Brown & Black Dress, Turn of the Century-ish: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

This is my last post about “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”.  The show will be performed next weekend, and the costumes are set and ready to go.  Now that I am done writing up these posts, projects will probably start coming a little slower and with a more eclectic inspiration.    I have a long list of project ideas!

This particular dress was one of the earlier costumes I made when I was just making random chorus costumes and not filling a particular need.  I was aiming something  more along the genre of the original pink and green dress.  I don’t think this dress ended up being used for this show, but hopefully at some point it will fill a need.

I began with this one piece vintage dress (pins mark the hemline so that it shows up against the backdrop):

My tentative plan was to add a skirt and fill in the neckline.  I had recently purchased an old costuming book that had some interesting simple patterns.  One pattern was for making a period skirt with a train.  It has a seam in the center front and center back, and the skirt is angled at the waist so that the hem is straight for easy alteration.  I decided to use a mini-version of this skirt.

I measured the circumference of the bottom of the skirt and decided on my desired length.  I wanted the skirt to be gathered, so planned on using twice the  circumference.  The gathers would be shifted so that the greatest fullness would be in the back.

skirt numbers

I picked an additional fabric and marked out my cutting lines.  The first picture has the measurements drawn on it with a heat-sensitive pen, but they are hard to see.  The fabric is folded, so it won’t have a center front seam.

The ruffle was sewn together in the back and then stitched to the skirt (side view below–note more gathers on the side & back and the angled seam in the center back that forms a small train.)

side view of the slight train in the back

I thought this was a little plain-looking, so I added a ruffle to the bottom, and trimmed it with black lace.  I made a long strip of fabric and hemmed it on both sides.  I ran this thorough the ruffler, and then top stitched it to the skirt.

I added some similar trim to the bottoms of the sleeve.

A simple collar stand up collar and neck insert fill in the neckline.

The insert was pinned in place, and then top stitched, making sure to fold the excess fabric away from the zipper on the inside.

A little lace jabot finished the neckline.

lace jabot to finish the neck

I thought the front of the skirt looked a little boring, so I decided to add a bow.

front in progress

I took a piece of the black striped fabric and folded it so that there were folds on each side and the opening was in the center back.  I found some petticoat net to flat line the bow, and also cut a strip to serve as the center knot.

bow parts, loops and center tie

The sides of the bow were stitched together including the petticoat net, and then it was turned inside out.

back of bow

The  bow was pleated in the center, and the center wrap was secured in place with some hand stitching.  The bow was pinned to the front, and then as it was a bit floppy, another pin was added to keep the bow at a jaunty angle.

And the costume was done:

This was a relatively quick remodel.  I think the skirt construction method has some merit (and it appears to be a quick and easy way to make a period skirt with a train) and making one in regular size is on my list of “to-do’s”.  If this dress was done is strictly black and white I think it would make a good Ascot Gavotte dress.   With the addition of a large hat, I think this would certainly make a passable chorus costume.  I think the white and black fabric is an acceptable choice, but, I think a brown and black floral or a bolder stripe might have been better than such a light color.

Supplies:  Dress, supplemental fabric, lace trim

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