Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Little Rock Dress: Inspiration and Design

My March project from the year of making sewing list was the first in my planned series of outfits inspired by the costumes of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. It's slightly behind schedule (just because I was so daunted by the task I'd set myself, which would involve actual pattern drafting), but it is at last underway. Although I normally like to keep my current projects secret up until the "big reveal", since this is such a big one I thought I'd share some of the creative process here.

The inspiration comes from the dresses worn by Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell in the opening scene of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes as they sing "Two Little Girls From Little Rock". As it's a floor-length, split-to-the-thigh number, covered neck to toe in sequins, I knew from the outset that my version would be a tribute rather than a copy.

Before we go any further I'd like to excuse my pitiful lack of technical skill when it comes to my design sketches - much as I would love you to think I'm super artistic, you might as well know I'm pretty rubbish at drawing.

I initially thought of replacing the thigh split with some sort of drapery, sarong-style, to evoke the feeling without having the split. McCall 6601 fit the bill, and the V neckline nicely reflects the original (I was never going to go down the route of having a slashed-to-the-waist V). The shirred shoulders are a feature not present on the original, but are an extra bonus as I love me a bit of shoulder detailing.

The original features gathering or tucked detailing at the hip line, which I also wanted to incorporate into my design. I introduced a hip yoke which the fabric would be gathered into.

I subsequently abandoned the drapery, along with my intention to make the skirt a 40s A-line. Deciding on a narrow 50s skirt (more in keeping with the 1953 date of the film) I played with different shape hip yokes, and experimented with the idea of evoking the split by way of a wrap front. (ignore the train information scribbled in the corner!)

In the end I came full circle, back to the thigh split of the original, though a more demure version ending just above the knee. My final design uses the basic bodice from McCall 6601 above, with long sleeves and darts at bust and waist to make it ultra fitted. The asymmetrical skirt is gathered into a hip yoke at the left, with an offset split.

So that was the design completed - now to draft the pattern. Double scary. Oh yeah, and also to stock up on bling! I still haven't decided whether my dress is going to incorporate sequins (I'd like to add a little touch of sequin somewhere, in tribute to the original) but it's definitely going to have bling.


  1. oh my for a moment there I thought you'd found red sequined fabric like the original and then realised that it was a pic of the original! Good luck, I bet it will be stunning.

    1. As much as it would be fun to cover myself in sequins if I did find that fabric, I thought a non-sequinned dress would be more useful in my life haha!

      As an aside, I think on the original the sequins were individually sewn on, as they graduate in size from small at the top to really big ones at the hem.

      xx Charlotte

  2. Your design sketches are much more professional than mine I have to say! Well done for attempting pattern drafting, the best I can do is to 'create' a ( a la Frankenstein) pattern from ones I already have! X

  3. Wow, I love your design! Can't wait to see the actual dress! And for the record, your drawings are I whole lot better than anything I could ever put my name to :p

  4. Thank you for sharing your beautiful sketches. I can't wait to see the dress come together :)
    R xx

  5. really beautiful sketches.. you should give yourself more credit can't wait to see the finished article :)

  6. Oh my goodness! This is too good for words! I can't WAIT to see how it turns out!

  7. Very cool!

    I got to meet Jane a few years back and it was amazing! (sorry I deleted my first comment. I wrote "Jean" instead of "Jane." I have Jean Harlow on the brain :))

  8. Gorgeous sketches! I loved Gentlemen Prefer Blondes when I was a kid - I thought Marilyn Monroe & Jane Russell were really from Little Rock! Let me know if you'd like anything from present day Little Rock, Arkansas & I'd be glad to send it your way.

  9. I have to admit I love vintage jewelry, vintage furniture, and a lot of other vintage things, but I usually don't like vintage clothing on myself. However, I loved your sketches, and I would love to wear a dress like this.

  10. This is a brilliant and ambitious idea!! Go for it! x


I'd love to hear your thoughts!


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