Monday, March 18, 2013

Sew What?! A 1930's Catalina Gown

Hiya!  Our recent radio silence was due to an exciting, overseas, wacky tacky voyage.  Alright, "overseas voyage" might be a bit of an overstatement, but we did have to pack our suitcases and board a boat.  Our pals Benny & Jenn decided to make it official, and we celebrated their nuptials on sunny, scenic Santa Catalina Island!  Catalina Island is one of my favorite places in California.  Slightly lost in time, it reminds me to slow down and realize that the sun is shining and the ocean breeze is blowing for me to enjoy.  Seriously folks, if you ever get a chance to go, I highly recommend it.  It's so choice...

The wedding reception was held in the world-famous Avalon Casino Ballroom.
I love this picture of the Casino; I took it on the way home as the
 fog was rolling in and the lights were still shimmering on the water.

Finished in 1929, the Casino Ballroom has been host to the biggest jazz and big band legends the world has ever known.  Thankfully, Mary and I were included on the bill with an all-star line up of musicians for the evening's entertainment.  I am still trying to process that I played the same room as Benny Goodman (not nearly as well, as long, or to as much ovation, but it was a thrill!). 

Every detail of the Art Deco, island wedding was pitch perfect...especially these awesome fish-shaped cream puffs.

A gratuitous shot of one of my favorite foods on Earth!!!

The ballroom's, amazing, Tiffany-glass light fixture and vented, Art Deco ceiling.
  I have been to the ballroom many times but have successfully fought the urge
to lie in the middle of the dance floor and just stare at the ceiling.

Of course, a vintage wedding called for a new dress for Mary, so I got to work!  Most of my sewing decisions come from a near-lethal combination of economy, procrastination, and foolishness - this dress being no exception.  I have never sewn chiffon before.  In general I am too lazy to match plaids perfectly.  And I have never made a floor-length, bias-cut gown.  So what did I do one week before the wedding?  I decided to dive right into a bias-cut, plaid/check, chiffon gown - figuratively speaking, of course.

This dress makes me believe that everything should be cut on the bias.
Okay, maybe not chiffon (particularly plaid chiffon) ever again...but everything else.
I am pretty pleased with the way that the dress turned out; it even had
a few expert eyes fooled into thinking that it was "real."
The scarf at the neckline was looped into a draped bow through
a vintage, rhinestone belt buckle from our grandmother.
Who knew how frustratingly fiddly chiffon can be?  I guess everyone before me who has ever sewn with chiffon.  In all honesty, I think it took me longer to cut it out and match the plaid than it did to sew the whole darned thing!  The beauty of this bias-cut gown is that I had to put in absolutely no closures whatsoever.  The gauzy chiffon (bought on discount at JoAnn of all places) had enough give to slip right over Mary's head and cascade to the floor.  Glory, Hallelujah!

I am, however, going to give it to you straight (the warts and all version).
Finances have been better in the past and, wanting to be frugal, the best
 I could do for the belt buckle (having used the real one for the bow) was this
 ring/clip gizmo that somehow made it into the wacky tacky sewing stash.
 It looked a little odd in just the bare I bedazzled it.
Is it a stunning reproduction of an Art Deco-era belt buckle?  No.
Did it fool anyone into believing that it was a piece of priceless, heirloom
 jewelry?  Also no.  Did it work in a pinch, reflect/refract light,
 and get mostly covered by the bow at the neckline?  Yes, indeedy! 

Given the black/orange/yellow/white color scheme, I was surprised that the gown did not read too Halloween-y (if it did, don't tell me).  

It was actually an ideal color scheme and Mary ended up
coordinating perfectly with the wedding favors; the
couple's last name is Reese and each guest was treated
 to an organza bag filled with Reese's Pieces!

It was a beautiful wedding and an fun chance to get dressed up, spend a relaxing weekend with good friends, meet new friends, and listen to some incredible music.  Mary's new gown had plenty of fun fluttering around the floor too!

Emily, Mary, and Jesse
We got to spend the whole weekend with our pals but they
looked way too good to have Mr. Tiny muddle up the picture.

Mes amis - Laurence, Mary, et Sylvain
These fine folks flew in from France for the wedding!
My vote for "Best Dressed" of the weekend definitely goes to them.
You can see more of their incredible wardrobes and follow their
adventures at Laurence's blog, Lost in the 50's.

Meine freunde - Katharina, Mary, und Eva
This wedding was practically a UN Summit with Germany well represented.
I guess they're afraid of giants...
The food, fun, and friends were great, but the entertainment was unparalleled.  The amount of talent in the rooms was unbelievable and I only wish I hadn't been too busy dancing to capture all of the amazing performers as directed by our pal, and saxophone all-star, Marco.

The incomparable Carl Sonny Leyland

Vicki Tafoya & The Redondos (not pictured)

Sax legend, Big Jay McNeely

Amber Foxx & Big Sandy
French piano-phenom Raffi.

They even let Mr. Tiny get up and embarrass himself.
(photo by Kat of GoForKat)

The real stars of the show were the bride and groom, Jennifer and Benny.  We are so honored to have been a small part of their big day.  I couldn't be happier for them and even though they don't need it, I wish them all the luck and happiness that life can afford them.  I am grateful to have had such a wonderful excuse to visit one of my favorite places and, yes, even to make a new dress for Mary.

The happy couple.
Congratulations you two!
You really did make Santa Catalina the "Island of Romance."

"26 Miles (Santa Catalina)" - The Four Preps


Mr. Tiny


  1. This wedding looks so fun! I was supposed to go to Catalina Island a few years ago and plans got changed...but I definitely wanna go. I heard there are sheep there....but I heard that from Arrested Development and that may not be the best source. Also, now I want some Reese's pieces.

    1. Not so many sheep as Bison; they were imported to film epic Westerns in the early days of cinema. But EVERYTHING else you learned from Arrested Development is 100% true; take that from someone who spent much of his formative years in Newport Beach! HAHAHAHAHA!!!

  2. My goodness! My jaw is on the floor! What fun to attend such an amazing wedding! In my dreams I wish I knew folks like these! The dress you made is beyond lovely - and in such a short amount of time!
    OK, I've used too many exclamation points, but this is just too lovely!

    1. Thank you so much! It is a wonderful thing to have creative, musical, well-dressed friends; they make me look way cooler than I am!

  3. Now that looks like a fabulous wedding. Heard Big Jay McNeeley and Big Sandy here in Chicago, but not Mr. Tiny, not yet! Catalina looks beautiful - I've never been! Add it to my bucket list.

    1. If you make out this way, it is a must do as far as I am concerned. It is so peaceful, and lovely, and reminds me of the French Riviera (except that I've never been there).

  4. Oh my, what a wonderful looking wedding! I'm just dazzled by Mary's dress, too. Chiffon, plaid, bias? I bow down to you for even entertaining the thought.

    I love Laurence's blog too-- they are always just impeccable!

    1. Thank you!!! Dresses are nothing compared to all that beautiful work you are doing on your jacket!!! That is sure to be an heirloom piece when it is all done - can't wait to see!

  5. My, my. Not only are you the poster boy for Catalina, but you could be their couturier as well. Bravo, sir.

    1. Thank you!!! Coming from such an advanced couturier as yourself, that is a high compliment indeed!

  6. I don't know where to begin...that whole wedding looks amazing! And well done on that dress! I really must go back to Catalina some day. The Avalon Casino is so beautiful!

    1. Thank you!!! Catalina is truly one of my favorite places (so far, I should probably do a little more traveling before making any huge pronouncements). I could spend forever in that Casino building!

  7. What a fabulous wedding! And of course, the dress you made Mary is simply wonderful!

    1. Why thank you!!! It was a great wedding and I am so glad to have been celebrating with good friends!

  8. Goodness me! I've just added the ballroom to my list of places to see! What romance and what fabulous duds everyone had on. Marys dress looked wonderful for the occasion!

    1. Yes, the ballroom and the theater on the ground floor are majestic and wonderful and worth every ounce of time and expense to get there! Thank you!!!

  9. Gotta agree about the dress. I didn't know you were a seamster, mr.Tiny! FANTASTIC JOB; the dress is STUNNING, and the tasty co-ordinating matchup with the Reese's Pieces was definitely fortuitous! And no, it definitely didn't 'read' as "Halloween"-y! Looks like it was a FANTASTIC and ORIGINAL wedding (my very favourite kind)and I wish I could have been in attendance because it looked like a BLAST. The venue was fab, too; i also would have had a hard time to keep from standing in the centre of the floor looking up!

    1. Thank you!!! I have bee n making Mary's clothes since she was a wee lass but I have committed to posting about them more here!!! The wedding was a dream and a blessed excuse to hang out in Catalina!

  10. how beautiful! that ceiling is out of this world!! i love that you got to hang out with Laurence! i LOOOVE her blog! They are so well dressed and their collections!
    I think the dress turned out perfectly. I didn't think halloween at all.

    1. Thank you!!! Laurence and Sylvain are such wonderful people and I think we'll get to see them a few more times before they go home - LUCKY US!!!

  11. Replies
    1. It was pretty great! I'm so glad to have friends who can make such wonderful events happen!

  12. Damn, Mr. Tiny. Bias cut? Plaid? Chiffon? You are the king. THE KING! That dress is amazing. I love everything about it! It looks so great on Mary too. Wowsa. Catalina is on my bucket list of places to go and your photos from the wedding just make me swoon. It looks like an amazing and truly fabulous event.

    1. Hahaha...Thank you!!! I probably made it seem harder than it was. Sometimes I think the less I know, the better. If I knew what I was getting into I probably would not have done it. Also, I never encourage people to examine my work too closely; sInce Mary usually only wears things once or twice, I have given up on fine finishes. You must go to Catalina, it is slow, quiet, and boring (in the very best of ways) and requires nothing of you but to relax and enjoy the sunny weather.

  13. You go to the best weddings! And Mary (in the dress you made, bedazzled buckle and all....I think it worked great!) looks like a million dollars cash. Kudos to you both, and to the new married folks, too! I wish you'd start selling her cast-offs, or last season's crop of duds, on you have any idea of the scarcity of vintage clothes like this for fellow Amazonians WITHOUT incredibly talented sewing brothers? I'm telling you, it's serious!

    1. Hahahaha, THANKS!!! That's why I got into it; a GIANT for a sister with a need for special occasion outfits. The only problem is that I kind of hate sewing - totally boring. It is a necessary evil in order to see my ideas realized. I've heard about that 3D printer and I believe that Dita VT wore a dress that was created by the same; maybe that is in my design future - no sewing required.

  14. Holy smokes!!! You have outdone yourself! Chiffon on the BIAS, and pattern matching? Did I ever tell you that you're CRAZY? Don't tell me that's the first time you've ever sewn chiffon. I think I might faint.
    Beautifully done!
    Mary looks gorgeous, of course.
    Such a beautiful wedding. So sad I'm a big chicken and don't like boats. :(
    Congrats to the happy couple!

    1. Knowing of your boat phobia, I wasn't sure if you would be there or not. We definitely missed you guys. The dress you made for Jennifer was spectacular! Thank you for your kind words - high praise indeed! Chiffon is a beautiful beast (especially for someone with no patience and butterfingers)!!! I think ignorance was working in my favor on this one. I just kind of crossed my fingers and hoped that it worked out.

      p.s. Do you know how hard it is to sew with crossed fingers?!!!

  15. Oh!!! What a wonderful wedding!!!! Mary's dress is just scrumptious!!! I just can't get over the lovely outfits you always make for lucky Miss Mary!!! OH, and OMG OMG OMG - Laurence and Sylvain were there, too!!!!!! How perfectly awesome!!! They are my favorite couple!!! They always look so wonderful together no matter what they are doing! Their home is also to die for! Thanks ever so for sharing pix of this wonderful event. And congrats to the beautiful couple!!!! Gee, it must have been like being in a dream ....... ((smiles))

    1. It was pretty dreamy! Thanks RS! Laurence and Sylvain are so much fun; I hope we get a chance to go visit them in their neck of the woods someday!