All Posts in Vintage

January 13, 2012 - Comments Off on Janine – Evening Gown from Bride’s Own Wedding Dress

Janine – Evening Gown from Bride’s Own Wedding Dress

The idea of wearing something only one time, or of storing that item away indefinitely, was not one that resonated with Janine. Therefore, she decided to turn her wedding dress into something new and completely re-wearable! Janine attends formal events on a semi-regular basis, so we decided to design an evening dress for her.

Her wedding dress was made of a blush-coloured silk shantung, which we considered either dyeing another colour, or overlaying with a contrast-coloured lace. From my material library, Janine selected a beautiful French Chantilly lace with a semi-abstracted floral design, to overlay the blush shantung. While the ballgown silhouette of her wedding dress had been fun to wear at her wedding, Janine's typical aesthetic is more streamlined. We wanted the evening gown to be classic enough in styling to transcend seasonal trends, but also with design elements that provided an element of surprise and sexiness.

I designed a full-length sheath gown with soft v-neckline in the front, and an almost completely open back. We loved the look of the lace sheer on the skin, so the straps and back were constructed with no shantung underlining. To support and cleanly finish the lace, I used tea to dye sheer silk organza the same shade as Janine's skin to appear invisible behind the lace. I found two delicate vintage black buttons for the back closure.

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November 5, 2011 - Comments Off on My Great-Grandmother’s Buttons

My Great-Grandmother’s Buttons

This past fall, my mom and I combined a visit to Brimfield, MA with time in Manchester, NH to visit family. My great-aunt brought out tins of buttons that my great-grandmother had collected from the floor of the mill where she worked, at the end of the shift. She was a seamstress trained in her native Greece, with impeccable hand-sewing abilities. Mom and I pored over the buttons of all shapes, sizes, and finishes, and sorted them according to our taste. Mom has been making beautiful bracelets with her selection, and I'm planning on using some of the ones I chose in my upcoming collection.

November 3, 2011 - Comments Off on YiaYia


My great-grandmother, Soultana (whose name was changed to Sally when she arrived in the States) immigrated from the village Eptahori in Northern Greece. We always called her YiaYia (Greek for grandmother). In looking through old photographs recently we discovered this gem, which we believe to be a small sewing school she attended in Greece. She is pictured at the far right, and below. She was an amazing lady with spectacular sewing and cooking abilities. In my family we continue to carry on her recipes and sewing techniques. We plan to visit Eptahori this coming summer during their annual festival, and I greatly look forward to experiencing her homeland.


October 29, 2011 - Comments Off on Molly – Reclaimed Wedding Dress

Molly – Reclaimed Wedding Dress

Molly brought me her mom’s wedding dress from the 1970s, a cotton kaftan, to integrate into her own dress. We were able to use materials from her mom's dress and incorporate them into a fresh silhouette worthy of Molly’s adorable style.

We decided on a fun tea-length design with a fitted bodice, low back, and a full circle skirt. In looking for a more formal and structured exterior fabric than the muslin from her mom’s dress, we layered silk gazar over silk taffeta. I was able to use the cotton muslin from her mom's dress as inner layers of the bodice, and turned the crochet hem trim into straps. For a final subtle decorative element Molly selected her favorite embroidery pattern from her mom’s dress, which we appliquéd at the back bodice.

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October 29, 2011 - Comments Off on Stephanie – Reclaimed Wedding Gown

Stephanie – Reclaimed Wedding Gown

Stephanie brought me her mother's wedding dress, which had been made by her grandmother and aunt in 1972. The dress was in great condition and the perfect length for Stephanie (she and her mom are quite similar in size). But the bodice was a bit dated and too covered-up, and the long train was not Stephanie's style. We decided to use the skirt portion of the dress (without the train), which was a satin with corded trim at the princess seams, and tailor it to Stephanie for a more contemporary fit.

We chose a halter neckline to frame Stephanie's beautiful face. We  created the bodice from materials I had in my library: an ivory silk satin in the same shade as the skirt, overlayed with a taupe re-embroidered lace from France. We added a ruched sash in taupe silk satin at the empire waistline, which tied in the back.

Here is Stephanie in her mom's dress (sans the bow veil!) before dismantling occurred

A benefit of being able to attend the wedding is being on-hand during pre-ceremony prepping. Helping the bride get dressed before the big event helps relieve any stress over last-minute styling decisions, and brings the dress to life for me. Plus there are typically countless other tasks to help contribute to, such as stitching corsages. Stephanie was relaxed and happy before her wedding, and enjoyed being surrounded by her mom and closest girlfriends.

The ceremony took place at an idyllic setting on a quiet lake at the Hanes (of underwear fame!) lodge and cabins near Elkin, NC.

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January 5, 2010 - Comments Off on Jill – Reclaimed Rehearsal Dinner Dress

Jill – Reclaimed Rehearsal Dinner Dress

Jill was able to obtain both of her husband's grandmother's wedding dresses to use in new creations for herself. The dress from her husband's grandmother's first marriage at the turn of the 20th century we used in Jill's wedding dress; the dress from the second marriage circa 1940s we decided to use for Jill's rehearsal dinner dress.

I cleaned and restored the lace, and we did a serious of dyeing experiments before deciding on a pretty mauve shade that complemented Jill's complexion.

Very few alterations were necessary on the dress (which goes to show how tiny Jill is!) She had a black slip dress that worked perfectly under the lace dress, and we added a black velvet ribbon as a contrast at the empire waist. In addition to the beautiful dress, Jill had also obtained a bolero jacket, which we dyed the same colour.

January 4, 2010 - Comments Off on Jill – Reclaimed Wedding Dress

Jill – Reclaimed Wedding Dress

As founder and editor-in-chief of green design blog Inhabitat, Jill was only willing to go the sustainable route with her wedding attire. In addition to sourcing minimal impact materials, we wanted to design a dress indicative of Jill's sophisticated style, in a silhouette that was fun and fresh, and also re-wearable. We first started by exploring fabric options such as organic cotton tulles and silks, such as the below.

Jill was then offered her fiance's grandmother's Victorian wedding dress from circa 1900, which was a beautiful lace gown, completely deteriorated in most sections, but intact in others. Jill had already decided that she did not want a full-length gown, but I had to make sure that we had enough material from the vintage gown to create even a knee-length dress! Through careful cutting and efficient patternmaking, I was just able to make it work, utilizing the lace's scallop edges at the neckline and asymmetrical hemline of the dress.

The lace needed to be carefully cleaned and restored back to its original colour, as pictured below.

We both love the colour green, and decided on a hand-dyed ombre (green with a gradation from light to dark) silk charmeuse for the underlayer of the dress. From my collection of vintage lace trims, we selected one to use for the straps, which I dyed using green tea to   match the ivory of the dress lace.

The wedding and reception were held in San Francisco's beautiful Presidio Park, which tends to become cool at night, so we made a custom bolero jacket in a matching green to cover Jill's arms.

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January 2, 2010 - Comments Off on Lisa – Reclaimed Wedding Gown

Lisa – Reclaimed Wedding Gown

Lisa brought me the wedding dress of her grandmother, who had previously passed, in the hopes that I could incorporate the fabric in some way into her own gown. She had her doubts, however, because her grandmother's dress had not been cleaned post-use, and endured a long life in a heavy smoker's house. While the lace itself had not deteriorated, the discoloration was one of the worst cases I had seen - completely yellowed and brown. I dismantled the dress and went to work cleaning the lace. Several days of intense stench-and-stain-releasing soaks, much to our surprise, resulted in a pure, bright white!

Based on the design of her grandmother's dress, there was not enough lace available to use as the primary fabric, but we worked it into the design by inserting into the front neckline and the many skirt godets. We paired the lace with white silk duchess satin and silk chiffon. The silhouette I designed for Lisa focused on a low back, with soft, sheer straps, an empire waistline, and a full fit-and-flare skirt.

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