Creating a Flap…per!!!!

I recently got a chance to really stretch my creative muscles and it felt sooooo goooood! My favorite restaurateur, Bonnie, celebrated her birthday with a fabulous bash at her restaurant – Harlow’s in San Juan Capistrano.   The theme, Great Gatsby, was both totally on-trend and befit the gorgeous vintage vibe of Harlow’s, better yet – the invite said 1920’s dress encouraged – time to dress up! 

Chatting with Bonnie a few weeks before the party I got the dish on the look she was considering for herself – beaded flapper dress, feathers, the works.  This girl always looks simply gorgeous and she had several options in her wardrobe so I was expecting amazing.  As we chatted I mentioned I have a snazzy Louise Green 20’s inspired cloche and she made me promise to wear it.     

I instantly knew the look I was going for –  luxe and sophisticated 1920’s – think Lady Mary ala Downtown Abbey rather than full-on flapper.  My cloche is a daytime hat, but it is a rich brown and with the right clothes it could work for cocktail hour.  I started pondering my closet for an eveningy ensemble to wear with the hat and got royally stumped.  I have plenty of daytime options but not a single thing that would really be right for evening. 

Scouring my online sources yielded absolutely nothing.  Then I thought “well maybe I need to go black and get a NEW hat”.   (I am always ready for a new hat.)   However, after a few more scans the only dress I found was ridiculously expensive, and I would still need to get the hat and probably shoes so it was just too extravagant, even for me.  

What to do?  I was running out of time, contemplating not dressing up and doodling on a note pad as I pondered my options.   When I looked down at the simple shift dress I had sketched an idea bloomed – why not MAKE a dress?!  A few more sketches, some measurements, and I had my concept – a simple shift with slight sleeves, a dropped waist and knee length skirt but jazzed up with some sparkle and shine.  But, it still seemed a bit drab.  Then I thought “feathers!!!” and sketched in a feathered skirt.   

At the fabric store I hunted for the right materials, pulling together feathers, trim and fabrics.  I found absolutely perfect trim – black with brown embroidery and bright crystals right off the bat, and found several good options on fabric, but came up with only one not-quite-the-right brown feather boa – rats!!!  I needed eight boas to make a skirt, and without the feathers the dress was going to be beyond dowdy.  I headed to a craft store where I found, miracles of miracles, a huge pile of boas in a mixed cream and brown –and since apparently no one else has found a use for mottled natural colored boas they were even on sale – bingo! 

I set aside a weekend for my sewing project.  Pattern and muslin making took a morning and by then end of first day I had the dress fitted, zipper in, and sleeves done.  Then I spent the whole of Sunday on feather boa manipulation and hand sewing.  By the end of the weekend I was tired, my workspace was covered in feathers, but I was very very satisfied with my creation.

The final outfit came together perfectly; the color palette and every element from hat to dress to accessories worked seamlessly together.  I had snagged one of the solid brown boas to actually use as a boa, and added a pair of Mary Janes in a burgundy metallic patent from my own closet – period style, dressy and not too matchy-matchy.  My recently purchased Givenchy jewelry in bronze metal and rose crystals lent the right sparkly touches with long necklaces and a bold cuff.  Even my haircut was just right, conveniently, a swingy bob.  Best of all – that fabulous darned hat with its feisty feathers and band– LOVE!

The party was a blast – a restored Model T graced the front entrance for photo ops, there was a casino with proceeds benefiting the Marconi Foundation for Kids, and lots of folks joined in the fun of dressing up, dancing and celebrating.  While I didn’t manage to get Mr. Commando in an era-appropriate outfit, he looked good and I did get him to join me on the red carpet for a snap.  Bonnie and I had a big laugh when we saw each other and realized we had both ended up wearing dark brown.  She couldn’t believe I had made my dress and kept showing it off (so sweet).  I got tons of complements that night and the final fun came just a few nights ago – we were at Harlow’s for a casual dinner when the GM came up and asked if I had noticed that my picture, hat and all, is now on the restaurant’s “wall of fame” – how fun is that?!


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