My “QE II” dress

Fabric: Purple Italian Sueded silk from stash, wool felt for hat
Patterns: Hollywood Pattern 1274 for dress, Vogue 7464 for hat
Year: 1940′s for dress from swap and vintage inspired Vogue for hat
Notions: Interfacing and three safety pins; milliner’s wire and buckram from stash
Time to complete: ~6 hours
First worn: June 2012
Wear again? Maybe, most likely the skirt and hat with different top

Total Cost: $ 7.20 for wool felt for hat

Me and the Royal Family…we go way back : )

It was just a question of WHO to use as inspiration. I know many fellow contributors will probably use Kate Middleton, but I am an original Diana fan. I was entranced when she got engaged, she was only a few years younger, and guess what the inspiration was for my first wedding? Yep. I stayed up all night to watch her wedding, named two of my cats William and Harry and many years later stayed up all night to watch her funeral. She was my generations’ JFK. I have an entire (large) box full of books, magazines and newspapers from the wedding, throughout her life and her funeral. I thought at first I’d make something based on one of her dresses but she was tall and thin and I’m…not. I am honestly shaped a little closer to the Queen and since I’ve already channeled an earlier Elizabeth (pic to come!) I thought maybe I’d do something reminiscent of a younger Elizabeth II.

I loved the purple shoes I wore with my Grandma Bertha dress and the silk that I made the belt out of was an almost perfect match and what is more royal than purple? Plus it was free and free is delightful. The only downside to “free” in this instance was the age of the fabric. I had bought it in 1993, as I left House of Fabrics to go design and teach at a junior college. It was in my “Special Projects” box, sitting on a bottom shelf under a cutting table when we had a flood at school. It was saturated with muddy water, then dried and cleaned so fortunately the dirt came out but there are bits of dye transfer from something else. I had a good sized piece, 5+ yards so I figured I could cut around the spots. I also discovered sun damage from less than fabulous storage in the intervening years, so a good 2 hours of the production time was spent cutting each piece individually. I also had two pieces, one had been cut from the main piece, so I had to carefully and thoughtfully guess which way the grain went since it has a grain like satin or corduroy and the last thing I wanted was one lighter/darker skirt panel and sleeve. I think it worked out well : )

Kazz TOTALLY upped the photoshop ante last week so I scrambled to find a suitable background! This photo from Life magazine will have to do.

As far as construction of the dress went it was straightforward. The pattern was clear, the only problem was the actual tissue. I would bet money (since I can’t find any copyright on this) that this was made during the war, probably 1943 or 44 since the tissue is SO thin that breathing on it wrong will tear it! Other than that, the only thing I changed was the peplum construction. The pattern calls for facings and I *hate* peplum facings. They require acres of hand stitching to lay right and for something like this I wanted durability. I lined the whole thing and interlined the back and left side front so it has some substance. That shadow you see in the pictures is just that, it actually lays flat really nicely. I’m not sure tucks like that are the best look for me, maybe in another 10 pounds I’ll feel more comfy in it.  I’m also being completely transparent here saying that I did NOT sew on the hooks-n-eyes the pattern called for, I just pinned myself in for now : )

And now the hat…

(Since so many people were interested in construction details of my Joan shamrock green linen hat I’m including the highlights of this hat here – if you’re not interested you can skip to the end : )

Oh the hat…It took three people with half a dozen advanced degrees a combined IQ of well over 450 to figure out the last two steps of that pattern!

The hat went together well in the beginning but it becomes some origami crane-like thing at the end and I’m still not sure I have it right! I’ve made hats from scratch before, I’m not a novice but I wanted to make THIS hat (view B) EXACTLY like the instructions said to do. I chose this pattern for two reasons – 1) It’s really cute in the picture and 2) it doesn’t ask you to buy a hat frame and just cover it like the first couple of vintage hat patterns did!

My feeling is if you’re going to put out a hat pattern then you should show the customer how to make the WHOLE thing from beginning to end. I thought at first I’d made it match the dress exactly but when I read the directions I realized I really needed the hat wool so off to Joann’s I went. The one thing I really appreciate about the pattern is it does NOT assume everyone has a hat form (but I do) and they tell you to buy a 10″ styrofoam ball and use a terry towel to steam the buckram.

So I cheated a little. Here is my form, covered first with foil and then plastic wrap. You don’t want to use just foil unless you want to pick bits out of your hat and hair and you don’t want to use just plastic wrap as it will move about like silk charmeuse, just wanting to be on the floor. Use both : )

You can buy buckram online or at a better stocked store, Stone Mountain Daughter has it in Berkeley. It’s embedded with rice starch so you just get it wet quickly, let it sit for a few minutes until it gets limp, don’t soak or wring, and stretch it on the form.

The elastic band keeps the drying buckram in place and smooth. Pins keep the elastic in place. Keep away from cats, they remove pins. Let dry overnight

Here is where Vogue and I part ways construction wise – they don’t cover the frame with anything other than the felt hat but it isn’t stitched down in very many places. I covered the part of the frame that you might see if a wind flipped up that front wool piece.

Then they don’t have you insert any wire into the edge of the frame so it holds its shape. I didn’t either, just to try the pattern out, but in the future I’d definitely change that. They also have you use grosgrain to finish off the edge, which is a traditional technique but I needed the purples to match so I cut a strip of bias and finished it that way.

The pattern tells you cut a point in the frame but then never really clarifies where the point should go so I guessed! It leaves several details unfinished, like the stitching of the main “point” that sticks up as part of the bow and how exactly they get the shape in the photo. Their line drawing doesn’t give any more clarity but all in all I’m happy with the result.

I made sure I had the requisite handbag:

I just haven’t mastered the whole shadow thing in photoshop yet : )

Here is part of my history with the Royal Family:

My Princess Diana-inpsired wedding dress and haircut…

And my Queen Elizabeth I dress from the Ermine Portrait : ) I even made a tiny one for my daughter –

See? Me and the Royal Family…we go back a ways : )



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *