The “Old Cuba” Dress
Fabric: Pale yellow seersucker – $1
Patterns: Crepe by Colette Patterns – received from Colette Patterns
Year: c. 2010
Time to complete: 4 hours
First worn: May 2011
Wear again? Yes, but will probably add a bit of embellishment!
Total Cost: ~$1
I’ve written before about my paternal grandmother and her fashions here, here and here. My original plan for this week’s challenge had been to recreate the 1940s dress with the gingham insets and sash that’s pictured here. Actually, I went so far as spending way too much time making the dress and drafting the sleeves from scratch. After such a frustrating week last week, I decided to call it a loss and move onto a simpler pattern that required no modifications. I needed a break.
Enter my maternal grandmother, Maria Dolores, and Colette Pattern’s Crepe. Unlike my paternal grandmother (who helped raise me until I was twelve), I never knew this grandmother. She died in a car accident in Los Angeles when my mother was only fifteen. This photograph was taken in her native Cuba in (I believe) the mid-1950s. My own mother was also born in Cuba — they left in 1959 during the revolution.
I think this photo is so quintessentially Cuba in the 1950s. You’ve got plantation shutters, tile floors, stucco, pillars and, of course, someone in a white dress. I’m sure if the camera panned out there would be a palm tree farther in the background.
Of course, I’m only assuming that she’s wearing a white dress. It may have actually been a pale yellow or pink or blue. But considering how much it pops against the wall, it’s pretty safe to safe it was white.
Here’s another view of my grandmother and the dress.
For my dress, I knew I didn’t want to use white fabric, a color that I just don’t wear. I wanted to make a dress I’d actually want after this challenge was over and I luckily had about 4 yards of a nice yellow seersucker fabric in my stash. While I had vintage patterns from the 1950s more suitable facsimiles of this dress, I ultimately went with the Crepe pattern to make my life easier. I just didn’t want to deal with fasteners this week! Crepe is perfect for that since it’s a wrap dress that closes at the back with a tie.
Like other Colette Patterns, Crepe was a breeze to make up. So easy that I actually finished the bulk of it in the three hours that my daughter was at preschool. The only drawback to the pattern is that it uses a lot of fabric, about 4 yards or so. But if you have fabric in your stash with that yardage, I highly recommend it! What I love about Crepe is that it’s such a perfect dress for embellishing. If I wasn’t trying to make a replica of my grandmother’s dress, there would have been a sash in a contrasting color and embroidery along the neckline. I do believe that I will take on the neckline embroidery now that I have photos of the dress in its simple form.
Once again, San Francisco provides the perfect backdrop for my photos. Fittingly, we took photos at Mission Dolores, although none of them worked for the shoot. Here I am in front of tile work in front of Everett Middle School.