Way back in January of this year – which seems like a lifetime ago now – making plans for my 2020 sewing was an exciting exercise. I was eagerly looking forward to some upcoming events, including one in early May which was going to require at least two new dresses. One of these dresses would be worn to a “fancy” evening. In this casual world, what dressmaker does not relish the idea of making a dressy frock? It was definitely going to be a fun trip and a varied multi-day event.
Needless to say, that trip and all its events were cancelled. Other special occasions were also cancelled, along with many that were not so special. I looked anew at my sewing plans. I shifted some things around, eliminated others. But I kept going back to the thought of that dressy dress. The fabric was so cheerful, the colors so bright I could not abandon the idea of making it, even without an occasion for its wearing. So in early May I decided to go ahead with my original plans, albeit without a deadline.
I had purchased this silk charmeuse from Mendel Goldberg Fabrics in New York City several years ago. It reminded me of fabric which one might see in a design by Christian Dior, due to its “Impressionistic” appearance.
When I unfolded the fabric to give it a press, I saw it was actually a Pierre Cardin design. It struck me as somewhat unusual for Cardin, so of course I wanted to know if there had ever been any connection between the two couturiers or their fashion houses. I went to my St. James Fashion Encyclopedia. Well, yes, as a matter of fact there was: “From his earliest work for the House of Dior up to the 1950s [my italics],Cardin displays an interest in the sculptural qualities of cut and construction that are still his trademarks in the 1990s.” (p. 87, The St. James Fashion Encyclopedia, Visible Ink Press, Detroit, Michigan, c1997.)
It may be a bit of a stretch to suppose this fabric does indeed have a Dior connection, but still, I wonder. Could Cardin – now at his advanced age of 97 – and his fashion house still be influenced by those early days with Dior? Of Dior’s style direction in the early 1950s, Christian Dior himself wrote ”…Colors were inspired by the pictures of the Impressionists and evoked the fields of flowers dear to Renoir and Van Gogh.” (p. 5, Dior Impressions, Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., New York, New York, c2013.) It is fascinating to ponder.
Now back to topic: I started my dress. I got the silk organza underlining marked and cut, I cut out the fashion fabric, I basted the two layers together, ready to start the actual construction. Then I had a bad day. It had nothing to do with my progress or the process, which was going along fine. I just had this dismal feeling this was all for naught. Why would I need such a lovely silk dress? Where would I wear it? Were all these hours I was spending in my sewing room just a waste of time? What purpose do all these pretty clothes serve without any social gatherings and occasions to which to wear them? I think it is fair to say I was having a serious existential sewing crisis. It was dispiriting and discouraging to say the least. It made me question my otherwise passionate commitment to couture sewing.
That night I had a dream – in vivid color. I saw myself in a fancy restaurant which was bustling with people – and I was wearing the very dress I had started – now completed and quite notable in its floral print of bright greens, and pinks and reds and purple. I was seated at a table with three friends and we were lunching. (Not sure this dress is quite the thing I would wear to a midday lunch, but that’s dreams for you.) The four of us were having the best time. We were laughing and totally engaged in our conversation and in our friendship. It was lovely and it was memorable.
And there was not a facemask in sight.