I’ve had this vintage 1950s silk in my stash for a very long time. It’s a creamy, papery, rustling shantung with red flowers and grass green stems. I acquired it by fighting off weaker, inferior Ebayers with my exceptional and cutthroat bidding skills. But once I received the fabric I was too chicken to do anything with it. Vintage fabric lovers know that fabric from the 1950s in good condition is hard to come by, but rarer still is finding continuous yardage that is enough to make anything other than craft items and doll clothes. So when I suddenly found myself in possession of whopping five and a half yards of pristine silk shantung with a floral mock warp print (poppies? parrot tulips? roses?), I had a hard time working up the nerve to cut into it. If there’s any more of it left in the world, it’s probably just scraps!
When I was finally ready to take the plunge, I decided on a simple silhouette inspired by Dior’s New Look, which I thought would suit the 1950s fabric. The print is already quite elaborate for me, so the pattern itself has minimal detail. I drafted the strapless princess bodice and gathered circular skirt (more of a squashed circle actually) from scratch with the help of the brilliant Tchad. The first snip of the shears into the rare and precious material made my blood run cold for a second, but I managed. I made a lining from (new) silk taffeta, stitched fabric-covered featherboning to the lining bodice, underlined the bodice and facings with muslin, slip stitched the facings to the lining, and put in an invisible side zip.
… I put it aside and ignored it for months on end, as I do with so many of my projects. Finally I took it out yesterday and decided it was time to hem. I haven’t measured the circumference of the hem, but it’s a *gathered* circle, so I’m guessing it’s at least 10 feet. Suffice it to say, pinning and hemming that thing by hand took about five hours. I had just enough silk thread.
Here’s the current state of things:
And here is the part where I twirl:
The swishy sound of this fabric is phenomenal. It’s not done yet- I still have to hem the lining, which I guess will take another five hours! Maybe I’ll get around to that in a couple of months too