design / dress detective / fashion, craft, vintage, design / madeline newport / re-modelling / sustainable design / wedding fashions

Ok let’s go!

The time for procrastination is over.


Jan Dolph-Jones’s dress in all its glory

You might remember I’ve been working on a project taking a beautiful 1957 wedding dress and re-modelling it for a contemporary wedding. So far the journey has included trips to Orange (one of my favourite places in Australia), trips to the National Library (online) another fave, and many hours of pattern-making, toile constructing and fabric research. A toile is a lovely French word for a mock up of a garment. The re-modelled bodice has been fitted and the bride-to-be and I are happy and excited about what we’ve achieved. So it’s now time to start deconstructing the dress. This is the moment I’ve been putting off in my own inimitable way. Because once I start unpicking and removing the old bodice to make way for the new there is absolutely no going back. A big part of me values what I’m doing. Re-using a dress that is over 60 years old is the ultimate in sustainable design. The other part, the archivist and historian in me, like things to be preserved the way they were. But I can’t have it both ways and in order for this dress to be worn again at a modern wedding things have to change. I have a feeling that the ever practical original owner of the dress, the wonderful Jan Dolph-Jones, would approve and would be more than thrilled with the project.


Detail of the front bodice with panels ending in petal shapes


Details – bows on the skirts

I owe it to everyone involved to make sure that everything is done in a manner that preserves the integrity of the original design. The quality is beautiful. The seams have been meticulously sewn and trimmed. All the petals on the bodice have tiny little ¼ inch seams and are lined with the silk organza of the dress. The fabric is in great condition with a few tiny rust marks. In a vintage garment imperfections are part of the patina and wabi-sabiness of it all.

If I need to replace any of the tiny organza panels I have found a perfect organza match. Not all whites are white. This is a minor miracle really considering the age of the dress. So to celebrate the un-picking I have bought myself a new seam-ripper ( an unfortunately named tool).  I will begin with the zipper on this labour of love.



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