Sunday, March 9, 2008

One from the vault

I spent most of yesterday cleaning out my closets. I should have been sewing - I spent the entire time thinking about sewing - but other than hemming a pair of pants and doing a little hand-finishing to a skirt, I just couldn't get inspired. Decided to give myself a weekend off to recharge my batteries.

Not sewing, of course, doesn't mean I'm not thinking about it, reading about it, wasting time online thinking and reading about it, so I decided I should at least do something useful and share one of the goodies I found when dredging the storage closet in my workroom.

I bought this dress around the time I graduated high school in the early 1980s, back when the Salvation Army sold amazing vintage for amazing prices. I think I got this dress for under $5, which at the time was still more than I wanted to spend on a dress I knew had very little chance of ever wearing, but I had to have it.

I think I've only ever worn it once, and it's now way too small for me, but I'm not getting rid of it. No way, no how. There are a few beautiful vintage pieces I remember having but can no longer find (a boned emerald green taffeta cocktail dress and a black lace dress with a nude underdress and jet beading on the bodice both come to mind), and all I can think is that I gave them away in a fit of tidyness and/or disgust at not being able to zip them anymore. Not one of my brighter moments. I hope the recipient was at least deserving.

I've always called this my garden party dress. I guess it's actually more of a cocktail dress - who would wear that much beading and sequinning to a daytime event? - but I've always pictured it worn outside, with a pair of dyed-to-match pink satin shoes and short gloves.

The wearer, of course, has to be a blonde, with her hair done up, just a few wisps loose around her face, pearly-pink lipstick and a crowd of male admirers all vying for the privilege of fetching her mimosa. Sort of a 1960s Scarlett O'Hara at the barbecue. Can't you see it?

The dress itself, aside from being gorgeous, is really beautifully made. It's a shame about the metal zipper, but you have to work with what you have, even now. I love the fabrics - the underlayer is taffeta and the upper is a silk chiffon, both printed with flowers. The fabrics are sewn together at the hem, but the boned bodice is taffeta with the chiffon draped over it. It hooks at back of the neck and is open to the waist, where it joins the beaded waistband. There are teeny, tiny straps that keep it in place. The sleeves also drape open to the top of the waistband, showing the boned bodice.

The beading ! Oh, how I love the beading. I've always been a magpie - anything shiny gets me - and this definitely gets me. I designed made a bellydance costume for my best friend years ago, and my favorite part was the endless hand-beading of the belt and bra (photos if I can ever get her to unpack it). I love the dangling centers of the flowers that make it even more three-dimensional. I love how well they aligned the pattern on the two fabrics to give it more depth. I just love the whole dress, let's face it.

It's not something I would ever make for myself, even saying I had the patience to work with two such slippery fabrics. My life doesn't support cocktail or garden party dresses, but I love having it and looking at it. I think if Evelyn's taking the week off from wearing something I'm sewing, she might just keep this on for a while. It will make the workroom feel like spring.


Gretchen the Household Deity said...

That is GORGEOUS!!!! I'm hoping that you do have a fit of housecleaning and accidentally send it to me. :-P

Shannon said...

That dress is breathtaking! I could not be more jealous!!

Berry said...

I so understand why you won't part from this dress, it's lovely.

Kitty Couture said...

The construction of this dress is so ingenious! I love the layering.

Christina said...

What a great find! Gorgeous.

Meg said...

I'm like you...I have some beautiful vintage pieces, like this dress, that I will never wear but I just can't part with them.

Kat said...

What a beautiful dress! I got some terrific bargains at SalVal's in the mid '80's too.