Monday, December 30, 2019

The Vionnet Star Dress

In October of 2018, my husband and I traveled on the Orient Express for the second time. The first time was in 2015, and I wore some beautiful modern evening gowns. I loved them, but told myself, if we do this again, I need to make my own.

This time around, I decided on a 1938 evening gown by Madeline Vionnet. I not only loved the playful quirkiness of the star appliqués, but I knew they would also be a fun challenge to sew. I was heavily inspired by the original dress, but decided not to try for a 100% reproduction. Instead, I went for the general silhouette, using a late 1930's sewing pattern as my starting point. The pattern ended up heavily modified, too.

I chose to make the dress out of crinkled silk chiffon. The appliqués ended up a blended lace, which I went with for color and design. I don’t use a lot of synthetics, and so that was a learning curve! I had some trouble with pressing (oopsie, at one point I melted some! But it ended well! I just unlocked the star and put a new one!).

Inside, I wore a slip made of matching crepe de chine. The slip really made the gown. It wasn’t exciting to look at, but the weight really added to the swish of the dress. Well, and the dress would be totally see through without it! Another good thing about making my own slip, I was able to use the same fabric for some details inside the dress, to make them invisible. Namely, the placket and the darts. I trimmed back the darts and encased the selvedge.

The mock up of the skirt, for star placement.

The dress was constructed by first assembling the skirt with french seams, leaving one side open for ease of sewing. Then the star appliqués were basted on. I chose to machine zig zag the stars on. They were much neater and seemed sturdier than hand stitching. I made samples to check.

Basted on stars, before machine sewing them on.

After zig zagging around the stars, the excess lace was cut away close to the stitching.

On the surface I used blue thread and on the back I used beige. This really helped keep the stars light and airy. The excess lace was then trimmed away. A couple stars were appliquéd over the final seam once the skirt was entirely constructed. The bodice was done in a similar fashion.

From the back. Inspired by a couture, Carine Gilson, dressing gown in my collection, I chose to use dark silk thread on the front and light silk thread on the rear. This kept the stitching from looking heavy, and like a dark line on the sheer chiffon. 

The neck, armhole and hems were all done with a narrow hem. This has become my favorite was to finish gowns. It is so easy and quick and tidy. Sooooooooo much better than fiddling with a rolled hemming foot!

Speaking of the hem, my original plan was for the dress to graze the floor. The unfinished hem got a nasty snag while I was sewing the stars (cut extra length or baste next time!) and so I ended up making the dress instep length, also called "dancing length". I was so disappointed at first, but actually it ended up being great. The train, especially the bar car, was so packed with people! Other ladies were getting their hems stepped on. Not me! And it showed off my fun gold shoes.

I had planned some great 1930's hair to go along with the look, but honestly, we were having so much fun the day of the party, the last thing I wanted to do was spend extra time getting ready, so I just kind of threw my hair up. Haha my one regret of the night!


  1. Lovely gown. Thank you for these lovely details. I must admit I labor far more exceedingly with synthetics than I do with natural fiber. I always admire those who are able to conquer the synthetics.

  2. A beautiful dress, and the length looks perfect.