Made by a Fabricista: Flapper Fantastic in a Burnout Silk Velvet from a Vault.

Mission: Should I choose to accept it?  For the sixth year in a row–make a dress for the annual school auction.  Year one of this endeavor is pictured here.  Year two is here.  Year three is here (at the FM blog!).  Year four here (also the blog).  And year five here at the bottom of the post (yet again, the blog).  Are you seeing a pattern?

This was almost the dress that wasn’t, for a number of factors.  One, I am just overwhelmed by school activities and keeping up with all the responsibilities that come with helping a bunch of eighth grade students prep for graduation and moving onto high school.  Two, I am currently trying to start a youtube channel (it’s here, I mainly do unboxings and reviews of clothes, but hope to incorporate sewing pattern reviews, too, eventually).  YouTube is a time suck, lol.  And three, the dress that almost wasn’t felt like it wasn’t going to work initially, and I was all stressed that I would try to make a dress and have it fail, and the effort would be for naught.

But, my wise friend Liza told me, “girl, keep pushing, you’ve got a reputation to keep.”  (The whole I make my dress every year reputation.)

So I did, and boy am I satisfied that I did push through.  No doubt, this is one of my most satisfying and lovely makes I have ever crafted, and was worth the fussy (but GORGEOUS) fabric, a pattern that didn’t include a lining, but I wanted one anyhow, and substantial fears that the modern pattern wouldn’t look “roaring 20s” enough to pass itself off as vintage (ultimate goal as a perfectionist history nerd).

Initially I set out to use a sequined fabric, but when Fabric Mart announced their first “from the vault” sale to Julie’s Picks customers, I had to take a look.  And, “gasp,” I exclaimed upon seeing the burnout velvet made from real silk (that is so tough to find anymore), and in a perfect pattern and color and sheerness (it is very much like a chiffon at its base) that my sequined fabric paled in comparison.  And at $29.99 a yard (I can only imagine how much it cost at retail at its original Garment District home*), I knew it was a bargain to boot.  So I bought 2.5 yards (about 3 came), and set out to find images to guide me in my journey.

You can find it here, but there is also another lovely yellow/gold burnout velvet here, too.

*Other well known garment district purveyors of high end quality silk velvet like this have prices that range from $80-125 per yard.

This was my initial find that made me think, “hey, that fabric could work in this silhouette.”  Though it is not a vintage piece, it has a very 20s feel, and I knew it could be a jumping off point.

I also liked it as it seemed more historically appropriate and accurate as to what women actually wore out more commonly than the more ostentatious tight fitting fringe style frocks we normally associate with the era’s high flying women.  (I wanted more Downton Abbey and less frat party!)

This version’s drop waist, fairly modest hemline, and straight cut evoke the era well, especially when I have the Victoria & Albert museum backing me up:

At the very beginning of the 1920s it was fashionable for women to wear high-waisted, rather barrel-shaped outfits, and tunic-style tops were popular. However, between 1920-2 the waistline dropped to hip level, obscuring natural curves for a tubular, androgynous look. Young, very fashionable ‘flappers’ wore their hems at knee level, with neutral coloured stockings and colourful garters. Hemlines drifted between ankle and mid-calf for the duration of the decade. Jewellery was prominent, including large brooches and long strings of pearls. Hair was worn bobbed, sometimes close to the head, and the distinctive cloche hat (a close fitting, bell-shaped hat) was very popular.”

So with that done, I knew I had a look.  Now for more inspiration (actually vintage), and a pattern!

Jean Patou Beaded Dress

Though not exactly the same as the one I created, it is a similar color and feel, and made by one of the most iconic names in fashion, Jean Patou.

But what to do in an era of the anti drop waist, get dressed up society we live in?  Most patterns today veer wildly in the direction of athletic wear or very tightly fitted, waist cinching dresses.

I also knew I couldn’t go vintage pattern, especially since many are in the $80-90 range.

But then it happened, I found it…

New Look 6373.  Version D.  (Angels singing from above, just imagine.)

The drop waist!  The straight cut!  The fact the hips would probably fit me since it is a gathered drop waist!  Hallelujah!

I ended up deciding to go with a size 14 at the bustline (one bigger than I usually wear) and grading it out from bust to upper hip to an 18. I kept the neckline and straps at a size 12.

It worked well, and I far prefer this looser cut as it really amps up the boyish frame so many of the flappers were trying to emphasize.  I have a fairly flat bustline, so this works as long as I keep things flowy over my hips and rear.

LOVE THIS SHOT.

Not only do I love it because of the fun factor (my great friend Sarah is with me), but I love how awesome the lowlighting shows off the fabric, its sheerness, and just how exquisite the burnout silk velvet looks (it feels amazing, too, of course).

But ooh boy, what a crazy slippy fabric to cut and to sew.  I won’t go into great detail, but do bring thousands of pounds of patience when working with something this sheer and fine.  It took a really long time to accurately cut all the pieces out, and when just sewing the velvet to the velvet, it was tough to keep my sewing machine from screaming at me.

Fortunately, even though the lining meant I would have to make a whole other dress, and eschew any facings, I was grateful for the tan colored bridal lining (from David’s Bridal, sold by Fabric Mart a couple of years ago), as it helped tame the beast that was the velvet.  Sewing the velvet to the lining was actually pretty easy, and it pressed well and without crushing the velvet (I did use a thick sock balled up to iron on and always used a press cloth, though).

I couldn’t wrap my head around attaching a lining to the dress with the side seams sewn up, so instead I sewed the front lining to the front, and the back lining to the back, and after sewed up the side seams with both fabrics attached to each other.  Trying to pin those seams were tricky, but it looks and feels great and I like that the lining will stay put with the dress at all times.

Here is another shot of me with my awesome friend Stephanie.  I chose to accessorize the dress with Mardi Gras beads from the Bacchus parade last year (caught so gracefully by me in this photo lol).  The headband is from Anthropologie, and my feather clip-in is another Mardi Gras purchase (much more graceful shot of it here).  From what I can tell my accessories were spot on…

And to finish up, here’s a fun shot of a flapper enjoying herself in a very typical dress of the time…

And here are Sarah and I recreating the fun the lady above was having (even edited into black and white, natch)!

I hope you all have a great weekend, and I hope that your sewing endeavors lead you to beautifully luxurious fabrics made up into historically (nearly) accurate designs!

(Let me know what you have done to recreate another era’s fashion–and link to a photo!  I’d love to see them!)

See you in July!

Dina–My Superfluities.

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