Vintage dress parade!

One of the loveliest things to come out of writing a blog about sewing, (apart from the community, the inspiration, the camaraderie etc etc I could go on etc) is that occasionally your friends and family read it. And then they do something utterly lovely and give you free stuff because they realise you might appreciate it, or can so something with it! I have been the lucky recipient of no less than EIGHT vintage or vintage-style dresses in the last month. One from a chum and a whole bagful from my mother-in-law, who used to collect vintage dresses from boutiques in and around Norwich. Thanks Ann and Mel!

I’m just completely head over heels in love with all of them, whether I can wear them or not. This weekend I decided to have a bit of a sort through them and figure out whether I can wear them straight away or whether I have to fix them up a bit, whether I should harvest them for fabric and notions, ย or simply marvel at them and stroke them lovingly once in a while. ย And here they all are, modelled so perfectly by my dress form (well, I’m sick of seeing my ugly mug all the time) ๐Ÿ˜‰

Ready to wear… or almost

Floral sixties shift

This is a gorgeous slippery little silk shift from Blanes, which according to the Vintage Fashion Guild website was ‘a very middle-range British company, active in the 1950s and 1960s โ€“ making good quality day and evening wear’. It fits like a glove. The background is much more golden than the image suggests. This will be beautiful with a little cardy and wedges come summer.

Fifties-style handmade dress

This was donated by my friend Mel. I think she said her friend made it but I might have to check that out with her. In any case it’s very well made with full lining and matching covered buttons. I love the little embroidered polka dots on it and the colours are so cheery. There’s a little tightness at the bust but nothing a safety pin won’t fix.

Embroidered forties dress

This is my absolute favourite from the whole collection. It’s one of the most elegant dresses I’ve ever laid eyes on. Just look at those little heart buttons and pretend bolero detail. The fabric has give, so although this dress is a little small for me (did people in olden times just not eat very much, like ever?) I can squeeze into it. I’ll need some serious foundation underwear though! Sadly there are a few holes in the dress but I’m hoping they’re fixable.

Crushed velvet dress

Look at this little knockout! Complete with padded and underwired bosom. This is from a label called ‘Images’. I haven’t been able to find out much about it yet. Anyone recognise the name? I’m finding this dress quite difficult to date but I love the crushed velvet – and that bust. Instant chest – yay!

Ready for upcycling

Scarlet fifties dress

I love love love this dress so much, it kills me that I can’t get into it. But the fabric is absolutely gorgeous and I’m pretty positive there is enough to make a half circle skirt. It’s from Richard Shops, which was a British high street chain started in 1927 and enjoying its heyday in the 60s apparently. This has a fifties feel to it, with the neat collar and cut off sleeves. Ooh I don’t know if I can cut it. It may have to be a wardrobe lurker for a while. Further inspection shows a rather large seam allowance so maybe… watch this space…

St Michael dress

Recognise that label? Those of you old enough to remember being forced by your mother to try on clothes in the middle of high street department stores will – it’s Marks and Spencers! ย (How did mums ever get away with that? I never see that happening these days.) Love the pattern on the fabric – very whimsical. Not sure what kind of fabric it is though – maybe viscose rayon? Whilst the neckline and shaping around the bust is really flattering my torso is too short for the extra band around the middle so I’m going to see if I can remove or shorten that in some way.

Ready for harvesting

Eighties squiggle dress

Look at this cheeky little number! It’s so jaunty and so wonderfully eighties! The fabric is awesome although I have no idea what it is – it feels like a stretchy cheesecloth – maybe crepe? As you can see from the label it’s by Carla Bower for Radley who designed for the company through the 70s, so perhaps it’s a little earlier than I first thought. The buttons are fantastic. Sadly the dress is a little tight for me – I’d be worried about the buttons at the back popping open all the time. So it’s going into the fabric stash. Hopefully I’ll find something suitable so I can use both the fabric and the buttons as they work beautifully together.

And finally… a wardrobe lurker

Pleated forties dress

God I love this dress, but it doesn’t love me. It looks stunning on the dummy but I look like a sack of spuds in it ๐Ÿ˜ฆ It’s much too beautiful to cut into – look at all those pleats! Sigh. Maybe I need to think about this one a bit more. There’s no label on it, and every pleat has beenย hand sewn. Can you imagine? Love the neckline too.ย This one will sit like a gorgeous but untouchable goddess in the wardrobe while I figure out where to go with it.

What about you? Any vintage treasures that you can’t wear but can’t bear to part with? Maybe I should keep some of these dresses as a piece of history to hand onto my own daughters? Actually that hadn’t even occurred to me until I wrote it! Probably because my only female baby is a cat and she never shows much interest in clothes unless she’s trying to destroy them…

17 thoughts on “Vintage dress parade!

  1. O my. What generous and thoughtful friends/ relatives. Beautiful and the odd blast from the past ( Richard shops!!) I think I like dresses 1 abd 3 the best. Their fabrics are adorable but then so are their styles! Enjoy wearing them!

  2. Oh, these dresses are so beautiful and such excellent pieces of history! I’m glad that most of them fit you and require little fixing. Putting the rest in the fabric stash is a great way to give them a new lease of life too!

  3. Yay!! Ooooh lucky you, and to fit into most of them too!
    Blanes pieces are always really great quality
    I’ve come across “Images” stuff in the past and think, if it’s the label I remember, then it’s probably later in vintage than the rest. Perhaps 80’s to 90’s.
    I remember Richards shops too, when I was a kid in the 80’s
    I got very excited to see your Radley label!! Did you know Ossie Clark used to design for them too? His designs for Radley are SUPER collectible. (I found one in a charity shop in Hornchurch once. It was TEENY. Like 10 year old child teeny. Sold it for a song on Ebay. Whoop!) Interestingly, Radley would freely reproduce his designs several years after he had finished designing for them. The same could be true for Carla Bower’s designs so your initial instinct may well have been correct. It definately has an early 80’s feel to it.
    Gosh that’s an early M&S label. I haven’t come across that one before.
    Your dresses are an absolute dream!!! Total vintage eye candy ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for sharing!

  4. I’m jealous too, you’re very lucky Joanne! The first two are my favourites, they’re gorgeous. This post reminded me that my mother-in-law gave me a vintage dress recently. It’s more like 1930’s though – I may put it on my blog and see if anybody can date it by the style – thanks for sharing. x

  5. Pingback: Vintage Pattern Parade | Peggy's Pickles

  6. Wow! You are super lucky. I’m sure you’ll be able to make the maybes work somehow and fixing holes on the fabulous black print should be unobtrusive since it’s a nice allover print.

    Indeed I’ve got some closet lurkers that I won’t part with, but won’t/can’t wear. It’s so interesting to have the reference when you’re brainstorming projects. Plus I’ve kept my prom dress and cheerleading outfit that no one should ever see me in again!

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