Sunday, 31 March 2013

Beaded dress - progress report

What a difference a year makes! As well as 50 Fabulous Frocks, the Fashion Museum is still showing Glamour, the display of evening dresses which opened last year. Visiting it again, I was convinced that some of the exhibits had been changed, as I had absolutely no recollection of them. However going back to the photographs I took then confirmed that the dresses had always been there. Clearly different things just caught my eye a year ago.

The 'new' exhibits

Interestingly, both of the dresses in question were worn as wedding dresses, although neither of them is white. I’m not sure why this lemon yellow silk satin one didn’t register in my brain, as it is a similar style to the 1950s red cocktail dress which opened the exhibition, and which became one of the inspirations for my Vegas Night dress. I love the shape, the waist detail, and the way that the darts almost meet at the bust. There’s obviously all sorts of interesting detailing going on at the back, but sadly this was the closest I could get to seeing it.

1961 Nettie Vogue dress

Clearly 12 months ago 1920s beaded dresses just weren’t making an impression on me. That has certainly changed.

1926 wedding dress

The gold brocade fabric is beautiful; such a delicate design.

Brocade close-up

And the beading! I especially love the way the size of the pearls tapers down the fringe.

Beading and fringe

More was in store, as there was another 1920s beaded dress to drool over elsewhere in the museum. Sadly there wasn’t much information about this one.

Pink chiffon and silver beads, mid 1920s

It was good to see the detailing around the hips on the 1926 dress, as I want to do something similar on my 1920s beaded dress, but hadn’t found much evidence of such a design feature before. Then I found this sunny example in All The Pretty Dresses (and then spent far too much time drooling over the other pretties which Isabella has posted there).

Hip detail and handkerchief hem

But enough ‘research’, time to actually get on with some dressmaking! I had already decided that I wanted a band of gold-coloured pattern round the hips, and had come up with a design, again based on Egyptian tentmaker motifs.

Several versions of the hip band, the final one is at the bottom

Unlike the panels, this was to be the same colour throughout. The design is far too intricate to cut out from a different coloured fabric and attach as appliqué, so I needed to paint it instead. Not onto the dress directly, but onto a further piece of satin, which I would then attach along the outer edges. I then decided to also do a small motif to put on the dress front, at the neckline.

To paint the designs I needed to block out the areas of the satin which I wanted to remain ivory, and flood the remainder with thin paint. I also wanted to paint a large piece of the satin in the same colour, and use this for binding the neckline and armholes.

Outliner applied to hip bands top left, and extra motif bottom right. Plus plain fabric to paint

This didn’t go entirely smoothly. In some ways I found it far more difficult than painting the motifs on the panels, as I was trying to keep the colour as even as possible. It was important not to go over any areas twice, which would make the colour darker, or let any areas dry out and leave an obvious join to the next area painted. Even though I thought I had applied the outliner with a fairly generous hand, clearly it wasn’t enough, and the paint ran in some places.

Paint run - too big to be covered by beading

I hadn’t made enough of a barrier between the hip bands and the piece of fabric which I was painting for the binding, either. When I came to paint the latter, the colour ran into the former and left a tide mark. Fortunately this should be lost in the seam allowance when I join the two bands together.The solid colour for the binding isn't a uniform as it could be, either.

Two coats of paint at the ends of the hip bands

Worst of all was the extra motif I had designed for the neckline. I painted this first, and had a totally blank moment about how the outliner works. For some reason I thought it was like batik wax, and acted as a barrier on the fabric. In fact it only prevents the paint from spreading out, and if you paint straight over it, it doesn’t stop the paint from soaking into the fabric.The completed motif in the photograph below clearly shows that I worked from left to right, and realised my mistake too late.

Before and after paining

I spent a while pondering how this could be rescued, before deciding that the only thing for it was to start afresh. Fortunately a) I had some spare paint and b) I made my mistake on the small design, not the big one.

On the plus side, the first, botched motif did then give me a trial piece to play with. When I bought the Dylon paints for the dress panels, I also bought their gold paint, thinking that I might use it on my orange dress. However it turned out to be a very pale gold, which gave an almost pearlescent effect, so I instead I used some Deka gold paint which I had already. While the Dylon gold may be a bit feeble when used on its own (there is a sample at the top of the embroidery hoop in the photograph below), when painted over the yellow it gave a lovely, subtle, gilded effect.

All the painting complete

Unfortunately despite my best efforts this doesn't really capture the lustre, so you'll just have to take my word for it! But that, finally, is all the painting done.


  1. Hi !
    I have discovered your blog throught he HSF and am eargerly following your progress on the painted 20's frock. I wanted to let you know I nominated you for the Very Inspiring blogger Award !

  2. Thank you Marion, merci bien!