able to wear a normal bra underneath). She told me she thought it was gonna be too tight, but it fit great. She actually needed to take in the sides a bit. We also played with the placement of the overbust brocade details. we got most of it right. The length was prefect too and all that was needed was a very small hem. She told me to get her an invisible zipper on my next JoAnn's trip and she'd put it in and finish it up.

A few days later she put in the zipper and finished up the straps. Then she had me try it on again for the final placement of the brocade overbust details and to see if she needed any final adjustments. It was all done, but we had to choose the buttons for the top detail. I think we must have had every white button in a 1 mile radius in the house. But I liked the original ones that she had found the best. They are pearlized and have a rhinestone in the middle. Very cute and sparkly, but not too dressy. So about a week after she started my dress was done.

And here we are at the party, showing off my vintage-reproduction dress. My aunts and cousins all loved it. And I just love the retro style anyways, so I was over the moon, not just to have a vintage-style dress, and to have grandma make it for me, but also to have something that she wore was just so great. Plus, it did fit like a glove!

No comments:

Post a Comment