The “Fighting back” red lace dress | Adey Lim
Fabric: Red lace and satin lining from Arab Street $20
Pattern: Project 6, ‘Retrospective is Stylish’ Japanese sewing book
Notions: Invisible zipper from stash
Time to complete: 6 hours
First worn: July 2011
Wear again? Yes, to parties for sure. Not so sure about shopping in it yet :)
The Hitchcock theme turned out to be really difficult for me. Though I was quick to choose the gorgeous red lace dress wore by Grace Kelly in the film ‘Dial M for Murder’ (1954) as inspiration, I soon realized that few women were going to look this elegant in such a sexy red lace number. As a Daily Mail article described
“Unlike her blonde bombshell contemporaries (Monroe, Bardot and their ilk), Kelly wasn’t overtly sexual. No, she was a fresh-faced girl next door. Vogue called her ‘too wholesome to be mysterious?’ “
Kelly’s dress was designed by four times Oscar costume design nominee, Moss Mabry, who was also responsible for the unforgettable red windbreaker James Dean wore in ‘Rebel without a cause’ (1955). In ‘Dial M’, with the exception of this particular red lace dress, the rest of Kelly’s garments were said to be bought off the rack. The vibrancy of the dress was significant as Hitchcock ensured her clothes went from bright to somber as her character changes in the film.
Looking at Mabry’s design, I’ve considered using Simplicity 3262 from my stash and also thought of sewing a faux lace bolero dress from Advance 7011 (from my swap & return arrangement with Natasha from Nottingham). While I really liked the versions on the pattern covers, I knew I would NEVER wear them in red lace.
I was STUCK big time and even considered switching films! But, I didn’t, I am just too stubborn to admit defeat. I decided to fight back by asking myself why I loved Kelly’s red lace dress. It certainly has to do with the fact that she made it look ladylike and sexy in a very subtle way. With these thoughts, I decided to challenge myself to make a red lace dress with these qualities while drawing inspirations from Kelly’s dress- the elegant drop waist, the neckline as focal point and off course red lace. After days of browsing through my patterns and sewing books, I finally settled on this feminine 1950s inspired dress pattern from “Retrospective is Stylish”. Drop waist, checked. Collar brings interest to the neckline, checked. Ladylike, checked.
Using a size 11 pattern, the only modifications I made were to make the dress sleeveless (and hence weather friendly) and to shorten and reshaped the skirt to avoid the lace dress looking too formal. If I can sew it into a dress demure and casual enough to be wore shopping, it would be ideal!
I love how the collar turned out at the sides and back but something went wrong with the front. I am not sure if something got lost in translation but the front of the collar didn’t lay flat. I solved the problem by shortening it but by doing so, the collar didn’t meet in the middle. I didn’t want to unpick lace and satin together. That would have been majorly nerve wrecking! Instead, I improvised by drafting and adding two smaller collar pieces to create sort of a petal collar.
I couldn’t help taking these fighting back with the murderer shots with scissors, coat hanger, torch light and glass sculpture. Off course Kelly wasn’t in this the red lace dress by then. These are just for fun! Cluedo time: which was the weapon used by Kelly’s character in the film?
At the end of the day, I am glad I fought back. Besides the petal collar which happened by fluke, I love observing the skirt’s scallop edge hanging separate from the shorter lining which hem was cut on the selvage.
I’m going away on vacation for the next two weeks so see you lovelies in August! Woo hoo!