crafts · finished objects · Sewing

The space age cocktail dress

Pattern: Simplicity 2497

Fabric: Poly Shantung, 2.5 yards

Notes: I was just complaining to my husband the other day that there are a distinct lack of cocktail parties in my life.  Why have they gone out of fashion?  I must admit that I’m not much of a party person, at least in the modern sense of the word – I’ve never gotten much joy out of loud music and our collective national obsession with beer pong.  So I say we need to bring back the cocktail party!  We can serve vodka gimlets (my favorite) and whiskey sours, listen to some fab music at a reasonable volume, and wear cute little cocktail dresses like this one.  Seriously, people… I must have a reason to indulge in my obsession with formalwear!

Ahem… anyway, this is a modern pattern, but I was attracted to it because of its resemblance to some great 1960s patterns.  Apparently the neck ruffle was big (and this one is very big!)  I chose to use this fabric because it was in my stash, which isn’t the best reason.  For polyester it’s really not bad, though it did want to fray like mad, so I serged around every edge before I started sewing.  It’s a little more shiny than actual shantung, and I would have rather used the real thing, but I was anxious to use up this fabric.

I made significant alterations to the bodice of the pattern.  I cut a size 6 for my muslin, and it was enormous through the chest and shoulders.  I decided that a 4 would fit in the shoulders, but I wasn’t happy with how sack-like it was.  So I graded it down another size in the bust, and 2 sizes toward the waist, giving it a bit of shaping rather than just being a rectangle.  This brought it in enough for me, while retaining the blousy detail.  Something to keep in mind if you are small framed.  The skirt is a straight size 8, with the only alteration being length.  It came out way longer than the envelope showed, so I cut 4 inches off – due to the lack of shaping it was not flattering longer.  The waist is between the size 6 and 8.

The star of the show is obviously the ruffle!  I thought I would go mad baby hemming the entire thing, but I couldn’t find any matching serger thread, so a rolled hem was out.  It all went together rather smoothly, with my only issue being how to keep the fabric from puckering at the seams (I did pretty well, though there is a little bit around the side zip.

I searched through my vintage costume jewelry collection for some pieces from the same era as the ruffle neck patterns I found.  I came up with this piece, which I never, ever wear because it looks totally silly with a simpler neckline.  Seriously, is that the largest chain you’ve ever seen or what?  It weighs 10 pounds, I swear.  I actually have the matching earrings too, but it is way too much look together… so I used them on my shoes instead.  Now I only need somewhere to wear this look… Mad Men viewing (cocktail) party anyone?