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May 4, 2010

FAMILY FEUD: Cathy and the black belt w/ POLL

No, my cousin Cathy hasn't run off with the Karate Kid, if that's what you're thinking.

It's the dress, peeps, the rose dress, McCall's 7299 from 1948.

Cathy came over yesterday afternoon for a fitting and I took a few test shots of her in the dress.  Well.  She saw this photo and has convinced herself that she shouldn't be wearing a black belt with this outfit; it makes her look fat.

I just wanted to scream, peeps.

First of all, I explained, the dress hasn't been hemmed yet, so the belt looks like it's sitting higher than it actually is.  Second, the photo was shot straight on, which is never the most flattering angle for anybody's waist.  Third, you don't see her head, so the proportions are off.  Fourth, she'll have some sort of black hat or veil or something decorative on her head to balance things even more.  Fifth, black "pops" more in an indoor photo than it will outside.

Cathy wasn't convinced.  She reminded me that on the pattern envelope, the dress is shown with a matching belt:

In turn, I pointed out to her that I'd seen other dress patterns of the very same period, where a black belt is shown with a print dress -- a flowered dress very similar to her own, in fact:

OK, I recognize the Simplicity dress has a soft belt and the belt I'd picked out for Cathy is a narrower and stiffer black velvet -- which matches her shoes and gloves perfectly, btw.  She even has a handbag if she chooses to wear it, straight from Italy via the Salvation Army.

Pretty darn close to a vintage forties original, no?

But back to the dress...

The only thing Cathy and I could agree on at day's end was how strange it is that those pattern envelope models' necks match the girth of their waists.  

Loyal readers, you know I generally do not ask for advice.  But you did help me decide to sew the purple dress before the rose print one, and I trust your judgment implicitly.   Whatever happens -- yes black belt/no black belt -- I think Cathy needs to hear it from you.

Do you think the black velvet belt works?  Should we try a soft black sash like the one shown in the Simplicity pattern above?  Should I make a matching belt, as shown on the original McCall's pattern envelope?

The last thing I want is for Cathy to end up a "Glamour" Don't.   It would kill her modeling career.

Here's the dress before the sleeves were attached, by the way, with no belt at all:

Please leave your message to Cathy below.  Any style tips you might like to add in the comments will be greatly appreciated as well!

Thanks, guys.  You're the best!


  1. I did vote but I also think that the same red (as the roses) in a belt, shoes and hat would look gorgeous! Probably pretty hard to find but it's nice imagining .... lol
    I think, as Cathy is a model, she should be able to make anything work.

  2. Oh Cathy, ur one lucky girl. I had to vote for the rose print belt, though. This fabric is so soft, the black belt and gloves are just too heavy for this romantic print. I just sewed my first (and only) skirt in floral pastel-ish fabric, and totally killed it with black top, black belt, and black shoes. Duh!

  3. A self-covered belt would of course be lovely. But I wouldn't give up on the black yet either. It just needs to be softer, or narrower, or...something...

  4. Samantha and I voted for the soft black sash. I think you need the black to tie in the shoes and handbag. I always worry about wearing black shoes when the dress I am wearing is a lighter color - adding black to the dress makes it work.

    But I do agree about the oil slick and the economy...keep it in perspective.

    Oh, and Peter - I am now the owner of a 1953 Universal Straight Stitch and a 1960 Viking Automatic Class 21 machine. Pics and a blog entry soon.

  5. I think the handbag, hat, gloves, belt and shoes all in black are too much contrast with the white of the fabric.

    If it were the belt and shoes only I'd say go for it. But that not the case, the matching fabric belt is a fantastic choice.

    Something you may not realize is if you're sewing for "Cathy's" body, you may want to lengthen the waist maybe as much as 2" in lenght. It seems like all her dresses are too short in the torso. So the waist of the dress is actually over her ribs rather than her real waist. This may be part of the reason (aside from color) that belting this dress is throwing off the eye. You mentioned the other being the hem is incomplete and you're absolutely right about that.

  6. I think Brian might have a point. Kathy is more long waisted than the pattern.

    And dang, you find the best accessories! That purse is TDF.

  7. OK, this is actually quite interesting. I DO think that black belt may be too severe a contrast for this dress. Maybe a matching fabric belt with a black buckle could do the trick, tying it all together.

    I DID think about lengthening the torso on some of Cathy's frocks but her waist isn't any cinchier than the rest of her ribcage and the proportions looked right on the finished dresses (for the style and the period). Cathy has a tendency to look a little "mannish" -- for lack of a better word -- and I think the higher bodice works for her. But maybe not.

  8. I wouldn't be so harsh as to say kathy's figure doesn't suit the black belt, I'd say the colour is too harsh so even a soft belt in black wouldn't work.

    I can't see anything other than self fabric for the belt working well.

  9. I think a self covered belt with a big black buckle would be fab.

  10. While I think I self fabric belt would be most flattering, there's still something to be said for the coordination possibility of the black velvet belt. I say go with the black belt and stand slanted to the side. :-)

  11. Self-fabric belt, definitely. The black is too heavy and cuts the figure horizontally. And Brian's right, check the back waist measurement. I'm 5'4" and always have to add to the back waist length on vintage patterns (and some modern ones!).

    Every time I look at a pattern envelope with a model whose waist and neck have the same circumference, I have to remind myself that Real Women Do Not Look Like That.

  12. I voted for a self fabric belt, but I think Cathy could make either work.

    I've had trouble before with 40's patterns being a bit short-waisted.

  13. Sorry, I agree with Brian. It is all about the illusion here, so regardless of where Cathy's actual waist is, the waspy-ness comes partially from the exaggerated length in the bodice. I would suggest a self fabric belt with carriers to hold it just below the seam, since now its a done deal. Don't cinch it too tight or you will create gathers where there should be none.

  14. I feel like I agree with most of the comments, too in saying that a self fabric (maybe with a fabric covered buckle?) would be the way to go. If the dress weren't as blindingly white as it is (say, smaller print on a gray background or the like), the black would be fine. As it is, the black's just to severe and seems out of place when compared to the rest of the outfit.
    Cathy looks great, regardless, is that a string of pearls I spy at her neck? How glamorous!

  15. I like the black, but the contrast is perhaps too much(and velvet too heavy of a fabric) for a summer frock. White or red accessories would look lovely. I would also add some shoulder pads and perhaps a petticoat. That would add width above and below, thus making the waist appear smaller. ><

  16. I like the black (though voted for a softer fabric) as a Black Widow look. Maybe some different killer shoes that say "don't get in my way or else"

  17. I also think self-fabric belt, but maybe some contrast with a black (or red?) buckle, like other people have suggested.

    No matter what you choose, Cathy is going to look great :)

  18. Just try with a self fabric belt, if it doesn't work out at least your practising your making belt skills.

  19. well, I told Cathy to keep it in perspective, but now that I go back and look at the picture again, I'm thinking the black belt--especially with the black gloves--is too severe a contrast. I'd go with the self-fabric belt, maybe with a red buckle. And different gloves, or else I'm going to start calling Cathy "Morticia"!

  20. I vote self belt, the black is too much contrast. Plus, I've never made a self belt and I want to see you do it first :)

  21. I'd go with grey or buff colored belt/gloves. The black shoes are okay though. They seemed to wear them with everything in the 40s.

  22. More belts, more gloves?! LOL

  23. Peter.. your sewing is such an inspiration! Tell Cathy to shut up and enjoy the wonderful unique works she gets to wear....!

  24. I am team black belt. I've read enough style blogs and silly shoes on what to wear on telly to know that if you want to make something smaller- you go with black. And that if you want to accentuate the waist, there is nothing like a contrast belt. Especially with that fab accessories (OK, now I will stop before I sound like one of those what to wear shows).
    Beautiful work. I love that split collar.

  25. Red belt to match roses, with matching red shoes and white gloves would be absolutely perfect...


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