Rate the Dress: Fireworks by Chanel

High marks for the Va-va-voom stripey ’50s number last week!  That is, unless you didn’t like chartreuse, or had misgivings about the bag-pouf on the hip.  Those little niggles dragged the dress down to a still impressive 8.2 out of 10 (though the jury is still out on who would look good in it: Grace Kelly, Cyd Charisse, Marilyn Monroe or Christina Hendricks?  My money’s on Cyd.  Grace is too prim, Marilyn too cliché and Christina too curvy – it would just be too OTT, not to mention obscene, on her figure!)

Last week I missed out on posting a Halloween Rate the Dress – no real reason, I simply forgot.

To make up for it, I thought I’d post a Guy Fawke’s Rate the Dress this week.  The problem with that is that I’ve already posted James I, his wife Anne of Denmark not once but twice, his son and heir Charles I as a teenager, and his daughter Elizabeth of Bohemia (who the Gunpowder plot had aimed to replace James with) as a child.  Without good images of Guy Fawkes himself, who is left to post?

How about something else Guy Fawkes-y?  Like a fireworks dress!  Last night I drove home from sewing class and got to watch reflection of the fireworks exploding over Wellington in the buildings around me as I drove.  It was stunning.

Will you think this dress is stunning too?

Evening dress, 1938-9, House of Chanel, silk & plastic, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Evening dress, 1938-9, House of Chanel, silk & plastic, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Evening dress, 1938-9, House of Chanel, silk & plastic, Metropolitan Museum of Art

What do you think?  Is this the perfect celebration dress, mixing little-black-dress elegance with a bit of sparkle, or is it a little too literal?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!  Hope you are all having a delightful holiday with lots of inventive costume fun-ness, apples to bob for, caramel corn, doughnuts on strings and other delicious old-fashioned treats.

Do you need some last minute costume inspiration?  Let’s look at some suggestions from a 1930s Bestway Fancy Dress and Carnival Costumes catalogue.

Would you go as a ‘Flower’, a ‘Clown’, or ‘May Day’?

Or perhaps you want to lord it over ‘May Day’ as the ‘May Queen’, go as a different variant of the clown look in ‘Hoop-La’, or throw political correctness to the wind as a ‘Red Indian’?

A more acceptable form of national dress might be ‘Tyrolean’, or you can avoid cultural issues altogether as a generic ‘Peasant’ (I’d love to see the kid who dreams of being a peasant for Halloween).  Slipping even lower on the social scale is the ‘Charwoman’ costume, and slipping between the sheets is the adorable ‘Lavender Bag’ (sorry, that sounds wrong).

How about an adorable ‘Kitten’ (or Black Cat, if that’s how you play it), ‘Drummer Boy’, ‘Robin Hood’ (though it would probably be more obvious in green), ‘Little Star’ (Starry Night?), and ‘Sunflower’?

Even more saccharine sweet is this ‘Fairy’.  I wonder what people would make of the ‘Son of the Desert’ costume?  And who would guess ‘Folly to be Wise’ and ‘Pierrette in Print’?  Why is she carrying a stool anyway?

I’m trying to imagine tinies loving their ‘Madame du Barry’ and ‘French Courtier’ costumes (also, was dressing your toddler up as Madame du Barry the ’30s version of baby bikinies?) or teens loving any of these costumes (correction, teens except for me – I would have been all over these as a teen).  The ‘Hallowe’en’ is classic, the ‘Spinning Top’ is too cute, and probably too esoteric, ‘Pompoms’ is such a classic ’30s Pierrot look, and I think one or two clever people might just get ‘Powder Puff’.

Finally, for the ultimate in disbelief, here are some ‘Styles Boys Like to Wear’.  Do they now?  I think you might get littlies into the ‘Penguin’ suit, maybe even the ‘Canary’, but I reckon when it comes to the ‘Knave of Hearts’ & ‘Tommy Bardell’ you are all out of luck (also, why would anyone dress as Tommy Bardell?  He’s such a minor character, and a nasty one at that!)

What do you think?  Which would you wear?  Anyone rushing to make a Powder Puff costume?

The ’30s Garden Party frock

Reminder!  One day left to enter the Giveaway!

One of the upcoming classes I’m teaching is a ’30s garden party dress class.  I love ’30s garden party dresses – you know the ones; chiffon, ruffles, floral prints, with that incredible ’30s ability to be ridiculously cutesy feminine and very glamorous and sophisticated at the same time.

For the class, I’m debuting an idea I’ve been working on.  A lot of 1930s dresses are made from very similar patterns: a basic bodice, married to a full-ish skirt attached with an interestingly seamed dropped waistline, with a choice of sleeve treatments.  I’ve taken this formula, and am turning it into a pattern that allows lots of choices, while still being a good introduction to vintage ’30s sewing techniques.

To start with, my pattern has a basic bodice.  I’ve taken the bodice from patterns like Excella E3006 – this type of bodice has the advantage of back princess seams, great for adding a little more shape and fitting a wider range of bodies.

The 30’s Garden Party Dress – Bodice

For necklines, my pattern has the choice of a V neck or a gentle curve: the two most popular 1930s necklines.

The Garden Party frock with a V neckline & double-pointed skirt

To go with the choice of necklines, there is a choice of sleeveless, slim short or long sleeves, or little cape-sleeves borrowed from Excella E3137.

Finally: skirt choices.  How about a delicious double-pointed skirt shown in patterns like this McCall’s example from 1931:

McCalls pattern from 1931, available from Past Patterns

Or my favourite 30’s skirt, the gentle curve and fullness of  Excella E3169:

The ‘Garden Party’ frock with gently curved skirt

Both skirts can be done with either an even hem, or a back dropped hem:

The ‘Garden Party’ frock with dropped hem

I’m really excited about the class, and about the pattern!

30’s Garden Party Frocks runs Sat 10 & 17 Nov.  Register Here 

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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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