Hot! My “QE II” dress

Fabric: Purple Italian Sueded silk from stash, wool felt for hat
Patterns: Hollywood Pattern 1274 for dress, Vogue 7464 for hat
Year: 1940′s for dress from swap and vintage inspired Vogue for hat
Notions: Interfacing and three safety pins; milliner’s wire and buckram from stash
Time to complete: ~6 hours
First worn: June 2012
Wear again? Maybe, most likely the skirt and hat with different top

Total Cost: $ 7.20 for wool felt for hat

Me and the Royal Family…we go way back : )

It was just a question of WHO to use as inspiration. I know many fellow contributors will probably use Kate Middleton, but I am an original Diana fan. I was entranced when she got engaged, she was only a few years younger, and guess what the inspiration was for my first wedding? Yep. I stayed up all night to watch her wedding, named two of my cats William and Harry and many years later stayed up all night to watch her funeral. She was my generations’ JFK. I have an entire (large) box full of books, magazines and newspapers from the wedding, throughout her life and her funeral. I thought at first I’d make something based on one of her dresses but she was tall and thin and I’m…not. I am honestly shaped a little closer to the Queen and since I’ve already channeled an earlier Elizabeth (pic to come!) I thought maybe I’d do something reminiscent of a younger Elizabeth II.

I loved the purple shoes I wore with my Grandma Bertha dress and the silk that I made the belt out of was an almost perfect match and what is more royal than purple? Plus it was free and free is delightful. The only downside to “free” in this instance was the age of the fabric. I had bought it in 1993, as I left House of Fabrics to go design and teach at a junior college. It was in my “Special Projects” box, sitting on a bottom shelf under a cutting table when we had a flood at school. It was saturated with muddy water, then dried and cleaned so fortunately the dirt came out but there are bits of dye transfer from something else. I had a good sized piece, 5+ yards so I figured I could cut around the spots. I also discovered sun damage from less than fabulous storage in the intervening years, so a good 2 hours of the production time was spent cutting each piece individually. I also had two pieces, one had been cut from the main piece, so I had to carefully and thoughtfully guess which way the grain went since it has a grain like satin or corduroy and the last thing I wanted was one lighter/darker skirt panel and sleeve. I think it worked out well : )

Kazz TOTALLY upped the photoshop ante last week so I scrambled to find a suitable background! This photo from Life magazine will have to do.

As far as construction of the dress went it was straightforward. The pattern was clear, the only problem was the actual tissue. I would bet money (since I can’t find any copyright on this) that this was made during the war, probably 1943 or 44 since the tissue is SO thin that breathing on it wrong will tear it! Other than that, the only thing I changed was the peplum construction. The pattern calls for facings and I *hate* peplum facings. They require acres of hand stitching to lay right and for something like this I wanted durability. I lined the whole thing and interlined the back and left side front so it has some substance. That shadow you see in the pictures is just that, it actually lays flat really nicely. I’m not sure tucks like that are the best look for me, maybe in another 10 pounds I’ll feel more comfy in it.  I’m also being completely transparent here saying that I did NOT sew on the hooks-n-eyes the pattern called for, I just pinned myself in for now : )

And now the hat…

(Since so many people were interested in construction details of my Joan shamrock green linen hat I’m including the highlights of this hat here – if you’re not interested you can skip to the end : )

Oh the hat…It took three people with half a dozen advanced degrees a combined IQ of well over 450 to figure out the last two steps of that pattern!

The hat went together well in the beginning but it becomes some origami crane-like thing at the end and I’m still not sure I have it right! I’ve made hats from scratch before, I’m not a novice but I wanted to make THIS hat (view B) EXACTLY like the instructions said to do. I chose this pattern for two reasons – 1) It’s really cute in the picture and 2) it doesn’t ask you to buy a hat frame and just cover it like the first couple of vintage hat patterns did!

My feeling is if you’re going to put out a hat pattern then you should show the customer how to make the WHOLE thing from beginning to end. I thought at first I’d made it match the dress exactly but when I read the directions I realized I really needed the hat wool so off to Joann’s I went. The one thing I really appreciate about the pattern is it does NOT assume everyone has a hat form (but I do) and they tell you to buy a 10″ styrofoam ball and use a terry towel to steam the buckram.

So I cheated a little. Here is my form, covered first with foil and then plastic wrap. You don’t want to use just foil unless you want to pick bits out of your hat and hair and you don’t want to use just plastic wrap as it will move about like silk charmeuse, just wanting to be on the floor. Use both : )

You can buy buckram online or at a better stocked store, Stone Mountain Daughter has it in Berkeley. It’s embedded with rice starch so you just get it wet quickly, let it sit for a few minutes until it gets limp, don’t soak or wring, and stretch it on the form.

The elastic band keeps the drying buckram in place and smooth. Pins keep the elastic in place. Keep away from cats, they remove pins. Let dry overnight

Here is where Vogue and I part ways construction wise – they don’t cover the frame with anything other than the felt hat but it isn’t stitched down in very many places. I covered the part of the frame that you might see if a wind flipped up that front wool piece.

Then they don’t have you insert any wire into the edge of the frame so it holds its shape. I didn’t either, just to try the pattern out, but in the future I’d definitely change that. They also have you use grosgrain to finish off the edge, which is a traditional technique but I needed the purples to match so I cut a strip of bias and finished it that way.

The pattern tells you cut a point in the frame but then never really clarifies where the point should go so I guessed! It leaves several details unfinished, like the stitching of the main “point” that sticks up as part of the bow and how exactly they get the shape in the photo. Their line drawing doesn’t give any more clarity but all in all I’m happy with the result.

I made sure I had the requisite handbag:

I just haven’t mastered the whole shadow thing in photoshop yet : )

Here is part of my history with the Royal Family:

My Princess Diana-inpsired wedding dress and haircut…

And my Queen Elizabeth I dress from the Ermine Portrait : ) I even made a tiny one for my daughter –

See? Me and the Royal Family…we go back a ways : )




Loran is a Bay Area designer, stitcher and suburban farm girl. Having done theater for years she's finally taking on her most demanding client (herself!) and fashioning a wardrobe from her huge stock of vintage patterns and fabrics, all while writing her daily tablesetting blog. Let's see if she can keep up with both : )


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  1. Wow that is great Loran! I love the second photo – the dress flatters your figure beautifully! I have been eyeing off that hat pattern for ages – I am a bit daunted by your description of its difficulty. The bridesmaids dresses are just like what I wore to the 6th form dance except mine was blue moire taffetta and had bows on the shoulders – definately the worst thing I ever wore and I live to regret it!

    • Bee fearless, give the pattern a go! Maybe you’ll have better luck with it than I did, it may be that I just kept trying to make it something it wasn’t and never could be. Wouldn’t it be fun if we all did the same pattern of something to see the different takes on a look?

  2. Way to go Loran, cutting out the pieces individually around the stains etc, the dress turned out magnificently. You really look lovely in purple. A sewing magician, seriously! that dress on the last two photos? bananas. Love the PS LIFE cover hehe.

    • I need to up my photoshop skills to keep up with you!! Thanks Kazz, sometimes I feel like I’m pulling a rabbit out of a hat just to finish : )

  3. Love it! You look much more imposing than QEII has ever managed though – I think you are still channeling QEI even though you’ve updated the dress by 450 years!

  4. Awesome! Everything looks so great. That purple dress looks very Queenly, but very functional too. How’d you do that? :D Thanks for the hat details. I didn’t end up with a hat for my pics. Perhaps now I’ll have to make one. Anyway, great job, you look beautiful!

    • Thanks Clarissa : ) Give the hat thing a go, they really aren’t that hard and there is a learning curve. The fun part of hats is that they aren’t big, don’t take that long to do and are realitively inexpensive. One of these days I’ll make each one in the pattern just for giggles.

  5. Blimey! I can’t believe how beautiful that purple fabric is and what you’ve done with it. You look gorgeous! And, really, was there any time in that hat process where you thought to yourself: what am I doing? It looks crazy making!!!! Anything with buckram and tin foil: count me out.

    As for the gown that you and your daughter have on. I can’t even believe you made that. I am not worthy….

    • Thanks Colleen and no, there wasn’t a time when I thought “what am I doing”. It was more like “What the black were they thinking when they wrote these directions!” I don’t give up easily : ) And the gowns I made for myself and my daughter were the culmination of a years worth of work and, again, a lot of determination to do something really “out there”.

  6. Wow Loran, my jaw dropped when I saw the Ermine Portrait, just stunning and can’t help but stare at the details in the photo. I love the purple dress to, the fabric just glistens with a soft richness in the drape.

    • Thanks you Krista : ) One of these days, when I finish off the year on my tablesetting blog (in a week and a half!) I’ll get my sewing blog going and post more detailed pics.

  7. I would love to take classes with you! The dress and hat are a hit but that last dress-boggling! You are too cool Loran! I also love how each challenge has been a bit personal for you. We get to learn so much about your life through each challenge.

    • Thank you Gina, sewing is personal for me and why not share what I do and why? We all do, that’s what makes this so much fun. You’ve put yourself out there as well, and inspire me to keep going when things don’t go the way I’d like them to : )

  8. I love the dress, there is something in early (I’m guessing) 1940s designs that is all about looking good in tough times, and it really appeals to the Italian in me. But the hat! The hat is spectacular! It’s such an amazing shape!

    And thanks for the pictures, both informative (hat making) and so sweet (your dresses).

  9. Love the handbag and pin, my Mother always comments on her purse, she is the queen what the heck does she need a purse for?. I think the accessories really makes the outfit complete. I am always amazed in your ability to like to work with silk. I believe a Queen Victoria dress is next to round out the collection of goodies.

  10. Loran, you are amazing. I love the pattern and the creative hat. I love the Queen Elizabeth I dress. That is a lot of material.

  11. Looove it! Love the purple, love your story, love the hat tips. Awesome, awesome job!

  12. So rich and royal! You really captured the spirit of the diamond jubilee with your lovely purple forties dress and that outrageous hat! I can’t believe you made that. I want to make hats now. Although I don’t know where I would wear them. I was so impressed with your dress and the details of your hat until you utterly had me boggle-eyed with the last two pictures! Wow, you have such talent.! The period piece is just stunning and you with your daughter look like you are from a history book or one of those BBC historical television series.

  13. So pretty. .Great job.

  14. The dress and hat are really lovely, they are something that I could imagine Diana would have worn. The Elizabeth I dress is insane!

  15. That purple sueded silk is absolutely gorgeous. The colour suits you so well….and thank you so much for the detailed hat making run-through. i have that pattern and will make something from it one day….I’m starting my hat-making with another Vogue pattern for a much easier floppy sun hat this week.

    I remember sitting in front of the telly with my sketch pad feverishly drawing Diana’s wedding dress and the bridesmaids, intrigued by the designs of the Emanuels….and feeling so sorry for her with the creasing on the train. My wedding dress wasn’t anything so grand as hers and yours though. And that Queen Elizabeth I (and your daughter’s sweet dress) are mind-blowingly amazing.

    • I wanted to sketch out Diana’s dress as I saw it but I was just in awe of the whole ceremony. And do make a hat or two, with that special Tempset twist I know you’ll incorporate : )

  16. This dress looks great on you and that hat is fantastic! And the QEI… wow!

  17. All I can really think at the moment is wow you seriously made that hat! Its a great outfit all the way around though.

  18. Hey Loran-it’s me again. Just wanted to ask you if you knew of any shops your way that may sell Chinese Silk Brocade. I need some for the dress I’m making for a friend. I appreciate any feedback you may have.

  19. I love your royal portfolio! The QEI dress takes my breath away. And that is one cool hat. Thank you so much for sharing some of the construction details. I have a hat block, but I didn’t know the trick with the foil and plastic.

    • Thank you Lee, try doing a hat, I think you’ll have a good time and you can make one (or more) for your daughter as well!

  20. Hi Loran my email is I’ll keep an eye out for your email.