It was size 6, and dated from the year that I turned 6 (hence it's vintage-ness is verified!) and I thought it would be fun to make for A when she turned 6. I put it away on the shelf.
Then, Buttonmania was up for sale. Kate Boulton was selling up and the business was bought and was due to move out of town. The last ever Nicholas Building back room fossicking session was in my calendar and nothing would keep me from attending. Of course I didn't really need any buttons, but you just never know what treasures you might find.
I found this:
In the corner of the room was a bolt of this amazing pale, coral pink silk chiffon with a windowpane, silver metallic check. Being the mother of a soon-to-be-six-year-old daughter I knew I could find a use for it. Next to the chiffon was a bolt of the perfect matching coral pink silk shantung. I hesitantly asked if the fabric was for sale and the young man who was watching over the storeroom went to check with Kate.
The answer was that the fabrics were vintage - either 60 years old, or from the '60s, I didn't quite catch which but they're almost the same thing these days - the silk chiffon would cost me $30 but then I could have the matching shantung for free. Done. You can just see Kate's initials on the little tag that was attached to the bolt. I wonder what plans she had had for it.
The bottom half of the outer most layer of chiffon was faded and had some holes, but there looked to be about five metres on the roll so I figured there would be plenty to work with. It was only when I got home and unrolled it all that I discovered that underneath the chiffon was a few metres of a very pale, perfectly crisp and stiff, cream-pink coloured silk taffeta. Bonus! I definitely had a tutu in the making.
I decided on making the longer skirt of View 3 as those vintage short skirt lengths are pretty crazy short, and the shoulder ruffles of View 1. Mostly cause I couldn't be bothered handsewing on all the trims and thought the shoulder ruffles would bring it up to over-the-top costume level. Then, of course I decided I needed the crown, star wand and matching knickers, so I did end up handsewing a lot of sequin trim after all.
The bodice of the dress is lined, and I used the cream silk taffeta. This turned out to be perfect as it gave nice structure to the bodice. The skirt is then attached to a skirt yoke of about 4 inches depth. I cut that out of a layer of cream silk taffeta and a layer of the pink silk shantung which I stuck together with fusible web.
The skirt is made of three layers, each attached to the skirt yoke about 1" above the layer beneath it. I didn't take a photo of the finished zipper, but it goes down into the skirt layers and requires breaking the stitching line at each tulle layer. Then, by pulling all that tulle through the sewing machine you stitch an inch or so until you get to the next tulle layer and break the stitching again. I had to laugh looking at my sewing machine completely smothered under pink froth!
Of the three skirt layers I only had enough of the silk chiffon to cut the outer two layers. Luckily I could do that using the selvedge of the fabric as the hem so that I didn't need to hem the skirt. The undermost skirt layer is American tulle that I bought from GJ's, along with the zipper and thread.
Each of those skirt layers is made up of three panels of fabric joined together. The pattern piece is a little over a metre long and is cut on the fold, so I make that six metres of skirt to be gathered and attached at each layer! I went with the technique of sewing a zigzag over a thread of dental floss within the seam allowance. The chiffon and tulle slid really easily along the dental floss and gathered perfectly. A line of straight stitching is then sewn at the top and bottom edges of the zig zag to secure the gathers. Where all the gathering is buried by another layer of skirt, or inside the bodice, this works perfectly and is quite neat and tidy.
For the shoulder ruffles I did need to hem the silk chiffon. I decided to just sew a straight stitch about 1/8" in from the edge and used tissue paper underneath to allow my machine to go neatly along the edge without chewing the chiffon down into the feed dogs. I'm not anticipating this ever being washed, so I think that will suffice.
You can see in the image above that the bodice is pretty big on her. I wasn't about to make a muslin for a costume, although obviously it would be dead easy to make a muslin of the bodice only. She'll grow, and I'm just glad I didn't make the short skirt version as by the time she fills that bodice out she'll be at least a foot taller.
The matching knickers (which are endearingly called "panties" in the pattern) are kinda funny big too. But they sure are cute as part of the whole costume.
I didn't manage to make the costume as a birthday surprise as she spotted the fabrics up on the top of the bookshelf and guessed what I was up to. So, on the morning of her birthday I presented her with a giant box: the knickers, crown and star wand were on the top of the box.
"I know what's in there" she confidently declared - but of course I'd made a different birthday dress that I'll share next and hidden that in the box! Gotcha!
She doesn't actually "do" ballet, isn't ever one to get up on a stage, and only has the shoes for dancing round the kitchen (thanks Granny for those). But, being 6 is all about imagining who or what you could be (I think I wanted to be a horse) and I might just have made her dream feel a bit more real.
Pattern: Simplicity 7160, size 6 (c1980)
Fabrics: Silk chiffon, shantung and taffeta from Buttonmania. Tulle and notions from GJ's
Star and crown are made with two layers of the silk shantung bonded to a middle layer of silk taffeta using fusible web. The star's "stick" is two pieces of flower stem wire wrapped around each other then wrapped in metallic grey bias binding.