20th Century, What I wear

Windy Lindy 2012

It’s that time of year again – Windy Lindy, the biggest swing event in Wellington’s dance calendar.

Every year I solicit your opinion on costume, and then happily ignore what you tell me and make whatever I feel like (I don’t mean to do this, it just happens !).  And then I deluge you with pictures.

Over the years I’ve worn natty nauticals, glamorous ’30s evening gear, and been a human chicken and a pin-up Dorothy Gale.

This year’s theme was Blitz Ball, and while I love 40s fashions, I just couldn’t get excited about the theme.  I tried my best, settling on Simplicity 3446 – the 1940 pattern that my Grandmother used for her wedding dress (the pattern still had her alterations!)

I paired it with a fantastic vintage brocade in vivid fuchsia which I picked up in Napier at Art Deco weekend last year.

Isn’t that a fascinating fabric?  It’s got a secondary weave layer floating over the base layer.  Not a good thing for Felicity to get her claws into, and kind of a pain to work with, but very attractive!

I only had 3.2 metres of the fascinating fuchsia fabric, and the pattern called for 4 metres, and the fabric had damage, but with some clever piecing at the centre back seam I made it work.

Well, sort of.  I don’t actually like the dress.  It’s beautifully finished on the inside (check out those lace-edged seams) and swishes beautifully when I dance, but it was a nightmare to fit (the pattern was made for someone with at least a C cup – not my ‘I like to pretend I’m actually a B’ cup), and I just don’t like it on me.

I feel thick and un-shapely in it.  I thinks it’s partly because I moved the line under my bust too high in order to get the bust portion to fit properly, which makes the waist too high, and if I lowered that, it would look better.

Or maybe I was just a grump on the night (I’d had a bad day and wasn’t feeling well), and it actually looks better than I felt and that it does in the photos.  I’ll give it another go with a proper photoshoot later, but for now here are my best pictures:

And, courtesy of Full Swing, pretty dancing pictures!  I’m doing Balboa rather than Lindy, if you are wondering why it doesn’t look like the swing dancing you are used to.


  1. The dress actually looks quite good on you. If it has a flaw it is a that it’s a rather large swath of intense color on a fabric that looks more substantial than the intended outer layer of the original gown. I’d suggest chopping it off wherever about the knee is most flattering to you, and adding something to break the color on the bodice – maybe just a print scarf around the neck or a bolero jacket/vest.

  2. Gee! I think you look swell (to use a phrase from the swing era). 🙂 You look stunning. I love the shape of it and the sleeves. And wow! Your hair is so cool. My sister does her hair like that sometimes…I think it’s nothing less than miraculous!

    Great job. I want to go to a swing dance please!

  3. Claire Payne says

    It is always a joy to see your creations and this one is gorgeous. I agree with your comments about the bust line however, as it may well benefit from being lower. It would shorten well too if you wanted it to be a day dress. I can certainly see this worn with a bolero as Sue suggests and lets not forget the all important hat.

    As every you looked divine.

    • Elise says

      I love the hair, and agree with this post. A lowered bust (maybe using pieces of fabric you take from the bottom to shorten it) would make you look much more beautiful.

      • Thank you! I’m not sure how I feel about the hair either 😉 I had the bust lowered, but it just meant that there was a bunch of flabby fabric over my bust, and made the dress look badly fitted.

        • Elise says

          Yuck! I’m not a fan of 40s shirring under the bust, either, because no amount of cutting or wrangling makes it look ok. I wonder why it looks like the bottom of the bodice seems to cut across your boobs in the middle, though. Oh well. Looks like a fun time was had by all at the party!

  4. I think everything was said already but I just wanted to say that your hair looked marvelous!

  5. Claire Payne says

    I agree with Sue, this would look stunning with a bolero and would also look good at knee length if you wanted to shorten it. I understand your comments about the bust line. It might benefit being a bit lower. As ever though, you still look marvellous in this wonderful frock. It is always a joy to see your creations so thank you for sharing them with us.

    • The bolero would have to have some awesomely big sleeves to fit over these!

      It’s not the bust line that I want lower (that makes me look all saggy bosom), but the waistline, which is where the skirt starts to flare below the bust. And thank you!

      • Daniel says

        I once had a fabulous 1940s puff-sleeved frock with white soutache braiding that came with a sleeveless bolero to vary its look – the sleeveless bolero accomodated the puff sleeves on the dress and looked pretty great. Just an idea.

  6. Claire Payne says

    Just realised I commented twice – thought the first one hadn’t posted.

  7. I think you look beautiful too! And I agree that it might give the dress more pep if you shortened it. I just learned how to dance Balboa and I’m in love. 🙂

  8. Of all of your recent creations, I think this one really suits your figure best! You might want to consider making it again, with a somewhat higher hemline (at, or jut below the knee, say) for less dressy occasions.

    • Oh, wow, thanks. I did only post the remotely flattering images though ;-). I’m afraid, it will be a long, long, long time before I make this pattern again. It was a nightmare.

  9. I agree with the others that maybe a shorter length maybe making the underbust/skirt a difference colour from bust and sleeves to give a little contrast. but it looks fine to me.
    I don’t think I;d be brave enough to lindyin a long skirt, too likely to trip over and fall flat on my face or worse have someone step on the hem and :ripping noise: have a costume malfunction.

    • I’ve thought about making the bodice and sleeves in a different colour. I’m definitely not going to shorten it – the length and the way it swirls is one of the few things that I really DO like about it, and I have no problem dancing lindy in long skirts, I’ve even danced lindy in Victorian dresses with bustles and trains, whilst wearing a corset!

      • LadyD says

        Ok so know this is a bit late but had a thought. Having made two 40’s dresses recently I’ve come to the conclusion those type of details/waistline don’t look right if you don’t wear the right shape foundations. I tried the same dress with two different bras and got completely different effect.
        The bust gathers and waistline ended up in the wrong place and unflattering with modern shape bra…but with my modern but 40’s sorta shape one produced a much more flattering effect.

  10. That fabric does look rather fascinating.

    And, this post has reminded me of something I wanted to ask – would you consider doing a post / series of posts on all the wonderful treatments you use on your seam allowances (and possibly hems)? I love the concept of a garment that is as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside and you use lots of beautiful treatments that I’ve never heard of before.

  11. Demented Seamstress says

    Thank you so much for those links! I hadn’t read that far back in your archives yet, and I love your chicken costume!

    The dress looks quite nice, especially in the first picture. The waist is not too high.

    I am a bit puzzled about your choice of fabric though. If the close ups are anything to go by it’s almost the exact same colour as Virginia Madsen’s dress in your rate the Oscars post, which you called “the most obnoxious colour known to man”.
    Did you change your mind , or does the colour look different in real life?

    • Goodness you have a good memory! It’s a very different colour to Virginia’s dress – much pinker, and because it is a matte fabric, much more muted and rich. The self-patterning adds a nice dimensionality to it too. The very last picture is probably the closest to it in colour, though I will admit it is a very hard fabric to capture accurately.

      • Demented Seamstress says

        That’s good to know. It’s a much nicer colour in the last picture. It’s hard to tell what colour it is when it looks different in every photo.

  12. I think it looks lovely on you. The only thing that might make it better is a little something along the bodice/waist seam to break up the color0 even just a thin line of rhinestones or beaded ribbon.

  13. I love the construction pictures, it does look a tricky job, and your neat finishes inspire me. It reminds me of a dress I made from black silk charmeuse once. It was a nightmare to cut out and keep track of. What is the fiber content of your vintage brocade? I agree with some of the other posters that cutting it off short and pairing it with some cool kinda 40’s platform shoes with ankle straps would neat, but it would be a shame to chop the fabric.

  14. Lynne says

    I think it looks just lovely, and the wearer does, too!

  15. Evidence of the one trackedness of my mind that I thought the first line of your post said, “Windy Lindy, the biggest sewing event in Wellington’s dance calendar.” Actually, it probably was! hehehe

  16. Yet another voice saying “it’s fabulous! Just shorten the skirt!” I would also have some fun accessorizing it…a big orchid corsage, a nutty little hat, contrasting gloves.

  17. Ruby Armoire says

    I love the swirly length! Have you considered a belt in matching fabric? It will work even with a full length dress – I have a 1940s emerald green evening gown (fish scale pattern on the bodice with interspersed rhinestones, swoon) and it has a matching belt. That way you can keep the high bust line and still define your waist without altering the ‘spirit’ of the pattern perhaps?

    Ruby xx

  18. I’m about to make a c. 1939 evening dress that has similar lines: high “waistline” under the bust, although the bodice is darted, not gathered. It’s critical for my figure to have a defined waist. So I’m planning to take in the waist a little bit, leaving no more than 1″ ease off my usual waist, as well as using a waist stay inside to keep it smooth and anchored and the stress off the rayon. I think these are modifications that you could make on your dress, too. It would give your real waist definition, which I think is what’s lacking right now. And if you look at the pattern illustration, just like mine it shows that the true waist is defined. Do you think that would help? Like Ruby Armoire suggested, you can still also add a belt. My dress will be Basic Black, so I’m planning to be able to add all sorts of things to it; but I want to be able to wear it beltless for performances, too.

  19. A – you look gorgeous!

    B – you look like a 30C or 30D. Have you tried those sizes?

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