Charles James

In honor of the Charles James exhibit “now playing” at the Metropolitan Museum Costume Institute in NYC, I made a Charles James skirt from a 1950s mail order pattern.


As you can see from the side view, the skirt wraps forward from the back, and the waistband starts low in the back and arcs up in the front. It’s a very elegant design. I’m wearing it with a wool jersey shrug from a 1951 pattern by Claire McCardell.
The multicolored top is made of vintage 50s wool challis, lined with silk crepe de chine. It’s made from a “frankenpattern” of a 60s “crushed boatneck” design that I created. Details are on my blog JetSetSewing.com.

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Back in October I posted on here an introduction to a big sewing project I was taking on: reproducing a version of Charles James’ Tree Gown:

Charles James: The Exhibition - Threads

My excuse for tackling this, apart from the challenge of it, was to wear at the 2014 Toronto Garrison Ball.  Which was actually last weekend – yes, the dress was finished beforehand ;o)

This project was made possible/feasible by the generous loan of a pattern taken of the dress’ foundation made by a former curator of the Chicago History Museum for their Charles James exhibition in 2011.

I documented the process at each step along the way and blogged about it, but didn’t post all of those here because I thought they’d get tedious.

But now it’s FINISHED and I’ve caught up with my blogging (that lagged when it got to the stress-sewing point) so I’m sharing here again!

Here’s a brief(ish) retrospective on the process:

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And finally I ended up with this:

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A CHARLES JAMES GOWN OF MY VERY OWN!!!!

I cannot tell you how RELIEVED I was that it actually turned out well, lol.  I was nervous about it right to the very end.

If you’d like to follow the process in more detail (there is some fun stuff in there) here’s a link to all the Tree posts.

You can go here if you just want to see more of the finished dress – and the “superhero” evening cape I made to wear with it!

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Hello everyone!

I don’t have a finished garment to show for this post, but am taking the opportunity of giving a heads-up to anyone who might be interested in following my next big sewing adventure.

Because I’m married to a member of the Canadian Military (yup – we have one!) I have the opportunity to attend a rather large and fabulous military Ball each year in Toronto (the aptly named Toronto Garrison Ball).  I’ve gone a few times so far, and am planning to ‘go big or go home’ for the next one at the end of March, 2014.

The reason some of you may be interested in this is because I’m going to be recreating an iconic piece of vintage couture: Charles James’ “Tree” gown!

The Metropolitan Museum of Art - "Tree"

Certain fortuitous events have put me in a particularly good position to be able to reproduce this amazing gown by one of my favourite designers of all time.  I’m really excited about this!!  And also pretty scared!!

The reason I’m posting about this here & now is that I intend to keep a sort of dress journal about the process of constructing my own “Tree” and I thought some of you might be interested in following along with some or all of my progress.  To see my full introduction post, wherein I explain how it is that I happened upon being able to properly reproduce this dress, pop over to my blog!  I hope you’ll stop by at some point – I’m sure to need some of your wisdom and advice at various points along the way!

 

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