Wednesday, December 18, 2013

GBVS Winter Formal and A Gold Evening Gown

On Sunday Cori and I went to the Greater Boston Vintage Society Winter Formal. The event was held at the Dane Estate of Pine Manor College in Brookline, Mass. The mansion was built in 1891 and was beautifully decorated for the holiday season. I didn't take many photos but if you hop over to the blog Plaid Petticoats you will see some wonder photos of the event. There are also a few photos on the GBVS Facebook page. After dinner we watched It's a Wonderful Life on 16mm film using an original 1940s era army movie projector. So cool, including the pauses to switch film reels! The combination of the film and all the little details added by the event organizers really made us feel as though we had been transported back in time.

I received a lot of complements on my dress and even won the Lady's prize for best formal outfit of the evening. What a nice surprise as there were so many wonderfully dresses people there! I'm not sure how I feel about being crowned with the title "Lady of the Evening," it cracks me up a little as it brings to mind a slightly unsavory kind of character. ;) The gentleman who won the Lord's title was wearing a very nice Bonnie Prince Charlie jacket and tartan trews!

Several people asked me about my dress. This is the dress pattern I used, vintage Simplicity 1469. Originally I was going to use the green crepe from my Halloween "curtain dress" but changed my mind. Having made two different green dresses for formal events this year I decided it was time for a serious color change. So I looked through the fabric stash and picked this mustard yellow/gold crepe. The time period for the event was 1946. When looking over the pattern I discovered it actually has a copyright date! 1945 to be exact so it was perfect. Most early 40s patterns are not dated so this was a nice little discovery.

After some debate I opted to make the full length version. I figured if I was going to make an evening dress I should go all out. I looked around on Etsy and a number of other places to find inspiration for the trim. I knew I wanted to do something with sequins but wasn't sure just what. Below are a couple of dresses I used as inspiration. The plan was to use black, red, AND green sequins but my local fabric shop was sold out of green. Boo! So back to the drawing board.


1940s dress/ 40s rayon dress/ sequin trim
In the end I went with just the black and red and I'm pretty happy with the final design. I would liked to have added more sequins to the sleeves and peplum but ran out of time. The black beaded flower motifs are Victorian/Edwardian era pieces that I've had for a long time now. I acquired a small box of jet bead trims that someone carefully saved from what must have been some very stunning pieces of clothing! The construction of the flower motifs is pretty interesting too. It looks as though the tiny jet beads where first sewn to a long length of cord. Then the cord was fashioned into the finished design. Talk about time consuming!

Playing with different trims
Close up of one of the Victorian/Edwardian jet bead flowers
The construction was pretty easy and straight forward. After cutting out all the pieces the bodice, or waist as the pattern referred to it, was assembled and the sleeves attached. The tops of the sleeves have a line of gathering stitches that were pulled up to help fit the sleeve into the armcycle. They also help, along with the shoulder pads, to give the sleeves that little pouf on top. The peplum is made of two pieces both cut on the fold. The skirt was four pieces - two front and two back - with a slit at the bottom front. That made walking in the dress much easier. :)

Here you can see the three main pieces of the dress - waist, peplum, and skirt after hemming- waiting to be sewn together. First, the peplum was basted to the skirt then the two were attached to the bodice. The last thing to add was the zipper. Not my best work, I hate sewing zippers! The only adjustments I made to the pattern was the skirt length - a given because I'm only 5' 2"! - and the seam allowance to the skirt.

I decided to wear some of my rhinestone jewelry. The necklace and earrings I'm pretty sure are 1950s and the bracelet is probably later. I admit I felt a bit over dressed but they were really sparkly and fun to wear! I also wore my black 1940s peep-toe shoes from Honey Talk Vintage and carried a gold mesh Whiting & Davis clutch. It has a little hinged snap closure with rhinestones. I did a little research and discovered that the Whiting & Davis Company, located in Plainville, Massachusetts is the oldest purse company in the US and is responsible for a variety of exceptional mesh purses and other accessories. They started as a jewelry firm in 1876 and made their first mesh bag in 1892.

I set my hair in pin curls the night before the event and waited to take them out until just before we had to leave. My hair doesn't really like to hold a curl but now that it is a little shorter I have an easier time creating a 40s up-do and victory rolls. And my curls actually lasted the whole night so I was happy. It looked half way decent the next day too:)

Cori wore his 1940s tuxedo, peaked waistcoat with matching bow tie, and a vintage tuxedo shirt. He was also wearing his Swank cuff links and shirt studs which we purchased to wear with his 1920s tuxedo for the Downton Abbey event back in January. There were a lot of nicely dress gents there and even a few in uniform too. We had a wonderful time! Thank you to Jason Volk, the Dane Estate and everyone else who worked so hard to put this event together!

Not sure who actually too this photo but here's a group shot of most everyone who attended the event.

Summary of the Pattern
Fabric: Mustard/Chartreuse crepe from discount fabric store
Pattern: Simplicity 1469
Year: 1946
Notions: Zipper, snaps, red and black sequins, antique jet bead flower motifs
How historically accurate is it? Very! The crepe is very close to dresses on the period and the trim was inspired by several original dresses.
Any tricky parts to the pattern? The side placket and zipper but I always find these a little tricky. Adding the trim was time consuming but fun and I'm happy with how it turned out!
Did you change anything? Just the length of the skirt.
Time to complete: About a week, I worked on it a few hours each night after work
First worn: December 2013
Total cost: Around $30
Notes: Overall very happy with how this turned out! Sometime I will get around to adding the remaining sequins. I also think this dress needs a belt. Maybe a self fabric belt with a black buckle?


  1. You look so lovely! I really enjoyed reading your blog post. Your hair turned out amazing! You certainly deserved your best dressed award! You did a wonderful job adding your embellishments and I very much can see an early 40s vibe with the dress. You give me inspiration to get cracking on my dress. I also give you a lot of credit for finding a nice crepe fabric. This isn't easy:) How long did it take you to put together the dress? Zippers are so tricky. I have the dilemma of wanting to be original with the metal zippers and wanting to be easy with the invisible zippers. I do think I have enough vintage zippers in my collection to last a life time...but watch when I need the exact right one I won't have it.

  2. You look incredibly beautiful in that dress! So clever too x

  3. Thank you ladies!
    Joanna, I started this dress about a week before the event and worked on it a few hours at a time. I spent one evening laying out the pattern and cutting. It took about 2 or 3 evenings to put it all together and another day or so to sew all the sequins. I was lucky that I didn't need to make any major adjustments to the pattern.

  4. Oh you look smashing! The gown turned out beautifully - and that color! Chartreuse is hands-down my favorite 40s hue. I've been drooling over that red dress on etsy... It's basically taunting me. I have it in black, it would be great to own the red version too.

    xo Sara

  5. Hi Sara, Thank you!. I love that red dress too. Fortunately it is NOT my size, lol! These are two other dresses from the same site that I've been drooling over. :)
    and this one

  6. Thanks for posting about your dress! The fact that you used a vintage pattern definitely showed--you stood out at the event and looked like you had popped in from the 40s :)

    The sequins were a lovely touch!

  7. What a lovely dress! The beading looks terrific.

  8. What a very pretty dress (and I love your hairstyle, too)! Merry christmas to you (-:


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