That 70s Dress: Diane Von Furstenberg

Designer Diane von Furstenberg at Home

Diane Von Furstenberg looking like art. source: Corbis

The September Monthly Stitch vintage-challenge-badgechallenge was to sew something from Vintage Patterns.  I chose the iconic 70s dress maven Diane Von Furstenberg’s knit dress pattern from Vogue (V1547).  There was also a challenge called Fall For CottonFallForCotton200where you were to sew a vintage inspired pattern using only cotton fabrics.  So, I chose only cotton knits for both of the dresses. Diane Von Furstenberg Knit DressesIn the 1970s, Diane Von Furstenberg launched her signature versatile, easy-breezy wrap dress, that came to symbolize freedom and strength for a newly empowered generation of women.  It symbolized the New Woman, the then-revolutionary concept of competing in a man’s world while looking feminine.

Diane Von Fustenberg and Andy Warhol.  source:  Harper's Bazaar

Diane Von Fustenberg and Andy Warhol. source: Harper’s Bazaar

By 1976 she had sold over a million of her signature knit wrap dresses and landed on the cover of The Wall Street Journal and Newsweek, the latter dubbing her “the most marketable woman since Coco Chanel” (http://www.dvf.com/timeline-70s.html).

Von Furstenberg has been the president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America since 2006 and the year before was honored with their lifetime achievement award.  A 1970s DVF knit wrap dress is represented in New York’s Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

My mother, in the 1970s, used a DVF wrap dress Vogue pattern 1549, with collar and cuffs, to sew a dress for herself in a geometric black and white printed knit.

DVF 70s collared and cuffed knit wrap dress

My mum’s DVF knit wrap dress she sewed in the 1970s

Her version is almost identical to one DVF wore on the cover of Vogue Patterns magazine from 1976.

DFV on Vogue Patterns Magazine

DVF on the cover of Vogue Patterns, 1976

V1547 – Version B

For my short-sleeved belted version of the dress, I used ‘Germania’ by Jay McCarrol for FreeSpirit, Westminster Fibers brown geometric polka dot fabric.  It is a cotton knit that I purchased in the quilting section of a home decor fabric store.  And, after sewing the dress, I do wonder if this fabric is more suitable to quilts, blankets, etc. because I had a horrific time while sewing it.

DFV brown polka dot knit dress front and backTrying to unpick a stitch resulted in an almost immediate hole or would leave an obvious white spot from the needle holes since the back of the fabric is white and it also kept stretching completely out of shape.DVF brown polka dot knit dress Go Kitty (2)I could not get the overlocker to sew it properly, it kept jamming the machine, so I used a sewing machine.  But, using the triple stretch stitch or the knit stitch, the sleeve bands stretched 2 inches while I was sewing them on.  So, they do not lie flat and are not tight enough. When I tried a regular straight stitch, it would not hold together and slid back and forth on the thread as if gathering and then would break almost immediately.

Hello Kitty!

Hello Kitty!

I decided to wash the dress and put it in a hot dryer (even though I had already pre-shrunk) to see if it would help tighten up the fabric.  No, it did not.  But, what it did do was wrinkle like the dickens.  So, I had to iron every inch of my easy, breezy, simple knit dress.  Does this sound almost like blasphemy?  So, all in all, it did not turn out the way I had hoped, but it still works for a very casual, almost sweatshirt-like dress.  If anybody has any ideas about using this kind of fabric for fitted garments, or if indeed, it is not meant to be used for this purpose, please do share.

Reasons to Love the 70s.  Can You Think Of Any More?

Reasons to Love the 70s. Can You Think Of Any More?

V1547 – Version A

DVF blue knit dress front and backFor the long-sleeved version with the scarf tie, I used a four-way stretch cotton knit jersey.  I was nervous that it would be too stretchy and have even worse problems than the brown fabric, but it actually sewed up just fine and drapes really well.  It feels fabulous on, the fabric is very thin and silky with a heavy drape and ‘swishes’ nicely when I walk.

Oooooh, Swishy!

Oooooh, Swishy!

I am going to make a buckled belt for it out of the same fabric to offer up an alternative silhouette.  DVF blue knit dress front with scarf tie vintageThe scarf tie is perfect in this fabric, with such a heavy drape, it stays around the neck and being a thin fabric, folds easily and neatly into place.  DVF blue knit dress scarf tie (2)DVF knit wrap dress side with scarf tieAlthough you won’t be able to tell, I’m wearing Oscar de la Renta perfume, a classic fragrance that debuted in 1977.

DVF blue knit dress cat bombed polaroidWho Loves Kitty? DVF brown polka dot knit dress Who Loves Kitty (2)

Great Gatsby Sew-Along, The Cat’s Pajamas (One Giant Leap for Womankind)

Beach Pajamas By Tree2The phrase, “the cat’s pajamas” was coined in the 1920s in reference to the unconventional spirit of the female flapper (“cat”) and, combined with the word pajamas (a relatively new fashion in the 1920s), it formed a phrase used to describe something that is the best at what it does, thus making it highly sought after and desirable.Beach Pajamas and HatFor the Great Gatsby Sewing Challenge spearheaded by Miss Crayola Creepy, I decided to sew a pair of Beach or Lounge Pajamas from a Butterick 4177 Pattern.

Butterick 4177 Jumpsuit Pattern

Sewing Pattern I used: Butterick 4177 Jumpsuit

1920s dresses bird silhouette print

1920s dresses with bird silhouette print

Pajamas were the new lounge wear of the 1920s, no longer limited to actually sleeping in.

In the 1920s and 1930s, these garments, made of soft satin and embroidered “a la Chinoise,” became not only acceptable, but a chic, stylish item for women to wear to soirees in the homes of their bohemian friends.

Art Deco was also popular in the 1920s and fabric prints reflected this.

Art Deco Fabrics (Spoonflower)

Art Deco Fabrics (Spoonflower)

Great Gatsby Fabric

Fabric: Art Deco Inspired Print in an ultra-thin rayon challis and Bird Silhouette Print in a poly gauze

I selected an Art Deco inspired geometric print for the Beach Pajamas in a very delicately thin and airy rayon challis, 100% viscose (which was difficult to cut and sew with) and added a silhouette bird pattern fabric (also popular in the 1920s) for the collar and pockets, in a poly gauze.  PantsuitIn the years 1880-1910, the ideal female profile would resemble the letter “S”. Ladies would force themselves into corsets and squeeze their waists down to often below 20 inches in diameter. This would raise their ribcage producing a prominent chest or “pigeon front”. The sides would be pushed back and the rear raised or padded to produce the lower curve of the “S”.

Misses' Polonaise Costume, from Butterick's Delineator, September 1883

Misses’ Polonaise Costume, from Butterick’s Delineator, September 1883

Before the twentieth century, women were technically not allowed to wear pants because it was deemed a masculine item, and they were ostracized if they opted to do so.  The Women’s Suffrage movement gained its greatest victory in 1920 when the 19th Amendment prohibited gender discrimination in the voting polls. This political gain opened a decade of many radical changes in the perception and presentation of women.  One of these changes was the change in the oppressive and sometimes health detriments of women’s fashions of the time.  Dress reformers in the 19th century tackled this issue of female oppression by fashion by promoting social improvement in practicality over trends, for health and comfort over convention, and rationality over conformity

Paul Poiret harem pants

Paul Poiret harem pants

The arrival of World War I (1914–18) gave many women jobs as men went to join the military and many women wore trousers and overalls to work in factories.

Eastern culture inspired French designer Paul Poiret (1879–1944) to become one of the first to design pants (trousers) for women. In 1913 Poiret created loose-fitting, wide-leg trousers for women called harem pants, which were based on the costumes of the popular opera Sheherazade.

Thelma Todd in a late 1920s early 1930s Beach Pajama Ensemble

Thelma Todd in a Beach Pajama Ensemble

Fun in Beach Pajamas1920’s fashion trends were all about rebellion. The 1920’s were a time of backlash. People were lashing out at the rigid formalities of the Victorian era and defying the restrictions that came with the Prohibition era.

1920s Sewing Pattern

1920s/30s Sewing Pattern

1920s Beach Pajamas McCalls Pattern

1920s/30s Beach Pajamas McCalls Pattern

Lounging in Lounge PajamasUntil the 1920s, pajamas were only worn as sleepwear, then sometime in the 1920s, they made their way outdoors as a cover-up over swimming costumes on the beaches of the French Riveria.

Beach Pajamas La Cote D'Azure

Beach Pajamas La Cote D’Azure

During the 1920s, Coco Chanel and Madeleine Vionnet promoted silky, luxurious pajamas as evening wear to wear initially in private after which Coco Chanel began to wear trousers herself in public.  This was a new, ‘masculine’ look that offered loose, sailor style trousers for women to wear at home and at the beach. These ‘beach pajamas’ were an early form of the pants suit.Walking in Breeze in Beach PajamasLe-Sourire_1933

When crepe beach and lounge pajamas were first worn at the seaside, trouser wearing women were a rare sight and still very much confined to only beach and promenade areas while in public.  Society still did not want to accept women in this new role.1926 photo Ready to Strut My StuffBeach Pajamas and Great Gatsby BookFinally, by the late 1920s, beach pajamas appeared outside the bedroom as swimsuit cover-ups on the beaches and boats of the French Riviera, then quickly moved on to the streets of Britain and spread across the globe.

1920s Beach Pajamas PosterThey are comfortable.  They are stylish.  They are cool and breezy.  They are practical.  They are leaps and bounds above corsets, petticoats, cages and heavy long skirts.  Long Live the Lounge / Beach Pajama!!

Kitty Wants

Kitty Wants

Also, don’t forget to enter the Wellington Pattern Pyramid, here.  The last day for entry is this Friday June 7, 2013.

Resources and Credits:

http://www.swingfashionista.com/tag/beach-pyjamas/

http://www.ehow.com/info_8110935_did-women-dress-1920s.html

http://fashionbloglife.com/1920sfashion/

1930s beach and lounging pyjamas…how I love thee

http://weeklysilence.wordpress.com/2011/12/09/research-paper-pants-phenomenon-the-switch-from-skirts-to-trousers/

http://www.fashionencyclopedia.com/fashion_costume_culture/Modern-World-1930-1945/Trousers-for-Women.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tove-hermanson/women-pants-politics_b_541555.html