Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The "Roaring Twenties" Dress and Another Free Pattern

Trying my best to look gamine.

Lion heads! Looking awfully calm and non-predatory, totally
unlike Darth Vader's eyes on Star Wars-themed bedsheets.
Actually, the lions aren't so much roaring as they are quietly staring, but the Quietly Staring Twenties Dress just doesn't have quite the same ring to it, does it? I thought about calling it the Gryffindor Dress, too, but then I've always been more partial to Ravenclaw and Slytherin myself (if I ever found a fabric printed with ravens or snakes, I would be so thrilled). I also thought about calling it the Meatball Dress, as in lion's head meatballs (one of my favorite Shanghainese  dishes), but then decide that that might be too obscure. Besides, Roaring Twenties invokes the dropped waist look. Although I guess if you ate enough meatball, your waist would drop too.

Back view.
Once again, this dress is a late Sew Weekly Challenge, not quite in time for the Great Gatsby picnic. Not that it matters, since I'm not in the Bay Area anymore! But hey, since I don't need to make a dress that passes muster with any historical authenticity sticklers, I can be as ridiculous as I want -- and that means terrible punning with a bed sheet. When I first saw this vintage lion-printed sheet at the Thrift Town in San Leandro (I'm telling you, that place is a treasure trove! When I was getting this sheet, I also saw a curtain printed with castles, but unfortunately stained, and a duvet cover with fighter jets all over it. I nixed the jets and their dubiously pro-war message in favor of oddly peaceful-looking big cats), I had no idea what I would ever do with it; all I knew was that they were large versions of Walnut, and therefore it had to come home with me. Well, after the Spiderman dress reprise with the drop-waist, I decided that I had to go for a full-on twenties-inspired dress. The lions were an obvious choice, even though they weren't roaring.

I don't know why Walnut was so glum about wearing a lion-print bandanna. After all, doesn't every housecat secretly think he's a lion? Maybe he's grumpy because I woke him up from his nap (on top of freshly laundered beach towels, no less).

A sketch of what I did for the skirt pieces.
I tested my bias-cut bodice pattern again, made some more changes to accommodate the weight of the skirt, and then made my pattern into a printable pdf. I don't have the time or energy (or knowledge, really) to grade it this time, so this will only work for you if you're a size small with a tiny apple dumpling shop, as befits most of the fashion plates of the 1920s. I've also included the swayback adjustment that I ended up making for myself, as well as directions for adding the skirt to the top. Since the lions already put me out of the running for an authentic twenties dress, I didn't try too hard to get the skirt accurate; I just drafted a half-circle skirt like last time, but added diamond-shaped godets at the sides to get the asymmetrical hem. I know the bias-cut top doesn't give the right shape for the era, but I didn't want to go totally shapeless.

Looking at that neckline makes me so happy.
After the blogger meet-up at Canada College, I purchased Lynda Maynard's Couture Sewing Techniques book. The section on binding a V-neck came in very handy! I don't think I've ever made such a perfect-looking one before. The rest of the insides of the dress are either left as is, if it was on the bias, or pinked, if cut on the straight or cross grain. Really, this dress was more of a wearable muslin than anything, so I didn't stress myself out about seam finishing. Besides, it was 90+ degrees and humid in the sewing room, and the thought of standing near my iron for any longer than necessary was unbearable. But don't worry, I still pressed my seams properly!

Summary:
Look at how pretty that corner is!
Fabric: 50/50 poly-cotton blend "no-iron muslin" vintage thrifted twin flat sheet
Notions: None! I used self-fabric binding for the neck and armholes, so no need to dig into my bias-tape stash.
Techniques: Binding a V-neck, mitered corners to finish my skirt hem
Hours used: I sewed for about eight hours straight on Saturday, thanks to three football games and a baseball game keeping my husband occupied all day. Walnut was just about knocked out from the heat, so even he didn't demand my attention.
Will you make this again? I'm toying with the idea of making this again in a "real" fabric (read: not a bed sheet), like chiffon or something luxurious so that I can have a slightly less ridiculous twenties-ish dress, but knowing me, it probably won't happen. I do love this skirt, though, so I may use the diamond-shaped-side-godets trick again.
Total cost: $3 for the sheet
Final thoughts: Despite popular (and probably saner) opinions in the sewing blogiverse, every time I make something from a sheet I get really excited. And, in fact, the more ridiculous the print, the better. I was so happy wearing my lions, and the skirt is so deliciously twirly, and how perfect that I had a long string of pearls in my costume jewelery collection! My only gripe is the black shoes, but somehow I don't have any brownish heels. Or brownish shoes of any kind, actually. Hmm, this is a situation that needs to be ameliorated.

I love how swishy this skirt is even when I'm not twirling and just walking normally.
Also, my foot/leg looks totally bizarre in that bottom right picture.

Anyway, if you want to try your hand at my bias-cut top and skirt pattern, you can download it here:

Pattern (9 pages)
Instructions for sewing the top and making the skirt

For those of you who aren't my size, but are interested in how the pattern compares to a knit tee block:
  • The front pattern piece ended up being 1.25" larger at the side seams than my knit block
  • The back pattern piece is about two inches larger at the side seams right under the arm, but tapers to nothing at the waist; the center back seam is scooped at the waist and flares out at the hip, meaning that it can't be cut on the fold like a tee-shirt back piece would be
Hopefully that gives you some ideas if you want to try making a bias-cut top from your own knit tee block. As always, if you end up trying this out, I'd love to know! Thanks to those of you who have sent me pictures and feedback about tmy Dolman Sleeve Top pattern; I'll be doing a roundup later this week!

I couldn't resist antiquing a couple of the pictures for a more vintage look!

40 comments:

  1. that skirt is made of FUN. as is your description of naming the dress. and walnut's bandana. and your weird leg. move to new york.

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    1. If only it didn't cost an arm and a weird leg to move to New York! I would love to party it up there with you and Puu and Struggle!

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  2. It's a great style on you! The godets are the perfect 20's look. And it IS a beautiful neckline finish! =) I need to go shopping where you live - that print is so great!

    There's nothing wrong with getting excited about bedsheets - I do the same thing. When the fabric is awesome it doesn't matter what it was originally! Just this last week I was cutting up bedsheets (they were plain and boring though) and curtains for a theatre play. Just tell everyone you are thinking like a costumer.

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    1. Brooke, tell me what prints you're drawn to and I'll be on the lookout for you. And yes, when a fabric is that awesome, it doesn't matter what it used to be!

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    2. Oh, I can't say I'm on the lookout for anything specific at the moment, but I'm afraid you and I would be going for a lot of the same things, lol! Thanks for the offer!

      I have a friend who recently found me a couple cool floral print sheets at a thrift store near her house (across town from me). I'm not sure what pattern I will use, but they NEED to be retro dresses.

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  3. ERMEHGAWD. I love the lions sooo much!! It's a brilliant dress, very "roaring" 20s, and you rock this look splendidly :) I love all of your bed sheet creations - I think they are my absolute favorites :)

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    1. Aww, that is so sweet of you, Meg! Thanks for the lion love!

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  4. Love the lions! This dress makes your calves look fantastic. Great job!

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    1. Thank you, and especially thank you for cluing me into the calf thing!

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  5. Simply divine! I esp. like the drop-waist on you. :)

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    1. Thank you! I never knew drop waists could be so flattering!

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  6. Ooooh I am VERY interested in that skirt!!!!!!!! I;m having visions of colour blocking!!!!! Thanks for the inspiration babe!

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    1. Oh please do color block it! I think that would look incredible!

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  7. Great dress as usual! Somehow I feel like the lions make more sense on a dress than on a bed anyway :)
    I'm temped to try your bodice pattern, but I'm not sure it'll work on me... I do have a small apple dumpling shop, but maybe it's because I ate all my dumplings, cause my waist is not quite as 20s appropriate as yours! ;)

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    1. Thank you! I think you can probably use it as a base for a pattern, just bring out the waist a bit more. It's pretty forgiving, and the real requirement is a tiny apple dumpling shop, more than a tiny waist.

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  8. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE. i love that you are still playing with the drop waist and that asymmetric hem is a perfect twist on it!

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    1. It's all thanks to your inspiration! Seriously, that drop waist dress on you was just gorgeous.

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  9. Cute dress! Love the cat's expression too!

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    1. Isn't Walnut just a darling? Haha okay I'm biased. But thank you!

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  10. Oh, I LOVE it! Best 'Roaring 20s' dress ever! And I must be unpopular and insane, because I get excited every time you make something out of sheets!

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    1. Thanks, Leimomi! Glad to see someone else gets a kick out of sheet dresses!

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  11. Wonderful dress! I love the lions! The roaring yet sleepy lions!

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    1. Thanks Amy! I just realized I could've called it the lion sleeps tonight dress, too...

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  12. Wow! I love this dress, Cindy! It's so pretty and feminine and you look amazing in it! I absolutely adore the drop-waist. I love how you continue to challenge yourself! The shoes are also fantastic! Where did you get them?! Nice work!

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    1. Haha oh Shayna, you are so encouraging! The shoes are actually my old ballroom dance shoes that I rediscovered at home in SF.

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  13. Well this is a bit gorgeously special! You AND Walnut look devine. Seriously I think I'm in love with your cat, and I'm a dog person ;-)

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    1. Wow, that's high praise from you! I'm sure it will go straight to Walnut's head :)

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  14. Super cute. The name as well. I feel a certain evil, gloating triumph over spreading the drop-waist... hmm. I wonder if I have any fabric I have enough of to make a bias-cut dress. Hmmmmm....

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    1. Seriously, you are the bringer of the drop waist and make-your-own-jeans gospel. And hey, all you need is one good sheet!

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  15. Love the lion print - seriously are you a Leo? I am and always enjoy reading your blog and seeing photos of Walnut. The dress is just adorable too. I only wish I looked good in bias cut fitted clothing...Great work!!!!!

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    1. Thank you for the compliments! And I'm not a Leo, although you'd think I would be in this dress!

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  16. Looks fantastic! I'm interested in 20's designs but have had so much trouble trying to find something that wasn't boxy & not too comstumey- yours is spot on.

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  17. I love the dress, great job.

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  18. This is really pretty!
    I think I'm going to try your pattern.
    Thanks for sharing!

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  19. Oh my goodness! My parents had those sheets! Your dress looks so much better though!

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  20. This dress makes me smile...love the styling. Thank you for sharing :-)

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