Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A fun vintage diversion

Last week a very interesting detour into the world of vintage came my way. My sister was working with a client who asked if she knew anyone that could repair the beading on a treasured dress. The owner inherited it from her mother who wore it in the 60's and the now the daughter has worn it as well. But time and maybe some wild dancing took a toll on some of the beadwork. I couldn't resist showing it to you, my sewing and fashion loving friends.

Halter style, full length, wool crepe underlined with cotton batiste and then fully lined in acetate. Elastic waist stay, hand embellished with 7 different types of beads and rhinestones. Designer: Mr Blackwell
Vintage dress front2

Yes, he of the annual "worst-dressed" list. He has now gone to the fashion show in the sky but from the 50's through the 70's he did very well and was known for a sparkly Hollywood glamour. 

Here is a close up look at the bead motif which appears all aroung the bodice. The beads that appear blue are really not, they are actually more of an aurora borealis type so they catch the light differently based on the angle. There are also strings of rhinestones, round crystals in clear and grey, bugle beads and some smaller clear and grey beads. I don't know anything about beading so I looked at some of my books, got a few tips and gave it a try. Most helpful tip: beeswax on the thread which makes it easier to work with.

bead motif

So what did I fix? A lot of the area that was unravelling was in the back and under the arms which makes sense as that would rub or get snagged on a chair, etc. There sections with some missing beads so I took myself off to Michaels (a big chain craft store, somewhere I try to avoid at all costs) but I knew they had beads etc. I bought a few packs of Swarovski crystal beads and then some glass beads that looked similar to those appearing on my Iphone photo. I couldn't take the dress anywhere - too delicate at this point.

The two swirls on either side of the zipper were missing lots of beads so I filled those in. Also the larger motifs in the back had a lot of broken threads and some missing beads so I stitched those up as well.
This dress is TINY!  Shown here on my smallest dress form which has a 26" waist and look the zipper won't close. One thing I like about this dress is that you can tell it was hand beaded, the various lines and curls are not exactly matching, they differ a few millimeters here and there but the eye doesn't see that on the wearer. So note to all perfectionists - we are human and a bit of wavering is fine.

Vintage dress back

Full length view. Glamorous, huh?  Not that I have an event on the calendar or anything like this in my closet but I would wear it in a heartbeat.

Vintage dress full length

A look at the seaming at the waist and bodice. Very nice shaping achieved with the seams and I always like this type of skirt, fitted and straight with a few small pleats at the waist. A very flattering design. I also repaired those curliques in the center front. 

Vintage dress waist seam

The label inside and the waist stay elastic.

Label MrBlackwell

Of course I had to do a little web searching and found a very similar dress. It must have been from the same collection.  Here is the link if you want to see it:  Dorothea's Closet Vintage Mr. Blackwell and it can be yours for only $950. Please let me know if you buy it, I want to see pictures !

Now I am off to do just a little more on this, when I went to move it today a couple of the large round beads fell off. So I will be giving it another once over. 

motif closeup 1

I hope to finish up the Irish wool jacket this weekend and then maybe some spring sewing. Today I went to the gym in shorts and a sleeveless top. Weird, I tell you. Trite to say it but the weather is weird.
My apologies to all of you in the latest polar vortex. Hang in there, spring is coming to you too!



  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Stunning and exquisite and oh to be able to wear it!! Thank you for showing us!

  3. What a fabulous vintage piece! Such a challenge to work all that beading.
    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Amazing! Thank you for showing us. It really is exquisite.

  5. What a GOREGOUS dress! I would love to own something like that! This is was is so great about our talents...I think we all have the ability to appreciate fashion in a different light! How fun to work on something like that!

  6. What a beautiful dress, and how fun to work on it. Beading was my job at a bridal salon a few years ago and is something a miss a lot. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Wow. Thanks so much for sharing this beautiful piece. What a pleasure it must be to see and work on such a treasure.

  8. Thank you for sharing this dress. It is a beauty. And you are so lucky to have worked on an item like this.

  9. What a beautiful dress and a fun back story. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Woah the back of that dress is stunning!

  11. I loved seeing this! What a wonderful dress, and what a wonderful person you are for repairing it.

  12. Thank you for the eye candy. What a treat it must have been to see and handle this in person!

  13. Beautiful dress. - And a bit of wavering is fine - oh thank goodness for that!

  14. Stunning beadwork! The whole dress is quite magnificent :)

  15. That dress is amazing! all those beads... You cannot find something so pretty in the stores!!!

  16. Beautiful dress! I know Mr. Blackwell would be appreciative ;)

  17. it is a gorgeous dress . I love "looking" at all the details of vintage dresses. Thanks for sharing them on this one.

  18. Yep, gorgeous. Thanks for showing the gown.


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