Posted by Edelweiss Patterns on December 29, 2013
Merry Late Christmas! I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season. This week I am very excited that my mother is joining me on this blog to show not one but two Christmas dresses! I made both of our frocks which we wore to Holiday High Tea at a grand hotel here in the Pacific Northwest, and it was truly a sumptuous occasion. There’s just nothing like getting all dressed up in rich holiday colors and fine fabrics, donning fur capes and gloves, and heading out in the cold to a palatial hotel for high tea. It was an occasion that we will have to make an annual tradition!
A Victorian Style Suit ~ Simplicity 8947 Pattern Review
I love sewing for my mom (though I don’t have time to do so as often as I would like), and since we’re the exact same size it’s quite easy to fit her outfits. This Victorian style suit, which is made of a resplendent forest green silk slipper satin, comes from a vintage “Gunne Sax” pattern that has been in my collection for some years. (This pattern design abounds on Etsy and Ebay, so those who wish to find the pattern online should have no problem doing so.) It is Simplicity 8947 by Jessica McClintock, a designer who created so many feminine styles back in the ’80s and ’90s. I sincerely wish that her designs today would be as romantic and frilly as they used to be!
The lavish jacket features a long, flared, back which is almost reminiscent of a peplum or bustle. I chose to omit the center slit down the back of the jacket for a much more Victorian look. Puffed sleeves give this garment the air of an 1890s jacket, though the pattern was actually released in the late 1980s, I believe. If I remember correctly I may have added more width to the sleeve cap to create fuller gathers, but I omitted the shoulder pads as they just weren’t necessary for a proper fit.
My favorite part of this ensemble was the opulent Venice lace trim which exactly matches that gorgeous shade of forest green. I applied the lace entirely by hand around the sleeve hem and at the neckline. I was very careful to match the ends of the Venice lace at the neck back when finishing it.
Finally, here’s a back shot and an image of the pattern I used.
The Black Watch Plaid 1950s Dress
Some of you may recognize this pattern from the ivory eyelet version I sewed earlier this spring. This plaid Christmas dress was fashioned from traditional black watch plaid fabric using the vintage pattern Butterick 6835. (I’ve had lots of requests on where to find this pattern, and unfortunately it is quite rare so I can’t offer any advice on where to find it.)
The bodice contains lots of pleats which are almost invisible in the pictures because the well-matched plaid hides the tucks. I swapped out the pattern’s circular skirt for a gored, gathered skirt, and used a textured taffeta for the waist panel.
What makes this plaid fabric so perfect for this 1950s dress is that it is actually a voile, not a cotton broadcloth or taffeta like most plaid materials. So the thinness of the fabric helps the kimono style sleeves drape nicely, rather than bunching up under the arms. Since the material was so featherweight, I lined the garment with the same blue taffeta that was used for the waist panel. The Peter Pan collar was created from this material, as well.
My favorite part of this dress is the choice of “buttons” down the front! In all actuality I cut off individual clusters of Swarovski crystals from a by-the-yard trim in my stash and stitched them on by hand. The front closes not with buttons, but with hidden snap closures. The best thing about these “buttons” is that they look almost exactly like Princess Diana’s (and subsequently Kate Middleton’s) engagement ring! It is a mock sapphire in the middle surround by tiny Swarovski crystals.
And as for the holiday high tea itself, it was positively sumptuous! Our table overlooked the Columbia River, and the dainty china and impressive spread of pastries made for an absolutely lovely afternoon. And though it’s just a few days till all the holiday decorations come down, I take comfort in knowing that in another 11 months I can pull out my Christmas outfits once again!
Hope you all have a blessed New Year,
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 ~
Edith Head’s original sketch for Rosemary Clooney’s blue dress.
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…
Posted by Edelweiss Patterns on November 23, 2013
Imagine a classic Christmas film that captures the charm of the English countryside, the message of It’s a Wonderful Life, the costumes of an 1880s period drama, and the superb acting of a BBC production… Well, imagine no longer, because as of this weekend such a film actually exists in the theaters! (It is not very often that I am impressed by any movie that comes out, but this one is certainly on my list of favorites after just two times of watching it.)
Based on the novel written by author Max Lucado, The Christmas Candle is a new release that was filmed in the heart of rural England and is filled with the loveliest 1880s bustle gowns and the most wonderful Christmas story! The storyline itself is a refreshing departure from so many “holiday” themed movies which have little to do with the season. It focuses on the true meaning of why we celebrate Christmas, shows a very real portrayal of life in a small English village, and highlights the work of the Salvation Army in London’s poorest neighborhoods. But amidst the ups and downs of the characters’ lives, the film remains a heartwarming Victorian tale filled with both poignant and joyful moments, with tragedy, Scriptures, miracles, and love.
Below are a few snapshots from various scenes in the film, which I hope will inspire you to go see The Christmas Candle yourself!
~The Village of Gladbury ~
~ The Christmas Candle Costumes ~
The Christmas Candle costume designer is Pam Downes, who did a fabulous job of creating late-1880s bustle dresses for the various classes of ladies in the film. Pam Downes was a wonderful choice for this period drama, as her previous projects include such notable Victorian films as Lark Rise to Candelford. But best of all, many of the movie’s costumes were supplied by Cosprop, the world-renowned costume house in England that has provided period clothing for Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, and nearly every Jane Austen film or Victorian period drama that has come out in recent years!
The town’s elite ladies wear the most gorgeous silk and velvet bustle gowns, trimmed with lacy jabots, velvet ribbons and beaded motifs, while the middle class women wear more simple, though still strikingly fitted dresses. “Leading lady” Samantha Barks appears to be quite tiny to begin with, but her corsets must have been so tight during filming that I’m sure it must have been a relief when the film was over! I love wearing corsets myself, but on a couple of her costumes you can tell that she was very tightly-laced. The pictures below do not do justice to the true detail of the gowns, so to see what I’m talking about you’ll have to go watch the film in the theater!
Blue, blue, and more blue!
It is noteworthy to mention that the leading actress (Samantha Barks) wears nothing but various shades of blue during the entire film, until the very last scene where she wears a lovely cranberry red dress! Every scene prior to this shows slate blue, navy blue, greyish blue, or light blue. I would have liked to see more color on her clothing, but I think the change from cold to warm colors at the very end is meant to symbolize her change of heart and attitude. That’s my take, at least!
The Christmas Candle has just opened this weekend in the theaters (November 22nd), so I hope you all can make time to go see it before it is gone! It is a wonderful start to this Christmas season, and I have no doubt that it will be a classic in both the world of period drama and the world of standard Christmas movies. To read more about the film you can visit the official website.
Have a wonderful week!