Sew and Tell: 264 Monte Carlo Dress

Today, we welcome a guest post by Rita DeWitt, who made an amazing 264 Monte Carlo Dress


PROJECT: Folkwear 264 Monte Carlo Dress made with Up-cycled Vintage Silk Kimonos

MY PROJECT GOAL:  Make a unique and inexpensive family wedding reception dress using up-cycled silk kimonos…and have fun doing it!

CHOOSING THE PATTERN:  I began with Folkwear Vintage Pattern #264 for a period Monte Carlo dress “a sleek slip dress in the 1920’s flapper style” (from pattern description). I did not use the coordinating tunic top pattern, as I already had a purchased one.  The design is a simple scooped neckline, shoulder straps, a loose torso, and a bias “twirl” skirt. No zippers or fastenings or buttons or complications.

CHOOSING FABRICS:  I purchased a bulk kimono order from YokoDana Kimono’s vintage silk kimonos. I chose three peach and ivory colored kimonos whose colors harmonized.  I laid out the three kimonos for visual compatibility with my purchased blue velvet tasseled over-garment.

Since I am a “big American woman,” I would need three of the kimonos for adequate yardage, using one kimono for the bodice, and one kimono for each half of the skirt. Choosing three different fabrics allowed a nice variety of color and style.

Sample of vintage silk kimono fabrics from Yoko Dana.

CONSTRUCTION  PLANNING AND MAKING AESTHETIC CHOICES:  I kept the original kimonos’ sewing and linings intact, as the Folkwear pattern pieces are very simple. I used only the lower part of the kimonos and parts of two sleeves for this dress. That leaves the upper parts of all three kimonos mostly intact for further up-cycling.  Since I left all the original stitching in place, and the linings (even parts of the front kimono “flaps”), I ended up with a fully lined dress. The lined silk pieces for the skirt were much heavier fabric than the design called for, but they gave a very full, luxuriant presence.

Sewing tip: if you want to use the kimono fabric with its linings, I suggest that you stay-stitch the linings to the fabric pieces (all loose edges) immediately after you cut the pattern pieces from the kimono. And you definitely want to stay-stitch any bias-cut edges.

Below is the Folkwear Pattern #264 Monte Carlo dress with  my selected thread colors. This pattern was chosen because it is a simple drop tunic which consisted of only three main pattern pieces (bodice front, bodice back, and skirt) which could easily be cut from the flat kimono lower areas. No complicated sleeves, a simple strap for the shoulders, no buttons, no zippers, no other fastenings or detailing. The simple structure also allowed the beauty of the vintage fabrics to be a main focus.

FINISHED BODICE TOP:  After sewing the bodice, I machine embroidered the seams and edges with a rayon Sulky thread in a rich yellow-gold. I stitched down the middle front, around the armholes, and along pieces that I had to patchwork fit to improvise  the torso wide enough for moi.

Machine stitching around neck and armholes shows white bobbin thread on inside of bodice, and gold spool thread on outside of bodice. Stitching down center front was decorative as well as structural. The bodice/top was embroidered after construction, but before attaching the skirt.

The inner linings of the kimonos were patterned fabrics also, as is visible here on the back inside of the bodice and armhole at right.

DETAIL VIEW OF BODICE PIECING:  This finished view of a side seam in the bodice area shows pieced fabric scraps which fill a pattern area not covered by the original kimono fabric. This was emphasized by gold embroidery and topstitching rather than trying to disguise the patchwork construction.

Attached skirt is visible at lower left.

HEM DETAILS OF FINISHED DRESS:  As was noted, the kimono garments were cut apart, but were kept with their original individual linings intact. The fluid design of the skirt allowed movement to show the original kimono linings as well as the surface silks.

After the skirt was attached, I machine embroidered along the hem edges of the skirt, as some of the vintage hand stitching that held the linings in place was fragile. On the hem edges, I used the full embroidery stitch in most places where the combined lining/fabric was thinner. But where there was a heavy facing, I kept stitching with the same yellow thread, but switched it to a single basting stitch, carrying the color onward. Some parts of the kimono construction were just too thick to machine embroider without breaking thread.

CLOSER VIEW OF HEM DETAILS:  Machine embroidery on hem was done to stabilize linings as well as to embellish. On the run, I switched between embroidery stitches to accommodate thinner or thicker fabrics. I used a range from more decorative stitches on light areas, to a basting stitch in very thick fabric areas. Machine embroidery was done with gold spool thread on outside of hem and white bobbin thread showing on inside linings.

FINISHED GARMENT FRONT: Here is my finished garment, shown with a purchased 1980’s vintage blue velvet over-cape edged with beaded tassels. I wore the two with a beaded period macramé necklace with incorporated pink seashell and dropped beading.  So fun!

FINISHED GARMENT BACK:  Back view of Monte Carlo dress with velvet vintage over-cape. Back of macrame necklace counter-weight shows at neckline.


CLOSE-UP OF FINISHED DRESS FRONT:  Here is a little close up of the details on the bodice with the over-cape.

PROJECT RESULTS: I enjoyed “up-cycling” the silk kimonos and got unexpected and unusual effects because of that. The beautiful inner lining colors showed on the skirting when the dress was in motion. I had to change my embroidery patterns to accommodate fabric weights, which actually gave more variety.

The structure of the Folkwear pattern allowed me to utilize vintage kimonos effectively. When worn, the silk fabric combined with the design of the pattern made me feel elegant.

At the family wedding reception I received numerous compliments, even some from the event’s wedding professionals! I was VERY happy with my results.



All text and photographs copyright Rita DeWitt, 2017 and 2018.