Saturday, January 21, 2012

When it goes wrong, even when it is so right!

On Sunday night, 25 hours before dress rehearsal, the Director took me aside and told me, with some trepidation (I own BIG scissors after all) that one of the costumes doesn't work, and could I produce a new one please. Now that 25 hours comprised: 35 minutes of the only fabric shop in town still being open; seven usable hours left after that of my Sunday; sleep, my day job, and then dress rehearsal.
These things happen, and I always allow for at least one remake like this.
The interesting bit is why. I find this fascinating.
The original costume was a playsuit style outfit, a midriff top and long waisted shorts combo. The brief was, "something sassy and trendy, like the dancers wore in 42nd Street for rehearsals." This means 1930's-40's style short top and long shorts, basically. VERY cute! Perfect for the character too. So why did it not work?
 Isn't it gorgeous! Those of us who know a bit more than most about vintage fashion recognise this look. Tash's adorable black shorts combined with The Dreamstress's perfectly fitting top, fresh from playsuit heaven! Lesigh.
Isn't Natasha GORGEOUS. She is petite, blonde, beautiful and has a figure like Betty Boop. However, when on stage with the other two actresses in the scene, she looked her age of 19, or maybe younger, and I was told she looked like she'd walked off the beach! I guess I can blame overexposure to South Pacific for that. So, in spite of getting it VERY right, it was just not the "right" right.
So how to make her look trendy, sexy, attractive and OLDER? This is really hard for 1949!! You know how it was then - the fashion forward looks were all either Femme fatale evening looks or puffy sleeves and sweetheart necklines. In the former she would look ridiculous popping over to the neighbour's, in the latter she would look like Shirley Temple (a parody of whom she also does in the show, as it happens).
So, then I recalled seeing blogs about Butterick 5209, the halter with fitted midriff. The shop had it in the right size (miracle!), and it is fairly simple to execute. While I washed and dried the fabric, I googled it and looked at many makes, the maker's feedback and tossed up between View A and View B:
I can see why so many sewist head for this pattern, it is utterly charming!!
I settled in the end for the simpler and sexier A. It looks AMAZING on Tash:
 In its prehemmed glory. I love this length but she has to wear another dress over it so off came a few inches. Lovely back eh!
The cotton fabric caught my eye across the shop. I needed a blue or grey and something really vintage, and how much more vintage can you get but pineapples!
So, this turned out to be the right right. Three hours to put it together from when the fabric came out of the drier too. Admittedly not quite as well constructed as it could have been, but Butterick 5209 seems to cause a few more construction issues than it ought to so I may post about how I put it together one day. But wow, what a resource the sewing blogosphere is! Without reading up on the trials and tribulations of this dress, and seeing the makes, I'd have probably gone about it differently and wasted time in the process. Thank you everyone who blogs their makes!!
As I complete this post (started a week ago and waiting for photos) I have to make another new costume, as a borrowed one is falling apart. Thank goodness for long weekends!


  1. The pineapple dress was perfect for the role - but I was wondering if you'd raided the Dreamstress' stash for the pineapple print.

  2. Love it, I have made this pattern and it looks good on my far more curvy figure as well.

  3. What a great costume and good on you for solving the problem. Lovley classic pattern too.

  4. Hello! Great Work on the B-5209! My name is Valery and I'm with the McCall Pattern Company in NYC. Hope you are well! We would love to post a couple pics of your dress on our Butterick Facebook page with your permission, of course. In turn, we would post a link to your blog! Please let me know at your earliest convenience via my email address @ Thank you and have a great day!