Elise’s gift: the leaf green velvet jacket

Silk and rayon velvets were very popular in 1930s fashion, particularly for evening wear.  Last week I showed you a devoré velvet gown in royal blue (the most fashionable colour for velvet).  This week Elise’s gift is another velvet item, but in a much more unusual colour.

Leaf green velvet jacket

Isn’t the colour scrumptious?  Silk velvet in that colour is top of my fabric wish-list at the moment.

The jacket is a lovely example of the Renaissance influence on 1930s fashion.  You can see it in the puffed upper sleeves, and in the padded, sculptural collar.

Puffed sleeves and ruched collar

The sleeve puffs are controlled and structured over the shoulders with rows of gathering stitches.

Controlled gathers over the shoulders

The controlled gathers at the top of the sleeve turn into soft, unstructured gathers at the bottom of the poof, so it droops gracefully over the slim lower sleeve.

The sleeve

Lines of gathering stitches also keep the ruching of the puffed collar

The elaborately puffed and ruched collar

As you may have guessed from the elaborate and clever cutting and shaping of the jacket, this garment, unlike the blue devoré dress, probably isn’t a homemade article.

The cream rayon jacket lining

It doesn’t have a label inside, so either it has been taken off, or the jacket was made by a very skilled seamstress who didn’t label her work.

Commercial or skilled seamstress, I really want to recreate this jacket.  First, because I love the colour, second because it is so clever and cunning and darling, and finally because of this:

Terrible insect and age damage

Sadly, the jacket is in terrible condition.  It’s got small holes on most of the proper right half, extensive damage on the PR collar, and is missing huge portions of the PR sleeve.

Damage to the collar and sleeve

While the damage is sad, and makes the garment unwearable, and un-displayable, it does have the lovely advantage of really allowing the construction details to be studied.

Fabric disintegration on the collar

The collar is padded out with loose cotton wadding, held in with a cotton mesh .  The cotton wadding is quite natural – very lightly processed.

The muslin inter-lining on the sleeve

The sleeves are interlined with a very lightweight cotton muslin which has slight overall foxing.

The sleeve interlining

All of the interlining adds a little support and structure to the very soft velvet, but without adding weight or making it too stiff.

So that’s the jacket: lovely but damaged.

I can just imagine how it would look over a really simple 1930s evening dress like my wedding dress.  Mmmm…yummy!

I’ll keep you updated if I ever find that leaf green silk velvet!

Maggie & Johnnie dressed up

I’ve shown you a bit of Maggie’s costume on the dressform, but of course you are still waiting to see it on a person, and to see Johnnie’s uniform.

Here are the very talented Rowena and Stuart in their costumes as Maggie (as a maid, and then a rural wife) and Johnnie (as a gunner in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, the Wellington Infantry Battalion ) pre-dress rehearsal for Home.

Maggie starts out the show as a domestic servant (in huge demand in early 20th century New Zealand).

Then she meets Johnnie, but 1914 comes, and he goes off to war:

Later in the show Maggie gets to take off her apron and be a rural housewife.  Isn’t Rowena just adorable?

Home has just finished up its run in Hamilton, and is off to Auckland for a few shows.  Do make an effort to see it if you can, it’s so sweet (and starts with Mairi’s Wedding, so I was always going to love it), and such a fascinating glimpse into a really important period in New Zealand history.

Art Deco Weekend roundup

Last week I posted the tiniest bit about my wardrobe for Art Deco Weekend 2012, but I didn’t really tell you much about what it was about.

Napier holds an annual Art Deco weekend because an earthquake (and resultant fire) on Feb 3 1931 devastated the city, killing 256 people in the greater Hawkes Bay area, and necessitating the rebuilding of the entire downtown business district.  All the rebuilding was done in the Art Deco and Spanish Mission style.  So every year Napier holds a festival to celebrate it’s Art Deco heritage, and commemorate the earthquake.

Or so goes the official line.  Sadly, my impression was that the festival was really just an excuse to sell stuff, wear silly clothes with only the barest veneer of historicism, and drink too much.  There were a few tours about architecture, and a 20 minute ceremony about the earthquake, but I found the lack of history and recognition of why the event was held vastly disappointing.

Also, the whole event puts a huge emphasis on the 1920s.  The official posters are almost always 1920s in style, and depict people in 1920s clothes.  The tour guides and Art Deco trust board, as a whole, wear truly dreadful pastiches of 1920s styles.  I don’t get it.  The earthquake happened in 1931.  The city is a 1930s and 40s city.  Why not focus on that and celebrate that?  To me, ignoring this basic fact, and glazing over the history, does those who died, and those who survived and rebuilt, a great disservice.

So the weekend was a bit disheartening for me as a historian.  It was a fun event, but I never felt that it taught me anything, or pushed me, or challenged me, or gave me something to aspire to as a costumer or historian.

It was, however, a wonderful weekend for bonding.  I drove up with Claire of The Vanity Case, and Rachel who modeled the Vionnet dress, and stayed in a dorm at the Criterion Art Deco Hostel with them and five other fabulous swing dancing ladies (and almost one fabulous swing dancing guy, but he got rearranged out at the last minute).  We had the most fantastic time dressing up together and trading accessories and stories and lending each other slips.  I got to meet swing dancers from all over New Zealand, and even two Art Deco aficionados from Southern California.  So that part was well worth it, and hopefully we can be the new vanguard that brings life, and interest, and depth, and history to the Art Deco Weekend.

Or just gorilla hunts.  Those are good too.

So, without further ado, masses of photos.  These are meant to give you a bit of an overview of the event, and a sneak peek or two at some of the things I sewed.  I’ll post more photos of those later.

Day One, Friday:

Wore the Frumpy Dress, my brown oxford pumps, and my marcasite and cameo necklace.  Claire did my hair, we went op-shopping, checked into the Hostel, visited with all the swing dancers, had Turkish for dinner, and one dreadful dance (not my partners fault).

Leaving our B&B, pretty floral chiffons for the trio

Blowing kisses at the only McDonalds in the world worth visiting

Frumpy dress and a vintage car

Day One, Friday:

Wore my newly finished beach pyjamas, entered the reproduction costume contest (hated it, always do, must just acknowledge I’m not an exhibitionist), stood in the fountain to cool off, watched a friend & dorm-mate with the Bathing Belles competition (woot woot!), changed into a linen sailor skirt and blouse, stood in another fountain, changed into my green silk pretend-30s dress and a finished off with a few reasonable dances.

Wellignton girls in the authentic vintage costume contest

Swing boys put on some street art at the costume contest

Corinne from SoCal in her costume-contest winning reproduction Egyptomania dress

Rose (with parasol) about to win the Bathing Belles competition

Beach belles and navy boys

Cooling off in the fountain with some swing girls

Claire in her adorable spotted 30s overall playsuit - and very un-vintage accessory

Day 3, Sunday:

Wore my newly finished red, white & blue chiffon dress.  Spent a lot of time walking around the streets of Napier getting sunburnt and trying to remember where I parked the car.  Went to the Gatsby Picnic (really?  Couldn’t come up with something more unique to NZ?) and hung out and danced at the Swing crowd’s circus-themed tent.  Had a lovely photoshoot on the beach while vintage planes and a not-exactly-period helicopter did tricks.  Spent more time walking around, getting sunburnt, and trying to find the car.  And then drove home and was sad.

The best picnic-ers at the Gatsby Picnic. Wish I had stopped and talked to them

Vintage plane arial awesomeness

The navy officer is not interested in these newfangled flying machines

Another kind of arial awesomeness at the Gatsby Picnic

Claire and Rachel as circus girls

With Mary and Corinne of SoCal in their gorgeous period & period reproduction frocks

And thats that.

Meet the Dreamstress

Leimomi Oakes is the Dreamstress, a textile historian, seamstress, designer, speaker and museum professional. Leimomi is available for educational and entertaining presentations, textile and fashion advice, special commissions and events. Click to learn more

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