Posted by Edelweiss Patterns on December 8, 2013
The 1950s “Sisters” Costume from White Christmas
“Sisters, sisters, there were never such devoted sisters…” So sang Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen (albeit with dubbed lyrics), in the classic Irving Berlin musical that was adapted to the screen in 1954 –White Christmas. Amidst a glittering room their voices mingled with the sound of the lilting orchestra music, the swishing of their crinoline petticoats, and the taps of their bejeweled high heels. Enormous feathery fans and coiffed hairdos jazzed up the scene, but the real stars of the show were those glorious creations they wore – the blue lace 1950s dresses designed by none other than the legendary Edith Head (one of my favorite costume designers of all times).
For decades this film has been watched again and again at Christmas time, and it undoubtedly owes much of its success to the breathtaking costumes that Edith Head designed. And my favorite outfit out of all the costumes in the film is the brilliant blue dress worn by Rosemary Clooney (and Vera Ellen). And it was this dress that I was determined to recreate.
The style itself is not so uncommon for a 1950s party dress – it features a strapless sweetheart-necked bodice overlaid with lace, and a full, mid-calf length skirt topped with an overlay of gathered tulle. What really made the costumes stand out was the fabulous shade of blue that Edith Head chose and the dazzling sparkles on the lace overlay and skirt.
The neck line was rather high, with scalloped lace edging finishing it off in an almost mandarin collar shape. I copied the look by choosing a lace that had scalloped edging on the selvage, then clipping the edging off and applying it to the neckline very carefully.
I trimmed the waistline with the same double sash effect used in the movie, with both sashes hemmed diagonally as Edith Head’s designs were.
This style of dress always looks best when worn with a crinoline petticoat under the skirt for fulness!
~ The Design ~
As you can see from Edith Head’s original costume sketch, the design changed slightly from the initial drawing to the final product. The back sash/bow was omitted and was replaced by the two smaller sashes hanging from the skirt front. The lace overlay was not made as a separate bolero but instead was used to cover the entire bodice. Both the sleeves and skirt were shortened, but the general silhouette remained overall the same. You just can’t top a 1950s dress made with a fitted bodice, gigantic skirt, and gorgeous fabrics!
Because I am used to making my own patterns, I more or less made up the design as I went along. So there is no pattern on the market for this costume I sewed. I began by sewing the bodice foundation of blue crepe-back satin before attaching the lace to complete the top. The skirt was fairly easy to sew, but I’ll admit that the lace neckline took quite a bit of work! And while I absolutely love this finished version, I think the pattern drafted would work just as well for any other 1950s dress in a different color or material, not just as a White Christmas movie replica. So someday I hope to use the design again!
Until then, I will have to think of excuses to wear this Christmas costume and continue to watch White Christmas all year long!
~ Note: The original movie costume worn by Rosemary Clooney was recently rediscovered by a museum, and I previously blogged about this lovely costume here. ~
So to all of you who are getting ready for Christmas, I hope you have the most wonderful Christmas season ever! May your days be merry and bright, and may all your Christmases be white…