In 1953, Queen Elizabeth was crowned, Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected US president, the polio vaccine was developed, Playboy magazine featured Marilyn Monroe on it’s first cover, sugar rationing ended in the UK and Ian Fleming published Casino Royale, the first James Bond novel. Fashions were emerging from the dark days of post war thriftiness.
Weddings were starting to be more celebratory and gowns had trains and veils and short sleeves and gloves were worn.
This photo of my bride’s grandmother captures the mood and simplicity of the time. Little did that bride know back then that her very own granddaughter would be wearing that cotton eyelet dress for her wedding 64 years later…with some minor changes.
Before we go any further, I want to also show you the other feature of this wedding; the bride might also be wearing a slip that her new mother-in-law wore 30 years ago. So the ensemble will certainly be a blending of both families.
The dress had been rolled up in a ball and stored in a garbage bag for 64 years. It was taken to the dry cleaners and came out pure white.
To start with, the collar has to go and be may be replaced with an eyelet lace edging that will resemble a stand-up Mandarin collar in eyelet.
You can see that there was a strip of horsehair braid on the underside of the collar:
Once the neckline is opened up and collars removed, the bias binding will be stitched back down under the front facings.
What else is needed? The front bodice droops down so that will be raised up and the front darts narrowed and shortened to eliminate the gap at center front waist. The cuffed sleeve hems will be dropped as low as possible and the lace edging added there as well. Eventually the bride wants a ribbon belt at the waistline that ties into a bow in the back. You can see the front is pulling where the vertical pin is, so the vertical darts will be narrowed to allow it to hang properly.
Want to see a close-up of a hand made bound buttonhole? Left photo is the right side and right photo is the backside. Can you see the tiny hand stitches?
And a covered button:
What else is different about this dress? Well, the original seamstress must have had to add a strip of fabric to one side of the zipper to get it to close at the side:
So, here we are at the second appointment and the bodice fits well, the sleeves are longer and the lace basted and 3 point bustle pinned up. The front hem needs some shortening and is pinned up as well. Her mother and mother-in-law are happy with the results but then the bride says, “I want sheer lace edging”.
I tell her that she will have to go out and buy her own sheer lace edging as I do not keep a supply and give her the collar pieces so she can find something more to her liking. I remove all the basted lace edgings.
One thing to do in the meantime is the front hem…simple right? It was a narrow rolled hem but when it was opened up…it had been rolled and stitched up 4 times.
Once all the previous stitching lines were removed you can see we have over an inch that was jammed into the 1/4 inch hem. The red thread marks the new hem edge.
On the third fitting appointment, the bride brings a long piece of ribbon with bronze rhinestones she has hot glued unto it. She loves this DIY craft project and I ask how am I supposed to attach this to the dress with a side zipper? The glued-on rhinestones go way past her 27 inch waist and cannot be removed.
I offer to attach any belt, not this one, at the side zipper edge or she can switch to a ribbon with a bow in the back but it would need a couple of thread loops to keep it centered. You may notice that the original slip has been replaced with a nude colored knit slip that just blends in with her skin. Without a lining, the slip is a nice background for the eyelet.
The DIY belt is pinned on and over lapped at the side…nasty.
The bustle buttons will be where the safety pins are and the waist will be raised another 3/4 inch all around. I mention to her that the hem was a bit weird with so many layers rolled up and then she confesses that her grandmother wore the dress for her 20th anniversary and the dress was just hemmed up again and again and the zipper, remember that weird patch inside, well, it was added to get the zipper closed at the waist back in 1973.
Bustle buttons in place and they are low enough that if the bride changes her mind about a belt, it will sit well. Again, I have offered to make thread loops for a belt but have not heard back.The wedding is in a week so maybe she will just wear the dress as is.
At least with our 90+ degree days, this bride will be cooler than most!
Do you remember all the baby squash plants? Well, here they are producing already.
Stay cool my friends!