Here is the photo from the Bunka book. I read that the garments photographed in the Bunka book are not the original Vionnets, but are Japanese remakes. The advantage of this is that the garments are new, have never been worn, and in general are in much better condition than the originals. Note the ease available in the bodice. I’ll be honest, when I first saw this, I had no idea what this was. MC Hammer pants? With a rug attached to the back? With bobbles all over the straps and bodice?
I did some intense googling of the phrases “Vionnet Rose Dress” and found this photo of an original Vionnet dress from a book review on Japanese fashion designers. It was shown as a source of inspiration for Issey Miyake. I noticed a few things. The fabric used in this dress is a lot slinkier than the Bunka dress. Every drape in this photo just hangs down immediately. Also, that bodice is tight. Could it really have been worn by a non mannequin that smoothly without any wrinkles showing up? The hem is also uneven and raw. Bunka’s hem is straight and finished.
I also found this photo from the MET Online Gallery. Still not very helpful in helping me decipher what this was. I wonder if age of fabric changes anything too, I mean a garment’s drape can change quite a bit in 80ish years right?
The skirt portion of this dress was long. Longer than my table long. I just traced what I could with a sharpie directly on my fabric, then scooted it off the table to trace the remaining portion. How I love the ease of working with muslins!
I transferred my lines by pressing the tip of the sharpie down on the paper for a few seconds to let it bleed through to the fabric and create a dot. Then I removed the paper and connected all my dots. Don’t worry I would never do this on real fabric.
Then I gathered a rectangle and attached it to the long rectangle. This skirt portion had so much gathering involved – I gathered a total of 9 times I think. A great way to use up that spool of thread that never ends – because this project will deplete that spool.
Compare it to the skirt, which was wide enough to wrap around me more than twice! So I knew that although the bodice didn’t fit, the skirt had plenty of width to ensure that I could make a bigger bodice to go with it.
And here is where I became confused. If left like this, I got a gap in my midriff. Sure some arranging could have hidden it, but it’s a burden to keep pulling the skirt up. So I stitched the drawstring portion to the bodice and tie, thus eliminating it’s function as a drawstring. I’m very sure I did something wrong here, but it seemed the most reasonable situation for me. With the drawstring portion of the skirt firmly anchored to the wrap tie, it meant that it ensured the skirt would overlap correctly over the opposite side. I also attached a ribbon to the inside of the right side seam so I could tie the drawstring to it.
My beautiful roses! Why bother with thorns when you have fabric? I decided I wanted the roses on my dress too, because if I already had the poof and the carpet in the back, it would be wrong to exclude these lovelies. I used the Vionnet bias fold rose pattern from the Center for Pattern Design. It isn’t available by .pdf, so if you want to make them realize there won’t be an instant gratification unless you order ahead of time.
It is essentially a giant triangle folded in half, rolled into a spiral, then stitched on the raw edges. Warning, it can get thick. Luckily I was able to machine stitch my rose closed, but if not, I would’ve had to do a lot of hand sewing.
Now, about that bodice. It’s a balance that all depends on the neck strap. If the neck strap is comfortable, the bodice tends to creep down and droop. If I want the bodice to stay up and wrinkle free, I have to really shorten the neck strap so that it digs into my neck and is very uncomfortable. Of course it doesn’t matter right now, but were this to be a wear-in-public dress, I’m not sure what I would do.
I’m a big fan of how the back is divided up in layers. At the top you have roses, then a smooth bodice, then a wrapped sash, then a smooth bodice, then a super gathered skirt. It’s like rock layers in geology!
I doubt Vionnet intended her dress to be worn like this, but I love love love garments with secret transformations. This is also why I suggest making your own Vionnets, because even if you did somehow get access to real Vionnet dresses from a museum, I highly doubt they would let you play with it and discover different ways of wearing them.
You know no museum would allow a person to pose like this with a Vionnet dress. This dress sits way on the bottom of my “make for public wear” list, just because I’d have to do some major reinterpretations to make it wearable for me. Moving on to Vionnet #3 now!