blue velvet 40's

Party dress
, 2016

Once again, I didn't actually need another dress, but was randomly inspired by a couple of photographs of Ann Sheridan. I wanted something with the sleeves of the first one and thought that the pleated front of the second one might look nice with them. The main excuse
(I always make up one) for this project was to brush up my modern pattern drafting skills for once.
My inner glamour girl was not, however, quite ready for gold lame yet, so instead I chose a super elastic velvet in royal blue. The dress was supposed to be dirt cheap, but once I got the pattern drafted I realized that I had been a bit optimistic. The pattern pieces were awkwardly shaped and as you also have the pile direction to consider when cutting velvet I actually had to go and buy another piece of the material. Well, it ended up a quite inexpensive dress nevertheless.

The dress is cut with four main pieces with seams at the sides, center front and center back, the method I have experimented with in a few past 40's-esque projects. It worked particularly great in an elastic material.

I drafted pleats on the front opening from the neckline to a bit above the waistline, with one slightly deeper one at the bust line. The pleating looks nice in the shiny material, and together with the ruched sleeves draws attention to the torso and shoulder area, balancing my hips which are not quite as slender as those in 40's fashion illustrations.
blue velvet 40's
The sleeves have a center seam, which I curved from the elbow upwards to get a similar gathered look as in the front opening. The lower part of the sleeve is simply cut extra long. I also raised and widened the sleeve cap.

The hemline is flared, but the soft, heavy material drapes quite narrow, though movement shows the flaring.

I have relatively little experience of working with elastic materials (and that little comes from my early days of sewing when I didn't know a thing anyway), so my main method of getting the right fit is to just try them on and take away a bit more at the seams until the look right. That's why it was so very convenient to have the dress close at the front seam, so I could finish the closing first and then alter the side seams if needed.

I sewed a 3cm wide facing on the neckline and down the pleated front opening. On one edge I added a tape with elastic loops for the buttons, and also a placket in case the buttoning would gap. I sewed the edge of the facing on the top material with loose herringbone stitches around the neckline, and under the pleats in a few places.

The buttons are made from cutting waste, very cute and economical.

I began assembling the sleeves by sewing the top seams with overlock. Then I measured the length I wanted to gather it and sewed a narrow elastic tape over the overlock seam on the wrong side on zig zag, beginning about 5cm from the top edge. Of course, had I been really good at this, I might have already added the elastic tape on the overlock seam, but I thougt it wise not to take the chance, as picking out stitches from dark colored elastic velvet is hell on earth. The gathering does look a bit wonky at places, but not too painful.
Then I hemmed the sleeves, closed the remaining seam and gathered the sleeve head a bit at the top of the shoulder. As I had indeed taken the dress in at the side seams quite much I had to adjust the armhole shape, but overall finishing the dress went pretty smoothly.

The dress turned out quite okay apart from one eyesore. At the pattern drafting stage I had not chosen my shoulder pads yet, and hadn't realized how much room the would take. I ended up using quite large ones, which caused the neckline pull annoyingly. Happily this is effect camouflages in the general gathered look.

I really like the effect created by the oversized shoulder pads, though. They give a nice vintage vibe and create a great silhouette. Indeed, now I see how all the silver screen actresses have so tiny waists...

A few evening's quick and fun project ended up in a nice dress. I like how deep blue velvet just oozes glamour, and the figure hugging dress is sexy without being revealing.

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