Sunday, November 25, 2012

Ceil Chapman: Something to Drool About

Someone gave me this dress a few months back, knowing I've been selling a lot of vintage on Etsy.  She said she bought it years ago and felt that she paid too much at the time, because there's some damage to the dress, but she thought it was worth if it she could take it apart and make a pattern from it.

When I saw the Ceil Chapman label inside, I was so glad that she realized her skills weren't up to the task.  It  remained in a bag in her closet for probably 15 years before she gave it to me.

I lent it to another friend recently for a photo shoot.  I needed photos of the dress on someone, anyway, if I intend to sell it, and she's certainly more photogenic (and more suited to this dress) than I am.  She's in a play and the 1940s-era costumes aren't complete yet, so she needed a glam dress for the promo photos.

Glam is something this dress definitely is.

And can I tell you, I would have absolutely no idea how to take this apart and make a pattern from it either.  The very idea makes me weak in the knees.

The damage, I think, is moth - the dress is a light wool crepe, and I'm sure over all the years of its existence it has tempted more than one moth to take a bite.  All things considered, the damage isn't bad, except for the location - right smack on the front.

It figures, doesn't it?

But look at that drapery.  Look at that neckline, front and back.  If this dress doesn't make you feel like you're queen of the world, you just don't have it in you.

It weighs a ton.  I don't want to think how many yards of fabric are involved in that kind of draping, much less the skill involved in draping that many yards of fabric over a body and somehow making it look both more slender and curvier than normal.

I've tried this dress on and even though I'm about 4 inches shorter and 25 pounds heavier than my friend here, I felt like the freaking queen of the world in it too.
The pin on the front came with the dress when it was purchased, and from the look of the inside (professional-looking stitching) it may have come with the dress when originally purchased.  It makes a lovely feature over the left hip where the drapery just flows down.

I know that even in it's time, this was an expensive, dress-up piece.  But why don't people (other than celebrities) have occasions to wear things like this anymore?  Why is our version of dress-up, at most, an LBD that we can dress up or down?  Would the owner of this dress have even considered "dressing down?"

Rant over.  Look at the pretty.  Once I get it back so I can do a few more detail photos, including the label, it's going up on Etsy.  I just wanted to share it with you all because there aren't many people out there who (a) know who Ceil Chapman is; (b) can appreciate this kind of fabulousness; or (c) would try to wrap your heads around how to make something like this.

Life is calming down, sort of.  Took some time this weekend to have coffee with friends, went to see Lincoln last night (fabulous), and today I'm doing some craft show sewing and (obviously) some non-productive playing on the computer.


Christine M. said...

What an unbelievably beautiful gown! Thank you for sharing!

Lorinda said...

Beautiful Dress! Will you be able to make a repair?

renee said...

What an amazing dress. I love Ceil Chapman. Thank you so much for sharing pics!

Pam Erny said...

wow, that's a beautiful dress!

Nancy K said...

Wow, that's a seriously gorgeous dress and amazingly flattering.

velosews said...

It's beautiful.

badmomgoodmom said...

Wow, nice dress.

Re your rant. I understand that my parents' generation and older went out dancing and played bridge rather than watching nonexistent TV and YouTube/Netflix streaming.

My DH refuses to dance and we haven't played bridge since parenthood. But we do have the energy to watch a movie now and then (like today).

My mom gave me a velvet jacket that she sewed as a topper for evening/dancing dresses. It's way too small, but I treasure it anyway. Now you've inspired me to post pix of it.

Clio said...

BEAUTIFUL!What a shame about the moth. I hope this dress finds a home with someone who can make the most of it!

Carolyn (Diary of a Sewing Fanatic) said...

It is awesome and it seems kinda sad that you're going to list it on Etsy. Will you repair it before you list it? Can you repair it?

James said...

Will you please post a link to your Blog at The Sewing Community? Our members will love it.
Members include: Needleworkers, Clothes and Dress Makers, Enthusiasts, Experts, Groups, Clubs, etc.
It's easy to do, just cut and paste the link and it automatically links back to your website. You can also add Photos, Videos and Classifieds if you like.
Email me if you need any help or would like me to do it for you.
Please feel free to share as often and as much as you like.
The Sewing Community:
I hope you consider sharing with us.
Thank you,
James Kaufman, Editor

Anonymous said...

You don't need to take it apart. Just trace it or make a rub-off. Also please get rid of the recaptchas-it makes commenting a real pain and there are lots of alternatives available..