Monday, January 28, 2013

Creating My Downton Abbey Look

Finally, as promised here is a look at construction of my 1920s dress worn for VPT's Experience Inspired by Downton Abbey. I talked a bit about my inspiration for the dress in my post here. I went back and worth on a couple design ideas and what to use for trim. 

Ok, first up the pattern. Um, well I didn't really use one. That is to say I didn't use a ready made pattern. I spent a good amount of time looking at patterns available on the web and at several original gowns (some great examples at the MET) to get a feeling for the different shapes and designs of the 1920s. Season 3 of Downton Abbey takes place in the early 1920s but I opted for a more mid-decade design. 

My mom helping me measure and mark the skirt panels. The fabric wanted to shift and stretch all over the place which was really annoying! Quilters rulers are a must have!
I found the book Dress Cutting -- Instructions and Illustrations for Sewing 26 Vintage 1930s Fashions by Margaret Ralston very helpful in creating a block pattern. (I've written a brief review here.) Using the directions for making your personal block pattern and some basic body measurements, I was able to create a pattern for the bodice portion of my dress. My dress was constructed using a total of 5 pieces, 2 of which are the side sashes. All are roughly rectangular in shape. Taking the measurements of the two 20s gowns I own, I compared them with the measurements of those I found online. (at least the ones that had measurements listed.) I wanted to get an idea of how much fabric to buy but also how wide/full I should make the skirt. This didn't prove very helpful so in the end I used my best judgement when cutting my panels for the skirt.

Sewing gathering stitches on the skirt which I later had to remove. Got to use my mom's new Jernomie sewing machine. This thing is awesome!!
To start, I measured from my hip to a little below my knee get my skirt length. Then I used the full width of the fabric and cut two skirt panels, seamed them together, then gathered them to the dropped waist. This proved most unflattering and so I removed the gathers, cut the panels a touch narrower, and created a series of pleats with the excess fabric at the skirt side front. I got the idea from this Worth gown at the MET. It's a little hard to see but if you click on the zoom feature you can clearly see those side front pleats.

Close up showing the waist and side front pleats
The bodice front and back were made using the same pattern piece, I just cut the front neckline lower and added that little front panel. The bodice lining was cut about 2 inches shorter. The sashes are each a long rectangle of fabric carefully draped and slightly gathered to the drop waist. As you can see, I was strongly influenced by this dress. :)

The color is very washed out but here you can see the bodice and waist portions of the dress.
Originally the waist section was a straight rectangle as shown above, but after a couple fittings I adjusted the piece so it fit better around my hips. It ended up being more of a trapezoid then a rectangle - narrow at the top and wider at the bottom.

The buckles I used came from my stash of vintage and antique bits. I don't know their exact age but estimate somewhere between late Victorian (1880s/90s) and Edwardian (1900/10s). They look like silver and I believe the orange stones are just colored glass. They were very tarnish but cleaned up nicely.

Before cleaning - Bad lighting in this photo but you can get an idea of how dirty these were
After cleaning! I used a soft silver polishing cloth. I like this photo because it shows the slight texture of the silk fabric.
I styled the front portion of my hair using lots of setting lotion and traditional finger wave techniques. (I tried this the first time for Halloween and I think it looked much better that time.) I didn't use the crimping iron I experimented with here because I new it would take to long! The back portion of my hair was rolled and pinned in place with lots of bobby pins. :)

Nice back view of my hair and vintage hair comb
To complete the look I wore a pair of 1920s shoes (you can see them here), seamed stockings, (which are actually 1940s vintage) and my grandmothers pearls.
The finished look!

Downton Abbey Fashion Competition (Photo by Stephen Mease)
Pattern - Drafted by me
Fabric and thread - Delectable Mountain Cloth
Vintage buckles, hair comb, fan - My collection
Shoes - Greatestfriend on Etsy
Seamed Stockings - Mark Driscoll of vintageartsupplies
Beaded purse - vintagepursona
Pearls - Belonged to my grandmother

1 comment:

  1. I really love how this turned out! That waistband is perfect.


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