Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Some curator on a reality show I was watching last week addressed the issue of what it was like to be the first time owner of one of those lovely dresses from the 40s-50s era.   "I didn't know it was going to be so scratchy on the inside . . ." she confessed.  My rebuttal to this was, well, maybe that's why you see women in 50s movies stripping down to either full slips or some form of rubberized basque underneath it all.   No way could they stand some of these gems next to their skin.  Most vintage dresses like the one above, which I own, leaves much to be desired inside.   First of all let me say the outside work is impeccable, the waist bows and piping are perfectly applied as is the skirt.  Inside however, someone forgot to line it using pellon to stabilize the bodice, leaving raw seams and a waist gathered with scratchy crinoline.  Of course the first thing I did to restore this gem was line the bodice in silk and tape the waistline.     

The dress below is another gift from one of my husband's parishioners.  Bought in a San Francisco department store in 1952 for $250.00, this tea-length ice blue and eggshell tulle beauty was worn with a mini veil.  Zippers from this era were metal and very visible.  Sometimes installed into the left side of a garment rather than down the center back, it caused the left side to bulge in some cases. It has been hard to keep this dress restored as tulle over time falls to tatters with one touch.  For that reason I use it as a display piece to remember Estelle who has passed on.  I tried this dress on myself and believe me it is a gorgeous piece.  Not me in the picture . . .
If you really love vintage and want to wear something authentic either on your wedding day or to some important event, be aware manufacturing techniques back then were different.  The invisible zipper  that simulates a flawless seam just didn't exist back then. In some dresses circa 30s-50s you'll find seams pinked (simply cut with pinking shears)  or zig-zaged rather than lock-stitched. If you're a purest or plan on wearing your vintage find more than once, find an expert in restoration.  Ideally, one who loves vintage will relish working on authentic pieces and share your vision.

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