Monday, February 22, 2010

The Style of Princess Grace

The last week or so, I've been spending too much time on Ebay. I've been on the hunt for vintage sewing patterns. Mostly for children. But I have been peeking at some of the 1950's evening wear. Was there ever such a glamorous and elegant era? If I could go back in time, I would chose to to live in the Victorian era or the 1950's. Oh to go to the tea's and the parties that the Vanderbilt's put on. I'm guessing that had I lived in this era, I probably wouldn't have been a guest. I more than likely would have been a laundress or a worker in a shirt factory.

My second favorite era is the 1950's. Don't think sock hop 1950's. Think Frank Sinatra, Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly dinner parties 1950's. The fashion designers knew how to dress a woman. The women themselves knew how to dress. In addition to the perfect dress, women needed to wear the perfect foundation or undergarments to help carry out the look. The women and the industry understood this. Now in 2010, unfortunately our fashion sense is reduced to

When I'm on Ebay, I always try to take a peak to see if there are any vintage bridal gowns. After looking at a few this weekend, I started to think back to Princess Grace of Monaco. In my mind, there has never been a bridal gown that so epitomized elegance and style. This is my favorite bridal gown of all time.

Grace Kelly's gown was a wedding gift to her from MGM (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) studio. Her gown was designed by Helen Rose who was one of the studio's top designers. In addition to Helen Rose, a staff of 36 seamstresses worked under top-secret conditions for six weeks on the bridal gown. The bridal gown was made up of silk peau de soie, 100 yards of silk tulle, 25 yards of silk taffeta and 125 year old Valenciennes lace that was purchased from a museum. I wish I could find better pictures to showcase the gown.

Her silk tulle veil consisted of thirty 9x4 appliqued lace flowers. On the bottom of the veil were two lace love birds. Is that not totally romantic or what? The headpiece was decorated also with the rose point Valenciennes lace and a wreath of orange blossoms. Orange blossoms were very popular with Victorian brides. Orange blossoms symbolize eternal love, marriage and fertility. Speaking of eternal love, do you remember what a heartbroken man Prince Rainer was at Grace's funeral. It still leaves sadness in my heart thinking about how he looked.

Princess Grace of Monaco's bridal gown was donated to the Philadelphia Museum of Art just a few months after her wedding to Prince Rainer. The silk veil had started to disintegrate and crumble and had to be restored. The bridal ensemble is rarely on display due to color changes of the fabric and lace. As far as I know, the bridal gown and accessories were last on display in 2006 in what would have been Grace and Rainer's 50th wedding anniversary. I hope that someday I will be able to view this magnificent gown the next time it goes on display.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Luscious. No, Not Chocolate, The Fabric

It's finally here. Whitney's 11 yards of Italian silk peau de soie. It just takes my breath away looking and touching it. It took a while for the decision to be made. At first, she was not real interested in silk taffeta, dupioni or satin. That pretty much left me with the choice of silk polar fleece, silk flannel or silk sweatshirt material. HaHa! She had issues with each fabric and I understood her concerns. So to help her out, I ordered fabric swatches from Vogue Fabrics in Chicago. I also ordered 1/4 yard of the silk peau de soie from Buttons-n-Bolts in Tucson. After the swatches arrived, she could see that the quality was indeed better than the local fabric stores. The local shops carry fabric that is made of acetate or polyester. There is a difference in look and performance. I think Whitney will be glad that we were able to score the silk. Because of the silk being a natural fiber, it will be able to breath and to keep her cool throughout her wedding day. I still need to purchase the silk lining and silk organza interlining for the gown. We're slowly getting there but at least the important stuff is under my roof now.

When I went to Hancock's over the weekend to order the dress form, I asked one of the gals if per chance they dispose of the fabric tubes. She said that they reused them. She asked my why I wanted a tube and I told her that I needed for some bridal silk. She told me she would go get one for me. What a great employee. She always is so friendly and customer oriented when I'm there. I'm truly thankful for her kindness.

I now had to roll up the fabric. The silk satin arrived in a mailing envelope. I was surprised that the 11 yards could fit in there but it did. I needed to unfold the fabric and try to get it flat. The importance of this is to keep as few of wrinkles as possible. Wrinkles can be hard to press out of satin. Another important reason is that I want to keep the iron away as much as possible. I don't want to run the risk of my iron spitting out water. Even though I have a Rowenta, it spits like crazy. I don't want any water stains on the gown fabric so once again, I want to try and minimize creases and wrinkles.

I honestly don't know if I've ever worked with Italian silk satin. I'm thinking my sister Brenda's gown was silk satin but that was so long ago, I don't remember what we bought. When I feel this fabric, I think about all the French and Italian seamstresses in the workrooms of Paris and Rome. To be a part of their world just gives me shivers. Make no mistake, I do not pretend to be of their league, that of couture sewing. I do hope that when I'm finished, Whitney will be thrilled to wear it and that I do the European seamstresses proud. My sweet, sweet husband has asked me on several occasions if I should go to Paris, NYC or North Carolina to shop for the materials. I told him years ago that when the girls married, I would be headed off to Paris to search for lace. Luckily (and realistically) I was able to purchase the fabric here at a close-out price. Whit and I are happy with what we have so far. I won't rule out a trip to Paris or the Alencon region in the future though!

After the bridal gown has been cut out, I'm going to save the selvedge that says "Made in Italy". Long after Whitney has moved and taken the gown with her, I can remember what a priveledge and thrill it was to work work on this gown.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

30 Years of Wanting (lusting)

I have been wanting a pattern cabinet for 30 years. Last Friday, I went to Hancock Fabrics to order a dress form. Low and behold, they were selling their cabinets because of remodeling. Of course, I'm always a day late and a dollar short. The Vogue cabinets were already taken and those were really nice. I ended up with a Simplicity that has seen better days. It still is in great working order though. It will certainly do the trick. I really, really wanted a Vogue cabinet. The Simplicity cabinet makes me feel, well, simple. Anyway, Jeff and Nathen were impressed with how sturdy and well made the cabinet was and the cost. I paid $35.00 for it. I called Jeff from the fabric store. Before I even went into my spiel, he's like "ok, what's up. I can tell by the sound of your voice that you are wanting something". Am I really that transparent??? Anyway, he succombed since he knew I've been wanting one forever. This sucker is extremely heavy. We had to purchase a hand truck/dolly to move it out of the store. We also had to call Nathen to help Jeff get it on and off the truck.

As you can see, it still needs to be cleaned up. I thought it was going into the garage but Jeff said the two of us could never get it into the house ourselves. So with Nathen there, they put it right into the room. Jeff asked where I wanted it to go. How can I think in a split second for the perfect spot? So he suggested the corner. Of course as soon as Nathen left, I got to thinking......maybe.......

I've been MIA

I haven't done much sewing for the past month. Sometimes I get a case of sewing burnout after the Christmas season. There's been lots of reasons why I haven't blogged.

My health. I'm slowly getting back to my former self. I haven't been sleeping well for over a year. In December I had to undergo a sleep study. I thought I had RLS (Restless Leg Syndrome) but when I would research the symptoms, mine didn't quite match. Well, the study showed that I did indeed have RLS. In addition, the probable cause is extremely low ferritin levels. Normal can range up to 200, I'm sitting at 8 right now. Ferritin is used to store iron in the cells. This test isn't one that is given very often. I've had my iron test done a twice in the last couple of years because I didn't feel quite right but the iron test always came back normal. Once RLS was diagnosed, the Physician's Assistant decided to run a ferritin test. So right now, I'm on a drug used for Parkinson's patients. I'm hoping that as my ferritin level returns to normal, I can discontinue this drug. Iron is needed to produce dopamine and I don't have enough of that either! That is why there is so much muscle activity during the night. The study showed that I had over 350 measurable muscle movements, other than normal movement in the night. So hopefully, the increased iron storage will be my saving grace.

Research, research, research. What haven't I researched in the last two months? Here's what I'm working on:

Refinancing our mortgage. Ended up switching companies.
Life insurance. Ended up switching companies.
hardwood flooring. Still working on this one. Have two bids. Can I possibly get this lower than 13K?
Whit's Wedding. Need I say more. Luckily, she is doing most of the work. I'm still on the computer though searching ideas. She's changed the wedding colors three times now. I think I'll hold off until the bridesmaid gowns have been ordered. Then I'll start thinking about things again.
The bridal gown. How many hours have I racked up looking up gowns on the internet? I've purchased two books on bridal couture. I keep researching the making of a gown. So far, I've purchased the lace, purchased several patterns and have the silk peau de soie on order. I still need to purchase silk organza for the interlining and silk for the bodice lining. I got so lucky. There is a online fabric store that was closing shop due to retirement. I have purchase everything at 75% off. The bridal silk satin sells for $70/yard. I purchased it for $17.50/yard. The swatch was gorgeous. I can't wait to get the fabric. Should be any day now. I've gotten a few pieces of alencon lace also from Buttons-n-Bolts. $150 yard down to $43 maybe. Clearly, the bridal gown would have cost over $3000 if materials were purchased at full cost. Right now, I've spent under $800 but I will have some lace for at least two other bodices. I also purchased 5 yards of silk dupoini and some of that will be used for the flower girl dress.
The dress form. Who would have thought so much research would be needed for a dress form. The dress forms can range form $150-$800. The professional forms fit one standard size. I really didn't want to spend $500 for one size. I really wanted to have the flexibility to use this for the other girls. I ended up ordering the Dritz My Double Deluxe. Hopefully, I'll be able to pick this up in three weeks time. Considerable research has been done about making the dress form match the body. So, what I'm doing is to have the dress form a small size than Whit, then using quilt batting to pad to where I need it. This hopefully will get us a more accurate shape.
The dress form cover. I'm sure that by now you are wondering about my mental state and my obsessive tendencies. Yes even internet hours on the cover. I do so much research because I'm not an expert and I need help to make things correctly. I finally decided on purchasing a pattern and making my own dress form cover. The cover is actually a Butterick fitting pattern. So I need to purchase the muslin and get this made before the dress form comes in.