Thursday, June 26, 2014

Off to the Matinee!

Mary Marie's Matinee Dress
As early as 1840, the term Matinee came into existence to describe taking in a show or performance in the afternoon.  The word "matin", is French for morning, and matinee was the derivative.  Today, when we consider attending a matinee, it is usually to see the earliest showing of a featured film in a theater.

Sheila Young must have been a fan of matinees, for in her paper doll illustration of "A Little American Girl" from Lettie Lane's Around-the-World Party, she depicted a dress that would have been worn for this special event. 

A full view.
Its been awhile since I've created something from Sheila Young's collection of paper doll illustrations for Lettie Lane.  And, I guess I'd forgotten just how tough these little dresses are to make!  While the illustrations give these outfits an ease of appearance, there is simply nothing easy about bringing them to life.

I was recently commissioned to create the Matinee Dress as a gift for a UFDC official's Wendy Lawton Mary Marie doll.   I thought, no problem!  After all, I'd just created two Alice Liddell outfits on the same size body.  The 16" wood and porcelain spring jointed doll body.  However, and I do like a challenge, this one kept me quite busy and pulling hairs for a couple of weeks.

Sheila Young's Lettie Lane Illustration
I had to begin with a fresh pattern since there's a huge difference between the gowns from 1860 to 1909-11.  Collars, as I've mentioned in the past, seem to be one of the primary decorative accents to distinguish these dress designs.  This collar is very unusual as its part butterfly wings, part flower petals.  At least this is the way I would think of the collar while designing it.  Its all one piece with drapes over the shoulders and petals down the back.  The sleeves are notched, and there's a curious long box pleat down the center of the dress.  It also has darts running along the waistline to create a skirting effect.

The lace on the collar and sleeve edges had to be all hand sewn on.  Top and bottom.  I did not use a gathered lace by pulling the "hidden" thread in the lace edge, but applied it flatly making tucks as I went along.  This seemed to produce a much smoother effect as the illustration depicted. 

A side view.
Even while the hand sewing took a very long time to do, it was the pleat down the center and the darts that gave me the most difficulty.

The top of the box pleat was set during the application of the fancy collar, but it tucks in at the waistline, then flares out at the bottom.  You just kind of have to make this up as you go along.  But, don't I do that anyway...with each and every outfit I create?  I had to pin this waist "indent" and manage to sew four tiny MOP shank buttons on to set the pleat - giving it definition.  And, then I had to measure and machine stitch fourteen "half moon" darts along the waistline.  Five on each side of the front, two on each side of the back.  All of this was just a nightmare.  This was not an easy dress to make.

The back - pretty collar detail.
The dress is made from the beautiful Kaufman cotton silk I love so much, and French cotton lace.  The "bodice" is lined with a pima batiste edged in the same lace used on the collar and sleeve edges.  A pretty double-sided silk bow dresses up Mary Marie's hair.

Wendy Lawton's Mary Marie - 2003
The little doll in question was one made by Wendy Lawton in 2003 - Mary Marie, from the Mary Frances Sewing Book.  I've done work for Mary Marie, and I've created many of the Lettie Lane outfits.  It was interesting to combine the two experiences to create this one-of-a-kind dress.  Too bad it was not designed for an 18" doll like my "Lettie Lane" so I could eventually make her one.  But, that's what makes one-of-a-kinds so special.  They are just that.

At present I am working on another boy-girl matching set for Amethyst and Sterling.  I want a bit more experience sewing with the quality dupioni before attempting to make a larger scale dress in the same for my Alice Liddell.  I also tend to stay "on a roll" with a certain kind of doll for a spell, then launch into something completely different just to keep things lively around here.  And, yes, the Matinee Dress is blue, too.  I think I'm done with blue for a little while.

The other day a neighbor approached me suggesting I get into the business of making doorstops.  You know, those long, sand filled door stops that look like animals or whatever.  Really?  Really.  Fear not!  Its not going to happen, but the look on my face must have been priceless.

Miss E. Mouse

1 comment:

  1. This is absolutely stunning, I love everything about it, the color, design, the sheen in the's beautiful on Mary Marie!