Sunday, December 17, 2017

title pic “Let’s Start the New Year Right!” – A 1940s Evening Gown

Posted by Edelweiss Patterns on January 1, 2013


Happy New Year, dear Readers!  In anticipation of the holidays I started sewing a sage green marseilles satin evening gown, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized how this 1940s formal dress is nearly identical to a costume worn in the final scene of Holiday Inn – a New Year’s Eve scene, no less, with a song chanting, “Let’s Start the New Year Right”!  So I thought it would be perfect to tie together this 1942 movie costume designed by Edith Head and the new drapy evening gown I just created!


This dress which I made was constructed from a very famous 1940s reproduction pattern which I sewed a “day-dress” version of last month.  Can you recognize it from the Swing Dress Pattern by Sense & Sensibility?  I thought that since the first dress I made was so much fun to sew, it would be grand to make a floor length version by simply lengthening the skirt pieces! (Tutorial to come soon.) :)


A Formal “Swing” Dress

I love this pattern because of the curved waist panel, the gathers above the shoulders, and the flattering cut of the skirt.  It has a couple of slightly complicated steps which make it soooo fun to assemble, so if you want to sew this dress but have never tried something intermediate before I recommend reading Casey’s “sew-along” on the subject.


When made with the bracelet-length sleeve option and a rhinestone brooch to close the neckline, it makes a very glamorous sort of 1940s evening gown!  The only change I made (besides lengthening the skirt pieces), was to gather the top of the sleeve cap for a more puffed sleeve look.  The fabric I used was a rayon marseilles satin which drapes so elegantly.  It does fray a bit faster than most fabrics, so you do have to finish your seams just as soon as you’ve pressed them.


Holiday Inn Film Costume

As for how this dress corresponds to the movie costume which Marjorie Reynolds wore in the 1942 Holiday Inn, you can see that both of them have long sleeves, the same skirts, wide waist panels, and gathers at the dropped shoulder which taper off at the waist panel that separates the bodice from the skirt.  Yes, they did add sequined flower appliques for added glitz, but other than that the two gowns are nearly identical. :)


When you view Marjorie Reynold’s costume from the side, you will even see that it has the exact same blouson bodice in back as the Swing dress pattern has.  The only slight difference between the two gowns is that the Holiday Inn movie costume has an extra draped piece of fabric that continues from the bodice itself into the wide waist/belt panel, but you could easily add that into this pattern if you’re trying to recreate the gown exactly.  In addition, you would want to make the bottom of the waist panel more slightly “v” shaped rather than curved, but still someone wouldn’t notice unless they were a serious costumer, most likely. :)


Holiday Inn Costume Colors…

As for the color of the original film costume, that is rather difficult to determine!  The film was shot in black and white, of course, but colorized photos and scenes seem to contradict one another in what the color truly was.  One colorized version shows Marjorie’s dress in light pink, while the colorized cover of the most recent dvd portrays the costume in a vivid sea green, and yet another movie poster (most likely released in the same year as the film itself) shows the dress in bluish white!  Despite extensive research I have not been able to uncover any pictures of the actual gown today, but perhaps someday the costume will turn up and we will know for sure.


Oh yes!  And this scene also gave me the idea for the curly low-ponytail hairstyle – Virginia Dale had slightly longer hair than many girls in the 1940s, so she had a big pompadour on top with a fringe of curls at her forehead with the rest of her curly hair gathered in a ponytail at her neck.  It was surprisingly simple to recreate!



The Holiday Inn finale ends with Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Marjorie Reynolds and Virginia Dale singing, “So let the old year die with a fond goodbye, and our hopes as high as a kite… Let’s start the New Year right!”


Happy New Year to you all!  You can be sure that my next year will be filled with lots of sewing projects, and probably some new Edelweiss Patterns designs as well!  Here’s to 2013!


Happy sewing,