I’m about a decade late to the game, but I finally started watching Mad Men. Considering how much I love 50s and 60s fashion and sewing, you would have thought I watched it ages ago. Nope, I started watching it this week, and of course, I love it (I’m already three seasons deep) – and I love the costumes. It was incredibly fitting that I was working on a vintage-style dress of my own at the very same time, and it was really something having the show on as a backdrop.
Now, this dress didn’t start with Mad Men. It started with an Etsy shop called Circa Fabrics, which I am obsessed with – it is a beautifully curated shop full of vintage fabrics. I love it not only because vintage fabrics help me to get that truly vintage look, but it’s a very sustainable way of using fabric – vintage fabric is by its very nature “deadstock”, and so no one’s making more of it and the stuff that exists isn’t going anywhere.
So I found this electric blue lace on Etsy, and there were about 4 yards of it – plenty for a dress with sleeves and a full skirt! I ordered it and thought, well, it’ll be easy enough to find some silk shantung or dupioni (beautiful, crisp silks that are often vibrant and relatively easy to sew!) that would match to go underneath.
Many weeks later, I was making another order from Circa Fabrics, and Sarah (the owner) had listed some bright blue silk from the 1970s. Now, my lace was from the 1950s, but who was I to let age keep true love apart? It was clearly meant to be! So I ordered the vintage silk – and the match was pretty much spot-on.
I had a vintage pattern in mind for this fabric, but vintage patterns being as vintage patterns are, it required something like 6 yards of fabric (due to the huge huge skirt). I only had 4 yards, so fitting a circle skirt with pleats wasn’t happening. I settled for a regular circle skirt, and used a self-drafted bodice and sleeves for the top. I drafted the bodice in university for my thesis, and it took three months to get the fit right, but was it ever worth it! Every time I come back to it I’m reminded how great the fit is, and I’m so glad I spent all that time getting it right.
Putting the dress together was easy, but I spent a lot of time hand sewing – I had to hand-baste the lace pieces to their silk underlining pieces before sewing, and then I hand stitched the neckline facing, the armhole bindings, and the sleeve hems. But man, oh, man, I love when the insides are gorgeous! My aunt gave me some old bias bindings from her sewing kit which happened to match perfectly, so I used those to do a Hong Kong binding on the shoulder and bodice side seams. Then I used French seams for the skirt lining (wow, my seams are very intercontinental!). I gotta say, this dress has to be one of the best dress insides I’ve done yet!
Anyways, I’m so pleased with how this dress turned out (inside AND out!) and the lace is kind of crisp and crunchy and has that perfect swish (and makes that sound when I move – oh I just love it). I have many more vintage-style dresses to come, and I’m so excited, because I’ve tried vintage fabrics and now I’m hooked!
Do you have a special collection of vintage fabrics?