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Monday, September 12, 2011

The Gatsby-Era Dress

This week's sewing challenge was a big one for me.  Not just in level of difficulty but also in keeping with the theme.  You see, the ladies over at Sew Weekly (in particular Mena and Debi) were going to be attending the Art Deco Society of California's big Gatsby Picnic.  While I'm a fan of the era, my sewing creations usually have a later influence by a couple of decades.  Not only that, but I'm not normally so confined by specifics when making a garment.  The Gatsby picnic had rules.  Those rules mainly consisted of the terrifying (to me) line: Afternoon attire from 1920-1940 (or reasonable fascimile) is required.  Just that one line was enough to make me so 'no way!'

People setting up and mingling.
After a couple of weeks of being content with that decision, I started to see more and more posts on the Sew Weekly circle about going to the event.  What dress to wear, who's going, how much fun it's going to be.  Slowly these posts were chipping away at my resolve.

Great view of Dunsmuir house.

Over the course of a day I think I said 'maybe I'll try it' to 'what am I thinking' half a dozen times. I finally made the ultimatum... if I can find a dress either in my pattern stash, or a currently available dress at my local fabric store, then I'm in.  I was originally going to use my Highland dance Sailor's hornpipe blouse paired with a white skirt for a nautical look.  That fell through when I was indecisive over what skirt to wear.  I then went through a few other patterns including Vogue 8241 and Mena's Society Sorbetto as choices.  Finally inspiration struck, spurred by fellow Sew Weekly member, Stacey who posted about Butterick 5417.  I was excited to find that the pattern was currently in stores, and ran out to find the pattern and some suitable fabric.

The final dress. I'm really please with how it turned out.

Don't get me started on the challenge of finding the fabric, which is a whole 'nother story. Let's just say that in order to keep it period appropriate, there were a lot of rules about what you could or could not use.  In the end I found some basic white satin and a lovely sea-foam green chiffon. I've never made anything with the latter but I thought I'd just wing it.

Working with the chiffon wasn't too painful, but being serger-less, I didn't know what to do with the hems.  Ultimately I did the same as I would with any other fabric and folded them under or pressed them flat.

With one of the amazing vintage cars. Or should I say, horseless carriage.

The back of my dress, hair and a parasol.

The day of the event, I was only alone for a short period of time which led to some good people watching.  The event was so well put together and felt so authentic.  Mena and Debi arrived just half an hour after I had, so we met up and setup the fantastic picnic that Mena had put together.

Mena's fantastic picnic. This was up in under 5 minutes. She's pro.
I had a great time with them and learned so much about their blogging experiences. And now I know the secret of their fantastic blog outfit photos.  My 2-3 pictures takes just don't cut it.

I'm came home so excited about the whole thing.  It was a great activity to do at my one year blogiversary, and I'm inspired for the year ahead.  I also warned my husband that he would be attending the event next year.  I think he'd get a kick out of everything.  The picnics people setup were so fantastic to see, as well as all of the old cars, the dancing, and music... I'm excited about it already!

Doesn't this look straight out of a painting?
The DecoBelle's put together a fun dance routine.

They arrived to the stage in this great 'bus'

My awesome instrument sensors were going off. A banjo! I wonder if he teaches?
I hope you enjoy the photos. I took some with Debi and Mena, but I don't want to spoil their outfit posts for this week.  But do check in at Sew Weekly to see what they made.


  1. Love the dress, looks fab! Glad i could help, now to make my dress!!

  2. Anonymous9:40 PM

    You have to hold me to going next year. I'm still sad that I didn't make it. I shouldn't have let myself make so many excuses! I hope Mena will host another picnic next year!

  3. Anonymous12:55 AM


    I discovered your blog yesterday and I love it! You have a lovely style and many many pretty self-made dresses.

    Grüße aus Berlin,

  4. Looks like a lot of fun!

  5. How funny, only last week I was looking at that pattern and contemplating its very 1930s look, I put it on the wishlist - the sleeve are spot on, though the skirt is too modern and would need some redrafting.

    Your version however is beautiful, the colour and fabrics work perfectly. The event looks amazing, I bet you're very glad you went!

    Re the hem on the chiffon, get a 1/8" rolled hemmer foot for your machine, they are very easy to use and give a perfect handkerchief hem to lightweight fabrics. Alternatively hand-roll it, doesn't take as much time and effort as you would think!

  6. YAY! It was SO MUCH FUN to meet you! Your dress was so fantastic!! I hope I can make it to many more Gatsby's :)

  7. Anonymous11:46 PM

    Wow! This dress is beautifully fitted and looks fantastic on you. I've been the Dunsmuir mansion for the Christmas tea, but not for Gatsby. I may be tempted next year.

  8. Anonymous11:16 AM

    lovely blog always great to see a first timer enjoying the fun of getting together an outfit i run the costume closet and boy do i whish i could sew somtimes

  9. What a beautiful dress, you look gorgeous in it. I think I will be off tomorrow to get the B5417. And looks like a fab picnic too.

  10. Looks like so much fun, wish I could be there.
    The dress looks gorgeous, love that color!

  11. What a wonderful blog and pics! I am in one of your pictures and am wondering if I could copy it for my own personal use. Would you mind? This is my favorite event of the year!


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