Guest Interview: Libett on her Gatsby Dress
Concluding my Gatsby posts for this year is an interview with my friend, Libett, a dear friend of mine who I’ve known for twenty years(!). Libett has the most marvelous style and made her dress in the most daring of ways — she, along with her teacher, drafted a pattern from a catalog inspiration. Here’s what she had to say.
SW: How long have you been sewing?
Libett: I’ve been hemming my own pants and doing other such alterations for about 12 years. In high school I began purchasing a lot of clothing at second-hand stores that never fit quite right. My mother is an excellent seamstress and she would help me hem pants and take in tops at the waist that didn’t fit.
She eventually taught me how to do it so that I could do my own alterations. I started taking sewing classes about 6 months ago, so that is really when I started making things from scratch.
SW: What inspired you to make your own dress this year?
Libett: Part of my inspiration for making my own dress this year is Mena. I was quite impressed with the dresses she made last year for the event. For the Gatsby picnic last year, I purchased my dress at the Alameda Flea Market for $10 and altered it because it was too small. I ended up cutting some of the bottom of my dress to add material around the bust and waist. This year I wanted something a little more special, more me. And nothing is more me than a red dress.
I was also inspired by my sewing teacher. I have been taking a sewing class with my sisters, mother and a couple of friends and our teacher is phenomenal. I cannot say enough about her. Her name is Martha Macias, is from Mexico, and lives in Petaluma and about twice a month, she teaches us dress drafting and cutting. She studied to be a seamstress in Mexico and is very experienced. She’s made many dresses, including bridesmaid and wedding dresses. I could not have done any of this without both Martha and my mother Raquel.
SW: How did you find your patttern?
Libett: I didn’t use a pattern. I found the perfect dress in a book I had purchased through Amazon.com called Everyday Fashions of the Thirties As Pictured in Sears Catalogs Stella Blum (Editor) and when I was looking through it, I came across a dress from 1935 that I absolutely loved. I took the picture of my dress to my teacher Martha, as well as all of the materials I though I would need, and we began. After discussing some changes that I wanted to make to the dress in the picture, we started taking my measurements, using my Scientific System (I think it’s also know as a tailor’s curved ruler), made the pattern, and then started cutting the fabric.
SW: How long did it take you to make your dress?
Libett: The dress did take a long time to complete. I would say about 15 hours total spread out over about a month because I do not have time to sew on a daily basis.
SW: What was the total cost?
Libett: I bought the bulk of my materials at a store called Fabrics ‘R Us in San Jose. I spent about $22 there and then bought a belt kit online. My total was about $33.
SW: What was the hardest part?
Libett: Everything was hard, as it was the first time I’ve ever made a dress from scratch. But I had help doing many things. Drafting the pattern is hard too, but all it really takes is practice. The collar was really difficult as well, but Martha took care of that. The scariest thing for me was when I was using the serger and cut a piece of my lining. I thought I had cut the chiffon, but luckily the blade didn’t cut through the chiffon, the top layer.
SW: What would you do differently next year?
Libett: Next year, I would start my dress about 6 months in advance so that I could do the entire thing myself. Due to the fact that I didn’t start until a month before Gatsby, I was in a frantic rush and needed so much help and guidance. But we were able to finish it on time and I’m very happy with how it turned out.
SW: What was your favorite aspect of the dress?
Libett: The fit! There is nothing like the feeling of something that is tailor-made to your measurements! It was worth all of the hard work!