On December 1, I am headed to a soiree called The Gatsby Party. I am going with a fellow partner-in-crime, the fabulous Kristen (who has taken many Instagrams of me in my recent new dresses). Of course I had to make a new dress! Recently I showed you all the fabric that I ordered — a gold sequined mesh that will overlay the champagne colored crepe backed satin lining.
Before purchasing this fabric (Which wasn’t exactly cheap, even on deep discount with a coupon. Thank you, JoAnn Fabrics!! What would I do without your sales & coupons??), I did some research on evening wear of the 1920s. For my Moxie Peeps who are historical clothing hounds, please don’t shoot me for not hitting the period mark 200% on the head. I’ll explain further along all the choices I made and why. And for my Moxie Peeps who are academic journal hounds, please don’t shoot me for not referencing every bit of information. The Internet is a vast place and I did not do an academic style research project to make this dress. Just some casual browsing with a healthy dose of our favorite non-authoritative Wikipedia.
I looked at cinema fashion of Great Gatsby films past & present. It just so happened that I came across film stills of Carey Mulligan in her evening dress costume from the upcoming remake of The Great Gatsby, with costumes by Prada. (Are you feeling faint just hearing that? Because I had heart palpitations when I read it!) But I found these evening gown film stills after I purchased my fabric so I felt like a rock star for having done my research correctly! The aesthetic is similar… what a beautiful effect with the beading. I cannot afford to bead my dress in crystals so I settled for sequins.
I already knew a little about the ’20s silhouette, which involves a straight waist. The pendulum of women’s fashion swung in the opposite direction, eschewing the corseted waists of the Edwardian era that preceded the Flappers. However, I came to find that the straight and drop waist silhouettes did NOT mean “without a waist,” as evidenced by a vintage poster re-released by the Simplicity pattern company.
I also recalled my nerdy high school days when I would come home from school to watch the American Movie Classics (AMC) channel (back in the day when they broadcast actual old movies from the ’20s, ’30s, and ’40s). You know already that I’m enthralled by anything Edith Head, so I started digging a little further through clothing images from the past. Edith Head designed the costumes for Bonnie and Clyde and they are so elegant, I want to wear everything that Faye Dunaway models in the movie! For those of you who need a history refresher, Bonnie and Clyde were the famous couple who robbed banks back in the early 1930s. They had quite the robbing spree and I’m pretty sure they didn’t look nearly as glamorous as Edith Head designed.
At first I thought I would be a “true” Flapper! I thought: fringe. I thought: super short. Then I found that fringe and super short are NOT period appropriate. In fact, real Flappers had some really odd clothing choices. One of my late night trolling expeditions across the interwebs brought me to some information about Flapper behavior. You see, it wasn’t just about how they dressed, it was about attitude. There was something about Wellington boots and rolled stockings and DIY fashion constructed at home. It was all very fascinating but I am a girl who salivates over glamour, not over variations of anti-establishment slap dash.
So, I thought to myself, “If I was friends with Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan, what would I really wear to a party at the Gatsby mansion?” I hunted through patterns online, including real vintage fare. In the end I settled on Vogue V8814 for the drop waist, easily shortened skirt hem, and the illusion of the bias cut dresses found in the ’20s and ’30s. The skirt can be shortened some more, but dresses in the ’20s were not THAT scandalously short. I prefer “classy” over “tramp y”.
You’ll notice that I’ve inserted reference to the 1930s. When you think about a decade of fashion, that’s quite a few years. The top of the decade and the bottom of the decade can look drastically different. Evening wear in the ’30s began to hug the body a bit more, as evidenced by this gorgeous evening gown by Coco Chanel of the period. (I drool over this dress! The color is scrumptious! And do you notice similarities in the cut to the Vogue pattern?)
In the end, I decided the investment in the fabric warranted good reason to wear this dress again in the future. I did not want to make it so period specific that I would feel like I was wearing a costume to any other cocktail or black tie function. I kept with the 20’s period through choice of sequins, which, along with beading, was the luxurious choice of the historical era… not the costume y fringe that we see at Halloween time in our modern era.
I also did not want a totally straight waist for multiple reasons, among them include that my body type needs a discernible waistline lest I look like a giant blob, 30 pounds heavier than I actually am. Also, while our schizophrenic fashion of today references just about every decade of the 20th century with ease, my personal style skews toward the decades with tailored fit and I wanted to keep some of that aesthetic in a dress that I will undoubtedly wear to future functions. Lastly, while the Flapper girls of the 1920s often get a lot of press in our historical recollections, they were not the only women of the era — there were women of status who did not wear rolled stockings or as-short hems. There were women who had money and glamour and flaunted it.
For this party, I am The Rich Bitch. And if I have time, I will sew a faux fur capelet to keep my shoulders warm. After all, Kristen and I will be in the New Amsterdam Lounge with our VIP tickets, so I had better look like I own the place. I’ll be sewing the majority of this dress (hopefully finishing it!) over the Thanksgiving weekend, so stay tuned for posts and pictures.
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